Five Study Tips for the SATs or ACTs to Share with Teens

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

Study Skills

Doing well on college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT is still a confident first step into your child’s future. Colleges and universities wisely use these results as part of a wide range of considerations, unlike the “old days,” when test scores were often the major – or only – criterion.


So you still want them to do well but how do you do that? I’ve counseled lots of students headed off to university. My best advice? They need to step up and take responsibility for their own success. This is their future, after all.


It’s not nearly as scary as they may think. In fact, it’s common sense. Here are some study tips for the SATs and ACTs I’ve seen work over and over. Print these out and share them with your teen today:


1. Go to class. This sounds simplistic but I know from experience that some students have poor school attendance records or even cut classes now and then. Forgive me if I state the obvious, but you can’t learn if you don’t show up. Add a couple of SAT/ACT points simply by remembering stuff you picked up when you were in class.


Five Study Tips for the SATs or ACTs to Share with Teens_Sylvan Learning_Body_12. Take good notes. This is an acquired skill that takes practice. Listen actively to teachers – if they repeat facts, themes, or concepts, you can bet they’re important. Listen for key words and phrases like “First,” “Most importantly,” and “Now, don’t forget.” Listen to your classmates during discussions – you’ll pick up thought-provoking ideas and opinions. After class, go over – or re-type – your notes while they’re still fresh in your mind. Do this with motivated study buddies. You’ll build up a formidable body of knowledge and skills that will come in handy at SAT/ACT test time.


3. Keep up.
This is particularly important for skills that build upon themselves like math and critical reading, which are big SAT/ACT topics. Crack the books and read the online assignments. Study buddies are particularly important here, too. Meet regularly to ask each other questions, to clarify concepts, to double-check assignments and their due-dates and to study for tests. Have fun doing all this – just stay on task.


Five Study Tips for the SATs or ACTs to Share with Teens_Sylvan Learning_Body_24. Participate. The most permanent learning is active. Take part in classroom discussions and debates. Go to class with some ideas you want to share or questions you want to ask. (Write down the actual words if that makes you more confident.) This will help you clarify your thinking and writing, important SAT/ACT skills.





5. Take a prep course. Test-prep classes are not meant for acquiring academic skills. You do that in school. What they are meant for, though, is familiarizing you with a test’s format – sort of like an athletic team’s home advantage. They give you practice in pacing yourself. They give you a leg up with test-taking strategies like knowing how to eliminate distractor multiple choice answers, how to “guess” at the better of two answers and how to organize your thoughts during the writing samples. I’ve seen good results when friends take a test-prep class together and help each other. Sylvan Learning has helped thousands of students and offers both SAT prep and ACT prep.


You have the power. Use it and succeed.