Three Tips for the SAT Reading Section That Will Help You in College, Too

When the College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016, the reading section got a big overhaul. One of the changes was an increase in text complexity: the new SAT doesn't just test the kind of texts you've seen in high school, but also texts that resemble what you might see in college.  

And whether you're a voracious reader in your spare time or haven't picked up a book willingly in several months, college reading can present all kinds of challenges. Often, college courses will assign large amounts of reading each week -- several articles, even a full-length book -- without giving much direction about which sections are most important or what the professor expects you to glean from each text. One of the toughest lessons to learn in college is that reading is no longer one-size-fits-all.

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While a standardized test hardly replicates the kind of reading you'll do in your actual college courses, studying for the test presents an opportunity to develop critical reading skills that you can use in college and beyond. Without further ado, here are three tips for the SAT reading section that will help you in college, too:

 

Tip #1: Do a Little Pre-Reading

Reading something cold is a lot harder (and slower) than reading something when you've been given some context and clues about why you're reading it. But on the SAT, no one introduces a text to you before you have to read it. So, it pays to take a moment and orient yourself before diving into the passage.

Each passage starts with a citation, which includes, at the very least, an author, title and year. These are important cues that warrant reading in and of themselves (you'll read a passage from 2016 with a different set of expectations than a passage from 1816, for example). But for the trickiest passages, you'll often find a brief explanation of what you're about to read. Check out this example from one of College Board's practice SATs:

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This information, when given, is usually very helpful in contextualizing what otherwise might have been a very confusing excerpt of a text!

Similarly, it can be helpful to skim the question stems for tidbits of information and hints as to what's important before you read the passage. On the SAT, I like to group the "evidence" questions together with their pairs before I dive into the passage:

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These tend to be difficult question about critical moments in the text, so priming myself to key ideas in the passage (“freedoms granted by society’s leaders”) helps me to really notice the most important moments in the text. Plus, it's not at all obvious when a question is about to be followed by an "evidence" question (I've even seen the evidence question come after a page break!), so grouping these two questions together can help you to get both answers correct more quickly and efficiently.  

How can this help you in college? Well, orienting yourself before you start can be extremely helpful when doing your readings in college, too. If your professor doesn't introduce a text before assigning it, don't be afraid to introduce it to yourself. Wikipedia and Sparknotes may not be the best source for your papers, but it's only smart to use them to set yourself up for better reading, more focused note-taking, and more success.  

 

Tip #2: Read with a Purpose  

Reading is reading, right? Wrong: strong readers adjust their reading strategy to each reading task.  

On the SAT, the passages are short, and they are chosen and excerpted for a reason. In the nonfiction passages, you're not just reading for information, but for an argument. A good author will motivate their argument (suggest why a reading public would be interested in their claims), state their claim, and then develop it. On your first reading, your task is to skim for these key moments, and then flag them so you can return to them while answering the questions. Having this purpose in mind can help keep you from getting bogged down in details, which you can always return to if a question demands.

In college, most readings aren't one page long. However, their different forms still provide clues for how to read them with purpose. Textbooks have subtitles, chapter introductions and summaries. Nonfiction books might have prefaces that comment on a book's history and impact. Excerpts from larger works that your professor has scanned and assigned have been selected for a reason -- so look for the kernel that led your professor to select it in the first place. Reading should be dynamic and purposeful, rather than just a passive process of absorbing information.

 

Tip #3: You Can Reader Faster Than You Think You Can

We learn to read by sounding out words out loud, so it's only natural that we keep hearing the words we read in our heads. The thing is, our brains can read and process written information much faster than we can make all the sounds in our heads.  

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But when I'm not paying attention, I still tend to catch myself "vocalizing" every word I read. Sometimes I want to do this -- say, when I'm first starting a book, getting a feel for an author's voice, or just plain reading for pleasure. But on the SAT, this isn't necessary. Learning to skim, for me, was mostly a process of letting go of this habit of "hearing" every word I read.

Not only can skimming in this way save you time, it can help you focus on what's most important in a text and avoid getting sidetracked by every aside and detail. This applies outside of the SAT as well: recognize when you're reading primarily for sound or for style, and distinguish this from when you're reading for key argumentative turns or for content. Learning to adjust the pace of your reading can help you be attentive to the level of a text that you are most interested in.  


 

There you have it! The most important thing to remember is that being asked to "read" something can mean a lot of different things. Try becoming aware of your own reading tics and habits, and start playing with your reading strategies. Be sure to let us know what you notice!  

Learning a New Language?

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When I was 10 years old I moved to a foreign country where I didn't understand a single word of what anyone was saying. It was a shocking experience as I never expected to be in a reality where everything was so familiar and unknown at the same time. The first time I went to school in this new place I struggled a lot to understand others and to be understood. That was the moment I realized how important communication and languages are. Here are some tips that I certainly used as I ventured into this new world.

 

Everyone starts at zero

Just like a baby who’s learning how to speak, you’re going to say a lot of silly things when learning a new language, so just get over it and throw yourself out there! 

Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Achieving your goals requires failing and learning from mistakes. 

