Seven Ways to Make SAT Test Prep Your Summer Focus
For many high school students, summer is a break from the normal frenzy of academia. After the juggling of school work, test prep, extracurricular activities, and social events, you may feel as though you’ve earned a break. And you’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean you’ll spend your summer kicking up your feet at the beach.
Whether you spend your summer working, taking summer classes, or attending a summer program, odds are that your summer schedule varies dramatically from the one you keep during the school year. For many students, this means that standardized test prep takes a back seat in favor of more relaxing or exciting activities. In this post, we outline how to integrate SAT prep with your summer plans so that you’re ready to hit the ground running when testing starts back up come fall.
1. Know What a Good SAT Score Is For You
Before you can get started with any prep work, you’ll need to identify a target score. This will rely on a few different factors, including your performance on a formative assessment, your intended college application plans, and how much time you have left before you need to submit scores. If you’re a rising junior, you obviously have a whole year to work on test prep. Rising seniors, on the other hand, will naturally have less room left for improvement.
To learn more about setting a target SAT score, check out our posts:
2. Get Familiar With the Test
Part of mastering the SAT is knowing what to expect. This means becoming intimately familiar with the test content and instructions.
You can begin with your formative assessment. Pay attention to the actual test practice test content and instructions. Try to wrap your head around the direct instructions given for each section of the exam. You can also review the instructions online on the CollegeBoard website by reviewing their practice problems in each test section.
Reviewing the test instructions ensures two things. First, you can be sure that when you take the actual test, you won’t need to read the instructions for each section in detail. Instead, you’ll be able to gloss over them and spend your energy on more important content. Second, you’ll already know what each question is asking when you get to it. There will be no second-guessing as you tackle multiple-choice or bubble-in answers on the math section, nor will you wonder if you’re interpreting the question correctly on reading comprehension. You’ll be familiar with the test format and ready to roll.
To learn more, check out our post, A Guide to the New SAT.
3. Make a Plan
You’re more likely to study when you have committed yourself to a specific plan in advance. Sometime before the Fourth of July, take the time to sit down with a calendar and outline your study plan.
Start with the big picture. You have roughly ten weeks of summer ahead of you. If you’re aiming for 25 hours of study time per month, that comes down to roughly four or five hours per week. Break it down even further. Do you want weekends off? If so, that will be about one hour per day during the week. If you want to take the weekdays off and double-up your study time on the weekends, that’s about two hours per day on Saturdays and Sundays.
This might sound like a lot but there are plenty of ways to integrate studying into your daily life, making it easier and more efficient.
4. Use Time Saving Hacks to Maximize Study Time
Think of all your down time during an average day. There’s time spent waiting in check out lines, offices, or before meals. Time spent on a lunch break or waiting to fall to sleep. Keep some simple study materials on hand to maximize all these gaps.
Get a vocabulary app or use Quizlet to help build your SAT vocabulary. Get math games or other standardized test prep apps like SAT Up on your phone. Download practice questions so that you have them on hand at any moment. When you will fill you empty time with strategic study strikes, you maximize your study total over the long term.
5. Make It Fun
It’s summer. You probably don’t want to get weighed down in formal test prep classes day in and day out. And even if you do, studying is probably the last thing you want to do when class lets out. Luckily there are plenty of low key ways to bolster your knowledge for the SAT.
Read high quality literature, ranging from the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare to Kerouac and Bradbury. Read journal articles in publications like Science Magazine or Discover Magazine. Keep up on current events with the New York Times or the Washington Post. Try to read a broad variety of material to prepare for the types of excerpts commonly included on the SAT.
Also get into puzzles. Math puzzles like sudoku or word puzzles like crosswords are fun ways to stretch your mind. Bring scrabble, a dictionary, and a blanket to the park with friends. Studying doesn’t have to be all business; this is summer after all!
6. Learn Key Strategies
There are a few key strategies for the SAT. Some of them are best suited for students challenged by time management, others are best suited for students who struggle with content knowledge, and still others are for students who have trouble applying their knowledge in new ways.
It’s difficult to recommend specific strategies to every student. Instead, we at CollegeVine recommend that you review our comprehensive collection of test strategies, identify which help you to perform the best, and focus on applying them further.
We outline numerous strategies in the following posts, and we encourage you to spend some time this summer becoming familiar with each and learning which work the best for you.
7. Know When to Take the SAT
Finally, take some time this summer to wrap your head around the SAT schedule for the fall and beyond, if applicable. In general, our ideal timeline for SAT test-taking has students taking the PSAT during the fall of their junior year and taking the SAT for the first time during the spring of junior year.
If you’re a rising junior, this might mean that you have a lot of time between now and your first official SAT. We recommend that you stay patient, apply your study skills, and prepare for a spring semester test. If you’re a rising senior, you’ll need to make a choice best suited for your college application goals. If you’ve never tested before, you’ll want to register for the August SAT administration. If you’ve tested in the past and want to retest, consider a September or October test date.
To learn more about when to take the SAT, check out our post Not Sure When to Take the SAT/ACT? Here’s Your Guide.
If you’re eyeing the SAT through the summer lens, don’t worry. You won’t need to apply the entirety of your free time to studying. Instead, get smart about it early, make a plan, and follow our time-tested tips to maximize your SAT prep this summer.
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