Why practice tests help
There are different ways you can prepare for the ACT/SAT:
- Only take practice test
- Use a test prep book
- Take a free or low-cost prep course
- Take an online course
- Meet with a tutor
Practice tests are part of every preparation path. The more closely the practice test environment resembles the real test environment the better. Yes, it takes time to take a full practice test, but it will help you:
- Familiarize yourself with the type of questions asked in the real test.
- Identify subject matter weaknesses that you can either work on now (if your test day is far enough in the future) or skip over on test day (so you don’t lose valuable time on problems you really don’t know how to solve)
- Understand the time limits you are up against so you can better pace yourself during the test and practice (and perfect) test taking strategies you may have read or heard about.
- Build your stamina so you can be at your best for the ENTIRE test, not just the first two sections.
- Reduce “exam anxiety”. If you are overly stressed over the big ACT/SAT, then taking plenty of practice tests in simulated environments will help calm your nerves.
Once you have taken your first full practice test, you will want to review:
- Subject Matter: Review the mistakes you made. If available review the correct answers. Are you getting it?
- Question Structure: Did you have a particularly hard time with certain types of questions? Find more practice tests and look for similarly worded questions.
- Pacing: Did you run out of time? Did you just barely make it? If some types of questions bogged you down, how can you identify them next time and skip over them so you can work on them at the end of the test. Make a real plan. Write it down. Then take another practice test and see if you are able to follow your own advice.
- Fatigue: Did you run out of steam? What could you have done better? Go to bed earlier? Eat better? Exercise more? Read an entire book, not just a text message? Write down your plan, execute it, then take another practice test to see if this is working for you.
If you are a parent and you are reading this, help your student by reviewing and analyzing the test with them. The subject matter is of course the most important aspect of the test, but the other items can make a big difference as well, and might be easier to fix.