Ultimate Summer SAT/ACT Prep Plan

By Huntington Learning Center

Take an initial practice test. A student’s very first step to devising an effective SAT/ACT test prep plan should be taking a practice test to determine their strengths and weaknesses. At Huntington, we call these diagnostic evaluations. Tutoring sessions are far more effective when students know exactly what to study and where they need to improve. That full-length test gives our tutors a baseline so that they know exactly what students need to focus on. 

Learn the ins and outs of the exam. Students need to know the format and details of the exam they decide to take—especially now that the SAT is a digital, multistage adaptive test and the ACT is offered as either an online or paper-based test (student’s choice in select locations). It’s essential to be familiar with the exam’s question types, number of questions, section lengths, and other basic information. This can steer your student towards one test over the other, as the SAT and ACT have several big distinctions:

  • The SAT is a multi-stage adaptive test, which means the test adapts to a student’s performance level. The test has two sections (Reading & Writing and Math) and each section is divided into two modules. Students start with the first module, which has easy, medium and hard questions. In the second module, questions will be more or less difficult, depending on how they performed in the first module. The ACT is a linear-based test, and the questions don’t adjust based on performance.
  • The ACT has a Science section with 40 questions that assess science content in context. The SAT has science-themed questions that involve charts and graphs. These questions are peppered throughout the test.
  • The digital SAT is 2 hours and 14 minutes long. The ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long. 

Create a schedule. Students will be more effective in their preparation if they create a consistent test prep study schedule with milestones. The schedule should dedicate the appropriate amount of time to each subject and specific section of the exam, targeting weaker areas and considering the student’s strengths. A student’s specific test score goals (possibly driven by their target college or university) and the gap between the diagnostic test score and “goal” test score will impact the amount of time needed.

Cover all the elements. Yes, the SAT and ACT require subject-matter knowledge. This should be the primary area of focus in a student’s study plan. However, the best test prep plan should cover several other areas as well:

  • Practice exams – Students should take at least two full-length, timed practice tests that simulate the actual test environment. Huntington offers multiple practice tests throughout our test prep programs that measure progress and give students the chance to implement test-taking strategies.
  • Technology - The SAT is administered online through the Bluebook app, which needs to be loaded on each test-taker’s school-issued or personal device beforehand. Students need to be comfortable with this technology and understand how to use it to their advantage.
  • Speed – There are a lot of questions on the SAT and ACT to answer in a short timeframe. It’s important for students to work on improving their speed without sacrificing accuracy.
  • Stress management – The SAT and ACT can cause test stress for students because of the impact that these tests can have on their future. It’s important that students learn how to manage their stress with relaxation or other techniques as needed.

Plan ahead for a retake. Many students take the SAT or ACT a few times to earn their best score. One of the many benefits of taking the SAT or ACT more than once is the ability to “superscore.” Superscoring combines your student’s best subject scores from each test attempt into one overall score. The idea behind the superscore is that it reflects your student’s true capabilities.  

Summer is the best time to prepare for the SAT or ACT.  Students will have more time to focus on test prep without the conflicts of school, homework, and extracurricular activities. Students considering applying to colleges or universities by the early action or early decision deadlines need to have test scores submitted as early as October 15th. Starting a test prep program now will give them time to work on improving their score.  

Parents and students who are unsure where to begin with the college admissions process should call Huntington. We’ve worked with millions of students to help them improve their SAT/ACT scores, gain entrance into the colleges of their dreams and increase their chances of earning scholarships.

Learn more about Huntington’s SAT and ACT prep programs and the Huntington test prep approach at www.huntingtonhelps.com. Call 1-800 CAN LEARN to get your student started.