Taking one SAT seems boring enough, right? So why would you want to take one, two, or even eight more? Well, as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons you should. Whether you’re gearing up to take the SAT or the ACT, you’re probably wondering what the best way to prepare is. Rather than trying to tackle a ton of studying right off the bat, you should learn what areas you struggle with more than others. I don’t just mean being bad at math; these tests are much more specific than that. I mean figuring out which question types confuse you, why they confuse you, and how to master them. A practice test truly is the best place to start if you’re in need of a major (or even a minor) score improvement. Here’s why
1. Find out where you stand
This is the most obvious reason. How do you even know you need to improve if you don’t know where you stand? Taking a practice test can tell you just how far you need to go. It’s best to get started early — while an increase of a point or two may be possible in just a couple of months, any major improvements will take time (and more than one practice test).
2. Learn your strengths and weaknesses
There are two types of practice tests – the kind you take on your own at home and those given by a library or local business to mirror the conditions of the real test. Both are great practice, but taking a practice test administered by someone else will most likely give you more accurate results. It’s important to make sure that any practice test you take is authentic (the company didn’t create it themselves) and that you will have full access to your results (the more detailed they are the better). While taking the test itself can give you a great idea of what test day will be like, the results are what you’re really there for. A good score report will break your results down by section and by question. This will help you to pinpoint the exact questions you struggled with, at which point you can refer back to the test and figure out what it was about that question that tripped you up. Some SAT and ACT questions are meant to confuse you! For example, knowing that the wording of a question was why you got it wrong (and not your lack of knowledge on the subject) can help reassure you and narrow your focus when it comes time to study.
3. Save $$$
This brings me to the most important question we all ask ourselves when deciding to do almost anything — will this save me money? When it comes to practice tests, the answer is YES! There are thousands of SAT/ACT prep programs out there meant to waste your money and your time. Knowing the exact areas in which your student struggles can help keep you out of those expensive prep courses that only give a general overview of the information. Working with a tutor who knows the test and can address your student’s individual needs can produce better results, faster. By taking a practice test first, you’ll spend far less time and money developing the right test prep plan.
4. Monitor your progress
This is one of the biggest reasons that taking practice tests actually helps you improve your score. Once you’ve zeroed in on your biggest weaknesses and begun to work on them, you’ll be able to see if your work is really paying off. If you’re not seeing any improvement, then you’ll know right away that it’s time to try a different strategy. Imagine studying for the SAT for months only to get your results back and realize you perfected the areas you already had a handle on and neglected the ones that really needed work. You can also take at-home practice tests as frequently as you need to so that when exam day comes, you’re comfortable with the formatting and timing of the test.
5. Know what to expect on exam day
While the SAT and ACT do test your knowledge, they are actually designed to assess your test taking abilities. So even if you have a firm grasp on all of the subject, if you’ve never seen what the test looks like, you’re not going to do as well as someone who has prepared by taking practice tests. I hate to beat a dead horse, but familiarity with the question types, timing, and format is absolutely key to succeed on standardized tests. Unfortunately, the tests don’t account for individual students and their preferred learning styles — they’re called “standardized” for a reason. Some of the smartest kids can be the worst test takers (by no fault of their own!) and knowing what to expect on the official exam can be the most invaluable part of their prep. With every practice test you take, not only will your confidence increase but your score will too.
By: Emily Sahli, Staff Writer, Curvebreakers