The summertime is upon us! While every high school student deserves some rest and relaxation, it’s also the perfect time to kick your SAT and ACT prep into gear. With no academic obligations on your plate and a long runway to improve your testing performance, now is the time to start setting yourself up for college success. In this brief guide, I’ll show you exactly how to make the most of your summer and walk into the fall ready to knock these tests out of the park.
Summer Prep Tip #1: Cancel the Cramming and Covet Consistency
The most underrated ingredient in any successful test prep program is long-term effort. You can’t cram for the SAT and the ACT – they test large banks of information applied in unique ways, and they test process more than they test knowledge. If you give your brain the time to develop thick, well-developed pathways for these processes and facts, you’ll have an incredibly easy time tackling these exams.
With that in mind, your focus should be on small bits of steady, everyday effort. If you can put in 20-45 minutes a day throughout the summer, you won’t just be making things easier on yourself – you’ll also be using your brain the way it’s meant to be used. Don’t put off your prep and then try to get in eight hours on a Sunday – instead, try to focus on small, consistent study sessions on a daily basis, and feel free to split them up! If you can do twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon, you’ll be in amazing shape.
With that in mind, make sure to pick a program that allows you to study on your own schedule! Most SAT and ACT classes and tutors have somewhat restrictive scheduling limitations, which won’t allow you to optimize your summer prep. Instead, find a way to study that allows you to do small bits of work on your schedule, whenever you have the time.
Summer Prep Tip #2: Make Sure You’re Studying for the Right Test
Things in the testing world have gone topsy turvy. The PSAT is now in the New SAT format starting this fall, the SAT is going to switch in March of 2016, and the most recent versions of the current SAT have had their fair share of problems over the last few months. Fortunately for you, this makes life easier, not harder.
As far as I’m concerned, your best bet is to pursue one of these two paths:
- Study for the ACT, which will kill two birds with one stone. Because the New SAT is almost identical to the current ACT, by studying for the ACT, you’ll be able to knock out the ACT, the New SAT, and the New PSAT (I guess that’s three birds…).
- If you vastly prefer the current version of the SAT to the ACT, you should study up and take it before it changes in March.
Here’s my guide on the current SAT vs. the ACT.
Summer Prep Tip #3: Pick a Flexible Program
Summertime is marked by totally unpredictable schedules. You never know where you’ll be, when, or for how long. With that in mind, it’s essential that you pick a program that works wherever you happen to be, and that doesn’t rely on a set-in-stone schedule. As we already discussed, consistency is key, so choosing a program that accommodates the flexibility of your summer schedule will be essential.
Classroom courses are the worst offenders. If you have to be in a specific place at a specific time week in and week out, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. If you work with a tutor, make sure that he or she can work with you online via Skype or video conferencing software, and be sure that he or she can work on different schedules throughout the summer.
The most flexible way to prep is usually through an online course (a reason why online SAT and ACT prep programs are rapidly increasing in popularity). As long as you have a laptop with you, you can prepare whenever you find the time and wherever you happen to be. All you’ll need is the discipline to log into the program after a day at the lake or the beach (sometimes, it’s easier to study before you’ve been out in the sun all day).
No Matter What, Starting Early is Essential
No matter which program you use, and no matter which test you decide to take, the best thing you can do for your performance is to start preparing today. The longer the runway you give yourself to prepare, the less work you have to do on a daily basis, the more breathing room you have, and the more effectively your brain will be able to retain information. Even if you only put in ten minutes a day, starting now will be the smartest decision you can possibly make!
Thanks so much for reading my guide! Have a great summer, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.
Anthony-James Green is world-renowned SAT and ACT tutor with over 10,000 hours of experience teaching these tests, crafting curriculum, and training other tutors to teach their own students. He is also the founder of TestPrepAuthority.com. CNN recently named Anthony: “The SAT tutor to the 1%“