Game Plan

Anthony-James Green’s

SAT & ACT Prep Game Plan


Part 1: Understand how colleges use SAT + ACT scores
High scores don’t get you into great schools – low scores keep you out. If you can hit the minimum thresholds required by your target schools, your scores will stop mattering and the rest of your application will get reviewed. If not, your application will never get looked at. Hitting the minimums is your only goal.

Part 2: Follow Our Free College Application Checklist
ChecklistWant a comprehensive, step-by-step list of everything you need to do between now and when you get accepted to your dream school? The devil is in the details – fortunately, I’ve thought of them all! Stay ahead of the pack with this invaluable resource:

Open the Checklist

Part 3: Pick the right test
You should focus your energy on ONE test – the test that’ll give you the best comparative score. Deciding between the ACT, Old SAT and New SAT is an essential investment of your time.A quick summary of all three tests:

The Old SAT
A logical reasoning test that relies on intense strategy and “puzzle mentality” to ask simple questions in tricky ways.
Material-heavy. Strong reliance on the test-taker’s material knowledge and concrete understanding of concepts.
Time-intensive. Asks questions at blistering speeds. Testers must have strong time-management and efficiency skills.
Part 4: Start studying (on the right schedule)
The sooner you begin your test prep, the higher you’ll score and the easier the process will be. Scores are valid for five years, so it’s never too early to knock these test out. Suggested guidelines for your prep:

4 months (September through December)Recommended study time/day:
60-90 minutes

On your weakest areas almost entirely

Take the test:
by the application deadline. Ideally, take two, even if you need to submit late

Ideal study window:
immediately, and as much as possible in the time you have left

See Our Full Senior Prep Calendar

16 monthsRecommended study time/day:
40-60 minutes

Lean most heavily on weaknesses (about 40-50% on your weakest section)

Take the test:
By April/May, if possible. This leaves time for a backup test in June.

Ideal study window:
5-8 months

See Our Full Junior Prep Calendar

28 monthsRecommended study time/day:
30-40 minutes

Holistic, with a slight focus on weaknesses first

Take the test:
as soon as diagnostic scores match target scores. Take any time other than June (to allow for a backup test)

Ideal study window:
6-10 months

See Our Full Sophomore Prep Calendar

40 monthsRecommended study time/day:
20-30 minutes


Take the test:
as soon as diagnostic scores match target scores. Take any time other than June (to allow for a backup test)

Ideal study window:
However long it takes to hit your ambitious goals.

See My Full Freshman Prep Calendar

Related Guides:When to Start Prepping
Part 5: Pick the right test prep program
the-right-prep-systemWhether you choose an online course, a tutor, or self-study, there are some essential “dos and don’ts” that every parent and student needs to know. Emphasize flexibility (of both scheduling and student curriculum) and a proven track record of results above all else.

Part 6: Set up the right study environment and get the right materials.
study-enviromentAs you study, you’ll want to make sure that you do everything your power to enhance your results. There are small, cost-free things you can do to maximize every minute you spend on your studies.

Part 7: Stay Motivated and Take Care of Yourself
The number one reason that students don’t meet their testing goals? Bad sleep habits. Learn to rest your brain properly and fuel it effectively and you’ll multiply your results with the same level of effort.

Part 8: Pick the Right Test Date
test-dateOnce your practice tests hit the mark, you need to make sure that you pick a set of test dates that works with your schedule. Ideally, you’ll take two official tests to reduce stress, create a backup plan, and enhance your superscore.

Part 9: Keep the PSAT in mind

For many students, the PSAT will be largely irrelevant – it’s just a great way to get some realistic testing practice. For others, it’s a fantastic way to gain scholarships and serious “bonus points” on your college application. Make sure you know what to expect and prepare appropriately.

Part 10: Keep the SAT subject tests in mind
Most colleges expect their applicants to take two SAT Subject Tests. They’re not challenging – if you don’t leave them until the last minute. Pick the right tests, plan ahead, study the right way, and schedule them appropriately and you’ll be able to knock them out without stress.

Part 11: Optimize your test-day readiness
Your SAT and ACT scores have as much to do with your mental and physical preparedness as they do with your knowledge of math, grammar, and strategy. If you take all the right steps leading up to your test, you’ll add significant points to your score and eliminate the chances of “test day jitters.”

Part 12: Get special accommodations now (if you need them)
The SAT and ACT are time-intensive exams that put certain students at a disadvantage. If you don’t have a history of learning disabilities, move to step #4. If you need extra time or other special accommodations, you need to start the process as soon as possible to ensure that you get them in time.

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