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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Juniors: Use Your Winter Break to Make an SAT/ACT Prep Plan

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Once you enter your junior year of high school, you’re likely to find yourself exceptionally busy. You may be taking some challenging coursework, including AP/IB classes. In addition, you might be juggling various leadership positions in your extracurricular clubs and organizations, perhaps a job outside of school, and looming SAT and ACT test dates coming faster than you think.


The second half of your junior year may be particularly stressful since this is the perfect time for you to take the SAT and ACT. By this point, you’ve covered most, if not all, of the concepts that will be tested on the exam through your classes, the material is fresh in your head, and you’ll be giving yourself plenty of time to retake the exam for your college applications if your initial score is not as high as you would like it.


However, just because you’re prepared to take the SAT or ACT during the second semester of your junior year doesn’t mean that you don’t need to put in months of studying to do well. How do you balance a busy Junior Year with an intense SAT/ACT study schedule? Well, winter break is your time to figure it out. Here is a list of things you should do during your winter break to plan out and organize your test prep efficiently.


Why is winter break the best time for test prep planning?


If you’re aiming to take the SAT or ACT during the spring semester of your junior year or even that summer, winter break is probably the longest span of time you’ll have without any classes or extracurricular commitments to worry about. With some extra time on your hands, you’ll be able to sit down for a while and hash out a detailed study plan.


You may also find that creating a study plan over winter break will benefit you during the spring semester. In order to form a study plan, you’ll need to recall and briefly review the concepts you have covered thus far that may be on the test. This could serve a dual purpose by forcing you to review what you have learned before the spring semester begins so that you’re not starting off the semester behind.

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 What are some steps to take over winter break to start the SAT/ACT Preparations?


Make a list of concepts/subjects that you will need to go over


There are specific subjects and concepts that are always tested on the SAT and ACT, and if you don’t know what they are already, you can easily find out by visiting the College Board website for the SAT and the Official ACT website for the ACT.


You should make a comprehensive list of all the concepts and material that you are going to need to review in order to adequately study for the exam. While you’re making your list, pay close attention to which subjects you are listing and make a mental note of which ones you think you know already and which ones will require a comprehensive review. This will help you while you’re making your study plan.


Make a detailed study plan


Take a look at your spring semester commitments and create a schedule that carves out enough time for SAT/ACT studying. You should devote at least a few hours a week to studying, and as the test gets closer, you should consider carving out time to study every single day. If you need some help managing that, check out our previous blog post on How to Find Time to Study for Your SAT Every Single Day.


Make sure to space out your studying so that you are only studying for a few hours at a time and are not cramming a bunch of information into your brain all at once. You are more likely to retain the material you learn for a longer period of time if your studying is spaced out and not crammed into a few study sessions.


On that note, you should plan to start studying as early as possible. The more time you leave yourself to study, the more time you will have for a comprehensive review, and the higher your score is likely to be.


While you’re making your plan, make sure to outline what concepts and material you are going to cover each time you study. This is the easiest way to make sure that you are going to cover all the material. It may be beneficial to review the things you struggle with first that you have more time to go back and review them before the test.


Gather Prep Materials


In order to study for the SAT or ACT, there are a wealth of resources at your disposal. There are numerous test prep books to choose from that you can probably get at a local bookstore or order online. You can also purchase or create your own flashcards to help with things like vocab and important formulas. You could also purchase some very cheap study apps for your phone that are great for practice questions. If you are unsure which apps to purchase, see The Best Apps to Organize Your College Planning.


You can also use your own class notes to study for the SAT and ACT. Use caution when relying on your notes though. While they are great for reviewing material on a conceptual level, they probably won’t be great for practice questions. The SAT and ACT ask very unique questions that are designed to trick you. You’ll want to have at least one study resource that has practice questions that are formatted to the SAT/ACT standard.


Winter break is the time to gather these materials together so that you won’t have to worry about it once you get busy with your spring semester. Plus, if you find that you need to purchase some study materials, you may even get a price discount on them thanks to all the holiday sales!


Register for the SAT or ACT


If you haven’t already, you ought to figure out when you are going to take the SAT or ACT. All SAT and ACT test dates have a registration deadline and a registration fee you should pay. For more information about the test registration deadlines, see our previous posts about ACT Test Dates and Deadlines and SAT Test Dates and Deadlines.


You should aim to take your SAT or ACT a few months after the time you plan to start studying. Most successful students use at least 2-3 months to study for this exam. You may also find that completing the registration and paying the fee is a good motivational tool to get you to start studying. Once you’ve registered, you know you have to start studying because if you don’t, you probably won’t do well on the exam. All that money and time will have been for nothing.


For More Information


Want to know more about the SAT or ACT and how you can prepare for these exams? See these previous blog posts:


Juniors: Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Start Studying for the SAT or ACT

Can You Answer These 5 SAT Reading Questions?

10 Tips to Improve Your SAT Score

The CollegeVine Guides to the ACT

10 Tips to Improve Your SAT Score


Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


Want to know how your SAT score/ACT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!