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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

6 Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your SAT/ACT Score

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As you start studying for and taking the SAT or ACT, you may find yourself in one of two situations: Either you’ve taken the SAT or ACT before and didn’t get as high of a score as you were aiming for or you’re taking practice tests before your SAT and you aren’t seeing any score improvement from those.


In both cases, you may be feeling frustrated and hopeless, thinking that you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to be working. Rest assured, however, that not all hope is lost. We at CollegeVine have made a detailed list of some study strategies you can try today to improve your SAT or ACT score. Read through it and see if there’s a strategy you haven’t tried yet!


Identify Your Deficiencies


Reviewing all the concepts and doing all the practice problems you can find may be an inefficient use of your study time, especially after you’ve been doing that for a while. A better way to help your SAT score is to target your review of concepts and practice questions towards those that you struggle with the most.


You can identify these deficiencies by going back through your completed practice exams/questions and analyzing the questions that you got wrong. More often than not, you’ll find that one or two specific subjects, concepts, or type of questions accounted for most of your missed points.


Create A Study Plan


Once you’ve identified your deficiencies and know what topics to focus on, bring out a calendar and plan out what day and time in the next few weeks/months you are going to review and what concepts you are going to review. To be thorough, you can also decide what materials you are going to use to review each concept.


While you’re making your test prep plan, make sure you work in some time to do some practice problems. It’s important to not just review the material for the SAT/ACT on a conceptual level but to also apply it in the way that you will be expected to on the exam. If you can master the practice questions, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to master the concepts on the exam.


Widen Your Breadth of Study Materials


Until this point, you may have been relying on a test prep book, an online app, or your old class notes to study for this exam. While this method may be working for you and you may be understanding the material that is right in front of you, you may be missing some of the key material that will be covered on the exam. One test prep resource may not cover every concept, vocab, or type of question that’ll be on the real SAT/ACT.


Thus, in order to increase your score, you may want to seek out some new study materials. Here are some of the materials that are available to you:

  • SAT/ACT Prep Apps: These apps can be accessed wherever you are, making it easy to study for the SAT/ACT no matter where you are. If you don’t know which apps to download, try consulting The Best Apps to Organize Your College Planning.
  • Test Prep Books: Even if you’ve already bought one, it might be worth trying a different brand to see different test strategies and ways of approaching each testable concept. You may even want to consider purchasing or borrowing a book of just practice questions to get some more practice in.
  • Flash Cards: There are various flashcards you can purchase at your local bookstore to help you with concepts like vocabulary words or important mathematical formulas that won’t be given to you on the formula sheet. You can even make the flashcards yourself. Making the flashcards could even serve as an extra review of the concepts!  
  • CollegeVine’s SAT Program: A surefire way to increase your SAT score is to have SAT experts help you with your test prep. We at CollegeVine highly recommend you check out our SAT Tutoring Program, where we will pair you with two private tutors, both of whom are chosen carefully based on their teaching skills and have attended Top 30 universities. All of our tutoring programs are conducted online via video chat. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll receive premium instruction from our top tutors, right in your home. Click here to learn more.


Know The Test


It may be worth spending a few hours to go over the structure of the test, the types of questions that are going to be asked, what the graders are looking for in the essay, and overall figuring out how you can use the test to your advantage. By knowing how CollegeBoard and the ACT organization structure and approach their exam, you can start to see the test from their perspective and come up with some test-taking strategies that will increase your score.


For example, the SAT questions (with the exception of Critical Reading) are arranged in ascending order of difficulty. Thus, you shouldn’t spend a lot of time on the questions at the beginning and to save your time for the trickier questions at the end. This strategy will help you finish the exam and answer every question with the highest possible accuracy.


As another example, the ACT will reward you with one point for a right answer on their multiple choice section, but they will not deduct any points for a wrong answer. Thus, it is beneficial, on the ACT, to answer every single question, regardless of whether you are confident in that answer or not. After all, you have a 25% chance of getting it right.

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Be Disciplined


Even if you’ve set aside enough study time during the past few weeks/months, you haven’t been as efficient with your studying as you may have led yourself to believe. If you’ve found yourself on your phone or laptop, checking social media, talking with friends or family, or do anything other than studying for your exam during your allotted study time, you probably haven’t done as much studying as you think you have.


Remember that, while you’re studying, all distractions should be far away from you. That means that the phone should be off, the laptop should be put away, and you should be studying in a quiet space away from others. As long as you focus on studying during your study time, you’ll be able to retain and recall the material better on the actual exam.


Some New Test-Taking Strategies


Perhaps you’ve studied effectively and have learned the concepts adequately, but you don’t quite know how to take the test in a way that is advantageous to your score. Here are some test-taking strategies from CollegeVine that may help your score:


  • Learn the directions that appear at the beginning of each section now so that you don’t have to waste time reading it on the test day. Each section is timed, so you should use that time saved to work on the actual test questions.
  • As a general rule, your first answer or what your gut tells you is the right answer is usually right. Thus, you should try not to change an answer unless you are absolutely sure that you made an error.
  • In between each test section, be sure to completely clear your head of the last section. Odds are, the next section you take is going to be completely different from the last and will require a different set of skills and strategies. So approach each section as if it’s the first one you’re taking.
  • Stamina is important! The SAT/ACT take hours and has multiple sections. You should dedicate some of your practice time just to getting comfortable taking a long exam. This is where those practice exams become very important.
  • Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and pay attention to words like except or not. Those words can completely change the question, and they’re very easy to miss.
  • Especially on the SAT, where you lose ¼ of a point for each wrong answer, you may be hesitant to guess on any question you are unsure about. However, as a general rule, if you can eliminate at least one wrong answer choice, take a guess! You have a ⅓ chance of getting the question right!


For More Information


To learn more about the SAT/ACT and how you can improve your score, check out these previous blog posts:


The CollegeVine Guides to the SAT

The CollegeVine Guide to Your SAT Scores: All Your Questions Answered

The CollegeVine Guides to the ACT

10 Tips to Improve Your ACT Score


Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!