What’s our best tip for mastering this standardized test season? Start early. In fact, we recommend starting your test prep the summer between sophomore and junior year. Most students will then go on to take the SAT or ACT (or both!) once during their junior year and once during the fall of their senior year.

how to prep for SAT or ACT

So what kind of test prep is best for you? Take a look at some of the most popular test prep methods for high school students.

1. Take a Practice Test 

What would be your score if you showed up for the test today?

To figure out how you’d measure up, take an SAT or ACT practice test under conditions that mimic the real testing environment. (For example: shut off your phone and use a timer.) You practice test score is your baseline. You can use your baseline score to help you make a study plan based on what you need to work on. Do you need to build up your vocabulary? Focus on math drills? Tame test day jitters? Practice tests also familiarize you with the different sections and directions of the test you plan to take so that there are no surprises.

When you take a free practice test with The Princeton Review, you’ll get a detailed score report that analyzes your strengths and weaknesses and gives you an action plan for increasing your score. Follow it up with one of our test prep books to keep practicing right up to test day. 

2. Sign up for a Prep Class

If you find it hard to study on your Saturdays off, you might want to consider a class taught by an instructor who will hold you accountable. Complete with homework and plenty of in-class practice, a prep class will put you through your paces and keep you on track all semester long. Test prep classes can run the gamut from small group settings to larger classrooms taught by test experts or even teachers from your high school if you take a prep course through school. With a little research, you’ll find the environment that’s best for you. And, of course, we’ve got plenty of prep course options

3. Prep Online

Many courses offer an online component in addition to in-class instruction. But super busy students may find it difficult to schedule a prep class between after-school jobs, volleyball, or violin. Online test prep lets you prep when and where it suits you best, repeat lessons, or skip ahead. This option is best for self-starters who won’t need regular deadlines and face-to-face time with an instructor to keep them motivated.

4. Get a Private Tutor

If you’re looking for a completely personalized approach, consider prepping with an SAT or ACT tutor. One-on-one tutoring sessions ensure you’ll get on-the-spot feedback and customized lessons to your needs and learning style. For example, if you’ve mastered sentence completion but need to work on geometry, your tutor will adjust your prep plan accordingly. This is also the most flexible method in terms of scheduling and great for students with limited availability or fast-approaching deadlines. Our Princeton Review expert tutors will meet you where and when it’s convenient for you.

5. Go to Camp

Usually held over the summer or winter break, test prep camps and immersion courses are intensive with lots of hard work. The pay off? Students emerge with tons of practice under their belts and the assurance that they’ve covered every single aspect of the test. It’s a major time commitment, but a concentrated one. For example, our typical SAT Immersion course meets 9-6pm, Monday through Friday, for two weeks. This method is great for students who are in a time crunch, need to focus on many areas of the test, or want to benefit from the discipline of a classroom experience.


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