My wife and I have twins in 5th grade right now. (No, I have not started SAT/ACT prep with them yet.)
If they were in the Class of 2021 and they hadn’t taken an official ACT or SAT yet, I would have them begin preparing now with plans to take the July ACT and the August SAT. Now is the ideal time for students to begin preparing for those exams as humans learn most effectively in smaller doses over a longer period with time in between for their brains to process the new information, rather than cramming for the ACT or SAT in the last two weeks before the exam. To get started, check out our newly updated, one page documents - What You Need to Know About the SAT & What You Need to Know About the ACT.
Students should spend about two to two and a half hours per week (starting now) practicing and studying for the July ACT. This is a reasonable/realistic amount of time. We are not asking a student to move mountains or study for three hours per night, which is unrealistic and gives students the wrong impression that these tests should take precedence over the other things that make up a balanced and productive day (such as academic coursework, physical activity, and yes, sleep.)
Once a student has taken the ACT once and the SAT once, use the official ACT/SAT concordance tables to determine which test the student scored higher on, and have the student take that test a second time (either the September ACT or September SAT.) Many students score about the same on the two exams, which is not surprising since there is so much overlap in the content of the two tests. In this case, the student should take whichever test they felt more comfortable with.
The goal is for the September ACT or the September SAT to be the final time they need to take these exams. These are long, grueling exams that nobody wants to take more times than they need to. At the same time, a student can always take the SAT or ACT an additional time if need be. I never want a student going into an exam thinking it is their “last chance.”
So how can a student score as high as possible and therefore get accepted to more places and earn more in academic merit aid and scholarship money? The first thing every student should do is use the Method Test Prep checklist of 15 minute tasks. Students who follow this checklist increase their SAT scores an average of 150 points and their ACT scores an average of 3 points. The checklist consists of audio lessons during which a teacher walks students through every strategy and technique needed to score high on these exams, questions for students to practice on, and video explanations so students can watch the fastest way to solve questions. Thousands of students use this checklist each week to score higher on these exams.
A second option that parents and students should consider is our $20 live classes every weeknight at 8 pm Eastern. Each evening we focus on a different topic from the tests; students like the fact that they only need to commit to an hour of studying, and parents like the low-cost aspect.
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