March 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Free Tools for SAT/ACT Test Prep | Tech Tidbits

female_laptop_reading_ts509288482Like so many other school libraries across the country, we held grand orientations last fall for our new students. We created database tutorials and led instruction. We ordered books and hosted poetry slams, book clubs, and maker spaces. If you are a high school librarian like me, you have by now probably taught research workshops with dozens of classes.

Now that our library routines are established, it is time to turn our attention to the inevitable standardized testing. Self-motivated students are starting to prep for either the SAT or ACT tests in April. This year, Colorado students are taking the SAT. One of our library goals is to help students improve their SAT scores, so I’m working with English teachers to help provide learning and practice for students in classroom settings. I’m also focusing on offering tools that students can use to study independently.

One of the great free resources that we find useful is the College Board SAT practice site. This site helps with registration, understanding the format of the test, and setting up study groups, and it includes helpful posts about test taking. The College Board has also teamed up with Khan Academy to create some amazing practice and test review components.

daily-practiceThe College Board website offers six practice tests that students can download and take. After they complete a practice test, students can photograph the answer sheet with their smart phones and upload it to get their scores using the College Board SAT app for iPad or Android. The adaptive Daily Practice for the New SAT app can then set up daily practice questions in the four tested subjects.

The idea is that the routine of disciplined daily practice with a variety of questions over time will strengthen students’ weak areas and increase achievement overall. The Daily Practice app keeps statistics on daily practice, so students can see their improvement. There is also a social component where participants can see how their practice compares to others who have been using the same app.

The app is really strengthened by its ties to the Khan Academy SAT practice site, which can also be used independently. Khan Academy offers short diagnostic quizzes as well as six full official tests, which lead to excellent, thorough practice opportunities. The higher the student’s skill level, the more challenging the passages and practice sessions are. The quizzes and instructions also give hints on how the SAT is structured and what to expect on the real test, so students will be well prepared and successful.

Shmoop logoOur school district has also used Shmoop as the test prep tool for our juniors. For a fee, it offers great student support with diagnostic tests, review topics, drills, and four full practice exams. My students love Shmoop and use it often because not only is it gamelike (users earn SHMOINTS!) but the excerpts are written with great humor and flavored with videos. Students reported that they enjoyed using it, so consequently they spent more and more time studying and reviewing.

We also offer a contest each year for students actively studying for their exams. Statistics are available in the admin account, which we use to award swag to top Shmoop users, and participating juniors are treated to free lunch and grand prizes.

Whether you’re preparing your students for the SAT, ACT, or even the GRE, we know the best test prep is disciplined practice over time. So encouraging and supporting students to start their work now may help them get that boost in scores needed to get into the college of their choice.



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Phil Goerner About Phil Goerner

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO. He can be found on Twitter @pgoerner. Phil is also an adjunct professor with University of Colorado at Denver in the School Library and Instructional Leadership program.

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  1. This article is indeed correct to hint that self-driven students can achieve more on the SAT or ACT today than ever before due to the wealth of available resources online. From my experience, it seems that more students should take advantage of these truly amazing resources. However, for top students seeking entrance to the most competitive colleges, it helps to take advantage of the help of a specialist. In my service, I’ve helped dozens of students to 33+ on the ACT and 1400+ on the SAT. I’ve done it primarily by exposing students to every scenario that they can expect to see on the big test. As an online tutor, I can tutor students anywhere on the globe, and my rates are surprisingly affordable. For more information, contact me at