Past official exams:
These exams are great practice for the student who has already reviewed the exam material extensively but needs more practice with timing and advanced test-taking strategies. While many official practice tests are available in books (listed below), those were administered several years ago and do not reflect any updates or changes in the topic coverage since. All test copies are as-is; some contain markings.
Books and other physical items of interest:
There are many, many test preparation books on the market, and here I am going to give you my unabashed opinion on each.
1) The Official Guide to the NEW SAT, latest edition:
This reference, nicknamed the “Blue Book” is essential for every SAT test-taker. It contains 10 official, previously administered SAT exams. The first half of the book is general topic review for the exam, but in the course of making the material span all the topics on the exam, the writers sacrificed any real depth. Focus on the practice tests. The advantage to working practice tests in the Official Guide versus any of the other exams available on the internet is all the ancilliary resources (written solutions by the ETS, written solutions by others, video solutions, question topic breakdowns, etc) that have been created with this book as a base. Unfortunately, no explanations are included in the book itself, so you have to seek out other resources. I have all my SAT students get a copy.
2) The Real ACT Prep Guide, latest edition:
This book, more commonly known in the test-prep world as the “Red Book”, is a great guide for every ACT test taker. While the ACT is certainly overtaking the SAT in market share, there still aren’t as many options specific to the ACT (that are not just lazy reworks of the SAT guide by the same publishers). This book is fundamental to the ACT prep student. There are 5 full-length, official tests, and there are explanations to every question in the book. Be careful about how you prepare, and supplement this guide with other resources, or you may run out of practice materials long before test day. I used to recommend every one of my ACT students to get a copy of this book, but now I find that working from other test materials is enough with no need to purchase this book.
3) Casio FX-115ES PLUS calculator
I know you already have a calculator, possibly one that you dropped over $100 on that can do cool graphing things and may even have a fancy color display. You may even be able to charge it, just like a phone! But — whip that mean machine out right now and use it to tell me what sqrt(5) – 6sqrt(2) / sqrt (4) can simplify to (not an approximation), in 5 seconds or less!
What’s that, you say? Your calculator can’t do that? Well, good news – that $20 Casio can, and the ACT will definitely reward you for purchasing a calculator that can do that. It can also simplify fractions, convert mixed numbers to improper fractions and vice versa, and even do your Calculus homework for you. Grabs yours today!
Oh, so you already know that the ACT is mostly about what you know, but the cherry on top is being a master at time- and test-taking management? Good for you!
A good watch can make all the difference on test day if your struggles are primarily with focus, coordination, anxiety, and all the other factors that may make you spend 5 minutes on a single problem, or rush through the whole test in 15 minutes without stopping to analyze the massive amounts of data you’ve just inhaled.
So allow this watch to guide you – it’s preprogrammed with countdown timers for each section of the ACT, and it also has a line around its perimeter that reminds me of that old game snake, except that the snake disappears gradually throughout the test so that you can better pace yourself on the questions. A little pricey at $50, but this watch is built to last and is worth its weight in
gold ACT points.
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