Five Test-Taking Tips for the SAT and ACT

By Huntington Learning Center

Spring and summer are prime SAT and ACT seasons, with many juniors preparing to take one or both of these exams for the first time, and many seniors signing up for one last chance to raise their scores before applying to colleges in the fall.

How can your student succeed on these important exams? By preparing, of course! Aside from studying the content (and focusing on areas where your student needs improvement), here are several test-taking tips that will help your student achieve their best score:

  1. Strengthen time management. The SAT and ACT are timed exams, so every second counts. One of the most important elements of success on either exam is the ability to manage one’s time. Your student should be familiar with the sections of the exam and what to expect as far as question types and approximate amount of time to be spent per question. That also means leaving time at the end to review the exam to ensure no questions were missed or skipped.
  2. Learn to narrow down answer choices. Your student should spend time studying different question types to start recognizing the kinds of answers that can be eliminated. For example, with multiple-choice questions, there are often answer choices that are obviously wrong because they contain words like “always” or “never.”
  3. Get better at focusing. If your student struggles to tune out distractions, it’s time well spent to learn how to concentrate in a high-pressure, test-taking setting. This takes repeated practice, so remind your student that taking multiple practice exams can be very valuable.
  4. Learn how to stay cool under pressure. Stress management is a key part of test-taking success, so remind your student to find ways to get and stay calm. That regimen could include positive self-talk, positive visualization, meditation, and deep breathing to still the mind.
  5. Write down important information before starting. A tried-and-true test-taking tip is to jot down essential facts and formulas as soon as an exam begins. The pneumonic device your student uses to recall an important math formula is taking up brain space, so writing those things down when the proctor says, “Begin,” is a good idea.

Last but not least, remind your student that while the SAT and ACT are important and can bolster a college application, their results are intended to help, not hurt. This year, many institutions moved to “test-optional,” which means that presenting SAT and ACT scores with college applications is not required – but it is still a good idea. Make sure your student has the right mindset about these tests. They are an opportunity to show your student’s strengths and override a GPA that might have been negatively affected by the challenging events of the last year.

If your student needs help, call Huntington! We’ll assess your student’s strengths and weaknesses, work with your student on building the skills mentioned in this blog, and help them become a more confident test-taker. With the best possible scores on the SAT and ACT, your teen’s college and scholarship options will expand tremendously. Let Huntington be your student’s guide!


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