How to take a practice SAT or ACT | Winward Academy


Taking a Practice Test Right: 3 Must Dos and 3 Never Dos

By the time you are ready to take the real proctored ACT or SAT test, you will want to have taken some real timed practice tests. Let’s dispel some myths and provide some tips to maximize the value of taking those practice tests before your real ACT or SAT.


3 Must Dos
  • Be real. Always practice with real materials. Otherwise, questions you encounter could be harder or easier than what you’ll see on the real exam. On top of that, be sure to always use a real scantron that you are actually bubbling by hand as you take practice exams. You have to practice your bubbling because (1) it takes time away from solving questions, and you need to practice time management, and (2) it’s easy to make mistakes by skipping lines or bubbling a different answer than you intended.
  • Review mistakes. Understanding your mistakes is how you will learn. Mistakes are not an indication of a lack of intelligence; they are simply an indication of an opportunity to learn and grow. Embrace mistakes. Then, when you do understand the concept, explain it to someone else; tell your sister, your parent, your friend, or whomever, and explain what you have learned. That’s how you really reinforce the content.
  • Give yourself time. Be careful how close you’re getting to your actual test day. Three weeks out should be your last timed practice test, giving you plenty of time to both hone in on your weaker areas and review your mistakes before the real exam.

3 Never Dos
  • Test, test, test. There’s a really common (false) perception that the way to improve a score to test test test test test. The problem with this approach is that if you don’t give yourself an opportunity to learn from your errors, you are simply going to repeat the same mistakes. This test test test approach to practice is horrible for both your growth and for your confidence. When you take a timed practice exam, you should not take another timed practice exam until you have mastered your mistakes from that test.  Only then should you continue to take more timed practice tests. You want to make sure that when you’re sitting down to take a test that you’re in the right mindset and you’re confident that you have grown from your prior mistakes.
  • Fail to time. Back to our number one recommendation: be real.  Your practice test should replicate the conditions of your real test.  Thus, use real timing and mimic the timing of sections and breaks.
  • Test in a relaxed environment. Your watch beeps when you use the timer feature. The calculator you plan to use for the test isn’t handy. You do a couple of SAT non-calculator questions with a calculator. You play your favorite music because it’s relaxing, Big deal? Yes! An important part of preparing is knowing you’re comfortable in the test environment. Make your practice environment identical in every way possible to your test environment.

Be sure to also note the ACT Test Dates and SAT Test Dates that have been released for the 2018-2019 academic school year. If you’re not sure how important standardized tests are in college admissions, then check out the most important criteria used by colleges and universities for acceptance. Good luck with your studying and your applications!


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About Winward Academy – Winward Academy is one of the world’s leading innovators in the online education space, providing web-based academic support that enhances students’ knowledge, confidence, and competitiveness in middle and high school academics and in college applications. We help thousands of students every year by providing personalized, comprehensive ACT and SAT test preparation and extensive math curriculum support. The Winward Academy learning platform honors over 40 years of education and cognitive psychology research, incorporating proven techniques that promote effective learning.

Winward Academy’s unmatched reputation is wholly attributable to our students’ exceptional success and to the trust earned among students, parents, and schools around the world.

Jennifer Winward, Ph.D.

Dr. Jennifer Winward is a renowned college instructor, a distinguished 20-year veteran of high school tutoring, and the founder and lead instructor of Winward Academy. She earned her Ph.D. specializing in adolescent brain development and adolescent learning. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude with highest distinction honors. Dr. Winward has been widely recognized for her academic success, published research, and philanthropic efforts with awards from the President of the United States, the California State Assembly, Rotary International, the Marin County School Administrator Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Science Foundation.