How can you give yourself the opportunity to prepare for your standardized tests efficiently and effectively? Here are some proven methods for getting the greatest benefit from your prep.
It may seem like the only way to prepare well for a standardized test is to study long and hard.
However, there are quite a few strategies that you can employ in order to study more efficiently which can provide you with a much higher score than if you studied the way most students do. This is the same reason test preparation companies and programs offer so much value: they know the strategies that can enable you to advance in your preparation rapidly. How can you receive that same benefit? Read on for some proven strategies!
Tip #1 – Start Early
The greatest advantage you can give yourself in the test preparation process is starting early. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start studying in 8th grade or Freshman Year of high school. However, it does mean that you should enter high school with knowledge of the standardized tests offered, and begin preparing at least 6 months before you take your first test. Starting early can also mean that you take the preliminary standardized tests if they are offered, such as the PSAT. While you don’t need to spend hours studying for these preliminary exams, simply taking them can give you a good idea of what standardized tests feel like. The PSAT specifically is quite similar to the actual SAT, and starting as early as possible will do wonders for your long-term preparation in terms of creating a solid mindset for taking high-pressure, timed standardized tests. Starting your test prep journey early also allows you to take full advantage of the next strategy!
Tip #2 – Spread Your Studying Out
Test preparation is a task that takes every student a while to get a complete grasp of. The best way to give your brain optimal space and time to truly understand the content you are learning, especially if you are trying to absorb a lot of concepts and information in a fairly short period of time, is to spread your studying out over a few months. Doing this and leaving gaps in between big chapters or practice tests will allow your brain to soak in the load of content that is presented. Over time, your brain will automatically begin to collect the information it needs in order to perform better on the standardized tests that you are studying for; however, if you don’t give yourself adequate time in between studying sessions, you may find it difficult to preserve enough motivation to continue studying, whereas spreading your studying out would allow you to gather motivation in between sessions.
Tip #3 – Master the Fundamentals
Standardized tests were originally made to test your aptitude in many critical concepts, and while they may often receive criticism for not truly testing your knowledge of subjects that are taught in school, it remains true that a majority of the questions found in the primary standardized tests are based, in one way or another, on some fundamental academic skills. For example, the SAT covers math concepts that are taught in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, and the ACT can cover concepts all the way through Precalculus. Both tests also cover various grammar and language comprehension skills that you can improve by paying attention in your school’s English or Language Arts classes. The internet has plenty of resources that list the concepts tested in both the SAT and the ACT, as well as information about how often you might see each concept in actual tests. A lot of SAT and ACT questions are built in order to trick students who don’t
know the fundamental concepts by heart, and in order to stay clear of those, you want to ensure that you are a master of the most basic academic skills.
Tip #4 – Recognize the Patterns
What most students and even some test preparation centers and programs don’t realize, is that both the SAT and ACT are made up of a limited number of patterns that are tested repeatedly. Both standardized tests have a finite number of concepts they cover, and the questions they use to test those concepts are often just slight variations of each other planted in different tests. Students that achieve very high scores realize this fact and take complete advantage of it. In order to use the patterns that are often repeated in tests to your advantage, take some time to study the patterns specifically. There are lists of these patterns online and in standardized test study books, but the best way to truly embrace and understand the patterns is to discover them by yourself. After you have taken multiple practice tests or practice sections, take a highlighter and make note of any questions in the tests that follow a similar format or have similar wording. As you continue to do this, you will begin to internalize the patterns, and the next time you see them on a standardized test you’ll automatically be a lot more confident and closer to the correct answer.
Tip #5 – Do Repeated Review
A lot of students preparing for standardized tests just take as many practice tests as possible, which can help their understanding of the material to a certain extent. However, in order to gain the most out of the time that you put into preparing for these exams, you need to spend some time carefully and deliberately reviewing your mistakes. Henry Ford once proclaimed that “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”. If you’re not setting aside fifteen minutes after every practice test you take to go back through the test and carefully examine every question you answered incorrectly, thinking through why you might have missed it and how you can remember to improve your thought processes next time you see a question like it, you’re not truly making the most of the time you put in. Because the majority of the standardized tests are patterns of questions that are repeated in other tests, you can slowly but surely decrease the number of mistakes you make overall by drilling your past mistakes into your head so that you never make them again. If you properly review your previous mistakes, over time you won’t be making any mistakes at all!
Tip #6 – Take Notes on Your Mistakes
While this strategy is often underrated, keeping a journal of all of the concepts that you have learned and the mistakes that you have made in the past is a great way of staying organized in your test preparation journey. For every mistake you make, try noting the section, type of problem, and what you did wrong in a notebook. Every few weeks, you can look back and read through your journal, quickly reflecting on what you’ve done wrong in the past and refreshing core concepts in your head.
If there are questions you keep on getting wrong on the test, it would be worthwhile to have a subject expert to go over the question with you. By using the Kunduz app, you are able to get affordable help from a real tutor within 15 minutes. Whether its a probability question or an algebra question, Kunduz has your back!
Tip #7 – Be Consistent
Although spreading your studying out is important, staying consistent in your study plans is equally important. Making sure that you have a routine schedule on when to study and how long to study for is a key component of studying effectively. It allows you to mentally prepare for the hard work you’re about to do as well as stay on track with any studying goals that you set for yourself. It may be hard to put down your phone or stop playing X-box sometimes, but ensuring that you stay consistent with any schedules you set is key to studying effectively.
Tip #8 – Simulate the Real Testing Experience
This strategy may seem fairly obvious, but a lot of students fail to actually carry through with it. In order to best prepare for a standardized test, you need to make sure that any practice tests you take are under the same conditions as a real test. This may mean that you need to print out an entire practice test, wake up early in the morning, or wear a mask while preparing, but in the long run, these conditions will train your brain and body to get more comfortable with the high-pressure testing environment. When it’s finally time to sit down in the real testing room, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable than fellow students who may be taking the test for the first time in the early morning.
Tip #9 – Complete Whole Practice Tests
This tip is very similar to the last strategy, but it is impactful enough to be deemed a strategy of its own. A lot of test preparation books and programs will tell you that if you struggle to complete entire practice tests or don’t have enough time to do so, then you can take smaller sections of the tests instead. However, we recommend that you take whole practice tests whenever you can. Even if this means that you need to move commitments around in your schedule to fit in a whole three-hour test, taking whole tests will truly condition your brain to the struggles of repetition and boredom. You definitely don’t want to lose your sanity while taking the real test!
Tip #10 – Take Breaks!
Last but definitely not least, make sure you weave adequate breaks into your study sessions and overall schedule. It may seem counterproductive, but it has been scientifically proven that taking meaningful breaks is one of the best ways to refresh your mental and physical state. If you’re ever drained of energy but still behind on test prep, consider talking to your family and friends or taking a walk outside for a few minutes. You’ll come back to your study session with a renewed mindset that’s much more motivated and ready to absorb information!