Applying to college? Odds are, you'll have to take one of two standardized tests: the ACT or SAT. You might even consider taking both. Along with your grades, standardized test scores are one of the most important components in your college application.

It might seem unfair that a little less than four hours on a single Saturday morning counts as much as four years of hard work. We understand, and we're here to help. A little preparation will go a long way.

What do you need to raise your score on the ACT or SAT?

  1. the score you have
  2. the score you want
  3. a plan to close the gap

The Score You Have

Take a practice test and take it seriously. Mimic the test environment to the best of your ability. Do each section in order and time yourself. Take a short break if you need to, but don't stop for lunch. The ACT and SAT are endurance tests.

Consider that score your baseline. This is the score you would earn if you showed up at the exam site today.

The Score You Want

Hopefully, you have a list of schools where you want to apply, even if you think you might change it later. Compare your practice test score with the average scores of the most recent freshman class.

Unless your score far exceeds the average at all of your prospective schools, you'll want to dedicate some time to prepping before you take an official test. Improving your score by even a hundred points can significantly improve your chances of admission at many schools.

A Plan to Close the Gap

To improve your baseline score, you'll need to determine the problem.
You're careless Did you miss questions because you didn't read carefully? If so, you need to practice and drill.
You're crunched Did you miss questions because you ran out of time? If so, you need to work on pacing.
You're clueless Did you miss questions because you had no idea how to answer? If so, you need to focus on a content review.

Finally, it's time to find the solution that works best for you. Whatever approach works best for you, start planning well in advance. You'll do better if you set aside time each week to prepare, rather than cramming it all in at the last minute.

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