How to Prep for SAT, ACT Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

The new coronavirus pandemic has changed nearly all aspects of daily life. With government regulations mandating that many establishments close to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease, including K-12 schools and colleges, many people find themselves spending most of their time at home.

The public health scare has also prompted the cancellation of the May 2 and June 6 SAT, the addition of a 2020 SAT test date — September 26 — and the addition of two ACT new exam dates this summer, June 20 and July 25. The planned June 13 and July 18 test dates remain in place.

As of May 15, the ACT test creators had not yet determined whether to cancel the June 13 exam, as they did the April 4 ACT.

The creators of the ACT and SAT have also announced plans to provide a digital testing option that would likely become available this fall. The College Board will only extend this option for the SAT should high schools remain closed come fall, but the ACT intends to offer a digital option regardless of coronavirus circumstances.

[Read: 3 Questions to Ask Former Test-Takers Before ACT, SAT Prep.]

High school students preparing for one of these college entrance exams may be wondering if policy changes should affect their test prep routine. There are some things you should know and do to make sure you’re ready when the next SAT or ACT test date arrives.

Changes That ACT and SAT Test-Takers Should Make

For students who claimed to have insufficient time for test prep before the coronavirus crisis, the suspension of in-school classes represents a chance to catch up. Realistically, you likely will not have another opportunity like this one to dedicate so much time to your ACT or SAT studies.

If your exam date was canceled, you should not stop reviewing. One problem, however, is that students who study at home often report getting sidetracked. Family members, pets, the TV and other things can all act as distractions. Therefore, you must seek to reduce any distractions as much as possible by finding a private area and then communicating to those around you that you wish to work undisturbed.

However, even when you have a space that is conducive to focused study, cabin fever may become a reality. Remember that you have the option of taking your test prep outside as long as you are not breaking local, federal or state rules about social distancing.

Do not endanger your health or anyone else’s. Your front or back yard can offer you the fresh air and change of scenery your body may be craving, as can a balcony or similar area.

There are additional adjustments you should make to ensure you’re ready when your next ACT/SAT test date arrives:

— Register for a new ACT or SAT test date immediately.

— Join a virtual study group.

— Set rewards for yourself for achieving test prep milestones.

Register for a New ACT or SAT Test Date Immediately

To ensure you maintain an explicit end goal for your studies, do not delay registering for another exam date. Deadlines are important in goal-setting because they help you remain motivated. Having an uncertain deadline can cause you to delay or waste time, while knowing a deadline is approaching can add productive pressure to your routine.

[READ: How Parents Can Help Students Prep for ACT, SAT.]

If you are considering signing up for one of the summer ACT dates, which may still be affected by the pandemic, waiting a little longer is acceptable. However, be sure to commit to a test date as soon as feasibly possible.

Join a Virtual Study Group

Right now, distance learning is the safest way for you to continue your study endeavors. Forming a virtual study group with friends through a website like Facebook or via your school is a great way to ensure you do not lose traction.

Serious study groups tend to be successful because they foster an atmosphere of accountability and provide a support network. Students who report being motivated by competition can also benefit from being part of an online study group. Just remember to err on the side of friendly competition that serves as an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Helpful platforms for online study include but are not limited to Skype, Zoom and UberConference. Also, do not forget to take advantage of resources like Virtual School Day, where you can find free virtual ACT and SAT prep classes.

Set Rewards for Yourself for Achieving Test Prep Milestones

Not everyone is motivated by the same factors. Some people are intrinsically motivated, meaning they derive satisfaction from nontangible rewards such as self-betterment. Others are externally motivated, meaning they are driven by the idea of receiving physical rewards such as money or a trophy.

[READ: How the Coronavirus Affects College Admissions.]

If you classify yourself as an externally motivated learner, now would be the perfect time to decide how you will reward yourself should you meet your test prep goals. For instance, you could buy yourself some new clothes or treat yourself to a nice takeout dinner.

How to Stay Focused on Prep

With alarming stories and updated statistics constantly being published, it can be easy to find yourself distracted by all the information about COVID-19. And while it is smart to stay abreast of prevention methods and government instructions, it is probably best to limit your screen time.

There are various ways to accomplish this. You can decide on a fixed number of sources you will read or watch each day, or you can limit your browsing to a specific time frame — for instance, from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day or only in the early morning.

To prevent insomnia or nightmares, it may be best to refrain from viewing coronavirus-related information right before going to bed. If looking at your cellphone is a constant temptation, consider using an app such as SPACE that will help you limit your screen time.

The COVID-19 outbreak has turned daily routines upside down, but it does not have to affect your productivity. Make the most of this frightening time by advancing significantly with your ACT or SAT test prep at home. Later on, you will be thankful you did.

More from U.S. News

How to Rise Above an ACT, SAT Test Score Plateau

Final Steps to Take in the Week Before the ACT, SAT

SAT, ACT Fee Waivers and Other Ways to Take Entrance Exams for Free

How to Prep for SAT, ACT Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak originally appeared on

Update 05/18/20: This article has been updated with new information.

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