How to Prepare for the SAT and ACT over the Summer: Three Tips to Enter Testing Season Fully Prepared.
If you’re wrapping up your sophomore or junior year, you’re probably coming to terms with the fact that the next few semesters are going to be some of the most important in your high school career. Not only will you have a broader range of honors classes, authoritative positions in your extracurricular activities, and AP tests, you’ve also got a terribly exciting, terribly stressful prospect lurking in the later months of your calendar: College.
Don’t get me wrong; college is great. You’re going to take classes that inspire you, meet friends that will last a lifetime, and have ice cream for breakfast (we don’t necessarily recommend this becoming a habit). You know how instrumental those years will be for the rest of your life, and how exciting it is to take the next step into adulthood. But you have to get there first—and that’s where the stress comes in.
While it’s tempting to take the summer as a break –you know, lounge by the pool, take vacations, try not to think about school work—it’s important that you’re using your time wisely. The SAT & ACT are the easiest ways for schools to objectively gauge your readiness for the level of performance that will be expected from you in college. Summer break is one of the best times for you to get yourself geared up for the busy season of applications, school visits, and testing that awaits you once school starts up again.
So what can you do, without sacrificing your sanity and chance to relax?
First off, recognize the biggest advantage of preparing over the summer. You’re not in school, so you’re not going to have to worry about balancing SAT & ACT study with your normal homework load. Why try to cram everything in during the fall, when you’ll be starting classes again and trying to get everything else under control?
At Top Test Prep, we recommend that students approach the summer with a few major goals in mind. Namely:
Read books. Read magazines. Make CNN or The New York Times your homepage, and click through a couple articles that interest you. And talk about that reading with your friends and family! Both the ACT and the SAT will score you on your ability to process reading passages. You don’t have spend your entire summer with your nose in a book, but give yourself a goal of finishing a book every two weeks. Try forming a “book club” with a couple of your friends. Pick something that you’ll actually follow through on, and plan to talk about it when you’ve finished. Lots of books will have guided discussions for just such occasions, and it’s a wonderful way to keep your critical reasoning skills honed.
2. Review your old textbooks.
Yeah…we know. You’re a math whiz. You did that stuff Freshman year. It’s cake. But if I asked you to find the area of a trapezoid right now, or the square root of a fraction, could you? What if your #1 school depended on it? Even though you’re probably enrolled in challenging classes right now, it’s easy for the basics that don’t get used as often to fall through the cracks. So dig out those dusty textbooks and look through tests from the last few years. Especially review the information that was difficult for you then—chances are, you’re going to see it on the SAT or ACT.
3. Familiarize yourself with the tests.
I know people who could go on for hours about why their fantasy football team is going to cream the competition, or how much they loved the latest Twilight movie. Get to know your test the same way, so that when it comes time for you to sit down and take it for real, you know all the ins and outs that will help maximize your score. Take practice tests (we work with actual tests from years previous to make sure you’re getting the most accurate experience and results), learn test-specific strategies, and work to review concepts that don’t come as easily as you’d like. Our private tutoring programs are great at helping you learn the exams inside-out, and our customized lesson plans make sure you’re using your time in the most targeted ways possible.
In the long run, the testing process opens the door for some of the best years of your life. Getting through it might make you want to pull your hair out (just wait until you start getting the question “Where do you want to go to school?”), but starting out well-prepared will make all the difference. There’s also an important lesson to be learned here: in college, you’re going to have to manage your own time, and learn how to balance your school schedule on your own when there are tons of amazing things to distract you. Approach this summer as if it’s a preview of what’s to come, and when fall rolls around and you put your test date on your calendar, you’re going to be doing it with a sense of excitement and accomplishment, rather than panic.