Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
testing coach

Lessons from the Testing Coach: Life Hacks to Raise Your Score


Using practical advice and common sense, these life hacks from an experienced testing coach can help you raise your standardized test score considerably.

You’ve registered to take the SAT, you and a crowd of other students are seated in a classroom, and the woman monitoring the exam is explaining the testing procedures.

Testing Coach Pep Talk

Are you calm, cool, and collected, as the old saying goes, a little nervous perhaps, but confident you are as prepared as you can be? Or are you anxious and stressed, terrified by the sudden realization that you are in no way ready for the 3-hour ordeal ahead of you?

If you want to make “No fear” your banner for standardized testing, here are some tips on how to ready yourself for the battle.

First, decide whether you’re going to take the SAT or ACT, or both. Google “differences between the SAT and ACT,” and you’ll find sites describing both tests and the differences between them. The ACT, for example, offers a science section—it’s based on critical skills thinking, not on your scientific knowledge—whereas the SAT offers no separate test for science. If you wish to compare the two tests more specifically, the online version of the Princeton Review offers free practice tests for both outfits.

Get Ready

Your next step is to purchase a practice test book. Once again, go to your computer and this time Google “practice test books for the SAT” or “practice test books for the ACT.” You’ll find lots of choices and reviews of prep books from publishers like Kaplan, the Princeton Review, Barron’s, and many others. If you have a large bookstore nearby, visit there so that you can personally browse the various books.

Once you’ve chosen your guide with its practice tests, carefully read the tips and help sections of that book before taking any of the tests. These advisory sections contain a wealth of information that can help you dramatically improve your score.

Get Set

Now you’re ready to take a practice test, but before moving forward take a sheet of paper, write POE in large letters on it, and place it beside the test book. POE stands for Process Of Elimination, which is how you want to approach the test. Eliminate answers you know to be wrong before choosing a right one. Look at ALL the answers before you make your selection. Many students select an answer they believe to be correct without reading all the possibilities.

Be sure to read the prompts and questions carefully. Students often miss a question because they have too hastily read it and so have misinterpreted it.

Take the test as if it were the real deal. Time yourself. Both tests without the writing sections are three hours long. It’s fine if you want a break or can only do one of the test sections, but complete the entire section. Eventually, you’ll want to take an entire test or two in real time. This race is long-distance, not a sprint, and you need to know the demands of that race.

When you have taken the test and marked your answer, be sure to understand the questions you missed. Test guides explain the correct answers. Study your mistakes, as the real test will include similar questions.


Now for some nitty-gritty tips to give you an extra boost.

Do not roll out of bed on test day, grab a doughnut, throw on your clothes, and race off to take the test. Give yourself plenty of time to do the following. Take a shower; it will help wake you up. Eat a healthy breakfast, but in moderation; a huge breakfast of pancakes will have you sleepy in an hour. Read something—a magazine, a book, anything—for fifteen minutes before leaving home; this reading awakens and stimulates the mind.

To the testing site you should bring exactly those items (like a calculator and pencils) required for the test. Lay these items out the night before the test. To them add a bottle or two of water and a power bar for the break. If chewing gum helps relieve your anxiety, pack that up too, only remember not to smack your gum and disturb your neighbors.

Just before you take the test, offer up a mental prayer asking for help in bringing all of your talents to the task before you. Prayer is a wonderful way of concentrating the mind.

Of course, the best path to success is to work hard and diligently on your day-to-day Seton lessons. You are enrolled in a program that teaches all the skills necessary for success on these or on other tests: grammar, mathematics, critical thinking, analytical reading, and writing. Apply yourself to your studies and then apply that learning to the test.

One last item: although some schools no longer require standardized tests, nearly all of them look to such tests when awarding merit-based scholarships. With that idea in mind, readying yourself to take these tests is like working a job that can bring big-time financial rewards.

Onward and upward, gang!

About Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, NC. Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, VA.

About Contributing Writers

A wide range of authors from priests, educators, parents and students bring insight and inspiration for the homeschooling journey. We would love to hear from you! To submit your story for consideration, visit Submissions. Learn More
Learn about Homeschooling with Seton
School Pre-K through 12 at home. A quality, Catholic education. Online learning. Accredited and affordable.
Request your Free Info Pack

Pin It on Pinterest