Prepare for Success with the SAT and ACT

Rachel DeGroot

Every high school student is faced with difficult decisions about what direction they would like to go after graduation. For many students, college is a major step towards their future goals, but before one can find himself on the road to a higher education, he or she is confronted with the Scholastic Aptitude Test and American College Test, more commonly recognized as the SAT and the ACT. These tests are meant to measure the strength of skills that students should have acquired throughout their high school career, and they are usually taken when one is in eleventh grade. SAT and/or ACT scores are then sent to prospective colleges and universities during the application process, so with such an important series of tests at hand, students must take the proper steps to prepare for success.

“You have to practice, practice, practice. For example, I may know how to play the violin, but that doesn’t mean that I am good at playing the violin, but the more I practice and work on certain skills the better I get,” said English and SAT Prep teacher Jimmy Haisler.

Practice plays a key role in one’s success on these tests, and there are many resources available for students to prepare for the ACT and the SAT. For those students who have taken a PSAT, Khan Academy offers a personalized study course that caters to academic areas where a student is not as strong. In addition, students of any age or grade have access to SAT and ACT preparation books put out by organizations such as the Princeton Review or College Board. These books are an excellent resource for students to prepare individually and at their own pace. Certain tutoring centers also hold prep classes for these tests where students can work with an instructor to improve their weaker skills. With access to so many different resources, students can choose the method that works best for their learning style.

Students at Tompkins also have the opportunity to join the SAT Prep class, which is a semester long course aimed towards preparing high school students for the SAT. In this course, Haisler covers reading, grammar, math and essay writing skills that will appear on the actual test. Haisler’s students begin by taking diagnostic tests to assess their strengths and weakness, and then working to improve their skills.

“We work on all of the skill sets, and we generally start off with reading comprehension, because that is the skill set that takes the most time to build. The grammar is very similar to reading, and so we think about that as a reading test as well, but we have to think about sophisticated style and punctuation. For the math section, I am not certified in math, so we use Khan Academy twice a week in the computer lab,” said Haisler.

Although the SAT and ACT have variations, which include different essay styles, question types and time restrictions, these tests should be approached with positivity, and the mindset that, through self-motivation and ample preparation, students can reach success.

“I think that attitude and behavior toward progress is key. Our school talks a great deal about growth mindset and that’s true. We need to realize that with practice we get better at just about anything, and that’s the way the universe works. When you practice you get better, and you can’t shortchange that. There is not a shortcut for it,” said Haisler.