Spring 2021 exam dates for the SAT and ACT are approaching fast.

If your student hasn’t started test prep in earnest, it’s time to help them get on course. Even if your student is applying to test optional schools, a good to great score on their standardized test can give their application a boost. With the right plan in place, they can get the job done in just eight weeks.

Here’s how to get your student started (today!):

How to prepare for the SAT or ACT

Test Prep Week 1

Choose your exam. We strongly recommend students choose either the SAT or the ACT—but not both. To make an informed decision, a student should take a full-length practice test for each exam, compare their scores as well as their comfort level with each test, and select one exam to focus on.

Review your results. After choosing their preferred exam, your student should thoroughly review their results on that test, paying close attention to questions that they skipped, got wrong, or struggled with. Use those questions to develop a list of topics that need extra attention.

Source official test prep materials. Grab either College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide or ACT's The Official ACT Prep Guide. Your student can use the topics in their respective guide, combined with the list they generated, to create a master bank of content they need to review.

Test Prep Week 2

Identify patterns. Have your student revisit the questions they missed or struggled with to see if there are any similarities, not just in content, but in question format. Sometimes a certain question type can consistently trip your student up!

Approach the topic list—methodically. A big list of content to review can quickly get overwhelming. We recommend starting with math topics. Your student should focus on one topic per day, following this format:

  • Read about the content in their official study guide
  • Take notes during this review
  • Work through a few practice problems and keep them in the notes
  • Make flashcards for content that needs straight memorization

Work through each section of the test. Aim for one test section per day, making sure to score each section and carefully review anything that was missed.

Test Prep Week 3

Continue working through sections of the test. Aim for one test section per day, making sure to score each section and carefully review anything that was missed.

Continue working through the topic list. Your student can accelerate the pace now. Have them review 2-3 math topics per day, every other day in week 3. They should also start reviewing their grammar topics in the format outlined in week 1; 2-3 topics per day, every other day.

Take a practice exam. At the end of week 3, your student should take a practice test (timed and in a realistic setting) out of their test prep book.

Test Prep Week 4

Review the practice exam. Your student should review their practice exam thoroughly, following the same method they did in week 1. The end result will be a newly updated list of topics they need to study.

Continue working through the topic list. Alternate between math and grammar topics for as long as that continues to make sense. Your student should be reviewing 2-3 topics per day.

Continue working through sections of the test. Aim for one test section per day, making sure to score each section and carefully review anything that was missed.

Incorporate science if needed. Students taking the ACT should start to incorporate science reading and review as needed, based on their topic list.

Develop study guides. Consolidate and rewrite the most important information, including formulas, study tips, grammar rules, etc. into a master study guide. Your student should generate a study guide for math, grammar, and science if applicable.

Test Prep Weeks 5 and 6

Review study guides. Open each study session with a review of the study guides your student has generated. For bonus points, your student can also review the study guides at other times during the day for reinforcement.

Continue working through the topic list. Alternate between math, grammar, and science topics for as long as that continues to make sense. Your student should be reviewing 2-3 topics per day.

Continue working through sections of the test. Aim for one test section per day, making sure to score each section and carefully review anything that was missed.

Test Prep Week 7

Continue working through the topic list. Alternate between math, grammar, and science topics for as long as that continues to make sense. Your student should be reviewing 2-3 topics per day.

Continue working through sections of the test. Aim for one test section per day, making sure to score each section and carefully review anything that was missed.

Take a practice exam. At the end of week 7, your student should take a practice test (timed and in a realistic setting) out of their test prep book. Make sure they review their study guides first.

Review the practice exam. Your student should review their practice exam thoroughly, following the same method they did in week 1. The end result will be a newly updated (and hopefully much smaller) list of topics they need to study.

Test Prep Week 8

Continue working through sections of the test. Aim for one test section per day, making sure to score each section and carefully review anything that was missed.

Do a thorough review. Your student should focus on their study guides, but it can be useful for them to go back to their original notes and content topic list as well.

Take the night off. The night before the test, your student should take the night off from working through test sections. They can review their study guides that night and the morning of the test, if needed.

Get some rest. A good night’s sleep is crucial to optimizing test performance. And that’s not just applicable to the day before the test either. Your student should focus on rest this entire week.

***Note: If your student is testing in May, they can turn this plan into a rigorous 4-week study plan by combining it. Weeks 1 and 2 become week 1; weeks 3 and 4 become week 2; weeks 5, 6, and 7 become week 3; and week 8 becomes week 4. If your student’s back is against the wall and they’re feeling unprepared or not ready to take on such an ambitious plan, please contact us ASAP for help.

Does your student need help with SAT or ACT preparation?

The plan laid out here WILL work, but only if your student is able to implement and stick to it on their own. For many students, the reason they’re last-minute with test prep is because they’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to get started.

If your student suffers from test anxiety, has difficulty sticking to a plan, or is struggling with motivation, Signet’s professional tutors can help. Our team not only has content expertise, we’ve got years of experience with test prep for the SAT and ACT. We know how to help students be successful and how to hold them accountable so they reach their full potential.

Can we help your student with SAT or ACT test prep? Connect with us to find out how we can support you.