Learning a foreign language is not so different from when you learned your native one. You need to listen and repeat the same sounds you’re hearing, making connections between words, feelings and moments, just as you used to do with your parents right after you were born. 

 

Phonemes

Have you ever noticed that who speaks more than one language seems to have more than one voice? This happens because every language works with different phonemes, sounds, and tones, so our voice needs to adapt to them. 

For instance, Brazilians have trouble pronouncing the ‘th’ sound in English (found in words like ‘think’ or ‘thumb’) and Americans have trouble saying the ‘ão’ sound found in words such as ‘pão’ or ‘macarrão’ in Portuguese.

In order to correctly pronounce new phonemes, you need to pay attention to how native speakers move their lips, tongues and more importantly to their voice intonation/cadence.  

 

Conversation is Key

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I commonly hear that the best way to learn a new language is to move to a foreign country, and this is true, but I also know people who lived outside their native country and never learned a thing. So what’s the secret?! It’s simple: TALK

Research has shown that our brains record information that involves human experiences and feelings much easier as opposed to just memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules by heart. So in order to actually learn a language, you need to engage in conversations, talk to new people and you’ll learn something new every time you do it. 

 

Reading is very important

Either for work, school, or personal interest, reading is probably one of the things we do the most on a daily basis, so it’s very important that you dedicate lots of time to read during your learning process - It will help you to understand grammar and to learn new words and expressions. 

 

Listen and Repeat

It’s important that you never feel ashamed to ask “How do you say..” to someone, and when you do, try to use it a few times right away. Note it down, and try to repeat it again after a few hours, and then the day after. With practice and repetition, it's likely that you'll remember the next time.

 

Learning Stages

According to a study by the University of Portland, there are 5 stages to learning a new language: 

  1. Silent/receptive - During this time, new language learners typically spend time learning vocabulary and practice pronouncing new words
  2. Early production - Language learners typically acquire an understanding of up to 1,000 words. They may also learn to speak some words and begin forming short phrases, even though they may not be grammatically correct.
  3. Speech emergence - By this stage, learners typically acquire a vocabulary of up to 3,000 words and learn to communicate by putting the words in short phrases, sentences, and questions. 
  4. Intermediate fluency - At this stage, learners typically have a vocabulary of as many as 6,000 words. They usually acquire the ability to communicate in writing and speech using more complex sentences. This crucial stage is also when learners begin thinking in their second language, which helps them gain more proficiency in speaking it.
  5. Continued language development/advanced fluency - It may take up to 10 years to achieve full mastery of the second language in all its complexities and nuances. Second language learners need ongoing opportunities to engage in discussions and express themselves in their new language, in order to maintain fluency in it.

 

Although learning a language may not seem very rewarding or satisfying at first, I personally think that it is only through communication that we will actually be able to evolve and grow as individuals. Nowadays, the world has become a sort of modern Pangea that’s all connected. Why not take on the adventure of understanding one another? 

Here’s a Novel Idea: Check Out the Library

I recently discovered this thing called a “library” where they just let you borrow books for
free, and let me tell you, it’s amazing.

For real, though, I’ve been on a library kick recently and can’t recommend it highly enough.
There are lots of books I’ve heard good things about, but sometimes I’m just not sure I want to
commit to buying them and setting aside shelf space for them. Enter the library.

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LogicPrep São Paulo's library

I’ve read about two dozen library books in the past year -- novels, short story collections, non-fiction -- that I probably never would have read otherwise. Some of them I’ve researched on
“Best Of” lists, some of them have been staff picks, and some of them have just had interesting
or eye-catching covers. Some of them have been amazing, and some underwhelming. But all of
them have been worthwhile.

We often stress the importance of reading to our students -- it expands vocabularies, highlights effective communication of ideas, and introduces new perspectives. And these are all true! But you can’t read if you don’t have a book, and what I’ve found is that swinging by the library and grabbing something off the shelves increases the chances that in my downtime, I’ll read a few pages of whatever’s on hand rather than scroll through my phone.

So whether it’s your school’s library or your local public library (or even the LogicPrep Library-- available in São Paulo and coming soon to Miami!), I encourage you to stop by and grab whatever catches your eye. It makes it much more likely that you’ll reap the benefits of
reading.

Plus, they don’t even charge you!

The Do's and Don'ts of SAT Subject Tests

DON'T believe everything you read online

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Most college's websites purport that SAT Subject Tests are not required, but rather "strongly recommended." And, while it's true that your application will be considered complete and evaluated regardless of whether you submit Subject Tests or not, these subject-specific evaluations are not as optional as many students think.

Colleges' choice to use the word "recommended" instead of "required" leaves room for ambiguity, and with good reason. While admissions officers highly value the chance to compare applicants' prowess in individual subjects, they also know that they come from an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds. Not all students can afford the hefty fees of taking and sending multiple standardized test scores. Not all students have time, between working after school or taking care of siblings, to do their schoolwork and study for additional tests. Not all students have sufficient guidance to even be aware the SAT Subject Tests exist. Admissions offices want to make room for all types of students, including those whose lives may not allow for additional standardized testing. However, if personal and financial barriers are not an issue for you, then Subject Tests are not really as optional as they may initially appear.

