Eight weeks until the SAT or ACT and you haven’t started studying?

Well, you’re in luck. I’m going to share with you an 8-week study plan that, if you follow it methodically and are disciplined about your studying, will get you through a respectable amount of practice and content review tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. This plan is specifically designed by us for a relatively motivated self-studier.

The basic idea behind this plan is to help you diagnose your own SAT or ACT needs and chart a systematic way to master the topics that trip you up. The plan incorporates strategies for reading comprehension (and science if you're an ACT student), as well as review and practice for math and grammar. These topics need to be worked through in a systematic and sustained way. The plan also schedules in practice sections and full practice tests so that you will gain familiarity with problem types and build endurance. This plan does NOT include strategies or practice for the optional essay ports of each test. If you need help here, just shoot us an email; we're happy to share some tips.

Keep in mind that eight weeks is a little short for full SAT or ACT preparation. We usually recommend 12–20 weeks of study and practice, but we understand that sometimes it’s just not possible. So, if you’ve got only eight weeks before your test, get cracking on the plan below!

Week 1

  • If you haven't already done so, figure out which test you need to focus on. See our post on choosing between the SAT and ACT to learn how to do so. (NOTE: You're on a tight timeline, so you'll need to do the practice tests closer together.)
  • Once you've determined which test to focus on, thoroughly review your results on that test, noting down what topics you need to study. You can identify these topics by reviewing the questions you skipped, those you got wrong, and those on which you struggled. When you find one of these questions, identify what topic (or topics) are involved. Write it down, and be specific! This review will take you a while, so be realistic. Don’t feel like you’re not studying—knowing what you need to study is half the battle!
  • Make a master list of topics to study for each test section by combining your list from your practice test review with the topics covered in a test prep book like the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide or ACT's The Official ACT Prep Guide.

Week 2

  • Look for similarities among the questions you missed in the reading and science sections of your practice test. These similarities will be in question type rather than the specific topic of the question. You may also need a strategy for parsing the text more than for answering the questions. Talk to a tutor or send us an email for help with this! Remember that correct answers will always correlate to explicit evidence in the passage. Practice using the materials in the official study guide.
  • Start to tackle your “need-to-study” list of math topics by reading the relevant pages in the study guide for one of the topics each day. Take clear notes and always include one or two practice problems, fully worked out, in your notes. Turn to Khan Academy, textbooks, your math teacher, friends, or even a tutor for help if you can’t figure something out. Make flashcards for formulas, counting tricks, definitions, etc. if necessary.
  • Do one test section a day from your prep book. Don’t forget to score and thoroughly review each section, too. Keep your “need-to-study” list on hand in case you need to add anything.

Week 3

  • Do one test section a day. Score and review carefully.
  • Continue working through your “need-to-study” math topics. Review 2–3 topics a day, every other day this week.
  • Begin working through your “need-to-study” list for grammar, one topic a day. The prep books have great review sections, and you can also find grammar guides online. Take good notes on grammatical rules, and keep an eye out for tricks the SAT and ACT always uses in these grammar questions. As with math, review 2–3 topics a day, every other day (ie, on the days you are not working on math).
  • On Saturday morning, take a full, timed practice test out of the prep book under realistic conditions.

Week 4

  • Take your most recent practice test and review it carefully, updating your “need-to-study” lists as you go.
  • Continue tackling your “need-to-study” lists for grammar and math. Review 2–3 topics a day, and alternate between subjects each day.
  • Do one test section a day. Score and review carefully, updating your “need-to-study” lists as you go.
  • Go back and do more reading (and science if you are an ACT student) practices from your prep book.
  • Create master study guides for math and grammar. To do so, write out formulas, facts, tips, and rules for those topics that consistently give you trouble, even after you’ve studied them closely. These master study guides should be reviewed before you do any practice work and during any free time you have during the day.

Weeks 5 and 6

  • Continue tackling your “need-to-study” lists for grammar and math. Review 2–3 topics a day, and alternate between subjects each day.
  • Do one test section a day. Score and review carefully, updating your master study guides if necessary.

Week 7

  • Continue tackling your “need-to-study” lists for grammar and math.
  • On Saturday morning, take a full, timed practice test out of your prep book under realistic conditions. Before the test, review your master study guides.
  • Take your most recent practice test and review it carefully, updating your master study guides if necessary.

Week 8

  • Do one test section a night, timed, but not on the night before the test.
  • Review all of your notes for math and grammar.
  • Review your master study guides.
  • Maintain perspective, stay positive, and get a good night’s rest every night this week.
  • Plan something fun for after the test!

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