ACT and SAT Prep Using Computer-Based Practice Tests: Does it really work?

So much of the test prep process has transitioned to online materials. It’s possible to find enough free SAT and ACT materials on the web so that you never have to invest in a giant prep book.

Yet, when you go to sit for the actual exam, you’re going to need a good old-fashioned No.2 pencil and excellent bubbling skills. One question I get all the time is: If the tests are still on paper, should I be studying on the computer?

The basic answer is: If you’re accustomed to using a screen to study, you don’t have to completely forego that when it comes to standardized tests.

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While I’ve seen students be successful with all forms of practice tests, there is a particular way of incorporating computer-based resources that I find to be most effective. It goes something like this:

  1. Four to six months prior to your test date: Familiarize yourself with the basic format and content of the test using online materials, including blogs like PrepScholar, apps like ACT Practice Flashcards, videos from reputable prep services like Khan Academy, and resources like the Varsity Tutors’ SAT Question of the Day.

  2. Two to four months prior to your test date: Take one full diagnostic test on paper. If you’re taking the PSAT or a partial practice test at school, this will do. You’re simply gauging whether the skills you’ve been reviewing online translate to paper and uncovering any challenges that are unique to the written form of the test. Normally, you’ll find that timing actually improves once you switch from screen to paper, since you aren’t having to scroll to read passages and find the line numbers referenced in questions.

  3. Four to six weeks prior to your test date: Practice individual sections or passages on paper at least once a week. In between, support your continued content exposure using digital resources. Blend SAT and ACT prep into your daily homework routine, or even the time of day when you catch up on social media or news feeds. Not having to pull out a hefty practice book, and instead having questions available on your phone or laptop, can make you more likely to study diligently.

As you can see, this wouldn’t quite work if you didn’t have ample time. The true key to all test prep is starting early enough, so you’re able to turn test prep into a long-term habit. Starting with just 15 minutes three times a week, you can create a solid foundation for either exam.

The format of your chosen materials is ultimately a personal choice. I find that using a mix of paper and electronic tests makes studying less monotonous and thus more likely for you to do! Apps, blogs, and videos make the often tedious process of prepping for a standardized test less overwhelming and more practical. Take advantage of the expansive bank of online resources at your fingertips!

Putting these tips into practice is much easier and more powerful when you have expert guidance. As your academic coach, I can build an SAT and/or ACT prep plan that perfectly takes into account your needs and preferences!

If you’re embarking on your test prep journey soon, or feeling stuck somewhere along the way and need some dedicated help, click below to book virtual test prep with me now!

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Chelsea Torres