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Impress Colleges With High ACT and SAT Scores: How to Get Ahead of the Pack

written by: Ashley Hansen•edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 3/25/2010

When you want to improve SAT and ACT scores, the trick is to use all the resources available to you. Don't rely solely on your study guide - get involved with other students and challenge yourself before test time to get the best results.

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    ACT or SAT Scoring

    Scantron Tests 

    After you take the ACT and SAT, you'll receive your scores in the mail a few weeks later. Each score report will provide a breakdown of your score by every subject in the test, as well as what percentile you fall into among test takers.

    If you're taking the SAT or ACT for the first time, try to incorporate as many of the tips below before your first attempt - it could help you get a great score and avoid having to retake the tests later on. For those who are trying to improve SAT and ACT scores on a second or third try, these tips can also help you to do better on your next attempt. Either way, retaking the test isn't something to be ashamed of; many students go back a second or third time to get better scores. The important thing is to take steps each time to achieve a higher score.

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    Tip #1: Take a Class

    Classes designed to help students improve SAT and ACT scores are possibly your best bet for a successful exam. The instructors for these classes have worked with hundreds of students who have had trouble with the exams, so they'll understand where you're coming from. They also provide solid information about what to expect and tips for how to read through the questions and give the best answer. Make sure you sign up for a class that includes a timed practice test - this will help you feel more confident when it's time for the real thing.

    There are several resources for ACT and SAT prep classes, including Sylvan Tutoring, Kaplan and the Princeton Review. Check with your guidance counselor at school, too; there may be classes offered at your own high school that are cheaper or possibly even free. Learn more about ACT and SAT prep classes to help boost your score.

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    Tip #2: Start a Study Group

    Study groups are a great way to improve SAT and ACT scores for a number of reasons. First, all the members of your group can used their combined experience to help prepare one another for the test. You can also share any study guides or other resources that you have purchased to help prepare yourself for the test. Take practice tests together to prepare yourself for the real thing. Those who have never taken the test can really benefit from signing up for a study group that includes members who are experienced test takers.

    Another significant benefit to study groups is that they'll help keep you on track as you prepare for the exam. If you don't know of any study groups, organize one yourself by putting up flyers or emailing your friends. Even if you only meet once or twice a week, it will help you to set time set aside to devote solely to test preparation. Best of all, it's free!

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    Tip #3: Focus On Specific Subjects

    964491 reading If you scored well on certain areas of the exam, focus on your problem areas for the next time you sign up for the test. For example, those who score well in English and reading should remember to focus on math and science when they retake the test. It may be more difficult to force yourself to study the subjects that are harder, but if you already know you can do well on certain area, don't bother spending equal time studying each subject. Instead, narrow your study time down to the subjects in which you really need to improve SAT and ACT scores.

    That being said, don't speed through your easier subjects on the exam. Each subject is timed separately, so take advantage of the full time allotted to answer each question carefully. You could still improve your scores in your strong areas as well, so make sure to give yourself a quick refresher in those topics before the test date arrives.