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Thinking Ahead to SAT/ACT Preparation (As a Sophomore)


As a test prep tutor, I work with many juniors every year, and as an academic history and English tutor, I work with many sophomores. Many of my sophomore students and their parents have heard from friends and elder siblings that junior year is hectic, so they understandably want to get started on the SAT or ACT a year early.

What NOT to Do

  1. Take the SAT or ACT as a sophomore: The SAT and ACT are designed for juniors, and most sophomores are not ready to take these tests. In my experience, one extra year of taking high school classes can have a huge impact on how prepared a student feels for all sections of the standardized tests. If you’re smart now, you’re likely to only be smarter next year! If you’d like to get the highest score you’re capable of, I’d recommend waiting until August or September of the your junior year at the very earliest.
  2. Take all 8 practice tests on the College Board website: You’ll need this material when you’re preparing for the test as a junior. In the meantime, full-length practice tests aren’t the best way to test your skills.
  3. Start test-prep tutoring now and continue until junior year: AJ recommends an average of 10 1.5 hour sessions before the SAT or ACT for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important is to avoid fatigue. We find that practicing in short, focused bursts is more effective (and conserves more energy) than practicing for months on end. When students and their parents suggest practicing through their sophomore year, I worry about burnout!

What to Do

None of this means that you should ignore the upcoming SAT or ACT! You have a precious resource: time! The trick is to use it in the most effective way.

  1. Academic English or math tutoring: Many sophomores and their parents know what they’re strengths and weaknesses are. Most of the students I interact with are more worried about the reading/writing portion of the SAT, since they know that their math classes in school will eventually get them up to the level they need for the math section. (If you’re worried that you won’t finish Algebra 2 by the end of your junior year, however, academic math tutoring can be a great strategy to get yourself up to speed before the SAT). Critical reading skills can take a longer time to develop than math or grammar skills, and I’d recommend academic English tutoring or a strictly enforced self-study plan for sophomores. 
  2. Self-study: If your sophomore student is extremely self-motivated, this might be the best option for them.

Here is the study plan I’d recommend for sophomores:

Pick a book from the list below to read for 30 minutes every day. Keep a vocabulary journal to write down any words you encounter that you aren’t fully comfortable using. Write down a definition that makes sense to you as well as an example sentence. Review vocab once a week.

Additional Resources

1. Vocab lists: start by learning 1 word per day or 5 words per week and then work up from there

2. 1800s book list to prepare for the literary passage (feel free to read other classics)

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Any stories featuring Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

3. Practice for SAT historical passages by reading and annotating these speeches:

This list might look intimidating! That’s why I’d recommend scheduling regular meetings with an English tutor who can help guide your student through advanced reading material and keep them on track. 

Please reach out to our client services team if you’d like to schedule academic English tutoring!


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