sat prep and act prepIs taking a test prep course enough? The answer is no. Test prep is a great tool to learn more, sharpen skills and prepare. But getting great scores on these tests require more from students than taking a test prep course. Here are a few necessary pieces of the winning combination needed for great standardized test scores: good critical thinking skills, general knowledge of subject matter, good study habits and preparation.

Good critical thinking skills

The SAT is known to test critical thinking and reasoning skills. The ACT requires it as well. Any testing (at its core) is really testing the ability to read, identify, interpret and understand what is being asked. Throughout school life, students are called upon to do this repeatedly. These kinds of strategic thinking and reasoning skills are as important to successful test take as having subject matter knowledge.  

General subject matter knowledge

There’s no escaping the need for a good understanding of the basic math, English, science (for the ACT) and some history requirements to do well on standardized tests. This is just a given. Test prep classes will review many of the most important target areas of each subject, but students must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of these areas first. Test prep builds upon the foundation set in the classroom.

Good study habits

Forming good habits often leads to good results. This is true with test preparation as well. Students who take test prep classes and develop good study habits in their subject matter coursework are twice as likely to score well on their standardized tests. And students who then use their good study habits to also study and prepare for the SAT and ACT exams, specifically, are setting themselves up for an even greater level of success.


An athlete would not just run onto the field or court and start playing the game. They would train for months (or even years) before even attempting to enter the game.  Then there is nutrition, sleep and mental focus preparation. The same is true for students preparing for the SAT and ACT. These tests are like the big game, and the students are the athletes. To score well, students must prepare and train like a champion: study, eat healthy, sleep well and build focus and concentration.

More than great scores

To get into a great school, students will need more than great SAT or ACT scores. A strong GPA is the other obvious necessity for admission. But many colleges are looking for even more than good grades and high scores. Today, schools are also looking for students that are well rounded, active in their communities and some schools are truly interested in student's stories of why they want to attend their school. Any way students look at college admissions, one thing is clear: it requires time, effort and focus in the classroom, on the tests and in the real world.

Which test prep tips do you emphasize in the classroom? Do your students see the connection between their classroom work and the college prep tests?