How To Balance SAT Test Prep With School Schedule
Balancing SAT prep with a busy school schedule, never mind extracurriculars, can be challenging. You may think that you can ease up on prep in favor of your schoolwork, but don’t fall into that trap. You need to succeed in both arenas; colleges will be consider your GPA and you test scores. Here’s your plan to help you balance test prep with your schoolwork—and excel at both.
Make a Plan
You may already have an existing action plan for high school, and test prep should be part of it. (For tips on building one, check out Your Ultimate Guide on How to Make a High School Action Plan.)
Writing down what you need to accomplish and why will help motivate you to put in the time and effort. Be specific; for instance, commit to a certain number of hours of studying for the SAT each week. You should also be specific in terms of areas you need to hone. If you’re weaker in reading comprehension, for instance, commit to a number of hours focusing on learning tricks for reading difficult passages.
Figure Out Your Target Score
Once you determine your target score, you can figure out what you need to study and how much time should commit. Use your PSAT scores or a diagnostic test to help you set a realistic score goal. This can also help you identify weak areas, so you can concentrate on them the most.
Remember that you need to be realistic. You will probably improve if you stick to your prep plan, but it’s unlikely that you’re going to go from a 1000 to a 1570. Instead, aim for a more reachable goal, like a 1250. Once you reach it, you can inch it up further.
Write Out a Weekly Schedule
While your overarching plan should include specifics, the reality of your day-to-day schedule will become clearer in the moment. Invest in a planner, or use a calendar to keep track of your daily commitments.
For instance, if you have a big test coming up, factor in the number of hours you need to study for it each day. Also factor in test prep. You might, for example, note when you want to take a complete practice test, or add in half an hour of practice on Khan Academy’s app.
Make Your Plan Doable
Figure out when you want to take the SAT, using this guide to help you decide. Compare it to your school commitments, seeing when you have big tests and projects due. You probably won’t have as much time to prepare for the SAT in the weeks you’re working on school assignments, so plan accordingly.
Make sure you set aside time to make up for lags in preparation. You’ll be able to stick to your plan more easily if you start early. That way, you’ll have time to understand your weaknesses and develop strategies for overcoming them.
You also need to make your plan realistic, just as when you’re setting your score goals. In other words, don’t plan for six hours of studying in one day when you have school; that’s just not possible. You’re more likely to stick to your plan if it’s doable. Use time management strategies to allow yourself to get everything done.
If you share your plan with family and friends, someone else is holding you accountable. You might ask them to hold you accountable, but remember that the ultimate responsibility is yours. You should be holding yourself accountable, too. Set reminders on your phone, and tell yourself why this is important. You might also ask your parents to help you stay on track, without nagging, of course.
Evaluate and Adjust Your Plan
You should make an effort to follow your plan as closely as you can, but remember that it’s not set in stone. Things might happen to make you alter your plan, such as tests you don’t know about now or family circumstances, so you need to be willing to adapt.
You’ll also want to reevaluate based on your comfort with your scores. For instance, you might want to retake the SAT. (Check out Should You Retake the SAT for tips on how to decide.) Read you score report, and pay attention to weaknesses. That way, you can adjust your plan accordingly and improve for next time.
Take Advantage of Summers
You may have some work over the summer, but it’s probably a lot less than you have during the school year. Take advantage of this time to work on test prep. You’ll have more free time to really familiarize yourself with the layout, hone your weak areas, and practice. Read Seven Ways to Make SAT Test Prep Your Summer Focus to learn how you can do just that.
Remember to take breaks and reward yourself for your hard work. Build these rewards into your study plan. After finishing a practice test or reaching a certain point on a project, you might have a snack or watch half an hour of TV. This will incentivize you to do the hard work you need to do. Just be strict with yourself; don’t let a 20-minute social media break turn into an hour.
Remember to pay attention to self care, too. Don’t neglect your health and well-being in favor of cramming or overworking yourself. Not only will your body suffer, but your mind will, too. Make sure you’re eating properly, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Take plenty of breaks—they’ll help you retain information.
It Can Be Done
The challenge of staying on track with SAT prep while keeping up with your schoolwork may seem difficult, but having a plan and following through can ease the burden. Remember that the SAT is something most college-bound students take, and many have survived this obstacle. Be strict with yourself, but don’t neglect your health and sleep in favor of studying. Both are important—and both should be your priority!
Looking for some more help for acing the SAT? The CollegeVine SAT Tutoring Program will help you achieve top scores on your test. We’ll pair you with two private tutors, one for English and writing, and one for math and science. All of our tutors have scored in the 99th percentile on the section they are teaching and are chosen based on teaching skills and ability to relate to their students.
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