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The Importance of Practice Tests for Effective Test Prep


Hello AJ Tutoring clients and friends! We hope you all are having a great school year so far. One thing on the minds of many juniors these days is getting ready for the SAT and ACT. 

Completing full practice tests is a great way for students to get the feel of the test and track their progress. Sometimes, though, a student will come to our next tutoring session with the test partially completed, or not done under ideal circumstances. This ends up partly wasting the student’s time, since we can’t get an accurate idea of how he or she is doing. Which begs the question: what should it look like when students do practice tests for homework?

If possible, we always encourage students to take proctored tests offered every weekend at many of our locations throughout the Bay Area. We’ll tell students what to do and when, just like the day of the test. This takes guesswork out of the equation and gives accurate results. Plus, students get their tutoring homework done in one morning. Win-win!

But if it’s not possible to come in for a proctored test, students should do the test at home, in an environment that resembles the testing environment as closely as possible (minus all the other stressed-out students). What should this look like?


This is so important. Most high schoolers treat their phones like extra appendages. You can’t have phones during the SAT, so don’t have them out while you’re taking a practice test. You can use the phone as a timer, but put it across the room. No talking, no texting, no Facebook.

2. Do the whole test in one sitting.

Yes, this is hard, and yes, it will take about four hours. Yes, we know you have sports and theater and hours of homework to do. But test day is a marathon, not a sprint. Lots of students could get great scores, if only they could split up the test over many days! The SAT is partly testing your ability to focus and think for several hours straight, so you need to practice that. No shortcuts here!

3. Time it like the actual test.

Follow the timing directions at the top of each section, and set a timer to go off when time’s up. Stop writing when you hear the timer, and don’t fill in more answers.

4. Go in order.

Don’t do all the math sections at once, or all the reading and writing sections together. Complete sections in the order they’re presented in the test.

5. Take the test when you’re feeling rested.

Weekend mornings are a great time to take practice tests because the test itself is given on a Saturday morning. Regardless of what day you choose to complete the practice test, don’t start it at 9 o’clock at night on a Thursday night after you finished all your other homework. Practice tests completed at 1 o’clock in the morning don’t end well: trust us!

6. Parents: help create a good environment.

Make sure your son or daughter has a cleaned-off place to sit and complete the test without distractions. Don’t interrupt to talk or ask questions. Encourage them to do the test in one sitting, and provide positive reinforcement when they get it done. Put the test up on the fridge after they get the score back (okay, you don’t have to do the last part).

Completing several practice tests under testing conditions is one of the best predictors we at AJ Tutoring have found for a student’s eventual score improvement. Implementing the advice above is sure to help you have a great test day when the real exam finally rolls around.

If you’d like to sign up for SAT or ACT preparation, or if your student needs help getting ready for the ISEE, SSAT, or HSPT, please give us a call today!

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