Taking A Practice SAT For Motivated Students

Taking a Practice SAT: the following are instructions for students considering taking the SAT for college admissions.

Taking A Practice SAT Test

You might be here to determine whether to take the SAT or ACT, establish a baseline SAT score, or work on improving your SAT score. If any of these describe your situation, please read the following instructions. They will help you avoid the most common mistake in taking a practice SAT.

Basic Instructions For Taking A Practice SAT

First, make sure your practice SAT is REAL. For the SAT, that would be either from this link: Free SAT Practice Test or The Official SAT Study Guide. You want an accurate measure of your score, not an underestimate as usually is the case with other test prep books.

Second, take the test in the morning after a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast. You want to replicate test conditions as much as possible. This means you will want to seek seclusion in a room where you will be undisturbed for the duration of the test.

Third, be sure to time yourself. Each section of the test will show you the time allotted for that section. Use only that time. If you have an accommodation, you can use your extra time. If you have an IEP for extra time on the SAT, you can use it. 

Lastly, for the multiple choice portion of the SAT, you will be allowed two breaks. 

For more information, please check this link:

SAT Test Day Procedures

Other Aspects Of Taking A Practice SAT

You are allowed water and snacks, but you can only eat and drink during breaks. Bring your supplies in a bag or backpack. And make your snack a power bar of some type. Basically, you want to make sure your food and drink are inconspicuous.

Don’t worry about fluctuating scores on your first few tests. This is normal. Over time you will most likely notice a general upward score trend. You are looking for progress, not perfection.

Doodle. Be sure to make diagrams and drawings when they help you. The more work you can do on paper and on calculator, the better. Accuracy and clear thinking are helped by doodling with a pencil and calculating with a calculator. Even writing a word or two in the margins as you read can help you. Please mark up your test to help.

Use your calculator as if you are paid to do so. You cannot guess how many times students have made mistakes doing single digit multiplication in their heads. Also, use parentheses as you would a seat belt when driving. For clarification on this point, ask me during our next session.

Use triage marking: when you encounter a difficult question or one you guessed on, please mark it so we can review it at the next session.

If a question is taking up too much time, let it go.

On the SAT, answer every question. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer.

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Your Practice SAT Score V Your Practice ACT Score

Below is the concordance table for the ACT v SAT score. It is useful in determining what your SAT score is compared to an ACT and vice-versa. Also, if you are taking a REAL practice test of each, this table will help you determine which of your scores is better.

ACT ScoreSAT ScoreSAT Range
3615901570-1600
3515401530-1560
3415001490-1520
3314601450-1480
3214301420-1440
3114001390-1410
3013701360-1380
2913401330-1350
2813101300-1320
2712801260-1290
2612401230-1250
2512101200-1220
2411801160-1190
2311401130-1150
2211101100-1120
2110801060-1090
2010401030-1050
191010990-1020
18970960-980
17930920-950
16890880-910
15850830-870
14800780-820
13760730-770
12710690-720
11670650-680
10630620-640
9590590-610

To help make sense of the table: If Jenny scores a 980 on her SAT and a 21 on her ACT,  she is likely better off focusing on the ACT. Her 21 ACT corresponds to a 1080 SAT, while her 980 SAT corresponds to only an 18 ACT score.

In another example: Jimmy scores a 1200 on his SAT and a 20 on his ACT. In this case, Jimmy’s SAT score is higher. His 20 ACT corresponds to a 1040 SAT, while his 1200 SAT is about a 25 ACT. His SAT score is higher on the scale and should focus on the SAT for preparation, everything else being equal.

Important note: please be sure to compare REAL practice or ACTUAL scores for tests you took within about a week or so of each other. Comparing an SAT you took last week to an ACT you took last semester is not an accurate comparison.

Deciding Whether The SAT Or ACT Is Better For You

In the majority of cases, students score relatively the same on both tests. If it is almost exactly the same, you can decide which test format you prefer or which test dates work better for you. By format preference, some seem to prefer the style of the SAT over the ACT or vice-versa. This could also include which test you believe you can improve your score more easily.

For example, you score about the same on both test and have no preference for either format. Then, if you believe you can improve your score on the SAT math sections more easily than the math and science tests of the ACT, by all means choose the SAT. All schools requiring standardized tests for admission will take an SAT in lieu of an ACT. 

In other cases, if you do score better on your practice ACT than your practice SAT, then go with the ACT. It’s only when it’s close that it’s difficult to decide. Again, some outside factors such as test dates, test availability in your area, or the need to take SAT Subject Tests could play a factor. So, please take these into consideration.

Closing Comments In Taking A Practice SAT

The most important aspect of taking practice tests is to take them. And take them in realistic conditions. You want an accurate gauge of how you’d do. So don’t take a practice test when you’re tired, can’t focus, or are stressed. Also, don’t allow yourself extra time per section. These are the most common errors I’ve seen students make. Be honest with yourself and replicate test conditions as well as you can.

Also, by taking practice tests, you’ll improve. If not immediately, you should see your score improve in about 3-4 practice tests. By taking practice tests, you’ll start to take the fear and fear-mongering away from the SAT. Many students taking practice tests have said they still dislike taking the SAT, whether actual on a test day or a REAL practice test. It’s just that the test has changed from scary to just annoying. Like a little brother. I should know. I’m the little brother.

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