Test Prep

Check These Answers to 6 FAQs About SAT/ACT Practice Tests

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Preparing for the SAT or ACT is like training for a marathon -- most people have to put in the time to take full-length practice tests for optimal preparation. To help you with some of the most commonly-asked questions regarding practice tests, we spoke with Kristen Miller, founder of College Bound and Ready. Read on to get the scoop on her answers.


Q: When Should You Take SAT or ACT Practice Tests?

A: As with almost everything in college admissions, the answer depends on the student. If the student struggles with standardized tests or has test anxiety, familiarity with the test will be important to the student's self-confidence and how they view their ability to be successful on future tests. In this case, I wouldn't recommend a diagnostic test without some preparation.

Q: How Many Times Should You Take a Full-Length Practice Test?

A: I encourage students to take as many practice tests as possible, and a minimum of two before the actual test, as this an important part of preparation. It should be taken all at once, with short breaks that mimic the actual test day. Part of being successful on these tests is building up endurance, so breaking them up into sections might be convenient, but it isn't the best practice.

Q: Should You Pay for a Proctored Practice Test?

A: Ideally, a proctor should be present. There are free practice tests out there, which is great. However, I think it is also worthwhile to pay a small fee to have a proctored practice test. Trying to mimic the test-day conditions should give you a better predictive score. You can find proctored practice exams for an affordable fee, or sometimes for free, at a local test prep tutoring agency or online.

Q: Should You Take the Practice Test Online or on Paper?

A: You will definitely need to practice with the computer-based (online) version of the ACT if you decide to register for the computer-based ACT, which will be available from September this year. You will also be able to register for ACT section retakes starting this year – but these retakes will only be offered in a computer-based format. Since the SAT is still given on paper, it is best to take the practice SAT on paper to have a more realistic experience.

Q: Should You Take a Practice Test Alone or in a Study Group?

A: Either is fine in most situations. The important thing is that students create the opportunity to take them!

Q: How Should You Time Yourself?

A: Use a watch that you can also use on test day. Be sure to check for restrictions on what you can and can't bring to the test center when you take the SAT or ACT.

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