Full-Length SAT and ACT Practice Tests Are a Key Component of Any Test Prep Plan
By Peter, IvyWise Master Tutor
The spring semester is a big test prep time for college bound students, as many juniors will be taking the SAT or ACT in the coming months. Taking practice tests is an essential part of the test preparation process because the best way to prep for the SAT or ACT is to actually take them! But it’s not enough to take practice tests. Students also need to simulate the test day environment as best as they can.
Students should see taking practice tests as an opportunity to identify strengths and address areas of improvement; this means not only identifying what sections a student should focus on in his or her preparation, but specifically what sorts of questions in each section and which question types present the most trouble? In this sense practice tests can be an extremely helpful and practical experience, especially when taken as a springboard for future and continued improvement like, for example, in answering rhetorical reasoning and style-related questions in the English section.
Taking practice tests is also important not only for improving or familiarizing students with what is on the test, but for one major practical reason as well: the ACT and SAT are very long tests. The actual tests, including the essay sections, span a number of hours, and in addition to breaks and proctoring time, students can expect to be at the test center for well over four hours. Make no mistake – this is a big feat of endurance!
How To Create A Successful Practice Test Environment
Creating the conditions at home that would most closely resemble the most difficult aspects of taking the official test can help you best prepare for the ACT or SAT. This may include making a point of waking up early on Saturday mornings to take a practice test in its entirety, just as you would do on the official test day. This also means having a sibling, parent, or relative time your test so that you don’t have to be both test-taker and proctor.
Think twice about using your phone as a timer, as students might first think to do, because the phone can be a distraction (incoming texts, emails, phone calls) and because phones are prohibited from the test center.
Developing your ability to stay as mentally sharp and focused three hours into the test as you were in the first minute of the test takes practice and repetition. Over time, this practice can really help you feel confident in knowing exactly what to expect from the test, and what performance you can expect of yourself. No surprises - this is the most important part of setting up successful environment for taking practice tests.
Space Out Practice Tests Appropriately
It is not very helpful – in fact it can be very exhausting – to take several practice tests over a very short period of time. Give yourself a reasonable practice test schedule – cramming practice tests in a short period of time can be very stressful and actually work against you!
Maintaining a schedule of one practice test per week, reserved for Saturday mornings for example, is a good habit to keep.
Review Your Performance And Make Adjustments
Taking practice tests also means taking the time to carefully review those test results. Reviewing practice tests and going through every incorrect question or questions that took up a lot of time – this is really the most valuable routine to adopt when taking practice tests. Nearly every student will do better in certain subjects than in others.
Look carefully at each answer choice and each question – see how you could have eliminated incorrect answer choices, and how you can be more alert next time, to certain word problems in the Math section for example, that employ similar language to the one question that you missed. Do not become discouraged from missed questions – see it as yet one more question that you certainly will not miss if it comes up on the official test day.
Taking practice tests is key to reaching your goal score on the SAT or ACT, and setting up a successful practice test environment at home is critical. Don’t rush through practice tests! Rather, take time to recreate a comparable test day conditions, space out practice tests appropriately, and thoroughly review your results from each practice exam.
Get on track with your test prep by downloading our free Tutoring and Test Prep Checklist below!