Tips for Taking College Entrance Exams

Most colleges in the U.S. require students to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Aptitude College Test (ACT) or both. Luckily, there are a variety of different ways you can prepare for each exam. 

First, let’s start with practice exams 

Most standardized exams have a practice guide. These practice guides are comprised of practice tests, vocabulary, and even helpful note card suggestions. 

When preparing for college entrance exams, it may be helpful to follow a checklist with the requirements needed for a successful test day.

There are multiple things you need to keep in mind when considering practice exams:


Becoming familiar with the test format is CRUCIAL. By doing so, you will feel more comfortable on test day. After you register for the exams, investigate each exam’s format and how the sections are contributed and scored. 


Since college entrance exams have a time limit, you should start the habit of timing yourself while taking practice tests. Timing yourself will limit your chances of leaving any questions unanswered. 

Along with timing how long it takes you to answer one question, it’s important to know when is the right time to take these exams. Deciding when a good time to take these exams is completely up to you. Each exam has its own test day. For example, the SAT is given seven times a year, whereas the ACT is offered six times a year. 


Getting ready for the SAT and ACT can be very expensive but there’s good news! Khan Academy offers FREE SAT resources such as practice tests, tips, quizzes, vocabulary words, etc. As for the ACT, you can use the ACT Academy – which offers free and personalized practice tests – by just going to ACT Academy

Hiring a tutor can be expensive, but it will give you the opportunity to get one-on-one sessions and specialized help. A way to get around the cost, but get the same experience, is to reach out to your school counselor or teachers at school for one-on-one help. 

Practice makes perfect

It doesn’t matter if you are taking the SAT, ACT, or any other form of test, you need to practice. It sounds cliche but, practice makes perfect. The more practice you get, the better you will become. 

Every time you take a practice test, be sure to take note of the areas where you seem to be struggling the most. Now that you know your weaknesses, it’s time to tackle them. For instance, if the math section is not your strongest area, then take math-focused practice tests until you start to feel more comfortable with it. 

The best way to practice in an organized manner is by scheduling your study times ahead of time. I suggest you start planning how much you intend to study for these tests even before you choose a test date. 

If you are looking for a broader comparison between the SAT and ACT, check out this article. This article addresses everything from the scoring format to the test structure. 

Prepare yourself the night before test day 

We know that during this time you’re probably freaking out, which is why this tip is so important. Studying for a few hours might boost your confidence but don’t overdo it. 

Studies show that cramming the day before a big exam does more harm than good. 

Make sure to gather all you will need for the big day: admission ticket, photo ID, approved calculator, No. 2 pencils and erasers. 

Now, get a good night’s sleep. It has been scientifically proven that those who sleep for at least 8 hours before a big test, perform better than those who are sleep deprived. Therefore, you should make a good night’s sleep the night before your exam a priority. In addition to sleep, eating a well-balanced meal is also really important. 

Food and sleep affect your body similarly. Therefore, you should try to eat a bowl of cereal, yogurt or fruit before heading out to take the exam, carbs = energy. Since we are on the food topic, we might as well suggest that you bring a snack with you for the test period. Since each test is at least 3 hours long, it’s important to keep your body and mind working. Eating a snack while taking the test is a great way to do so. 

Be confident

I know, this is easier said than done. Try to keep a positive mindset, doing so will prompt you to be more prepared to succeed. If you need help clearing your mind, consider meditating, going for a walk or doing yoga. 

If you get stuck on a particular question while taking the test, skip it – don’t dwell too much on a question since your time is very limited. Move on from that question and before you’re done with that particular section go back to it and give it another try. Regardless of how difficult the test seems, remember to keep your head up. You’ve got this!