# When Should We Begin ACT / SAT Prep?

“When Should We Begin ACT / SAT Prep?”

This is a common question at the start of every school year as families plan ahead. As parents we want to avoid last minute panic and do things right, but there is such a thing as starting too soon. First, I need to clarify what I mean by “test prep.” A lot of skill building will take place in school this year and it is valuable learning, but not what I would call test prep. For me, test prep is focused preparation designed to help a student score higher on a particular exam. For example:
• Reviewing algebra concepts – NOT test prep BUT
• Looking at algebra questions from past ACT tests to prepare for the October exam IS test prep.
I’m in favor of building key skills from an early age. Students most often do this in school with some extra practice as homework. Desirable academic skills include the ability to
• Read critically and for detail
• Comprehend and evaluate college-bound vocabulary
• Understand and apply standard rules of grammar and usage (including punctuation)
• Craft an organized, thoughtful, and well-written essay
• Recall and apply terms, formulas, and concepts from algebra, geometry, and fundamental math courses
• Problem solve
• Evaluate and compare evidence and answer choices
These skills, when developed over time, are the best preparation for the ACT / SAT. You can’t start too early with this type of preparation. Actual test prep assumes students have learned foundational content and focuses on the application of knowledge to a specific test. Example: I assume my students know geometry, but we may need to review specific formulas commonly tested on the ACT. After a year, many students will forget the equation for a circle. [(x – h) 2 + (y – k) 2 = r2 in case you wanted to check your memory!] Example: My students rarely have subject-verb agreement errors in their own speech or writing, but we need to review the ways in which this error appears on the SAT because the test writers know how to fool even smart students with wrong answer choices that sound good. Example: I show students short-cuts specific to the test and type of problems so they can answer more questions correctly and save time to work on the hardest problems in that section.

This type of focused test prep is best done in the 4-10 weeks

before a student takes the ACT / SAT.