Standardized tests hang over your head like a raincloud that won’t go away. Most students lose sleep, are apprehensive, and procrastinate. After all, you’re a student, which translates to “always busy.” The last thing you want to do with your precious downtime 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 are my top five standardized test prep tips to help you ace your tests without reading all those larger-than-life books. Unless, of course, you really do want to read them!
1. Start early
All-night cramming sessions aren’t fun, and they really aren’t effective either—especially if they’re your only test-prep strategy. Thankfully, the sooner you start preparing, the less you’ll have to do each study session. So instead of doing 300 practice problems the night before a test, do one or two a day for the months leading up to it. While this requires a little advanced planning, it leaves you ultimately more in control of your score. When you prepare early, you’re less stressed and confident in knowing you did everything you can. After all, slow and steady wins the race.
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 resulting test score.
3. Learn 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 and give you a little boost in addition to all your hard studying.
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 ticking clock. Nothing will cost you precious time or leave you feeling frazzled quite like checking the time every 30 seconds. Instead, try to find a good pace for completing your exam during your practice. 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.
Related: 4 Ways to Combat Test–Taking Anxiety
Tests are often most students' least favorite part of school, but they can be an important way to test your knowledge, retention, and skills. But it’s important to remember that everyone’s test-taking experience will be different. You may be able to breeze through review for one subject that someone else struggles through, and vice versa. Study in the way that works best for you, but implement advice along the way that will help you succeed.
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