Like most things in education, SAT and ACT scores have a lot to do with practice, planning, and preparation. Some students may have an automatic advantage, but well planned effort can help bridge the gap and any student can get a great score.

Take Challenging Math Classes

When you’re a high school freshman, you might be given the option to repeat math courses that you took in middle school. Skip pre-algebra and head right to geometry if they let you! It is commonly agreed that students tend to get their best math SAT scores immediately after taking geometry. If you’re taking geometry in your freshman year, you’ll want to take the SATs and ACTs for the first time over the summer after 9th grade.

Consider Latin

The Latin language isn’t exactly spoken fluently anymore, but the word roots and variations influence a lot of modern English, Spanish, French, and Italian. Latin words are also a big part in the origin of scientific terminology, so this could help you out in the science sections of the ACT and any science or technology classes you take. Students tend to do best on the verbal sections of the SAT after they’ve been in high school for several years. Read a lot of books, study vocabulary, and make sure to schedule SAT and ACT tests near the end of your junior year.

Take the SATs and ACTs Multiple Times

If you take the tests several times, most colleges and universities will allow you to combine your best scores in each section toward your best total score. Also, the more you take the test, the more familiar you will be with it – and students tend to do a little better each time. Don’t overdo it though, if you take the SATs and ACTs 10 times and only get a mediocore score, the admissions department of your chosen school may be skeptical of your ability. Aim to take each test about three times – once after your freshman year and then at the end of the next two years also.

Take Practice SAT Tests and/or Prep Courses

If it is affordable, sign up for an SAT or ACT Preparation Course. A good class will cover many hours of instruction, practice, and personalized assistance for your particular needs. These courses were included at my high school for the PSATs, and I would recommend them for anyone else who is hoping to get a competitive SAT score.

If the cost of a SAT/ACT prep class is out of reach, spend a few bucks on a study guide with practice exams. These days, many of those types of books will include online or CD-ROM based practice tests.

Heck, “these days” you can just download the ACT and SAT prep software straight to your iPhone, iPad, or Android smart phone. Instead of lugging books around and trying to keep track of paperwork, you can have all your test preparation needs in portable, digital form. Click here for more information about Test Prep Courses on your iPhone, Android or iPad

Stay Calm, Well-fed, and Rested

With clubs, tests, finals, and essays, its easy to think that sleep is something that can be cut out. NO! This is one of the best-kept secrets of education: You think better and are more productive with your time when your body is happy.

Relax. The test isn’t everything. Schools still care about your GPA, activities, awards, and job experience. If you can stay calm, you’ll be able to devote more mental energy into the actual test questions.

Eat a good breakfast. Bring snacks. High fat, high protein breakfasts have been shown to increase mental activity throughout the day. However! Too much grease and fat can make you drowsy, especially if you’ve been cutting back on sleep. Egg whites and lean meat would make a great SAT-morning breakfast – stay away from the drive through.

The brain also needs simple sugars to function. I’m going to let you in on the biggest food-related secret of my SAT success: Chocolate covered raisins. Trust me on this one, try it out. Bring some to snake on, but be aware you might need to leave them in your car or in a locker. Food is not allowed inside of the testing room, but it is a long test and you need something to get you through it. It might sound silly to focus so much on diet, but this does affect how you feel and perform.

Sleep! The worst I ever did on the SATs was my sophomore year. I signed up for the test and forgot the date I had scheduled for. So I ended up getting tickets to a Megadeth concert the night before. Thinking I could “do it all” I went to the concert and stumbled into the SAT test the next day, half-asleep. While most students go up on their 2nd time through the test, I ended up going down about 30 points. I had finished more advanced math and I had been practicing the test for a whole year, but just being tired was enough to counter-act all that preparation.

