10 Tips to Study for the SAT and ACT While Serving National Service

10 Tips to Study for the SAT and ACT While Serving National Service

Full-time National Service is a significant time commitment, and we at IvyPrep salute you for your service. Many servicemen aspire to study in the United States after serving their National Service, and taking the SAT or ACT is the first step towards building up a strong college application. If you plan to take the SAT or ACT, you might be worried about how to balance your National Service commitments with your preparatory work for the SAT or ACT. Fret not – as someone who has studied for the ACT while serving NS (and scored a 35 while doing so), here are my top tips to prepare for the SAT and ACT while juggling your National Service obligations.

#1: If possible, take the test even before you enlist

Because National Service is a full-time commitment that may limit your availability to study for the test, it would be wise to take the SAT or ACT before you even enlist for National Service. Your SAT and ACT scores are valid for 5 years; hence, if you take the SAT or ACT in your final year of junior college or high school, your scores will still be valid when you apply for US colleges two years later. Furthermore, you can better recall the content that you have learned in school as it is more recent, and thus score higher.

#2: If not, plan to take the test in the second year of NS

The first year of your National Service is incredibly hectic. You go through Basic Military Training, followed by command school or vocation-specific training. All these training activities take up a significant amount of time and energy, leaving you little time to focus on your standardize test preparation. In contrast, your second year of NS, when you are posted to your respective units, tends to be a little more relaxed than your first. Though there will still be some training activities, the training intensity is significantly lighter than that of your first year. Hence, you can afford to take some free time to study.

#3: Start early and leave flexibility in your study schedule

Things can change at a snap of a finger in National Service – you could be assigned extra duties for a misdemeanour or called upon to stay in-camp for operational requirements, taking away precious weekends that could be used to study for the test. These situations highlight how including flexibility in your study schedule can help tremendously. If you leave your preparation to the last minute, you may be not fit in all of your preparation before the test date.

#4: Create a feasible study plan

It is tempting to spend your weekends leisurely when you are serving NS, given how tiring the week can be. However, studying requires discipline and commitment. To help with this, it might be useful to come up with a study plan that you can stick to.

#5: Inform your NS commanders and peers about your test preparation commitments

Depending on your unit rules, your commanders may have some flexibility to grant you time off to attend test preparation lessons, especially after the training phase; if not, they may be able to advise you when the best time to study for the SAT or ACT is. By letting your commanders and peers know about your test preparation, they may be able to help you balance your NS commitments with your test preparation commitments.

#6: Budget the time for multiple test attempts

Most students who take the SAT or ACT take the test at least twice, and they tend to score the best in their second or third tests. By budgeting the time for multiple test attempts, you give yourself an opportunity to improve upon your score. You could also super-score your results if the schools you apply to allow so.

If you manage to get your dream score in the first attempt, that’s great too – you will have more time to work on other aspects of your college application.

#7: Do not forget to leave time for the rest of your college application

The SAT or ACT may be an important part of your college application, but it is only one part of it. Your Common App essays, supplementary essays, and academic honors and activity lists are all important aspects of your college application too.


Juggling your National Service and SAT or ACT preparation commitments may be hard, but it is by no means impossible – as evidenced by the many servicemen who have successfully done so and gone on to study in top-tier colleges in the United States. With a well-defined plan and some good old-fashioned discipline, you can do well for the SAT or ACT!