If you’re a high school upperclassman, you know that time is precious. Between homework, sports, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends, your schedule is pretty full. For juniors and seniors that plan on taking the SAT, it can be difficult to find time to study before the test. Taking time to prepare for the SAT is essential to doing well, but it’s the quality, not the quantity, of studying time that can truly make a difference in your score. With that in mind, here are three habits that are hurting your SAT prep.
1. Crash studying for the SAT
Don’t think that just because the material on the SAT is material you may have already learned that you will be able to ace the test after only a few study sessions. Cramming a week before the SAT is like participating in a triathlon without ever training. Crash studying not only is an ineffective way to learn and remember content, but can also hurt you when it comes to test time. Learning so much information in a short period of time can leave you anxious and forgetful – the last things you need to feel on test day.
Having a strict study schedule that you adhere to is key to maximizing the time you spend studying. Spacing out your studying over several months will ensure that you aren’t cramming the week before the test. Instead of spending eight hours a night the week before the SAT trying to memorize information, spread that time out over at least three months. Plan to set aside an hour a day at the beginning of your study schedule to ease into studying, then amp up the amount of time as the test nears. Although some of the content may seem familiar, you will need to familiarize yourself with content you may not have seen in years and give your brain ample time to recall it. You may find working with a prep book beneficial.
2. “Faking” a SAT practice test
You’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” and the SAT is no exception. If you are taking SAT practice tests before the actual exam, you are on the right track in your studying course. Practice tests help you to familiarize yourself with the structure of the test questions and can provide you with valuable data regarding your strengths and weaknesses. However, if practice tests are not taken correctly, you could be wasting your time.
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When taking the practice test, it is important to choose a location that mimics the location you will be in when taking your SAT. Do not take a practice test in your living room with the TV on, laying in bed, or in a location where you know there will be distractions. Your goal is to prepare yourself for the same environment that you will be in when you take the real test. Create a good study environment, with a quiet, comfortable space and a desk. When you walk in to take the SAT, you want it to feel familiar.
Simulating a practice test also means adhering to the rules that you will have to follow when taking the actual test. Do not use any tools to practice that you will not be able to use on the test. Furthermore, do not break up the test into sections over days or take longer breaks than you will be allowed on test day. Training your brain to focus throughout the whole test is vital to succeeding on the SAT.
3. Focusing on the “what” and not the “why”
Getting the correct answer is of course the goal when taking the SAT. However, when studying for the test, the answer isn’t the only thing that matters. After a practice test, it is important to look back at your incorrect answers and figure out why your answer was wrong, and why the correct answer was right. Each practice test and problem should be a learning experience, whether you originally got the answer right or wrong.
The questions you see on practice tests will not be duplicated verbatim on the actual test, so memorizing an answer will only waste your time. Instead, focus on the type of mistake you made, and find out how to avoid making that type of mistake in the future. Similar questions will likely stump you on the actual test if they fooled you on the practice test, so focus on where your line of thinking went wrong.
Ensuring that the time you spend studying for the SAT is spent in the correct way will determine your success come test day. Improper studying techniques can waste time and set back your studying schedule – ultimately hurting your score on test day. Avoid these habits that are hurting your SAT prep, and you can maximize the quality of your studying.