4 Keys to ACT and SAT Success

act exam prep phase 3 sat Oct 28, 2021

The 4 Keys to ACT and SAT Success

I’ve been working to help students prepare for the ACT and SAT for 14 years, and over that time I’ve determined there are four key factors to test prep success:

  1. Content
  2. Strategy
  3. Practice
  4. Review

All four of these elements MUST be in place for you to be successful! You could even consider these to all relate like a math equation:



C S ( P + R ) = SUCCESS

For you to hit the target score you need for admission to your top choice schools AND to open doors for scholarships that make college affordable you need a plan for each of these four factors, so that’s what we’ll tackle in this post!


  •  The first key to ACT/SAT success is CONTENT. There are some things you just need to know. Primarily this is centered around the English and Math tests.
  • Remember that these are standardized exams. That means they don’t test everything, but rather have a limited number of concepts that they will cover. For example, only a select number punctuation rules are tested. Geometry proofs are not covered. THIS IS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! It means even if you struggle in a subject you can learn the content specifically covered on the ACT/SAT!
  • It also means you should have a plan to learn the content specifically for the ACT/SAT, not just reviewing all of a particular subject. That’s the best use of your time and energy!


  •  In addition to content, you NEED to have a resource that teaches you strategies specific for the ACT/SAT. As mentioned before, you should utilize resources that match your student’s learning styles, but if you simply think that your child will do well on the English/math/reading/science section because they are strong in that area you might be in for a surprise. There are LOTS of students who are strong in a subject and yet struggle on the ACT/SAT, and that's why your prep plan NEEDS to include learning strategies specific to the test!

3. Practice

  •  You must practice with official exams. This is non-negotiable. Any prep program that you use should incorporate practice from real, official guides. The tests are copyrighted, so a third-party company like Kaplan or Princeton Review can't offer TRUE practice exams, and will, as a result, end up having practice tests that are easier, harder, or with a different approach than the full test, so you need your PRACTICE book to be an official guide and you should only utilize tutors/online programs that incorporate practice from official tests.


  •  It is not enough to know the CONTENT that is covered on the ACT or SAT, or the STRATEGIES specific to the test, or even to PRACTICE applying that knowledge and those strategies using official exams.  You must also REVIEW. You need to have a plan for how you will learn from your mistakes. I've gone through the online course from the highest-paid ACT/SAT prep tutor in the country, and one of his top requirements for his clients was that they take make flash-cards for EVERY single problem they miss! Sounds basic, but it got results for his students (to where at one point he was booked solid charging $1,000 per hour for tutoring), but it goes a long way to emphasize the importance of actively reviewing and learning from the mistakes made during practice.

So what's your plan to implement these 4 key components into your teen's test prep? You can grab my FREE ACT Prep Guide here, or join my online ACT or SAT prep courses that are built from the ground up to utilize all 4 components:

  • CONTENT: In addition to reviewing key concepts on my LIVE video sessions, my courses include access to Magoosh's ACT/SAT prep course (1 year access) as well as hundreds of other videos on the key content areas you need to know for the test (especially English grammar and math concepts).
  • STRATEGY: This is MY focus! My courses include pre-recorded videos as well as LIVE sessions (I go LIVE for the 4 weeks leading up to each ACT and SAT exam date) where I break down the specific strategies to allow you to understand the nuances of the test and take advantage of secret hacks that allow you to arrive at the answer quickly and with more confidence. I also provide assigned reading from my top-recommended strategy books and have downloadable strategy handouts.
  • PRACTICE: I exclusively have students practice utilizing official exams, with specific homework assignments out of the official guides.
  • REVIEW: For the 4 weeks leading up to each ACT and SAT exam date (ACT on Wednesdays at 4:30 CT and SAT on Thursdays at 4:30 CT) I go LIVE exclusively for my online classes to work through sample official problems and provide feedback and help with review for students with any questions they have from their practice! 

Want to learn more about my program? Check out my ACT Prep Course here or my SAT Prep Course here! Not sure which exam is right for your situation? Check out my blog post on that here.

What questions do YOU have about ACT/SAT prep for your teen? Post in the comments below and I'll answer them here!

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