Students Should Watch Out For These Common Test Prep Mistakes
Could you be sabotaging your test prep and not even realize it? Preparing for the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests requires a lot of patience, recall, and determination in order to reach your goal score, and it’s important for students to keep in mind how lengthy and intense of a process it can be. It’s also possible for students to hurt their test prep more than they’re helping – and not even realize it.
At IvyWise, we believe that test prep shouldn’t be an afterthought – it deserves as much attention as any other academic or extracurricular pursuit during your high school career. After all, proper test prep can help you gain admission to your top-choice schools!
If you’re not giving your test prep 100%, your results may not land where you want them. That being said, there are a bunch of ways that you may be putting SAT or ACT score at jeopardy without even knowing it. Here are five things you should avoid at all costs both leading up to and on test day in order to reach your goal score.
Prepping for Both the SAT & ACT
At IvyWise, the top test prep tip we give students is to focus only on one standardized test! Students should start their test prep by taking a diagnostic of the SAT and ACT to determine which test is the best fit for their abilities. Here at IvyWise, we provide families with a comprehensive test evaluation in order to guide students toward the test that would best suit them. Furthermore, both exams have become more alike over the past few years as they have evolved, and students who sit for both exams typically find that they score nearly the same (taking into account the conversion.) As such, your time is better spent putting 100% into either the SAT or the ACT.
Not Taking Practice Tests
One of the biggest mistakes students make when preparing for the SAT or ACT is dragging their test prep on for months and months without taking practice exams or actually sitting for the test. Getting numerical feedback is not only helpful in terms of providing you with a sense of where you stand on the exam, but also to put into perspective how much more work you should be doing, where you should be targeting your prep, and what test date you should sit for. Additionally, there is nothing like actually sitting down and taking a practice exam to give you the best idea of what you will face on test day.
Not Timing Your Practice Tests
So practice test are part of your test prep strategy? That’s great! But are you timing them? One of the most direct ways you can sabotage your prep is by not timing yourself accurately on your practice tests. Throughout your prep, you should constantly be working on pacing strategies in order to acquaint yourself with the time constraints of each section. This will help you get a better idea of how much time you should be dedicating per question. This also allows you to put a plan in place for when time is running out. If you are not actively practicing this way, the natural pressure of the official exam day paired with the lack of familiarity surrounding the pacing will surely have a negative impact on your performance and state of mind.
Cramming the Day Before
We can’t stress this enough: DO NOT cram for the SAT or ACT! It’s inadvisable to pick up a book, intensively study, and test all in two weeks leading up to the exam. These exams are nearly four hours long, which means there is a lot of material, strategy, and content that you need to become familiar with before learning how to master it. Cramming is a quick-fix solution, and these tests are not quick or brief. Therefore, it’s best if you space your prep out over a few months. We normally recommend dedicating anywhere from 40 to 60 hours to your SAT or ACT prep. This is the range where we find students performing at their best and with the greatest increases.
Not Using Test-Taking Strategies
If you’ve been working with a tutor, he or she has probably been filling you in on tips and tricks to help you navigate the SAT or ACT as seamlessly and successfully as possible. You may not think these strategies work or save time, but when you only have a limited amount of time per question, strategy can be the difference between finishing an exam section or leaving some questions unanswered. Not utilizing test-taking strategies, like process of elimination, on day of the exam can cause you to run out of time, make careless mistakes, or go about completing the problem in a more roundabout way than necessary. You should practice simple test-taking strategies on everyday assignments, like homework, in addition to your practice tests as part of your test prep so that these strategies become second nature by the time you sit down for the real exam.
Don't hurt your test prep by making these simple mistakes! By focusing your prep on one exam, utilizing practice tests and test-taking strategies, and planning your test prep out over an extended period of time, you can ensure that you're on track to reach your goal score – and hopefully admission to your top-choice colleges!