SAT and ACT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Shravya Kakulamarri in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- How many hours should you study during the school year for the ACT?
- What SAT/ACT prep books should you use?
- Should you take both the SAT and the ACT?
- Once you identify your weaknesses, should you review the topic or more practice questions?
- How do I study for the reading section?
- I only have 2 months to study before my exam. How should I study?
This post covers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the SAT and ACT in terms of how to study, what materials to use, a timeline for studying, and more.
How many hours should you study during the school year for the ACT?
If you are studying the fall of your Junior year to take a December exam, it’s reasonable to study 1-2 hours a day. Then, on the weekends we recommend you take an exam every other week. Remember, reviewing the exam is just as important as taking it and usually will take much longer than taking the practice exam, so give yourself plenty of time to review your answers.
But be flexible with yourself. If you’re taking a lot of AP or IB classes and you have a huge test coming up, it’s ok to shift around your study schedule as long as you stay on top of it.
What SAT/ACT prep books should you use?
Five steps, Baron’s, and Princeton Review, are good options. The best option is the ACT official guide, as well as CollegeBoard’s official SAT study guide. These are the most representative in terms of practice tests. The Khan Academy website also has great free resources.
Should you take both the SAT and the ACT?
It depends. If you take the SAT first and get a decent score, you might want to just focus on prepping for the SAT. If you really don’t like the exam, then give the ACT a try. But remember, you don’t need to get good scores in both exams. Colleges only want to see a good score from one of the exams!
If you need help deciding which test is best for you, check out our guide to the SAT vs. ACT.
Once you identify your weaknesses, should you review the topic or take more practice questions?
If you have a decent grasp on the topic then practice questions is the better strategy. But, if you realize you don’t have an understanding of the concept, then start with watching videos with explanations and walkthroughs, and then move on to practice questions.
How do I study for the reading section?
Studying for the reading section is tricky. We recommended practicing with actual passages to improve your reading speed and ability to answer questions correctly.
Some tips for doing well include, reading through the questions first and underlining any buzzwords that you see. This will help you figure out where to pay close attention in the passage.
Another strategy is studying vocab. You can find pre-made flashcard decks on Quizlet or make your own.
I only have 2 months to study before my exam. How should I study?
If you have not studied for the exam before, start with a test prep book or Khan academy to see a breakdown of all the topics you’ll need to know. Be sure you have a grasp on what is covered on the test but don’t spend more than two weeks reviewing material.
Next, dive right into practice questions and practice tests. If a pattern emerges of what concepts you don’t know, then go back to the book, but spend most of your time doing practice questions.
Try to schedule to take 8 practice tests, one each weekend.
How Does Your ACT/SAT Score Impact Your College Chances?
We hope these FAQs help you prepare for the SAT and ACT. Once you have an idea of your target score, you can input it in our free Admissions Chances Calculator to see how this would affect your chances of admission. This calculator will also let you know how your score stacks up against other applicants’, and give you tips on improving the rest of your profile, including grades and extracurriculars.
This tool will help you figure out what your goal score needs to be to have a competitive application for your dream school. Give it a try to get a jumpstart on your college strategy!