I used to think that it was never too early to start studying for the SAT and ACT, but then the SAT went and got rid of Sentence Correction questions and all of that vocabulary study with my five year olds became pointless. I'm not sure what they will do with words like obsequious and and cacophony in kindergarten next year, but, hey, I tried. Just kidding. Sort of.
But anyway, sophomores (and even freshman) who are looking to get a jump on test prep can certainly get started as underclassmen. It is not to early for you! It’s wise to leave The Official SAT Study Guide and The Real ACT Prep Book on the shelf until your junior year, but there are plenty of practice opportunities to help you fine tune the skills tested on the SAT and ACT.
1. Read, read, and read some more
When I was a freshman in college, my Humanities class required 3 books and a coursepack. The coursepack 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), but also a packet of photocopied articles whose contents all mimicked the mind-numbing passages on the SAT and ACT.
That’s right. College is just one big SAT or ACT 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 and an Amazonian tribe. This is why the SAT and ACT passages are so difficult—they are meant to weed out those who cannot survive the giant coursepacks 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.
2. Complete the Question of the Day
Both the College Board and the ACT offer a free Question of the Day. You can download the SAT Question of the Day app and visit the ACT website every morning for the ACT Question of the Day. 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.
3. Check out a practice test
If you’ve never seen a real SAT or ACT, check out the free tests available on the College Board website and the ACT website and take one test under timed conditions. Your resulting score will indicate just how much you need to study over the next year or two.
4. Join an SAT or ACT forum
One of the best ways to prepare for the test is to talk with other students who are preparing for the same test. The message boards at College Confidential are dominated by members who are driven, dedicated, and up-to-date on all things SAT and ACT. Even if it takes you a year to work up the nerve to contribute to the group, you'll glean valuable information about the tests from your peers.
Have questions? As always, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: "The early bird gets the worm" courtesy of Shella Sund