Getting Ready for the Big One – ACT/SAT Prep

College-bound Seniors across the country are required to take standardized tests, usually the SAT or ACT. Many of them are students that put it off and who are now panicking at the last minute. BIG MISTAKE… but wait I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a minute to look at the top 5 things that I share with students wanting to prepare for the SAT or ACT.

1) Don’t wait to take the ACT or SAT till the last minute. This is so very important, and probably the most common mistake that test takers make. Students who truly want to raise their SAT score at least 200 points should begin preparation a year in advance. Sign up for the College Board’s free “SAT question a day” via app only. Take an online course for SAT test prep, buy the book offered by the College Board, or hire a tutor (big smile). Whatever you do, be diligent to study a little every week. Don’t wait till the month before to study… you can’t expect miracles!

2) Thoroughly study the selected vocabulary. There are many great FREE websites that offer extensive vocabulary lists that should be studied. The one that I use with my students is A Major Test. This site has an awesome vocabulary list divided into 10 smaller (still extensive) lists. Students should go over each list, and highlight the words that they don’t know. Put the words and definitions that they don’t know on an index card, and carry them with them. They can pop them out when they have minute waiting in line, etc.

3) Get writing essays. Most students have a pretty good grasp of how to write an essay when they get to twelfth grade. However, writing an essay and writing an SAT essay are two different things. ( I know that sounds weird!) Seriously, the SAT writing section is timed. The student has 25 minutes to write a coherent essay linking references to books they have read or examples from history or science and to make the essay grader see their incredible intelligence. Yet, this is nearly impossible and essay graders know this. Most graders are writing teachers who have been instructed to spend NO MORE than 3 minutes reading the essay. The grader is really just getting an impression. The best way for the student to give a great impression is to know exactly what to do and how to do it before going to the test. By far the MOST feared section of the SAT is the essay section. EVERY student I tutor dreads it, yet being prepared and practicing until they know exactly what to do and can do it within 25 minutes will put their fears at ease! Students need to practice writing essays weekly, take an SAT writing course, or use test prep essays online. GOOD NEWS – on the new test the essay/writing section is now optional.

4) Take practice tests. Again, there are lots of great websites with free practice tests that allow the student to take a test and get immediate feedback on how they are doing. A Major Tests has some great sample tests, and the SAT study book that the College Board puts out has 10 full length practice tests. Take advantage of these. Don’t wait until the last minute with this strategy either. Take a practice test once a month throughout the year prior to the SAT test.

5) Take it easy the week before. So many students go into the test a bundle of nerves. This is definitely a hindrance to making a great score. If your student follows my suggestions and begins preparation a year in advance, when it comes time for the test it will all be second nature. There won’t be any giants of fear or anxiety to face. The student will know exactly what to expect and be confident that they have put in the preparation and time to score well.

And… just as a side note… if your student is wanting to receive financial aid for college… don’t wait until the last minute! There are lots of great programs available, but it’s important to get your information in almost a year in advance. The SAT/ACT score is pivotal for homeschoolers seeking acceptance into college. Isn’t it great that colleges are recognizing just how awesome homeschoolers are, and many are actively recruiting homeschoolers?

Edited ACT Prep Info for November 2019

Recent ACT scores indicate record-low scores in college readiness for English and math.  This recent report suggested four key recommendations to ensure college readiness for your student. 
  1. Academic rigor.
  2. Personalized learning.
  3. Continuous improvement.
  4. Holistic education, especially in social and emotional learning.
These low scores were across all ACT testing so it isn’t certain how homeschooling factors in. These four recommendations though are high on the list of goals we as homeschool parents have concerning our homeschool student’s education. 


Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]

June 7, 2012


  1. bellabean says:
    Posted January 30, 2013 1:20 am

    Excellent advice. There have been some interesting articles recently about how learning vocab is essential to improving reading scores, writing, and even IQ. Vocab has been a huge initiative in our house - I use Vivid Vocab with my teen, but I will definitely check out A Major Test as well. Thanks for the advice!

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