The Power of a Posse: Collaborating With Peers During SAT and ACT Prep

Multi-ethnic women studying on floor
Multi-ethnic women studying on floor

Every SAT and ACT follows predictable patterns and requires an understanding of the same basic formulas, rules, and techniques. Each test is distributed to enough people that the curve will be relatively consistent. When the pencil meets the bubble sheet, it comes down to you, the test taker.

But within the test prep process, there are also opportunities to join forces.

Obviously, you can work with a tutor or coach (such as moi). A good tutoring relationship offers access to the tutor's expertise and an opportunity for mentorship that truly transforms the test prep process.

You can also team up with your peers by finding some test prep running buddies (the "running buddies" bit is a metaphor--no tennis shoes required). By identifying and agreeing to collaborate with friends who share your ambition, dedication, and perspective, you can feel a little less alone in the preparation process, and you might even accelerate your progress.

How can you work with friends on your test prep?

  • Discuss your test prep goals for the week, and then check in to ensure that you've accomplished them.

  • Share questions or concepts with which you are having difficulty and make sense of them together so that you all have an opportunity to learn--it's often said that the best test as to whether you know something is whether you are able to teach it.
  • Get together for group practice tests.
  • Call each other up after a test that didn't go as well as you had hoped and hear, "It's okay. I know you've got this. What can you spend your time learning or practicing so that you do better next time? How can I help?"
  • Call each other up after receiving a score of which you are proud and feel genuinely happy for one another.
  • Having one or multiple running buddies is a valuable opportunity to give and receive support throughout what can be an isolating process. It strengthens your skills and your compassion. You might even realize that the advice or support you offer your running buddy is the exact thing that you yourself need to hear.

    Let me be clear: When including peers in your support system, you must be discerning.

    The friend with whom you love joking but who doesn't seem invested in test prep or college? Not your running buddy.

    The person who brags about how well they are doing but withholds constructive advice? Not your running buddy.

    The person who constantly complains about how awful test prep is? Not your running buddy.

    Most of your classmates will not be your test prep running buddies. In fact, if you find yourself engaged in discussions with more than four friends about test prep on a consistent basis, chances are you need to stop talking about test prep. (For real though.)


    Erika Oppenheimer is an SAT and ACT test prep coach and the author of Acing It! A Mindful Guide to Maximum Results on Your College Admissions Test. Using her unique "Test Prep for the Whole Person" methodology, she helps students from across the country reach their potential in the test room and in life.

    Erika will host a free webinar series, "Acing It! Book Club," from February 16th - March 8th 2016. In each weekly session, she will guide students through three chapters of Acing It! and answer their questions about test prep. Find more information and sign up here.

    Download a free sample chapter from Acing It! here.
    Learn more about Erika's coaching programs here.