How to Best Prepare for the ACT, SAT, and GRE Standardized Tests

How to Best Prepare for the ACT, SAT, and GRE Standardized Tests

I am one of those people who has taken every standardized test on the earth. I’ve taken them for as long as I can remember! In elementary school and middle school it was the CRCT, in high school it was SLO’s and EOCT’s, prepping for college it’s the SAT and ACT, and once you’re in college it’s the GRE!

Tests follow us literally everywhere all throughout our schooling journey so here are my top tips on how to be most successful at each of the three test monsters: the SAT, ACT, and the GRE. These were so daunting to me because I am AWFUL at math so if you’re also terrible this can 100% help.

I was actually reached out to by the ACT Student company for an Instagram post which was SO IRONIC because I had this blog post planned already! All ideas/opinions are 100% my own it just happened to correlate this way!

FULL TRANSPARENCY: I am going to list my scores out so you know what you’re working with!

SAT: 550/800 (Critical Reading), 510/800 (Mathematics), and 580/800 (Writing)

Full disclosure, I took the SAT twice and wasn’t happy with my score either time. The second time I took it my 2-part went up 100 points which was GREAT but didn’t help much because this test is exhausting and math heavy (the above are my scores the second time). Schools also only look at your Math & Reading scores though.

How to prepare:

I, of course, decided to purchase the test prep book (link)! Even if these don’t help you learn anything specifically, they do help you learn how the test is set up and get you familiar with the phrasing of questions. I purchased just the huge SAT prep book and just went through those questions. Kaplan also has free online resources (link)!


Writing: the nice thing about this was that I’d had a 30 min prep class every day my 11th grade year on how to write for the writing test (GA standardized test all 11th graders had) which insanely helped my writing portion. The best way to structure it is Intro, 3 body paragraphs with three solid points, and a Conclusion (NOTE: if you only have two strong points, use those and really back them up).

Math: I honestly am NO HELP. I am so bad at math and God is the only reason I got through if we’re being honest. I did; however, go through the test prep books and practice multiple questions/mini-tests. The word problems can really trip you up if you don’t read carefully.

Critical Reading: I also purchased flash cards (link) with popular SAT words on them! I didn’t learn them all (or any tbh) but it helps you learn to break down the structure of words and relate them to ones you already know!


ACT: 25/36 (overall), 27/36 (English), 19/36 (Math), 29/36 (Reading), 24/36 (Science)

These are my scores from my second time taking the test! It’s been five years now so my first set of scores are gone; this set will expire in September! I got a 26 the first time I took the test though! That’s because I took it with the writing portion included. There isn’t much of a difference in with or without (the writing portion) if we’re being honest.

How to prepare:

I’m going to be honest, I did not prepare as much as I should have for this test! I did well with little studying which doesn’t usually happen for me. I am 100% certain that it’s because I was able to rationalize everything out better and I didn’t get psyched out because of all the math. Here is a test prep book that is highly recommended (link).


Math: You can see how much worse I did in Math than all of the other subjects. It’s so awful how terrible I am at it but that’s why I LOVED (well take “love” with a grain of salt bc I hate tests) the ACT! It isn’t as math heavy so your skills in everything else matter just as much and can balance out a worse score in this section.

English: For English, I have the same tips as the SAT. Make sure that you up your vocabulary and figure out some new words as well as how they can be structured into sentences.

Reading: This was obviously my best area. For reading it’s just comprehension of paragraphs mostly. My biggest suggestion is to NOT OVERTHINK. It’s easy to find 17 meanings in “the curtains were blue” but try to avoid that as much as you can.

Science: For the science portion, I just remember chart after chart after chart. That’s why I did so well in my opinion. It’s analyzing charts and graphs and answering questions based off of them. Super simple and it actually makes sense!

GRE: 152/170 (Verbal Reasoning), 146/170 (Quantitative Reasoning), 4.5/6 (Analytical Writing)

I legit JUST took this test in May so this one is the most fresh in my mind studying wise! I was concerned about the quantitative reasoning portion of the exam because I hadn’t taken a math class in legit three years but I placed in the 23rd percentile! I studied weekly (usually every Fri, Sat, and Sun) when I wasn’t in class from Jan-May! About six months of prep.

How to prepare:

I researched and researched the best test prep books for this test to make sure I had the ones most similar to the test! Make sure to NOT get the three book pack. It’s a waste of money because the huge “official book” apparently has almost the same material as both of the smaller ones (or so I’ve read in multiple reviews). I purchased this set (link) that is only $20 and it was seriously all I needed! Plus it’s written by the official test providers.


Verbal Reasoning: For this section, I just went through the whole book! Maybe not the whole book but like 75% of it. That seriously helped a lot. It made me confident in knowing the structure of the questions and the fill-in-the-blank questions as well.

Quantitative Reasoning: I made sure I went through and did all of the math practice tests. On the practices, I first started making an average of around a 30% which was not good. I kept at it and ended up around 50-60% which is a lot better! This is a good range to shoot for because it’s likely you’ll do a little better on the actual test.

Analytical Writing: This was my best section and I knew it during the test. I felt sooo confident in my answers. This part has two sections that include: Issue Essay and Argument Essay. For both essays I did the standard Intro, 3 Body, and Conclusion. My argument essay I think I killed and made a 5. On the issue essay I think I made a three for an avg of 4.5 (because my argument essay was killer). To practice for this area, I made sure to write essays from sample questions which they give you for free with the purchase of the GRE test!

I hope these tips help you guys with these standardized tests! These are what 100% helped me succeed and I’m sure they’ll help you too!

If you have any other ideas that will help other test takers, or if any of these tips help you, make sure to leave a comment below! Thanks again for reading and as always follow me on Instagram at @sequinsandsales!

xoxo, Mandy

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Senior Fashion Merchandising/Apparel Design major at Georgia Southern University! This is my blog where I post about lifestyle, fashion, and make DIYs for you to copy! I would love to connect so give me a follow (:

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