What English Language Learners Can Do to Prepare for the SAT/ACT

Hello English Language Learner (ELL) Magooshers! Recently I wrote ACT to Offer Accommodations for English Language Learners Starting in 2017! This article got me thinking a lot about ELL students such as yourself.

Today I want to talk to ELL students getting ready for the SAT/ACT. I’ve come up with a lot of tips and tricks that will not only help you earn a higher score, but improve your skills in the English language. So if you’re ready, let’s get started.

The Power of Books

Back when I taught, many of my native English-speaking students struggled with English. Why? They didn’t read much of anything. Sometimes it was because their parents didn’t encourage reading. Other times it was because they found reading difficult and just gave up. The result was always the same: their reading and writing ability was way below grade level.

The advice I gave them is the same advice I now give to you: find a few good books and read them. What’s a good book? Anything you want. Besides enjoying the story, your mission is to pay attention to how the book uses the correct rules of English. Here are a few guiding questions to keep in mind as you read:

  • Where does the author use commas?
  • How does the author use pronouns?
  • What connecting words and phrases does the author use?

But when it comes to ‘must have’ books for improving your English, there is one not to miss…

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style is a short, easy to read English guidebook. As you review missed English questions on SAT/ACT practice tests, have The Elements of Style on hand to review important lessons. The book is also a great companion when completing homework.


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Pay Attention to Feedback

If you’re an ELL student, it’s likely that your assignments in English class come back with a lot of red ink on them. First of all, it’s okay to feel frustrated, especially if you’ve been trying really hard to improve your writing.

Here is what you should do. After making corrections, go to your English teacher for help. Your teacher may not have enough time to go over everything with you, so here is something you can say:

“Please help me with the two biggest problems in my writing.”

By focusing on your biggest problem areas, your writing (and score on the SAT/ACT) should improve. Once you’ve mastered these areas, get help in others. It’s a slow process, ELL Magooshers, but it’s the only process that works.

Memorize the Format and Directions of the SAT/ACT

Whether you’re taking the SAT or ACT (or both), it’s good to memorize the format and directions. Why? First of all, you will save precious seconds during the test by not having to read the directions. Remember: every second counts, especially if you’re a struggling reader.

Besides seconds, your brainpower is another precious resource. By memorizing the directions and format, you can jump right into the questions when each section of the SAT/ACT begins. Most importantly, your stress will be less.

Final Thoughts for ELL Students

The tips and tricks in this article are only a few of the things you can do to get ready for test day. Please ask your English teacher for more advice, as he or she knows you as a person as well as a student.

Till next time, ELL Magooshers.

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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  • Thomas Broderick

    Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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