College entrance exam scores matter because they help decide which schools send you a coveted acceptance letter. So you should have an idea of not only the scores you need to achieve but also what will help you get there. In most cases, this means you’ll need a study plan. So where do you start? We’ve collected a selection of the best college entrance exam preparation tools to get you organized and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.
Master Time Management for Study Time
Time management is a skill you learn over time, so if it’s not quite your forte yet, that’s okay. You’ll need time management skills in the real world, however, so your college prep process provides a good excuse to work on them. Fortunately, there are ways to get over this hurdle and get focused while you begin your college entrance exam prep.
One tested strategy is called the Pomodoro Technique, and the basic idea is to teach yourself to be productive in short bursts. That means if you’re studying and need a snack break, want to get up and stretch or just let the dog out, you should do it. Set a timer for 25 minutes and challenge yourself to study or complete practice quizzes during that time. When the timer goes off, simply take a break for three to five minutes to refocus and reset. The breaks are what boost your productivity, so you should do this throughout each individual study session—just try not to obsess over the timer!
Study with Hard Copy Books
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cracking a few books to brush up on the material you’ll need to know for the SAT and ACT exams. You’ll probably be better for it, too. Take a trip to your local library, stop by a bookstore or two and even get in touch with your guidance counsellor to get your hands on the best study materials.
A few go-to guides include titles like The Real ACT Prep Guide (Official Act Prep Guide), Official SAT Study Guide 2020 Edition and Barron’s SAT (29th edition). Books like these are helpful because they not only present essential information in easy-to-digest formats but also include several practice tests for you to take throughout your journey. Many offer tips for managing your time when you actually take your college entrance exams, and some even provide access to online tools.
Try Spaced Repetition Flashcards
Of course, your exam prep can always include classic flashcards, too. Digital versions are available for standardized testing, incorporating a technique called “spaced repetition.” The strategy involves showing electronic flashcards according to algorithms.
While you’re flipping through the virtual flashcards, the system remembers the ones with questions and material you struggled with. As a result, the flashcards with new or difficult information are cycled through more frequently than questions you got right, providing more opportunities to internalize the material. These flashcards are considered to be especially helpful for things like learning new vocabulary terms and math formulas and are available from sites like Anki and Brainscape.
Use Online Practice Tools
The web has an endless sea of college entrance exam preparation tools, with both free and low-cost SAT and ACT options. Why not take an online college prep course? Maybe self-paced tools are more of your style. If that’s the case, it’s time to do some exploring.
For instance, the College Board and Khan Academy have joined forces to provide the Official SAT Practice. The site provides interactive problems and video lessons, with the benefit of instant feedback on your performance. One major perk is that it’s personalized to show your subject area strengths and weaknesses. Alternatively, robust study solutions are available from third party organizations to give deep dives into testing experiences. PocketPrep is an exam prep service available online and as an app for both the ACT and SAT. For a small fee, you can study 400 SAT questions and 510 ACT questions in all essential subjects and take practice tests along the way.
Take Preliminary Exams
Let’s face it, you may well start thinking about college as early as the beginning of high school, but that’s too early to sit the SAT and ACT. For a taste of the real testing experience and to get an accurate gauge of your current preparedness, preliminary exams are the way to go.
The College Board offers several preliminary SAT options, including the PSAT, PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9, so students eighth to 11th grade can begin the college entrance exam experience.
Each test has the same format and question types as the actual SAT. What’s more, is that these tests sometimes even qualify you for scholarships down the road and provide students with an optional career/college major roadmap. Additionally, beginning in 10th grade, you can take the PreACT. Like the PSAT, the PreACT is set up just like its official version and covers all core topics, with the one exception that it’s shorter. For each of these preliminary exam options, you’ll pay a nominal fee for taking the test, but also have access to online study tools like ACT Academy and Khan Academy.
Use College Entrance Exam Preparation Tools to Crush it on Test Day
There’s no way to prepare for every single question on the SAT and ACT exams. That’s simply impossible! We know how stressful standardized tests can be though, and they’re manageable with the right approach. Nailing down the right study strategy can go a long way toward meeting your goals. From tackling time management while you study to using the right books and online prep tools, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your target test score (and getting into the college of your dreams) in no time. Get your study strategy in place and get ready to crush it on test day!
Written by: Michelle Murphy
Michelle is a project manager at exam prep company Pocket Prep and is primarily responsible for the creation of every Pocket Prep test prep question. She’s also responsible for the planning and implementation of new processes and strategies, personnel management, social media engagement, and customer service.