When I first applied to colleges, I had no idea what I was doing.
I didn’t study for the PSAT or SAT, attend any SAT test preparation course, or take practice exams. I relied on an elective coursed offered in my school—Verbal English. Every week, we memorized vocabulary that might be in the SAT Writing and Language Section. My high school guidance counselor assured me this course would boost my SAT score. Well, it didn’t help me improve my SAT Math score.
The result? A horrendous score.
My admission process consisted of looking at the US World Report College List, reading college brochures, narrowing it down to five places to visit (all of which accepted people with lower SAT scores), and then choosing the least expensive of those five schools.
That college wasn’t a “good” or “ok” fit. I dropped out.
I had to change my college admission process. I started over—this time attending a community college until I figured out my next steps.
After reflecting on my journey to finding the right college, I recognize where I made mistakes: test preparation and choosing the right college. So, I’ve asked three experts to write about people’s most common mistakes in both areas.
With advice from Kailey Ossanna, Owner of KO Tutoring, and Tommy Giang, AP Calculus Tutor at StrongHold Tutoring, this first blog post covers the worst mistakes students make when preparing for the SAT and ACT. You’ll also discover my ultimate SAT Preparation mistake.
The second post in this series by College and Career Counselor Maria Geffers dives into how you can choose the perfect college for you.
5 Avoidable SAT and ACT Test Preparation Mistakes
Tips to avoid SAT/ACT Mistakes from Kailey Ossanna, Owner of KO Tutoring
Preparing for college admissions tests can be very overwhelming! Many well-intentioned students stumble through the process, wasting valuable time and effort. The most common mistakes I see are 1) not developing a study plan, 2) not reviewing practice tests, and 3) not taking the ACT or SAT at all!
Mistake #1 Not Creating a Study Plan
The first mistake in preparing for the tests is not creating a study plan. When you don’t make a plan, you are simply hoping to achieve your goal. You’re also not prioritizing test prep or researching the best way to study. To reach your desired score, you must create a study plan. Pick a test day that will work for you and backward plan based on how long you have to prepare.
Mistake #2 Not Reviewing Their Practice Tests
Another mistake many students make is not reviewing their practice tests. Students will take numerous tests but never review their errors. Like any other skill, you must explore your mistakes to prevent them from happening again. Once you understand how to fix those mistakes, practice your new skills with another practice test, optimizing your study time.
Mistake #3 Not Taking the ACT or SAT
The biggest mistake students make is not taking the SAT or ACT at all. There are free practice tests and study resources available for both tests. All students should take a practice test to see how they do. You may surprise yourself! You may also find hidden subject weaknesses you need to shore up before going to college. Even average scores can earn scholarship money and open new doors.
If you would like to learn more about Kailey Ossanna, visit https://www.kotutoring.com/
Tips to Avoid SAT/ACT Mistakes from Tommy Giang, Owner of Stronghold Calculus Tutoring
Mistake #4 Not Practicing Enough
You can never be too prepared for a college admission test. Whether it’s the SATs, ACTs, or international equivalents, practicing is the key to reaching your dream score.
Search for keywords such as “SAT practice online” and get ahold of as many practice tests as possible. Spend 30 minutes to an hour tackling a subset of questions daily. Compare your answers to the correct ones, which is the perfect strategy for completing the college admission test.
Mistake #5 Preparing Too Late and Not Being Consistent
Here is another one of my favorite test prep strategies: Start early. Focus on consistency rather than perfection.
Consistency might look like sitting down for 30 minutes 6 times a week over a few months and solving 5-10 math problems, while perfection is sitting down every day (but only for a month) to complete one practice test. It is better to have short, consistent study sessions over time than cram the night before.
You can read more from Tommy Giang on his website https://www.strongholdtutoring.com/
Suzanne’s Fatal SAT Mistake
Mistake #5 ½ Not Requesting Special Accommodations
There is another mistake I made in preparing for the SAT, and this one was like being sunk by a torpedo. Despite having a learning disability, I didn’t request any special accommodations.
Special accommodations for the SAT include extended time, additional breaks, assistive technology, larger answer booklets with no bubbles, four-function calculators, and more.
I have a visual perception problem that affects how I see lines and mark bubbles on an answer sheet. Requesting a larger answer sheet where I can mark an X for answers would have addressed that problem. I still wonder if a part of my low score was due to me skipping a line and filling in the wrong bubbles.
If you have a learning difference, see what accommodations are available. You can find information about eligibility for special accommodations for the SAT in the College Board’s Accommodations Section here Accommodations. For accommodations and support for English Language Learners, visit Test Accommodations and English Learner Supports.
Study for the ACT or SAT
With extra time, effort and planning, you can avoid these test preparation mistakes and boost your chances of getting a good score on the SAT or ACT. It’s up to you to overcome this obstacle and give yourself the best chance at getting into the school of your choice. If you’re unsure which test to take, see this guest blog post by Robin Glembotzky ACT or SAT: Which is the Best?
Stay tuned for this series’s next blog post on College Admission Process Mistakes! Guest blogger Maria Geffers will reveal the best way to choose the right college for you!
ACT. (2022). ACT Test Accommodations and English Learner Supports. Retrieved from ACT.org https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration/accommodations.html
College Board. (2022). Accommodations. Retrieved from College Board: https://accommodations.collegeboard.org/