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How do you attain perfect or nearly perfect SAT/ACT scores?
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Hi, I am currently a freshman at a public high school. I am striving to get very high SAT and ACT scores so I will have better chances of getting into my dream college. I took the ACT in 7th grade for Duke Tip and got a 32, and I took the PSAT last year and got a 1350. I am confident with my skills for the English, Reading, and Writing portions of both tests. However, I am unsure about my skills in the Science and Math sections. I am currently taking Algebra 2, and am planning to take Precaluculs over the summer. Next year, I plan to take AP Calculus BC, which I hope will be enough to perform well on the math sections of both tests. I am aiming to take practice tests to try to improve my scores during this long break. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on how I can improve my science or math scores? I am very thankful for any suggestions or comments you have. Thank you so much, and stay safe!

SAT
freshman
ACT

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Great job with your scores! I’m a junior who took the ACT this year and I brought my score up from a 31 to a 35 by improving my studying methods and other things! So you can totally do it, and here’s what helped me :)

First, I used the practice material created by Wiley, the creators of the ACT. I figured using their products, if any, would be the most helpful as it was as close to the real test that I could get. They have “The Official ACT Prep Guide” (big red book) that is updated every year. I’m extremely glad this was the book I used, because I had a question on my actual math section that was the exact same as in the practice book (minus different numbers haha) and taking practice tests and reading why I missed questions prevented me from making the same mistakes on the real thing. Also, Wiley has an online prep service that allows you to make a custom study plan, provides lessons to target specific weaknesses, and offers feedback for missed questions during either lessons or practice tests. Studying with only full length-practice tests tended to bore me, so this was a really organized way for me to learn the content I needed in just around 30 minutes a day. I’m with you, English and reading are my strong suits, so I would do more lessons on math and science for better use of my time. The best advice I have for studying is when you miss a question, write down exactly why you missed it and what steps you can take in the future to get it right. This way, you’re studying with a purpose and each question you miss becomes an opportunity to become a better test taker.

Additionally, I had struggled with timing. Once I learned the content, it was a matter of doing it fast enough to review and feel confident in my answers. After some research, I found the Test Buddy Act Watch, which is silent and tells you not only how much time has passed, but also what question/passage you should be on to stay on pace. Despite the description including the phrase “test-legal”, I thought there was no way it could be allowed. But thankfully, I was wrong, watch rules for the ACT state

*“Bring a watch to pace yourself, but do not bring a watch with an alarm. If your alarm sounds during testing, you’ll be dismissed and your answers will not be scored.”*

The rules continue to ban watches with internet capabilities, which the Test Buddy doesn’t have, making it perfectly allowed for the test. I used this watch both for practice tests and the real thing, and I had time leftover to check over my work in each section! This was extremely helpful for me, because I usually am pressed for time in math and science and constantly wonder if I’m going too slow. This helped me not have to do the mental math to maintain my pace, and totally changed the game for me, along with studying of course.

I hope this helps and feel free to ask any more specific questions!

Thank you so much for the advice! Since it seems to have helped you tremendously, I am considering buying the book that helped you. I also get bored with taking full practice tests, so I really like your strategy of targeting weaknesses and working from there. The watch you mentioned is such a genius idea, too! Do you know any particularly useful websites or online resources for practice?
No problem! The Wiley book comes with 400 online practice questions, but I also purchased their online prep service for additional prep. I know Prepscholar has past exams that you can download as PDFs for free practice!
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You've gotten a lot of good advice from @dara in the other answer on this thread, but I'm going to give some advice you might not want to hear: wait a bit. The SAT and ACT math sections typically include material up to and including precalculus, but nothing from beyond that point. So it's understandable that you'd struggle with the math sections before taking precalc, and scoring a 32/1350 before taking Alg2/precalc is pretty impressive to be honest. You should allow yourself to learn that new material naturally as you finish Algebra 2 and take Precalc, and then once you're finished I would start working on the math sections. The same goes for science—the ACT science section assumes that students will have taken Bio, Chem, and Physics, and will be taking the exam as juniors after having taken most of those classes in school. It is definitely easier to study that information than the math concepts you'd need to ace the SAT math section, but I'd still try to be patient with it. It's going to be a while before you actually get a legitimate shot at these exams (since colleges will only look at scores you receive on them while in high school), and if you focus on prepping a lot now you won't necessarily retain all of that information by the time you go to take the exams.

(I'd also say that there's a fair amount of luck involved in getting a "perfect" score on either of these exams—some sittings are harder than others, and they're all graded on a curve compared to the other students taking that particular sitting. Aiming for a 34+/1550+ is usually the highest realistic goal that I'd set, and once you're consistently scoring above that point on practice tests, you should be ready to take the exams for real.)