Sophomore Study Tips for the ACT and SAT

SAT Prep | ACT Prep

It’s never too early to Portrait of little boy dressed as senior teacher in front of blackboard.jpegstart studying for the SAT and ACT! Just ask my 7 year old twins about their daily SAT routine. Just kidding. Sort of. There may or may not be a five question quiz about the author's attitude and main idea after every bedtime story in my house.

But anyway, sophomores (and even freshman) who are looking to get a jump on test prep can certainly get started as underclassmen.  It’s wise to leave The Official SAT Study Guide and The Official ACT Prep Guide on the shelf until your junior year, but there are plenty of practice opportunities to help you fine tune the skills tested on the ACT and SAT.

Read, read, read

When I was a freshman in college, my Humanities class required 3 books and a course pack. The course pack was a 300 page collection of photocopied articles that my professor selected for us to read. Great. So not only did I have to buy a humanities textbook and two non-fiction page-turners (one on schizophrenia in Ireland in the 1800s and another on the gender roles of the Inuit in Alaska), but also a packet of photocopied articles whose contents all mimicked the mind-numbing passages on the ACT and SAT.

That’s right. College is just one big ACT or SAT reading passage. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying to be a doctor or a teacher or an accountant. You are going to read about exciting things like the life cycle of an amoeba and the history of the wagon and the cultural comparisons between Star Trek colonies and aboriginal Australians. This is why the ACT and SAT passages are so difficult—they are meant to weed out those who cannot survive the giant course packs of college.

So start reading difficult, dry text now, to prep you both for the tests and for college. We recommend some source material in our Free Help Area. As you read, concentrate on the author’s main ideas and his or her attitude toward the subject. Aim to read two or three articles a week to firm up reading skills and get you used to the heavy subject matter used on admissions tests.

Complete the Question of the Day

Both the College Board and the ACT offer a free Question of the Day. You can subscribe to the SAT Question of the Day through the SAT app  and the ACT Question of the Day through ACT's website . The questions come from all test subject areas and they are full explained. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the exams and to the types of questions and content tested.

Check out a practice test

If you’ve never seen a real SAT or ACT, check out the free official tests available on our website and take a test under timed conditions. Your resulting score will indicate just how much you need to study over the next year or two.

Start learning vocabulary now

Both the ACT and the SAT use what the Common Core gurus calls "Tier II Vocabulary Words" which is a fancy way of classifying common academic words. Tier II Words include terms such as pretense, refute, undermine, and profound. They aren't overly difficult like SAT vocabulary in the past, but they are often unfamiliar to or unused by the average high school student. So it may benefit you to start studying them now, as most test prep experts will tell you not to dedicate too much time to them when you really start studying for the test during your junior year. Our ACT and SAT Reading Bible has a list of 300 Tier II Words that have frequently appeared on past tests.  While a perfect vocabulary is not necessary for a perfect score on the ACT or SAT, the more words you know, the easier the test will be. Even my seven year olds will tell you that assiduous study of vocabulary words is imperative in obtaining a preeminent score and subsequent success. Just kidding. Sort of.


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