Study Plan for the SAT & ACT

November 17, 2016

Is it stressful to watch seniors at your high school freak out about college applications? It’s difficult to watch from the sidelines and know that’s in your future really soon. So, instead of just worrying, here’s a SAT/ACT study plan to kickstart the whole process for you.

Many students start studying for the SAT or the ACT as early as sophomore year. And, that’s okay, but you should not start any earlier than that. You typically only start learning the relevant materials that are tested in the standardized exams in your sophomore year.

So, when should you start? 

How do you study best? Does it take you a long time to absorb information? When you do, how do you retain that knowledge for? Everyone has different studying habits, so don’t just do what your friends are doing. Take the time to understand what your own habits are.  

If do start Sophomore year…

1. Take the PSAT or ACT practice test

If you’ve already made up your mind about which test to take, take the PSAT for the SAT and a practice test for the ACT. For a more direct representation, you can also directly take a SAT practice test. This will give you an idea of what your score range will be, and how you should study to get the target score you’re aiming for.

2. Discover your desired target score

Look up a few of the schools you are potentially interested. (Don’t worry, these don’t have to be the exact schools you end up applying to.) Find out what the SAT or ACT score range at those schools are. Your target score is to be part of the top 25th percentile. You want to aim to have a better score than 75% of the admitted students.

3. Create a study plan

Now that you have your current score range and your target score, you can develop a study plan to help you meet your goals. Look at the score you got from your practice test, and your target score. What’s the point discrepancy?

Every student learns and studies differently, but from our experience at Green Test Prep, studying 100-120 hours will help improve your SAT scores by +350 points, and ACT by +5 points. So, if you’re in your sophomore year, this might mean 20 minutes a week. Or, if you’re a junior, this will mean 1 hour a week. It all depends what your own timeline is. We’ve put together 4 different test prep calendars for everyone in high school, so find the one that fits your needs! 

4. Take the real SAT or ACT in the fall

Follow the study plan and register for either the SAT or the ACT in the fall. Both the SAT and the ACT publish their test dates way in advance, so look up which test date you’re shooting for. It’s always helpful to have a set target you’re working towards. 

5. Evaluate your studying strategies

It’s everyone’s dream to only have to take the SAT or the ACT once, but that doesn’t always happen to everyone. Sometimes it’s just nerves, but more often than not, there are specific weaknesses you can work on. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you have enough time on each section?

  • Did you know all the material?

  • Is there anything you simply didn’t understand?

  • Do you see repeated mistakes on similar types of questions?

Based on your experience of taking the exam and practice sections, isolate what your weakness. The “bad tester” is just a myth. Find out what material you’re lacking in, and testing strategies to help you beat the time constraints.  

6. Retake the exam in the spring

If you start early, you’ll have the time to take 2-3 months to retake the exam in the Spring. Take advantage of this break, and narrow the gap between your score and your target score! Test prep isn’t just about cramming all the materials and doing practice tests day and night. This is something you can add into your weekly class schedule and routine. Imagine the SAT or the ACT as one of your AP classes for the semester. Slow and steady, and you’ll get it done!

Need help with the essay portion of the SAT or ACT? Use Green Test Prep, an online SAT prep platform, to help improve your score.

Anthony-James Green has been called “America’s Top SAT Tutor” by Business Insider magazine. He raises test scores an average of 346.5 points on the SAT and 4.6 points on the ACT. To discover how to get a guaranteed increase on your SAT and ACT scores with The Green Test Prep System, click here.

Browse Successful Application Files

Stanford ‘19

Accepted to Stanford, Williams, Brown, Pomona, Duke, Bard, Kenyon

Stanford 2019, creative writing and education. Full essays! "Lopsided," less-than-stellar numbers.
UPenn ‘20

Accepted to UPenn

Hello! I'm a Freshman at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. I plan on concentrating in finance, marketing and social impact. In high school I was active in LGBTQ advocacy and music. I can help with any questions you have about admissions
UC Berkeley ‘19

Accepted to UC Berkeley, Penn State, Colorado, UCLA, NYU

Passionate about Education. Lover of all things science!
UPenn ‘21

Accepted to UPenn, Tulane, Elon , UNC

Student in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business dual enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School.

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