18 Responses to “Practice and Prepare for the Best SAT & ACT Scores”

  1. I’m not sure I’d recommend taking the SAT or ACT as many times as you have suggested. You can get the same practice for the SAT by registering for the PSAT in early years. I can’t see any good coming out of taking the SAT at the end of the Freshman year; that just strikes me as too early.

    Great tips with how to be prepared the morning of the test. You’re absolutely correct that sleep and breakfast are the most commonly overlooked pre-SAT/ACT rituals. A student must absolutely be well-rested and well-fed to score at their maximum potential.

    Which prep courses do you think would be best for people looking to take the SAT or ACT?


  2. A lot of geometry is covered in the math sections so I think it was a good idea to take it when I finished my first year at HS. If a student were taking Algebra 1, then, yeah, there would be almost no point toward taking the test. Of course, that’s why I recommend taking geometry right away.

    Cost could be a factor of course, but an online or book-based practice test wouldn’t necessarily prepare a student for the test-taking environment.

    I’m a big fan of “free” so if I had to pick a prep course I’d be leaning toward the free college board online practice test

  3. I have not taken the SAT yet, but i plan on making a very good score when i take it.And i think taking the free practice test and being very serious with your vocabulary would help.

  4. Hi!

    I think this is a great article. I agree that one of the best ways to get a higher SAT score is to take it multiple times, though I also agree with the commentator above that the timing of those tests will need to vary with the student.

    I’m posting here because I wanted to tell your readers about my free SAT site. I’m one of the highest-paid SAT tutors I know of, but I wanted to try an experiment and post all of my strategies and solutions and everything online for free. (I’m calling it an “experiment” because my ultimate goal is to see if I can help so many people score so high that the SAT ultimately becomes meaningless, and colleges stop relying on it so much. Who knows if that’s gonna happen, but hey…)

    My main site is at MysterTutor. It has a complete free video course and all kinds of stuff. There’s also a free forum at, where students can access my complete list of solutions to the questions in the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide; they can also ask me questions directly. Again, all this stuff is free. My goal is to make it so that nobody ever needs to pay for SAT prep again :)

    Thanks for letting me post here, and keep up the good work!

    Oh, and chocolate-covered raisins are one of my favorite things, too. Of all the raisin coverings that there are, I think chocolate is probably the best.


  5. I’m a student preparing to answer the SAT, hoping to get the good scores…. but i know i need something without much practice!!!!
    so when i surf the net, i find out that this site offers some advice. I get refresh from my boring lessons again!:P

  6. I agree that it doesn’t hurt to take the actual SAT test several times over a couple years so that students are well accustomed to it for their Junior and Senior years. When I was in middle school, I first took the SATs and then took them every year through my Junior year.

  7. provide free SAT practice tests (Math Only)


  8. A couple of thoughts:
    While taking the ACT test in your 9th grade year my be a good idea, you may struggle with the math somewhat. So don’t expect to do well. However, taking the test will be great practice for you and it’s definitely worth doing, especially if you pay to get a copy of the test booklet and answers back to see what your weak points are.

    Good comments on rest. That’s critical. Your mind has to be sharp to withstand the lengthy time of the test. You’ll get worn down near the end if you aren’t rested as you head into the test.

  9. Studying online is a great idea to get success. Study with test papers, model papers, solved papers, take self assessment test. Search website like for SAT and success will knock ur door.

  10. I would add finding a study group to the list of suggestions.

  11. Great post. I’d also recommend that student take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). This is basically a practice test that will get you prepared for the SAT. It’s a shorter version of the exam, but it will provide you with an opportunity to practice questions in a real live testing environment and give you an idea of the types of questions that will be on the actual exam.

  12. but it will provide you with an opportunity to practice questions in a real live testing environment and give you an idea of the types of questions that will be on the actual exam.

  13. Don’t agree that this is a good way to test students but it helps to find a study group.

  14. The best place for me to study is at the college library. Just FYI though there is a lot to study.

  15. Great article. Thank you for publishing this web site. Will definetly come back for extra fascinating information.

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