Standardized tests require a special skill set. They are not an accurate measure of what you have learned in school or how smart you are. There are lots of factors to prepare for: the types of questions, timing, bubble sheets, and the length of the test. So how much should you prepare each year? Let’s look at how best to prepare for the ACT or SAT during your high school career.

9th Grade

In your freshman year of high school, you have a lot on your plate. As you adapt to new academic expectations, do not put too much pressure on yourself for standardized tests. After your first semester, simply start by taking a practice ACT and SAT; we offer free ones at Testive. Do not worry about content in the Math or Science portions that you have not learned in school yet. Focus mainly on timing and getting used to the format of the test.

10th grade

In sophomore year, you should be more adjusted to high school life. This is a good time to start seriously thinking about standardized tests. Take a practice test each semester. The ACT and SAT are accepted equally at every university, so use these practice tests to decide which test you prefer. It is completely about which one you like better. Universities do not have a preference at all, so pick which test feels easier for you. Also take this time to use specifically paper tests so you can practice taking the test in its correct format. Pay attention to using the bubble sheet and the timing. If you had unlimited time, of course you could do excellently on the test, but the time constraints will be difficult. They may cause some anxiety, and you may not finish the test. That is okay! You are still learning. Start paying attention to what areas of the test you need to work on. Consider getting a tutor to help you with your problem areas. Like learning to run a marathon, this is not about natural talent so much as training. It is a marathon of a test, so when you practice, really try to take the entire test in the time allotted. That will really help you get a feel for the pace you need to keep up to perform well.

11th grade

Junior year is the most important year in your ACT/SAT training. At this point, as you look into universities you may want to attend, check their required ACT and SAT scores. Notice if they accept super scoring. While you may not know exactly what school you want to attend, it is good to have a reasonable goal score in mind. Of course you will be busy with school, but set aside time to take a practice test every month. Ensure you take this test under the same conditions you’ll have during your test day. This is also the time when you should sign up to take the actual test. Most schools have a specific test day for juniors, but I recommend taking the official test at least two times on your own as well. If your goal university does take superscores, the more tests the better.

12th grade

If you do not have the score you want yet, you can continue taking standardized tests during your senior year. This is the time to do any last-minute prep, target problem areas, and submit your scores. However, if you had the scores you wanted by junior year, this is the time to sit back and focus on sending in school applications. You do not need to stress about testing if you worked on building up your testing skills over your high school career.

Standardized tests can create a lot of stress and anxiety. But if you take your time and build up the necessary skills, you can have the confidence you need to be successful. Working over your high school career to make this happen is a way to avoid unwanted last-minute cramming.

If you want help with standardized test prep, contact us at A-List powered by Testive.