Standardized tests. They hang over your head like a raincloud that won’t go away. They have the ability to bring tears of frustration and maybe a few excited butterflies. But for most students, it’s mostly lost sleep, apprehension, and maybe a little procrastination. After all, you’re a student, which translates to “always busy.” The last thing you want to do with your precious down time is read a 2,000-page SAT prep book. And how do you even remember that much stuff anyway?
Thankfully, if you’re prepared in advance, you don’t have to worry so much, and that raincloud overhead will float away. Here’s a list of the top standardized test prep tips so you can ace your tests without reading all those larger-than-life books. Unless, of course, you really do want to read them. No judgment.
1. Start early
All-night cramming sessions aren’t fun, and they really aren’t effective—especially if they’re your only test-prep strategy. Thankfully, the sooner you start preparing for your tests, the less you will have to do each session. So instead of doing 300 practice problems the night before a test, why not try doing one or two a day for the months leading up to it? While this may require a little advanced planning, it leaves you ultimately more in control of your test score. When you prepare early, you have less stress and the confidence in yourself to know you did everything you can. After all, slow and steady wins this race too.
2. Use a variety of resources
Everyone has a different learning style, and every test preparation resource has different insights. Tapping into a variety of resources and learning in new ways give you a well-rounded studying experience. If you're a visual learner, try using books from a variety of publications. Auditory learners may benefit from audio books or educational videos. Hands-on learners can try using test prep games or apps. Don't limit yourself to one study tool! Think outside the box and you may be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy your test prep—and your test score.
3. Learn test-taking strategies and tricks
We've all heard of them, those little tricks that help you ace your tests: Chew one flavor of gum while you study and the same during the test to help you recall facts. Simulate your testing environment while studying. Guess C on multiple-choice questions if you're truly at a loss. Color-code your notes to improve memory. While these tricks alone won’t magically give you a perfect score on your tests, they may improve your information retention and testing success.
Related: Study Hard or Study Smart? Common Mistakes When Preparing for the SAT
4. Treat test day like a normal day
I'm not going to tell you what to eat for breakfast. I'm not going to tell you exactly how many hours to sleep the night before. The most important thing on test day is to do what makes you feel comfortable. Trying a new superfood breakfast is more likely to stress you out (especially if it's time consuming or tastes awful). Going to bed five hours earlier than usual might leave you tossing and turning during that time. Instead, eat your favorite quick and easy breakfast, and go to bed at a reasonable time. It will reduce stress levels enormously if test day feels like just another school day. Being relaxed and prepared is more beneficial than trying to implement a completely new routine.
5. Take the test at your own pace
It's hard enough to stay focused on any one task for two hours, and it’s easy to get distracted by the clock. Nothing will cost you precious time or leave you feeling frazzled quite like checking the clock every 30 seconds. Instead, try to relax and find a good pace for completing your exam. Take the questions at your own pace. If you know you can figure a problem out, it's okay to spend a little more time on it. If you’re really struggling, feel free to skip it and try to come back later, or guess if your test doesn't have a penalty. Let time be on your side instead of losing focus or counting down the minutes.