Your SAT Study Plan for the Summer Before 12th Grade
The summer before 12th grade is an important time in the college admissions process. While many students are tempted to take it easy and coast into senior year, it’s better to take advantage of this relatively free and flexible time while you can. Once the first semester of 12th grade is underway, free time may well be a distant memory.
For rising 12th graders who plan to take the SAT during the fall, this time is especially important. The months leading up to the September and October test dates are a prime opportunity to prepare. Make the most of the SAT prep during the summer before 12th grade by following these five tips.
1. Know Where You’re Starting From
Many students want to jump right in to studying with a study book, study group, or online tutorials. These are all great resources, but they shouldn’t be your first. The best way to get the studying ball rolling is by knowing where your starting point is. To get a good idea of your existing knowledge and use of strategies, take a formative assessment first.
The ideal formative assessment will be an SAT that you took during 11th grade. If you haven’t taken a test yet, use a practice test to get a better idea of where you’re starting from. You can find free practice tests available from the College Board.
2. Set Goals
Once you’ve taken a formative assessment, you’re ready to set some studying goals. One major part of this should be a target score. Setting a target score is something that should be done thoughtfully. Think about the score you’ve already received on the SAT (if any) or consider the score you achieved on your formative assessment. Use this to set a reasonable goal that will challenge you without being impossible.
You may already have some idea of your target score based on the colleges you hope to apply to. Hopefully, this score is achievable given your performance on earlier tests or practice tests. A few questions to consider when setting a target score are:
- How many times have you already taken the SAT?
- How much preparation have you already done?
- Do you think that your performance on your formative assessment is an accurate indication of your knowledge?
For more information about using these questions to help set a target score, see our post Should You Retake the SAT?.
Once you’ve set a target score, set a study target too. How many hours are you prepared to spend preparing for the test each week? Look at your summer calendar and make a rough study schedule accounting for existing commitments. Writing down your study goals and displaying them someplace where you’ll see them every day will help you to hold yourself more accountable to them as time passes.
3. Learn From Your Mistakes
The odds that you will get every single question right on the SAT are nearly none. Don’t be discouraged, though. Think of mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
If you’ve already taken the SAT, you can get a good idea of what kinds of mistakes you made by reviewing your detailed score report. Here, you’ll find your performance broken down into a number of different categories. Identify which categories leave the most room for improvement and go from there.
If you haven’t already taken the SAT, you can still learn from your mistakes on practice tests and practice questions. Try to classify your mistakes according to type. If you notice that you’re making lots of mistakes towards the end of a section, you might need some better time management skills. If you notice that you’re making mistakes on the same kinds of problems, you’ll need to bulk up on your content knowledge or strategy. Keeping a running tally of the kinds of errors you make can result in a more efficient studying approach.
4. Join a Study Group
It can be hard to stay motivated and engaged when you’re studying for the SAT over the summer. There are often plenty of distractions and you might feel like you’re alone in your study endeavors. Odds are, though, that you aren’t the only person studying for the SAT over the summer.
Consider joining a study group to help keep you on track and hold you accountable for your progress. In addition to keeping you motivated, study groups can also be a valuable source of knowledge, strategy sharing, and group learning. Sometimes, by sharing what you know with others, you’ll reinforce your own knowledge.
Check your high school, local community center, or public library for study resources. Many host summer study groups or offer one-time study sessions. If you can’t find one available, you may consider starting your own. If you go this route, think about inviting members who will work well together and be productive. A study group filled with your best friends might seem fun, but consider how focused you’ll be as well to make the best decision.
If you aren’t sure if a study group is right for you, check out our post The Pros and Cons of an SAT Study Group.
5. Don’t Waste Time Locating Resources
The Internet can turn into a little bit of a black hole when you’re searching for SAT study materials. Instead of wandering the depths of the world wide web, go straight to these free, high quality resources:
The College Board oversee the SAT and, believe it or not, they want you to perform to the best of your ability. For this reason, they provide a number of free study resources, including extensive overviews of the test, section by section, practice questions, practice tests, and scoring explanations. Start any study plan with a good long look here.
CollegeVine SAT Guides and Strategies
We’ve done the research for you, and lots of it is available for free in our comprehensive SAT study guides and posts containing our top tips and tricks. You can find many of them here:
An official partner of the College Board, Khan Academy is a free, online study tool that offers approved content and strategy tips. Here you can access dozens of free video tutorials and lengthy explanations of common strategies and mistakes.
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