10 TIPS ON TAKING ACT OR SAT STANDARDIZED TESTS

1. You do not need to rush on these tests, but work steadily. If you find yourself spending a lot of time on one question, circle it, move on to the next problem and plan to get back to the circled one if you have time.

2. Every question on the test is worth the exact same amount. So, don’t rush through “easy” problems and risk making sloppy errors. And, don’t spend too much time on the difficult ones either (see #1).

3. For both ACT and SAT, you receive 0 points for a wrong answer. You also receive 0 points for a blank answer. So, therefore, never leave any question blank. If you feel like you are running out of time or if you have no idea what the answer might be, make your best guess. This is an essential strategy for maximizing your score.

4. And that’s what you are trying to do, MAXIMIZE YOUR SCORE. These standardized tests are different than tests you take in the classroom. You cannot expect to answer every question right; very few people do. Rather, you want to get as many right as possible.

5. These are “scaled tests”. That means they grade them so that there are equal numbers of high and low scores and the midpoint grade is always the same. You can get some questions wrong and still do quite well on these tests.

6. Trust your instincts. Generally speaking, the first answer you decide upon is probably the right answer. Unless you are absolutely certain, I advise against changing your answer when you review your work. Chances are, you will change your answer from a right answer to a wrong one! This is not always always true, but in the aggregate, this is the best strategy.

7. Do not expect to be thrilled or enthralled with the questions and the reading passages on these tests. They are not designed to entertain you. Find a way to get yourself engaged in every question on the test, even if the topic is not of great interest to you. Think of it as a job. Your job is to do your best to concentrate while you take these tests.
8. For many questions, one of the answer options is some form of “none of the above” or “no corrections”. Regard this choice as a legitimate possibility. If the questions offer you four choices, studies show that the answer, “none of the above” or “no corrections” is the correct answer about 25% of the time.

9. There will be no pattern at all to the answer choices. So, don’t think, “Well, I haven’t answered “C” in a while, I bet that’s the right answer here.” OR “The answer for the last two problems was “D” – it can’t be “D” again”. Oh, yes it can! There’s no pattern at all in the answer choices. They are completely random. No one has ever been able to detect a pattern. Treat each question separately.

10. Make sure to answer the question that is asked. Do not assume, for example, on math problems that they want you to completely simplify the expression. Pay attention to what they ask for.