Ivy League Admission Tips: Test Prep Strategies

Preparing for the SAT or the ACT can be intimidating—your performance on the standardized test you choose will be an important part of your college admissions profile. You’ll have to prepare well, get acquainted with each exam’s general layout and content, and develop test-taking skills that will help you perform your best.

We’ve noticed that many high school students fail to apply general test prep strategies when studying for the entrance exams. The following Ivy League admission tips will help you take the SAT or the ACT with confidence and get a high score.

Start Test Prep Early

Early planning and preparation can significantly reduce the stress associated with the entrance exams and increase your chances of success. Start preparing for the ACT or the SAT as a sophomore, and take the PreACT or the PSAT. In fact, the summer before junior year is a prime opportunity to prepare for your entrance exam; you will be able to study without worrying about homework or extracurricular activities.

If you begin test prep early, you will also have more chances to take your exams. For example, you could theoretically take the ACT a total of 12 times (not that you should, of course). Keep in mind that tests are offered a limited number of times throughout the year.

Get to Know the Exam

If you get to know the ACT or the SAT before taking it, you will be able to study more effectively. Instead of having to become familiar with the exam’s instructions on test day, you will already know what to do in each section.

Develop Test-Taking Skills

Effective test taking requires a strategic approach. Before taking the standardized tests, be sure to master the following test-taking skills:

  • Manage your time carefully
  • Use the process of elimination to make informed guesses
  • Answer the easiest questions first
  • Follow your instinct (first responses are often correct)
  • Pay attention to key words and qualifiers (e.g., “usually,” “none,” “all but the following,” “the best,” etc.)
  • In multiple-choice questions, anticipate the answer before looking at the choices

Take Practice Tests

Taking practice tests helps you become familiar with the test format and instructions, develop test-taking skills, and determine which subjects and question types require the most attention.

You should practice with actual ACT or SAT test materials. ACT and the College Board offer official practice tests on their websites for free. Test prep books that include practice tests are also available, but you should be careful to ensure that the test materials are up to date and include actual ACT or SAT content.

Spend Your Free Time Reading

In addition to taking advanced courses, one of the best ways for you to prepare for the entrance exams, college, and a career is to read voraciously. You should read a wide range of authors, styles, genres, and eras: Greek mythology, news articles, the classics, biographies, current bestselling novels, historical accounts, and more.

Get Help

One of the best ways to ensure you are adequately prepared for the ACT or SAT is to participate in an independent test prep program, enroll in a group class, or engage a professional service like Ivy League Prep. Our Ivy League admission tips have helped many students gain admission to selective schools, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and others. We offer our clients individualized guidance programs starting from 8th grade and continuing until senior year.