Preparing for college – and entrance exams! - Learning Lab

Preparing for college – and entrance exams!

6 APRIL 2015 | JUDY HUBBARD 


One of the most common questions we hear is: “When should my child start planning for college and preparing for the ACT and SAT?” The short answer is that he or she has been doing that since entering first grade.

It began with learning how to read and then learning simple math. Year after year, the reading became more advanced; same with the math, and then science was added. And as each bit of information becomes a larger “byte” of knowledge, students inch progressively closer to college.

Preparing for the ACT or SAT is not a sprint. It is instead a marathon that can begin as early as desired, but not later than the summer after sophomore year. Students should begin with a practice ACT or SAT test, then from that point they will develop a baseline, which indicates the type of additional instruction they may need to improve.

Summers are ideal times to focus on standardized test preparation due to the absence of distractions from a full course load, work, sports teams, and regular school activities. The summer break allows students to make the most of their time, with their minds clear of other academic demands.

As with everything we do in life, preparation is the key. Maintaining excellent grades and performing well on the ACT or SAT, are no different. Standardized testing though is the most intense (and the most dreaded). Performance on the ACT or SAT can mean the difference between acceptance to one’s first choice or to a top-tier school – or settling for something less. This is where hard work and test preparation come in to play! And it pays to begin earlier

Two areas of focus for freshman year are grades and the student’s college resume, which reflects the kinds of courses he or she elects to take, extracurricular activities both in and outside of school, and how well they balance their lives in between. Earning excellent grades early in high school is particularly important, as this is the beginning of the student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). After a student has established his or her GPA baseline and each year thereafter, it becomes increasingly difficult to raise it.

Students who have formulated and followed a plan, and prepared adequately for the ACT/SAT test process, will possess the confidence they need to be successful, not just in their entrance exams, but in their college acceptances as well.

Five Tips for ACT/SAT Preparation

1. Don’t wait: begin developing your resume for college.  

2. Take a Practice ACT or SAT test no later than the summer after your Sophomore year in high school to get a baseline of your strengths and weaknesses.

3. Use the summer as your main prep time.  There are the least distractions and time constraints during the summer.

4. Research schools in which you are interested and examine their student profile to see if your resume provides a possible match.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice your testing skills by building your vocabulary, working on your reading speed and sharpening your math skills – even 30 minutes a day will be hugely beneficial in helping you to achieve your long term goal.