Top 5 ingredients for SAT and ACT success

By Loren Deutsch

Based on your test date, establish a 2-3 month study plan and stick to it

Identify a limited number of study resources that include practice questions for spaced repetition, explanations and strategies, for each answer. Consider the following based on SAT or ACT:

  • CollegeBoard questions for SAT prep (CollegeBoard authors the SAT)
  • The Real ACT questions for ACT prep (The Real ACT authors the ACT)

Complete pre-test (half-length or full-length) that includes all sections of the ACT or SAT, even the written essay, to establish a baseline score and complete an error analysis. The score and error analysis are used to identify achievement goals and measure progress

Complete daily blocks of targeted questions based on mastery of one topic (section) at a time, and twice weekly comprehensive questions based on an ever-increasing number of topics (sections) to maintain and enhance achievement scores

Two weeks before the SAT or ACT test date, complete full-length post-test. Use the composite score and/or sections scores to modify preparation as needed

Do the 5 essential ingredients really lead to success? Test taking and achieving on high stakes exams, requires students to accurately remember information, and then efficiently and fluidly access it. It is an active process of recall (Roediger, Agarwal, McDaniel, McDermott, 2011) that is enhanced by practice.

Research explains that recall practice increases long-term memory and with spaced repetition and feedback, can enhance the amount of information and the accuracy remembered, during an assessment. This experience is referred to as the testing effect (Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L., 2008), and it occurs when practice leads to improvement. The 5 essential ingredients when managed effectively enhance learning and achievement, and for many, a sure sign of academic success.

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