Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes times a hundred.
We’re a little biased, true, but educators have had half a century to get standardized testing down to a science, and the results are clear: preparation makes a big difference in scores.
The SAT and ACT are like any test, in that students need to study for them. But they’re also different from the regular tests students take for classes in many crucial ways.
For one thing, they’re long. Both the SAT and ACT take about three and a half hours to complete (unless you opt for extended time), with precious few breaks throughout. Students need to practice the mental endurance it takes to perform at their best for that long.
For another, these standardized tests are written according to very specific guidelines, and so a lot of the questions might not look quite like what students are used to seeing in their everyday chapter or unit tests. It takes time for students to get used to the language they use and feel confident in understanding each question.
For yet another, the SAT and/or ACT is required to get into most colleges, and there are only so many times a student can reasonably take it. If you wait until fall of your senior year, wing it, and get a score you’re not happy with two months later, there’s no time to get a better score to send to colleges. It’s important to make the absolute most out of each attempt.
All this is to say, young test-takers should absolutely study for the SAT and ACT. It’s a lengthy, unfamiliar, and important test, and for most college-bound high schoolers, it’s not optional. They say that fortune favors the prepared, and preparation is the only way to get the best scores you possibly can.