The ACT/SAT are one of the primary ways that colleges and universities directly compare students. For this reason, it is important that you prepare for these tests and set a realistic goal for the score you want to achieve.

Keep in mind: the difference of only a few points can mean the difference of several thousand dollars.

To help you prepare, we have created this simple 8 step plan for navigating the standardized testing process.

Step 1: Research

Look at the admission requirements for the schools you are interested in attending. Identify the score you need to compete for acceptance to these schools. You should be able to narrow it down to a range.

Step 2: A little more research

If you want to compete for scholarships, you may need an even higher score than is required by the college or university. Most college websites will list the scores needed for their scholarships as well. Don’t forget to search online for outside scholarships available.

Step 3: Set a goal

Based on all of your research, set a goal for the score you want or need.

Step 4: Take the test

We recommend taking the test at least once as practice. It helps you get comfortable with the format and it will reduce some of the anticipation and stress you feel the next time you take it.

Bonus Tip: Test registration is easily completed online and allows for results to be viewed more quickly and at a later date. Keep your login information stored in a safe place.

Step 5: Assess your performance

After taking the test, identify your weak and strong areas. You may also want to take additional practice tests to help you figure out which sections need the most attention.

Step 6: Study

There are many philosophies out there on how to best prepare. You will need to figure out what works best for you. We suggest you start by focusing on your weakest and strongest sections. Depending on what those sections are and the reason you struggle or excel, you may need to practice testing techniques and strategies or you may need to focus on learning the subject material. Online resources are a great place to get started, such as free practice tests or resources and tips for increasing your score.

Step 7: Keep taking the test

After you have studied for the test and seen improvement in your practice test scores, take the test again and maybe again. 🙂 We are firm believers in the fact that just taking the test will help you increase your score, because you will get more comfortable with the format and your strategies.

Bonus Tip: Keep hardcopies of all standardized test results together in one place.

Step 8: Celebrate or reassess

Hopefully after following these steps you have achieved your score goal! If so, congrats! If not, you may need to seek additional support from a experienced tutor. If you still haven’t seen any improvement in your score, you may need to reassess your goal.

Remember, your standardized test scores are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to college acceptance and earning scholarships. There are many other ways that you can wow application reviewers with your talents and passions and create impressive applications.


Please let us know in the comments below how these 8 steps have worked for you. Do you have other advice on how to prepare for standardized testing?