Imagine this – your exam is almost breathing down your neck, and you are freaking out on all that still needs to be studied. You don’t have enough time to come up with a plan, and before you know it, your exam is in two days!
Before an exam, this is as close to a horror story as you can get. And, if you are reading this article, you want to avoid getting yourself in such a sticky situation. Planning your SAT and ACT is one of the first and most important steps of passing your exams with flying colors.
Planning sounds simple, right? It is one of the primary challenges of SAT and ACT, as this is something you need to figure out yourself. Planning for your SATs is not one size that fits all; it’s something you need to meticulously figure out and find what works for you and what doesn’t – what works for some students might not work for others.
Everyone has different focuses and different strengths, and your study plan should be tailored to your needs. Make an assessment of your exam goals, the resources you have, and the tools you need before you start planning.
The tools refer to anything that can help you learn better; for example, a fast calculator can solve complex calculations quickly and save you time during the test. You could also take the help of a graphing calculator to learn how to plot graphs quickly. If you haven’t heard of graphing calculators before, you can easily learn more from reviews of models.
Ideally, if you want to change your learning approach, you should start planning three months prior to your exam so that you can easily get comfortable with it and schedule practice and revision sessions.
Diagnose Your Skills
Planning won’t bring any fruitful results if you don’t know the areas you need to work on. To plan efficiently, you first need to diagnose your skill. If you are planning on sitting for your SATs, you can easily take a diagnostic on Khan Academy or complete PSAT/NMSQT.
This way, you get a sense of how close you are to your exam goal and how hard you need to work to reach it. To be on the safe side, try taking a diagnostic six months before your exam date. Focus and work on the areas you lack the skill most.
It’s easy to get discouraged at this stage as you will find out a lot you don’t know and a lot you need to work on. Hard as it may seem, all you need to do is practice and persevere – the magic mantra for exam success.
Speaking of Khan Academy, online resources are immensely crucial in triumphing your exams. Khan Academy has a dedicated, official prep course for SAT as they have recently collaborated with College Board, and even though they don’t have an official course for the ACT, you can easily use the resources available to prepare for your ACT exam. If you want to get tips on the type of questions you will face during the actual test, instructions, and overall the test structure, visit the official websites for SAT and ACT.
The websites boost detailed instructions for the tests. The more you familiarize yourself with the details, the more time you will save during the actual test. You can also find practice tests and sample questions on these websites.
Attempt Practice Tests
How important are practice tests? They can be as important as your actual test and a crucial step in preparation. Before you sit for your test, take at least two full-length practice tests either online or from your books. You need to sit for the practice tests with a mindset like it’s your actual exam.
Use a timer to get used to the time limits and be aware of your pace so you can attempt every question in the practice test. After you are done with the exam, check your answers thoroughly and dedicate sufficient time to review all the answers you got wrong.
Reading And Vocabulary
You can’t only rely on online resources for your preparation. There are books available with practice tests and past exam questions that can make a real difference in your preparation. Try to get hold of the official textbook of ACT; you can buy it from their website.
And, there’s also an ample collection of SAT prep books available on their website. Out of all SAT prep books, Barron’s and Princeton Review are probably the most popular among students and teachers alike.
If you start practicing early, say six months before your exam, you have a real chance of developing and increasing your vocabulary by reading challenging articles and books. Highlight and learn the meaning of unfamiliar words and use them in your writing. Read and summarize long articles and scientific studies; read editorials, articles, and essays. This is going to help you prepare for the Reading Test.
Also, pay attention to editorials, how a writer constructs their sentences, and how they present their arguments and comments. This will help you in the optional essay section. Think of these practices as general skill building for life and not just test prep. If you need a suggested list of reading, look into the College Board’s suggested reading list.
Take A Break
It might feel like a waste of critical time if you don’t practice every minute available before your exam, but it’s equally important to be rested and relaxed on the day of the test. We would recommend not to study on the night before your test.
Last-minute cramming will introduce extra stress and lower your confidence level. Moreover, it can also wear you out; your neurons also need some rest. Instead of cramming on your books, watch your favorite movie, watch a match, or do something that makes you calm and puts you in a good mood. Go to bed early, and make sure you get proper rest – a full night of deep sleep.
On the day of the test, make sure you have a calculator, no. 2 pencils, a printed copy of your SAT/ACT registration, and a valid photo ID. Organize all your supplies beforehand, and eat a proper, healthy breakfast to give yourself a boost. If you begin to feel anxious, take a pause and breathe deeply, and the last thing you should set yourself up for success is to believe in yourself! Good luck!
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