ACT / SAT 1-year Study Plan


Looking for a simple ACT / SAT Study Plan?

If you begin studying one year in advance, you will be able to approach the material at your own pace. Consider studying for these tests for 2 days per week, 2 hours per day. If you adhere to this schedule, you will have studied for 208 hours in one year!


Data Analysis and Study Plan–Cycle 1


Month 1: Practice Tests and Data Analysis

Weeks 1-2: Start the process by taking two full-length, timed practice tests to get a baseline score for the ACT and a baseline score for the SAT. Take each test on separate days, and don’t worry about preparing! You don’t need to do the optional essay portion when you take these baseline tests. If you don’t receive testing accommodations, a full-length ACT is 3 hours and 5 minutes, and a full-length SAT is 3 hours and 10 minutes.

There are numerous free practice tests online, complete with answer keys and score reporting.

Weeks 3-4: Determine which test you’re naturally stronger at and review your strengths and weaknesses. You can use the official Concordance Tables to compare your composite scores and section scores from the baseline ACT and SAT you took. If your scores are equivalent and you’re having a hard time deciding, consider the following:

  • How do you feel about math? The SAT has two math sections; the ACT only has one.
  • What kind of reader are you? The SAT focuses on analysis; the ACT focuses on details.
  • What kinds of questions did you miss? Are they unique to only one of the tests?
  • Did you have timing issues? Were they worse on one test than the other?
  • Do NOT worry about the Science section – learning strategy will make it much easier.

Make detailed notes of items that you need to study and areas where you need to review.


Months 2-4: Study

Over the next three months, take each section of the exam and begin to focus on the areas that challenged you. Review the questions you got wrong, figure out any errors you made, and study content connected to those types of questions. The ACT/SAT are designed to measure something very specific, and so the types of questions that appear on these tests will repeat themselves. Here is a list of some general categories of concepts you may need to study:

  • Arithmetic concepts
  • Algebra I and II, Geometry, introductory Trigonometry
  • Interpreting charts, tables, and word problems as they relate to math
  • English grammar concepts, such as punctuation and clauses
  • Strategies for reading comprehension


Month 5: Practice Tests and Data Analysis

Week 1: Take another mock test. Remember to remove all distractions (e.g. TV, phone, food). Score the test and look over the questions you got right and wrong. Notice any changes that occurred in your accuracy on certain question-types. Consider why you may have missed the questions that you answered incorrectly. Typically, incorrect answers fall into one of the following categories:

  • You did not have mastery of the concept(s) tested
  • You understood the concept(s) tested but did not realize you needed to use them
  • Timing issues caused you to rush
  • You made a careless error, such as failing to read the word “NOT” in the question

For each concept or section, consider whether your studying has been as effective as you thought. If not, ask yourself why.


Weeks 2-4: Once you’ve identified the areas in which you did not satisfactorily improve, focus on studying those for the next few weeks. If you didn’t understand the concepts well enough, make sure you’ve memorized all the relevant rules – flashcards are extremely helpful for this. If you understood the concept tested but failed to recognize what the question was asking, practice recognizing question-types. In the Writing/English sections, for example, you can identify several of the more common question-types by looking at the answer choices.


Months 6-8: Study

Over the next three months, you will probably be at least halfway through the material you need to study. Practice tests will become increasingly important, as they are the best way for you to practice applying what you’ve been learning in a setting that emulates Test Day. As you take practice tests and review your performance, don’t just focus on the right answer. If you get a question right, look at the wrong answers and think about why they’re wrong.


You should try to take one practice test every 3 or so weeks.


Months 9-12: Rinse and Repeat

In the last three months of your preparation, your emphasis should shift. In the beginning, the focus was on targeting the concepts you had not yet mastered, with a secondary focus on taking practice tests. At this point, your focus should reverse: you will focus mainly on practice tests, studying additional material as necessary. You should take a practice test every two or so weeks. In between tests, you should focus on retaining the information you’ve already learned. One way to do this is via flashcards, and you will probably be practicing many of the same math concepts in school.


If this testing plan is too cumbersome and lengthy, feel free to check out the 6-month testing plan.


Also, if you feel this 1-year study plan is overwhelming, think about hiring a tutor to help with the process. 


How can MINDSPIRE help with any exam?


At MINDSPIRE, we provide tutoring and test prep that is tailored to specific learning styles and individual needs. If you are interested in getting a tutor for any standardized exam, give us a call at 844-537-PREP (7737).


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