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Your SAT and ACT Prep Guide

SAT. ACT. These two tests are among the most important exams you’ll ever take in your pre-college years. No pressure, right? So, what can you do to decrease your stress level and increase your test scores? 

Two words: “prepare” and “practice.” Following are some guidelines to help you do both.   


  • Start test prep early. A good rule of thumb is to start the summer between sophomore and junior year in high school. 
  • Learn about each test. This at-a-glance chart compares features of the American College Test (ACT) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) tests, including fees and the type of content you’ll want to study for. Generally, colleges and universities that require standardized test scores will accept either the ACT or SAT.
  • Expand your vocabulary. Reading challenging books and articles, such as the ones on the Suggested SAT Reading List, may help with reading comprehension at the time of the test. Tip: When you come across an unfamiliar word, highlight it, then look it up. 
  • Understand the testing process. Review what to expect on test day for the SAT exam and the ACT exam. This can help you feel more comfortable on the day of the test.  


Free online practice tests are available for both the SAT and ACT exams. To make the most of these “practice runs:”

  • Set aside enough time to take a full-length practice test. Use a timer so you’re used to the time limits you’ll be under when taking the actual exam. 
  • Use your practice test results as a baseline to help you identify areas that you need to work on.
  • Retake the practice tests to see where you improved and what sections to continue to focus on. 

Tips for test day 

  • Wear a no-frills watch (without an alarm – they’re not allowed; neither are smartphones) to keep track of the time. This can help you pace yourself to avoid spending too much time on one question or racing through questions too quickly.
    • Each section requires different timing so be prepared to adjust your pacing. 
    • Know what to expect by reviewing how much time is allotted for each problem type on the ACT and SAT
  • Answer the easy questions first and come back to the more difficult ones.  
  • If there’s time left and you’ve answered every question, review your work. You won’t receive any points for turning your exam in early.  

Ready to get started? 

You can use the Official SAT Practice Tool from Khan Academy to help you alleviate pre-test stress and help increase your test score.