Welcome back in 2023. More than any other year, students took a break from tutoring and academics over Winter Break, which I think was a great idea. Celebration and relaxation are important! Now that we’re back to the academic schedule, students who took December SAT/ACT tests all have their scores. In December, most students make progress with their scores but need more time to study to achieve their targets. As any coach will tell you, the foundation of improvement is excellence in practice. Here are some blunt and yet crucial tips on how to study most effectively.
Work in One Sitting The SAT and ACT tests are long and thus require endurance. One achieves endurance in all things by building it up through practice. Students are usually assigned test sections for homework. Doing these test sections in pieces, with some problems here and a few more there, is better than nothing but not ideal. You may be building skills, but you are not building endurance. A lack of endurance can cause students to run out of time due to a loss of focus, or do poorly on later sections of the test.
Time Yourself! The test itself is timed. Students must time themselves on all homework sections. When students take more time than needed on homework – and usually do not tell the tutor about it – they deprive the tutor of the opportunity to share strategies to improve time management. And, students misrepresent their scores. Scores achieved untimed are not meaningful. If you run out of time on a section, mark where you ran out of time, then complete the section. Compare the two scores. Your tutor can help you close this gap.
Don’t Lean on the Answer Key All students know the answer key is at the end of each test, whether in the Official Guide or online. Now believe me, I know, it’s a long week at school. It’s tempting to check the answer key for some problems to get through the homework more quickly and give the appearance of a higher score. But this method sabotages your chance to review just the problems you need to review. Used too much, the method sabotages your chance at score improvement almost entirely. Few students will ever concede to checking their answers, as they consider it “cheating” and then of course don’t want to tell the tutor about it. In these cases, I always advise students to be honest and just say they didn’t do the homework or didn’t get to certain problems in time. I’ll usually understand.
Check Your Work and Review Doing the homework problems is of course important, but it’s also important to check your work and know which problems you got wrong for your tutoring session. That saves the tutor the time of checking the work during the beginning of the session. And, you get an opportunity to see for yourself what types of problems are giving you trouble. Do not cut yourself any breaks! If you make a silly mistake and want to mark it as right, again I understand the temptation, but please don’t do it!
I understand that these tips represent a rigorous study attitude, and no one will be perfect all of the time. But, if you want to excel in practice and bring that to your SAT or ACT, these four tips are a terrific start.
Good luck with your first full week back to school.