Expert Tips on How to Prepare for SAT/ACT Tests, Part 1: The Environment

Akil Bello


SAT / ACT standardized testThe following is Part 1 of our 4-part series on SAT/ACT test prep developed by Akil Bello, co-founder of Bell Curves:

In my 20+ year career in test preparation, I’ve been asked at least 1000 times “what would you tell a child getting ready for the SAT or ACT?” My response is universally the same: “Prepare.”

This short answer is really the best advice anyone can give anyone getting ready for any test. It’s what we all did for our driving test; its what we did for our weekly spelling test in 3rd grade; its what people do when they defend their dissertations in graduate school.

This test is no different from any other in that preparation results in better scores. That being said, how one prepares for the SAT/ACT is very different than how one prepares for a test in school, so to help you out I’m going to give a bit more clarity to the truism “prepare.”

The short list to the short answer:

  1. Prepare for the environment.
  2. Learn the scoring and content.
  3. (Re)Learn the content.
  4. Learn the tricks

Now for the details:

1. Prepare for the environment.
Taking the SAT or ACT is a very tough and strange experience for most kids and the PSAT or PLAN are like running a 5k to prepare for a marathon – it’s nice but not enough. To get yourself ready for the SAT/ACT you have to experience it.

Think of it this way: if you were getting ready to perform a Chopin piece in Carnegie Hall would you prepare by playing Do-Re-Me at home? Probably not. You’ve got to simulate the full experience as much as you can. NFL Players will practice with crowd noise blaring in the background to simulate a loud stadium. You should do something similar.

  • Take a full-length proctored practice test in a room with other kids (sniffling, tapping, grunting, and groaning when you are trying to concentrate).
  • Take a full-length practice test with a proctor who doesn’t give a 5 minute warning.

If you prepare for the testing environment you increase you chance of success on the day of the actual test.

–>Continue to Part 2: Scoring.


Akil Bello is co-founder of Bell Curves, a socially responsible test preparation and educational services company based in New York City. Since its inception, the company has developed a diverse clientele comprised of non-profit organizations, educational institutions, young professionals, and college and graduate school-bound students. For more tips on test prep, check out the Bell Curves Blog.

Related SAT/ACT Test Prep Posts on Smart College Visit: