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How To Select, Prepare, and Perform on the SAT & ACT

Your number #1 priority this summer is to prepare for your official standardized test at the end of August or beginning of September. 

This is what you should do:

  • Select a standardized test to take (SAT or ACT)
  • Register for the exam
  • Study your face off
  • Take the exam
  • Never look back

Let me remind you why I recommend this strategy in case you start to waver on implementing any of these steps:

  • An SAT or ACT score is a top 3 criteria for college admissions
  • Summer provides maximum time and flexibility to study
  • Studying for this test in the middle of junior year is a disaster
  • Ability to maximize energy, sleep, and hydration before test
  • Fewer distractions and potential scheduling conflicts
  • Less-crowded testing sites
  • Results provide an early indicator of what tier of colleges to consider
  • Potential to score well and never take test ever again
  • Ability to re-test later in the year if things don't go as planned
  • If a re-test is necessary, the bulk of studying is already done
  • Ivy League athletes can use score to market themselves to coaches
  • Ability to take test when momentum is at its peak

Some people recommend that students take their first test in the Spring of junior year. I simply disagree.

I'm not against taking it a second time in the Spring if the early test doesn't go as planned, but I do not believe that junior year is conducive to preparing for this test.

Yes, you will theoretically be 7 months "smarter" by May because of the passage of time, but I don't believe this outweighs the advantages above. 

Are you convinced?

This is so important, allow me to elaborate on the steps in more detail:

STEP 1: Take a new practice SAT and ACT; decide which to study for

My strong advice is to take a new, fresh diagnostic SAT and ACT one week apart from each other to see which test you perform better on.  I don't like the idea of using a PSAT score from 10 months ago. I want two new scores, taken one week apart, in the same test-taking environment. I want an apples-to-apples comparison.

How do you do this? ArborBridge will mail you a hard copy of each practice test. Once you receive the tests, ArborBridge will schedule a time for you to take the exams using an online proctor tool that guides you through every section of the tests. You take the tests from home (ideally, one week apart).

Then, ArborBridge grades the exams and supplies you with a comprehensive report on how you performed and where you need to focus your efforts. This is a free service. ArborBridge does offer tutoring services, but you are under no obligation to commit to anything.

Some students have an opinion on which test is better for them. Some even base their decision on a friend's advice. I prefer to let the numbers do the talking. This test is too important to be lazy. If you want to get an idea of the differences between the tests:

In the summary of your scores, ArborBridge will advise which test is better-suited to you. If you decide not to use ArborBridge and use two pre-existing scores, you should use the "concordance chart" link below to figure out if you are pre-disposed to performing better on one test over the other. In many cases, the results are even and there is no discernible difference.

SAT vs ACT Concordance Chart

Okay, by now, you should know which test to focus on.

STEP 2: Register for the test

STEP 3: Study your face off

This is where you will have to consider where you live, available tutors, how much you are willing to spend (if anything), how motivated you are, and your summer schedule. 

Options? Khan Academy, Study Guides, Classroom tutoring, 1-on-1 tutoring

How much should you study? Well, I tell all of my PrepWellers that it depends on how well you want to do. As in life, there is typically a strong correlation between work and results.

A student who wants to do their best should be willing to commit the month of August to significant study. For some students, this means 10 hours a week. For others, 25+ hours a week.

I hope it's clear how important I believe this summer can be for you. I know as a parent, that not every child will have the motivation or discipline to execute this plan to its fullest. I try to give you my best advice assuming you're a student who wants to be their best.

Enroll in PrepWell Academy

I wish you luck.

Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.

Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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