Test scores are one of the myriad of ways that you can distinguish yourself from other college applicants, so you should try to get the highest score you can. Follow these steps and you'll have no doubts about whether you did enough to prepare:

1. Decide which test to take

Just about every college will accept either the SAT or the ACT, so play to your strengths. If you're right-brained and skilled with language, writing, and critical reading, you're likely to do well on the SAT. If you're left-brained and strong in math and science, the ACT is your test. The ACT writing section is optional, so be sure to check if it's required by the colleges you're applying for. It's not recommended to take both tests; you'll do better if you focus your energy on one.

2. Start preparing early

Cramming will not work on this test, so start taking simulated tests as early as possible. Prep guides for the ACT and SAT are inexpensive, and will allow you to practice anywhere, alone or with friends. There are also plenty of free practice sites available online. Ask your teachers if your school provides test prep classes. If you're weak in a particular area, consider looking for a tutor who can get you up to speed.

3. Take care of yourself

In the week leading up to the actual test, avoid eating junk food and staying up late. Drink at least eight glasses of water every day, pad your diet with vegetables and protein, and get as much sleep as you can. A little bit of exercise will also go a long way towards boosting your brain power, so don't spend all your time sitting at your desk. Get up and take a brisk walk a few times a day. Eat a protein-rich breakfast on the day of the test, like an omelet or whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

4. Retake the test if necessary

Most students' scores improve marginally after retaking the test once, so if you're definitely not happy with your score, you still have a chance to improve. Avoid retaking either test a second time, though, because scores usually go down after the first retake.

If you follow every step, you won't have any regrets about your score. The most important thing is to start getting ready as soon as possible so you can internalize the information you need. Good luck!


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