Summer is approaching and you likely have a few plans on the horizon. Maybe you are looking forward to relaxing, spending time with friends, or taking on an exciting internship. Whatever it is, if you are going into your junior and senior years of high school, we recommend you sneak some test prep into your summer schedule to help you prepare for the ACT, SAT, and/or any retakes you will be taking the next school year. As always, Uprooted Academy is here with you every step of the way. Let’s get started!
Get your bearings straight. Determine which standardized test you need to take between the SAT and the ACT. You can figure this out by talking to your school counselor and/or cross-referencing your college list with each school’s admission criteria. Even if your school is “test optional”, you may choose to sign up for an exam to strengthen your application. While both tests are lengthy and standardized, the ACT focuses more on assessing how well you learned the topics that were covered in high school thus far, while the SAT evaluates your reasoning and verbal skills. Experts recommend taking a practice test of both the ACT and SAT. This way, if you have a choice, you can choose to focus your efforts on the exam that came more naturally to you in the first place!
Connect with those who have walked the road before you. It is helpful to connect with someone you know and trust before embarking on a new experience. Maybe you have a friend, sibling, or classmate that already took the exam that can share their journey with you. Asking them to share their first hand experience, describe how they studied, reflect on what they mastered and what challenged them can provide you with beneficial tips that can support you in your process.
Add to your book collection. There are so many helpful test prep books and tons of options, so check in with your school counselor, teachers, and peers to see if they have any recommendations. At the end of the day, consistency is key. Make the most use out of whatever book you choose by setting a goal to engage with it at least 3 times a week. The books will provide you with information regarding the format of the test, test-taking strategies, and plenty of sample problems and tests to keep you busy!
Set a goal. Use your first practice test to set a goal for yourself. Since you are starting in the summer, you are getting a head start in providing yourself with as much time as possible to get your score to where you want it to be. The ACT has 4 sections made up of Reading, English, Math, and Science along with an optional essay. The SAT is comprised of 3 sections including Reading, Writing and language, Math, and an optional essay. Because each test contains unique sections, you can set smaller goals for each in order to narrow your focus. Another helpful tip is to use a calendar to map out your goals and focuses throughout the school year. Visualize yourself crushing one goal after another, month after month, as you prepare for your exam.
Practice makes progress. Use your goal and resources to fuel your practice. Along with your weekly practice sessions, you should strive to take at least one practice a month. After each practice test, take time to review and reflect on how you did. It may be tempting to just look at the score, but it will be more helpful to use your review time to understand any patterns, content areas, and stressors. This way, you can develop a plan of attack to improve with each practice.
Strength in numbers. Though you have to take the test alone, you do not have to prepare by yourself. Lean on your support network to learn about their experiences, share your goals, and study together. Check in with your school counselor to learn if your school (or any nearby) offers a test prep course. It can feel great to partner with others and make studying much more fun and collaborative.
Enhance your vocabulary. Because both exams assess reading comprehension and language skills, it is important to brush up on your vocabulary. You can add to your vocabulary in a few ways. One way is to adopt a “word of the day” by googling “word of the day” and clicking on the Merriam-Webster link. Try to use this new word throughout each day. Another way is to read more. Remember, it doesn’t matter so much what you read. We recommend that you choose things that you enjoy reading while pushing yourself to read something new. Finally, when you come across words you don’t recognize, don’t be afraid to pause and google the word so that you can recognize it in the future.
Look into fee waivers. The entire college process is so expensive, so it is important to get in the habit of saving money wherever and whenever you can. With both the ACT and SAT costing over $50 each, it is imperative that you connect with your counselor and see what type of financial support your school and/or state offers. Even if you have already taken a test, you may be able to obtain a waiver to take the test twice and improve your score.
Register. Many experts believe that it is most ideal for a student to register for either the SAT or ACT as soon as possible in their junior year. This is because taking the test early will provide you with more opportunities to retake the exam if you want to shoot for a higher score. Additionally, having the scores ready to go when you apply for colleges is not always necessary, but can be a nice feature to complete your application, especially with schools that place heavier weight on the entrance exams.
Breathe! It’s no lie that the ACT and SAT can be incredibly stressful. The sooner you start studying, the easier it will be to feel calm and prepared when the day comes. However, you don’t have to wait until the exam is over to take a second to yourself. Your summer is a special time that can’t be replaced. As you schedule in your study sessions, schedule in free and unstructured time too. Sometimes taking a pause can feel hard when we are so used to the grind, but it sometimes is exactly what you need.
We hope that this list of suggestions has been helpful to you as you prepare for the summer. We hope that you each can have a well rounded summer full of fun and enrichment. And, remember, Uprooted Academy is here for you each step of the way!