Whether you’re enthusiastic or despondent that you’re about to spend a summer preparing for the SAT/ACT, it’s important that you go into the process with a plan of attack. Your teachers and administrators will, of course, guide you through the process, but genuine learning always begins with a degree of self-guidance. Here are some tips to get you in the right mindset for a summer of test prep:
Don’t Fixate on Scores Early in the Summer
If you’re enrolled at Elite, you’ve signed up to spend the summer learning. Standardized test scores encourage students to become overly goal-oriented. But preparing for standardized tests is a marathon, not a race (an idea I discussed in a previous post on why cramming does not work). If you put in the work this summer, you will see significant improvement over time. But you’re not likely to see much of an improvement right away—don’t expect a week of test prep to revolutionize your SAT score.
For those enrolled at Elite, you will take a test each week, and this regular practice will make your chosen standardized test feel very, very familiar in due time. But what you gain in practice you will likely sacrifice in gratification—your test scores will improve gradually, though not right away (your score might even regress from one week to the next, a normal sequence of events for students taking so many tests in such a short period of time).
Don’t worry too much about your early test scores. To truly thrive this summer, you’ll need to adjust where you get your academic satisfaction. Most students are in love with grades and scores. You need to fall in love, instead, with the process of learning—only then will your scores get where you want them to be.
Learn Each Lesson, One at a Time
Most Elite students are test-centric: they want to spend the majority of class time reviewing each practice test so that they can learn why their incorrect answers are wrong and how they can get similar questions correct on the next test. Test review is a very important part of your curriculum this summer, but it is not the most important.
Test review points students in many directions at once. On the Writing & Language section, a test review section will have you thinking about subject-verb agreement one minute, verb tense the next, and logical progression of ideas the minute after that. Test-review class sessions cover many principles in a short timeframe. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method. You’ll gain exposure to a wide range of issues covered on the SAT/ACT, but you will not be able to sufficiently concentrate on any one issue.
The most important part of your summer curriculum is your weekly lessons. Each lesson provides in-depth coverage of a single concept. If you come to each of these lessons ready to absorb new information, you will learn the skills needed to transform your standardized test scores.
Give these lessons at least as much attention and care as you give your weekly practice tests.
Trust the process
Take each practice test seriously. Enter each class ready to learn and participate. Be rigorous with your test corrections. Take your time completing each lesson so that you can absorb new information slowly. In other words, put your head down and work through the process. If you do, not only will you improve your chances of getting into your school of choice, but you’ll develop the habits necessary to be a star student once you get there.
Stephen P. is a writer and teacher based in Los Angeles. He has taught literature and writing courses at several universities and has taught writing and reading at Elite Prep Los Angeles since 2010.