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How to Improve Your Scores over Holiday Break!

It seems like just yesterday that the fall semester started back up, you greeted friends you hadn’t seen over the summer, and classes began.  Before you knew it, the semester was half over–now we’re on to Thanksgiving, and winter break is right around the corner.  You are probably looking forward to a change from the daily grind of school or work, but it’s imperative that you keep working on your test preparation so that you don’t forget some of the important ideas that you’ve learned.  Here are some ideas to keep you going strong over school breaks that will also give you plenty of time to relax.


The first and most important step is to plan out your schedule at least a few days before your vacation begins.  This will keep you organized and focused, while showing you that studying only takes a little time each day.  Use whatever planning form works best for you: iPad, iPhone, weekly planner, Excel file, sticky notes, or even one of those giant desk calendars.  You know how you work best, so make it work for you.

This also means that you should follow the schedule you set; it should be thorough, but practical as well.  Which leads to this key point: the list should consist of a few small things to accomplish every day to keep you going.  Let’s look at a few examples of what you can do in small amounts to keep focused.

Reading and Writing

Here are three areas to focus on for reading and writing over the holidays.

  1. Reading.  Yes, you’ve been reading everything from newspapers to blogs for years (not to mention all the books you’ve got to plow through for school), but it’s important to read a little bit every day  since you never know where you might learn new ideas or new vocabulary.  A large part of many of exams is reading comprehension, which tests you on subjects you are less familiar with and on your ability to read and process information quickly.  What could help you more than reading different subjects every day?
  2. Vocabulary. This leads to the second point: work on 10-20 new vocabulary words every day.  A long list or a big stack of flashcards can be really intimidating to tackle all at once, but if you learn 10-20 new words 6 days a week and then review them at the end of the week, you’ve just learned 120 new words in a week.  In just a few short weeks, your vocabulary will improve greatly!
  3. Writing. Write something – anything! –for 15 minutes every day, both to get faster at writing and to improve your skills.  It doesn’t really matter how you write, be it typing or handwriting in a diary, or what you write, but a little bit every day will make the writing portion of your exam seem far more natural.


Similarly, you could plan out how to work on math over break that only takes a few minutes every day.

  1. Formulas.  Learn a few formulas every day, either on a flashcard or on a list, whatever works best for you.  While some exams provide formulas at the front of the section, others don’t, so make sure you can familiarize yourself with what you need to learn.  Regardless, learning a few quick formulas and shortcuts can save you vital minutes on the day of the exam.
  2. Practice Questions.  Work on a few practice questions, especially those tricky ones in areas you like less every day.  Just like learning formulas or a few new words, it doesn’t take a lot of time – just 10 or 15 minutes.  If you worked on one type of question that you are less comfortable with every day, you would quickly be comfortable with every type of question.
  3. Math Sections.  Finally, make sure that once or twice during your holiday break you spend a bit more time to work on an entire math section or two.  It will improve your math and keep your momentum going.

While all of this combined might seem like a lot to do over a break, plan a different focus for each vacation, so that you spend maybe 30 minutes a day over each holiday to work on them.  Maybe Thanksgiving break will be vocabulary, and the December holidays will be math– you decide!  But whatever you want to do, plan it out and it should be quite doable with just a little work every day.


Merle E. is one of Top Test Prep’s star SAT/ACT and GRE instructors. We’ve heard great things from his students about his motivational and coaching skills, and we hope you’ll take his advice to make your breaks as productive as possible.

To learn more about our test prep tutoring and expert admissions counseling, call (800) 501-7737 today.

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