When a student doesn’t perform as well as anticipated on the SAT or ACT—either during their first real test sitting or their first practice test—they may be left wondering: “What went wrong?”
The answer to this question is nuanced and can vary from student to student. However, there are some common mistakes students make during ACT and SAT test prep that are worthy of consideration across the board.
ACT and SAT Test Prep: Solutions to Common Mistakes
Here are three mistakes we see time and again at Signet. We’ve provided our solutions to help students make the best use of their test prep time and approach test day with confidence:
Mistake #1: Not taking the “easy” questions seriously enough
Students often agonize over tough questions only to make careless mistakes in sentence completions, reading questions, or math problems. They might skip over important words, fail to finish reading a word problem, or perform careless calculations.
Signet’s solution: Don’t rush! Every word on the exam matters, so students should read carefully and take their time with every question. We also advise students to put their pencils to good use. During the test, students should trace the words they are reading, underline or circle important phrases, and mark the “goal” of each question in the margin. And don’t forget to use that scrap paper!
Mistake #2: Taking the “hard” questions too seriously
The hard questions on the SAT and ACT are difficult not because they test advanced concepts but because answering them requires some mental gymnastics. Whether in reading, writing, math, or science, these questions challenge students to juggle multiple ideas, facts, numbers, and concepts to find a creative solution to the problem.
A student’s instinctive approach to difficult questions is typically to stiffen up, use esoteric formulas, or choose answers with language that sounds sophisticated. However, we recommend taking the opposite approach.
Signet’s solution: Our solution is simple: students should use the same problem-solving process to answer hard questions as they use to answer easy questions. Depending on their overall strategy, it might be in their best interest to skip an especially tough question altogether and come back to it if there’s time. Remember: hard questions are worth the same number of points as easy ones.
Mistake #3: Not practicing strategically
ACT and SAT test prep help students in two fundamental ways:
- Improving basic test-taking skills
- Building endurance
The SAT and ACT are long tests—much longer than the tests most students are accustomed to taking. High school classes simply do not prepare students to use their brainpower for such long stretches.
Signet’s solution: Students should approach ACT and SAT test prep the same way they would approach preparing for a marathon: with short, medium, and long “runs.” The objective is to slowly condition the brain without overtaxing it. And don’t forget to rest. Nothing is worse than burning out on test prep before sitting down for the actual test!
Get Dedicated ACT and SAT Test Prep Support
If your student needs a high score gain to meet their target score, they may benefit from working one-on-one with a dedicated ACT or SAT test prep tutor.
At Signet, our tutors partner with students to develop personalized study plans based on individual goals, needs, and learning styles. Students emerge from these engagements feeling more comfortable with their chosen test and confident about tackling difficult concepts and complex problems.