Preparing for college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT can be a lonely, time-consuming process. While there's no substitute for sitting down with a practice test or study guide, tablets and smartphones offer plenty of ways to study on the go and – in some cases – to connect and compete with other test-takers.
There's no shortage of test preparation apps on the market, but the four listed below offer unique and highly effective ways to augment your existing study routine. These apps go the extra mile to make it easy for you to keep review sessions fresh and learn from your mistakes.
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1. ACT Question of the Day: Available for Android users, ACT Question of the Day presents a daily question for both the mathematics and verbal section of the exam. It also provides a short explanation of the correct answer, which can be useful for improving future results. Although these explanations are short, they aim to provide the user with useful bits of information that ease memory recall.
The ACT Question of the Day is the perfect way to get in a quick review session during your commute. If you need a little more practice, the app will randomize questions from the last 30 days for you to practice.
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2. ACTStudent: This is the official app for ACT test takers, and is available for iOS users. Students can use this app to register for tests, view past scores and practice four of the five sections on the exam.
Like ACT Question of the Day, ACTStudent explains the reasoning behind the correct answer, as well as how to reach it. While the app includes science questions – a rarity in the app world – it does not offer practice for the writing section of the exam.
3. SATLadder: One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT is to compete against fellow students. SATLadder is available to iOS users and tests critical reading, mathematics and writing. Head-to-head competitions allow you to challenge friends or strangers to climb the ladder with correct answers.
But this app is not all about play. SATLadder stores answered questions for later review, and allows users to earn points to unlock explanations for the challenges that troubled them. SATLadder is an excellent option for students who are motivated by a little competition.
4. SAT Up: SAT Up integrates social media elements into the study experience. By completing banks of questions, users can earn achievement badges such as "See the Light," awarded for 10 correct responses, and allow SAT Up to predict SAT scores.
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The iOS app uses this information to personalize suggestions for future practice areas and provide data about where scores fall relative to those of other users. SAT Up can even set daily reminders for you to review test material. Its longer test sections means the app isn't engineered for studying between classes or on the bus, but it's powerful and fun nonetheless.
If you are glued to that mobile device of yours most of the time anyway, make better use of your technology and start studying with simple and free test prep apps.
Caroline Duda is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor's degree from Saint Lawrence University.