Junior year is such a critical time for students.
It’s a culmination of the most academically rigorous classes and biggest course loads.
It’s the last academic year that will be included in their college applications.
And it’s the year when most students take the SAT or ACT.
At Signet, we advise students to plan for two test sittings in their junior year: one in the late fall/winter and another in early spring. Students should begin their SAT or ACT test prep 3-4 months prior to taking the first test, meaning junior fall is time to get on board if they haven’t already.
Note: if you are curious about whether your student should take the SAT, ACT, or go “test optional,” please read our recent post on this topic here.
5 Principles of Good SAT and ACT Test Preparation
While standardized testing is undoubtedly stressful, students who start preparing now (or very soon!) will be more than ready for testing in the fall semester. Here are five principles of good preparation to follow:
1. Set a steady pace and put in consistent effort over time
Ideally, students should spend time on their test prep daily (or every other day) over the course of 3-4 months. Leaving this critical work to the last few weeks before the test and cramming at the end is not only stressful but also highly ineffective.
2. Emphasize skills in addition to knowledge
Understanding the material that will show up on the SAT or ACT is, of course, a big piece of the puzzle. But honing skills like time management and pattern recognition is equally important. By the time a junior sits for the test, they should be well-equipped to deploy their knowledge in challenging circumstances.
3. Use test prep materials sourced directly from SAT or ACT sites
When it comes to standardized test prep, it’s best to go directly to the source. The SAT and ACT sites provide diagnostic tests and other helpful materials free of charge, and students should always default to these resources. Some third-party materials can be useful in a supplemental capacity but should never take the place of those sourced from SAT or ACT sites.
4. Target problem areas
Targeted, focused effort can go a long way during SAT or ACT test prep. To avoid making the same mistakes over and over, students should plan to review practice problems, identify challenging areas, and carve out specific study times to focus on these kinds of problems.
5. Set a clear goal and develop a plan for reaching it
It’s always best to have a clear goal to work toward. Setting a goal score for the SAT or ACT helps keep students on track and prevents them from working endlessly. They know that once they’ve reached their goal score, they’ve done enough.
For more tips and advice, including taking diagnostic exams, setting a goal score, creating a test prep plan, and seeking outside support, check out Signet’s Guide to SAT/ACT Preparation.