Introducing College Confidential's Test Prep Hub

It’s time for high school Juniors to get ready for standardized tests. We’ve put together a page of resources to prepare for the ACT and SAT. We’ve collected articles from our Guidance section and included links to the CC forums. One of our favorite resources comes from one of the moderators: Common sense tips to help raise your SAT/ACT score. Thank you, @Lindagaf, for writing that!

We’ve also included links to the ACT and SAT forums where students can learn more and ask their questions. CC works best when we have well researched articles combined with practical and specific advice from you, the CC community. If you find the resource page useful, feel free to share it with student on the site or in you life.

And if there are other resources we should include, let us know!

1 Like

I would strongly suggest to any students who finish Algebra 2 Sophomore year that you start earlier.

You can jointly study for the PSAT and SAT for the fall of Junior year and take either the October or November test. This allows you 3-5 months to diagnose the results and work on areas of improvement and still take a second or even third test before the summer.

Waiting until spring means you have maybe one remaining test date, and two months to prepare, competing with potential AP tests, after your initial test. After that, you’re into taking standardized tests Senior year, which is a bad thing, IMHO.

I know my D isn’t the only Junior glad to have standardized testing completed.

1 Like

My son’s taking the ACT next month thru his school. (he’s a sophomore)

I don’t entirely agree that taking the test in the fall is best for all juniors. There is still a lot of learning and maturing that happens between October-Dec and March-June. Using my own son as an example, he was initially signed up for an October ACT, but it was clear he wasn’t ready when the time came. He ended up not taking it until April. He scored 34 on his first and only attempt. As a test prep tutor, it’s funny to me that I couldn’t see from the outset that my son wouldn’t be ready to take the test in October, up but in retrospect it’s clear.


Private educator here:

We work with our students in a way that keeps them at their best throughout their time with us. So, we help 12-year-olds and older reach their potential for their level of brain development and maturity and up that over time as they develop.

While it’s never too late to prepare for stronger results, we recommend that students build mastery over time, starting in middle school, if not before.

This need not be stressful. Forget flashcards, canned test prep programs, official test dates, etc. If you can find a pro who is professionally trained as a teacher and who personally earned very high scores on their first tries, ask them to help you reach your limits over an extended period so you’re always at your best.

This approach will help you get higher grades and walk into standardized tests without special prep and earn high scores dependably.

I did this with my own son as I homeschooled him and worked with my own private students for years to allow me to do that. I am certified to teach in two states currently and have two degrees and lots of experience working with various kinds of students. His scores on his first tries after his junior year were each the highest possible score, without specific prep for the tests.

It was so unstressful for him that he too his ACT, SAT, and all three SAT II tests that he took (all STEM) while he had food poisoning, earning ACT 36/36, SAT 2400/2400 (same as today’s 1600/1600), and SAT II’s all 800’s. However, one of his SAT II tests was taken in January of his senior year. He also got all 5’s on his STEM APs, and 4’s on his Language and Literature APs.

So, when should you start? Always be at your best at any given time. Failing that, start early and build your mastery over time. Last-minute test prep can be effective by significantly raising your scores IF you have highly skilled and available teachers. That’s hard to find, no matter what the salespeople (aka “directors”) say.

Don’t take chances by waiting. In fact, don’t even think about waiting. Many parents believe that taking a test prep course immediately before a test is smart “so they don’t forget anything.” That perspective assumes that students will memorize facts and then do a brain dump during the test. No, no, no! Students need to build deep mastery over time. Very little memorization is helpful. Skill and overall knowledge are far more important. Yes, memorize a few formulas, but know that highly competent students may not need a memorized formula to be able to accurately answer a question. They understand so much that they can figure it out with what they know. That’s true for my son. He’d never been one to memorize as, like me, he wants to understand instead. So, he’s done that and earned those perfect scores that way. For most people, it’s important to memorize a few formulas but also have very solid mastery built both on understanding and lots of practice. That takes time.

Just a little pushback to consider: I’ve been talking to students for our podcast and I’ve heard students putting so much of their identity into college prep that they loose track of the larger goal. Obviously this is hard for students who don’t get into their school of choice (does even perfect SATs guarantee that these days?) but it can also be difficult when the application process ends and college life begins. I guess what I’m saying is that if my children score a little lower on their tests, but have a stronger sense of self, that’s an exchange I’m willing to make.