(This blog post was written by A-List tutor and SAT/ACT expert, Andrew Golledge.)
So you’ve settled in with your tutor and covered much of the basic content from the Book of Knowledge. Great! Here are some good habits to prioritize as you transition into the next phase of your preparation for those December and January test dates:
Imagine you’re training for a fight in a ring, but your only preparation is to hit a punching bag a few times a week. Would you really be prepared? Of course not. So just like sparring many rounds against a resistant opponent in order to recreate the conditions of an actual fight, you should be taking practice tests on a frequent, regular basis in order to recreate the conditions of your exam, be it the SAT or ACT. Never forget that both tests are also endurance tests, and you need to be as ready for that aspect of the experience as any other.
The last thing you want to do after receiving the score report to a practice test is say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and go about your day. I have all of my students craft a detailed analysis of every single mistake on their practice tests, and it’s called an error log. It must always include answers to three questions: “The right answer is right because … the wrong is wrong because … I chose the wrong answer because …” At the end of the process you have a very clear view of your strengths and weaknesses as a test-taker, and a very clear list of adjustments for your next test too.
Don’t underestimate the value of your Book of Knowledge. Going through it once with your tutor does not take full advantage of that value. Completing the accompanying drills and never looking back does not take full advantage of that value. You need to arm yourself to the teeth with brightly colored pens and highlighters and attack the text, leaving nothing behind but a beautifully annotated and highlighted 2nd (or 3rd) reading of its most important content and exercises. Do this and the ideas will stick.
Ah, reading. That sweet and precious multivitamin for your intellect. Its many benefits include improved memory, vocabulary and focus, plus sharpened analytical and writing skills. How this translates to standardized tests should be obvious, so if you’re serious about improving your score then substantive daily reading needs to be a part of your preparation. Pithy online listicles don’t count.
Last but definitely not least. We as tutors know how much stress you’re under during junior and senior years, and how much work gets piled on throughout. That’s why we’re always so proud when you hold yourselves up to the high standards we set for you. But please, don’t burn yourself out over one test, especially your first. Remember to go for a walk, eat ice cream or read a book for fun once in a while. Or watch a good movie, like Highlander. It has sword fights, Sean Connery and a soundtrack by Queen.