How Long Should I Study for the ACT and SAT?

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Scoring well on standardized tests can help you get accepted by your dream college, so it’s important to study. But how long should you be studying? It’s a question many high school students face as they enter their junior years. There is no one answer, unfortunately: Necessary study time is derived from the individual.

A helpful place to start is with a practice test. Your school might have had you take one already, or the PSAT/PreACT, which are generally comparable to what you would score on the respective “real” tests. From there, you would assess how much you need to improve to reach your target score for the schools you want to apply to. After that, it comes down to scheduling your study time so it fits with everything else you have going on.

There are rough guidelines if you want to improve a certain amount of points. With the ACT, improving by 1 point requires about 10 hours of studying. 2-3 points means 20 hours, 2-4 means 40 hours, 4-6 requires 80, and anything above that means you’re looking at 150+ hours of studying to make information stick. (Here’s a handy ACT/SAT conversion chart to help you figure out the SAT score/study time ratio.)

It’s up to you to decide how you want to break down these study hours. How intensive do you want your study sessions to be? How much time will you have once school and extracurricular activities begin? Are you easily distracted during longer study sessions? Do you only have an hour open every two or three days? You know your schedule best. It is recommended to study for at least 10 hours so you are prepared. It is also better to keep your studying within one to six months before the test: Less than one month, the material doesn’t have time to sink in. More than six months, and you are likely to forget some of the earlier information.

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Ellen Andersen

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