Should you start studying for the SAT/ACT as a sophomore?

With a busy junior year on the horizon, some sophomores are eager to get a head start on SAT or ACT prep.

Wondering if now is the right time for you to get started? Here are the first steps we recommend as well as some considerations to keep in mind.

What's the first step?

Taking care of initial research and planning now can save you time in the coming months. The only way to figure out your ideal test prep path is to take ACT and SAT diagnostic exams: full-length practice tests that simulate real testing conditions.

You can use your baseline scores to figure out which exam is your stronger test and choose which one to focus on when you start prepping.

At ArborBridge, we also use your diagnostic results to help you create an individualized testing schedule with tutoring and practice test benchmarks so that you can make the most of each attempt. Set up your free diagnostic exams here.

Is starting SAT/ACT prep as a sophomore the right choice for you?

Some students benefit from beginning test prep toward the end of 10th grade. After completing your diagnostic exams, you should take a look at the test dates available for your junior year and consider how they align with your schedule.

  • An early start can give you time to fit in more practice tests, allow for pauses if you have an especially busy schedule, and offer the potential for greater overall improvement.
  • However, there are a number of math concepts that come up on the SAT/ACT that you may not yet have covered in school, which can make this a less appealing option if Math is not a strength of yours or you haven't yet completed Algebra 2. Starting too early can also lead to burnout, so you may want to hold off until you've mastered the fundamentals necessary for SAT/ACT success.


How else can you get ahead?

If you're not ready to jump full force into ACT/SAT prep just yet, you can still get a head start on the critical skills that take the longest time to build for test prep.

Reading skills

Reading skills often take time to develop. And often, even if we feel like we know how to read and have been doing it for years, the kind of sustained attention and analysis required for standardized tests can feel like a whole new beast. The good news is that the work you do now will pay off in the long run.

  • Content: Read regularly! We recommend at least 20 minutes of reading per day. Familiarize yourself with the contemporary science, social science, and humanities articles that make up the bulk of the SAT and ACT, in addition to expanding your comfort zone and comprehension of pre-1920 texts that can scare off even the most competent readers. Start with our Recommended Reading List or reach out to our experts for more specific lessons.
  • Speed: The more you read, the faster you’ll become. You can go a step further by purposefully working on increasing your reading speed and accuracy. To practice reading faster while maintaining comprehension, you can check out online tools like AccelaReader.
  • Advanced skills: Annotation, anticipation, and other critical reading strategies can make reading more effective and more meaningful. Working on these skills now will prepare you to tackle ACT/SAT-level passages with ease when the time comes.

Data analysis skills

Students worldwide need 21st -century data analysis skills, not only to handle standardized tests, but also for high school courses, college, and beyond.

  • Read the news for real-world opportunities to practice interpreting data, understanding trends, and making inferences from charts, graphs, and tables from a variety of sources.
  • For more practice, students can check out Khan Academy or this student resource from the New York Times.


Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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