 

DO read up on each school's requirements (or "strong suggestions") for Subjects

Many schools have specific requirements for individual majors: Business applicants should take one Math test, Engineering applicants should take one Math and one Science, etc. Be sure to check each college's website for their Standardized Testing Policies to make sure you can meet all of the requirements!

 

DO strategize when to take which Subjects based on your AP classes

Most Advanced Placement examinations (which are administered by the College Board, the same company that is responsible for the SAT Subject Tests) include a multiple choice section. There is a lot of meaningful overlap between the AP multiple choice and the Subject Test multiple choice. The question format and overall strategy is slightly different between the two, but studying the content for one will prepare you well for the other.

Many students who are eager to get started on Subject Tests look to take the Biology exam at the end of their freshman year biology course. To these students I say: be wary and take one of the CollegeBoard's online practice tests before signing up. Non-AP courses don't have a nationally standardized curriculum, and there's no guarantee that your school's coursework will cover all the topics that appear on the Subject Test.

 

DON'T take more than 5 Subject Tests

When asked how many tests each student should take, Grace, one of our College Advisors and former Stanford Admissions Officer warns not to overdo it. "Admissions officers know these exams cost money and take up a lot of time, so there's no need to take ten SAT II's just to show mastery of content. I'd say most students are fine with just two to three, max five. Remaining areas of their application (extracurriculars, summer activities, research work, etc.) are other ways they can show 'mastery' of experience and content that often tell a more interesting story than a one-day exam does."

 

DO take a good look at the Subject Tests offered on each test date

They're not always the same -- particularly when it comes to foreign language tests. Some dates specifically offer the test with listening, while others only offer it without. But don't worry -- colleges don't prefer one test over the other! Just make sure you're studying and preparing for the right one.

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DO take a look at both Math Subject Tests

The College Board offers two Math Subject Tests: Math I and Math II. Math I is for students who have taken two years of Algebra and one year of Geometry. Math II covers the same topics as Math I, "with the addition of trigonometry and elementary functions (precalculus)."

I often have students who claim that their Math skills aren't strong enough to merit even glancing at the Math II. Instead, they only focus on the Math I test. However, if you have completed a pre-calculus course, I strongly suggest looking at both exams, and sitting for a practice test in each, before making up your mind. When I was in high school, I took both tests, back to back, on the same day -- but because Math II is generally curved more generously than Math I, I ended up scoring 60 points higher on Math II. Don't count yourself out for one before trying both!

The International ACT Goes Digital - For Real (...We Think)

The ACT has talked about it forever, but it looks like it’s finally happening -- starting in September 2018, the ACT will be completely computer-based for students outside the US.

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At least, all signs point that way. The ACT still hasn’t put out an official press release on the matter, but it did recently post a set of Frequently Asked Questions for international students, parents, and counselors. According to that document (posted in March 2018), “the first administration of the computer-based ACT to international examinees is planned for September 2018.”

Further specifics about the computer-based test can be difficult to find through the ACT’s website, so we did some background research for you to answer some of the questions you might have as test-takers:

So wait - you mean the paper ACT won’t be offered internationally anymore?

That’s right. If the ACT rolls out international computer-based testing as planned, the paper test will no longer be available internationally after the September 2018 launch.

But don’t panic! Aside from the administration format, the test itself will still be the same test that you know and love (well… the same test that you know, at least). The content will be the same, the sections will be the same, the scoring will be the same, the score reporting process will be the same, the timing will likely be the same…

Wait, wait - what do you mean the timing will likely be the same?

The FAQs state that the “ACT is currently conducting research studies. At this time, it is not anticipated that there will be a significant change in testing times.” The ACT seems reluctant to say anything definitively, but a representative that I spoke with on the phone expressed the same sentiment as the document. They’re not making promises, but they suggest that timing will probably be the same as what you’re used to from the paper test.

Okay, okay - so how is the ACT going to look?

It gets a little tricky here. The ACT’s own resources point to two different websites for you to test out sample testing interfaces.

  1. ACT® Academy™ (which is referred to in the FAQ document), has a pretty simple view with not too many bells and whistles. The screen is split into two sides - the left shows the passage and the right shows the question (or, in the case of the Math section, the left shows the question and the right shows the answer choices). You can select your answer choice or skip to move on to the next question, but that’s pretty much all the interface has to offer.
  2. TestNav, on the other hand, which the ACT refers to on its Online Testing Information for Examinees, has a lot more tools for test takers. The general view shows you not only what question you’re on out of how many questions in total, but also how much time is left. There’s also a five-minute warning that pops up right on your computer screen, so you don’t have to worry about your proctor forgetting to give you a heads up when the section is almost over. You can skip questions, bookmark ones to come back to, and pull up a Review Questions view that allow you to easily go back to those dúvidas before time is up.
    Some other cool tools on the TestNav interface include an answer choice eliminator (which allows you to cross off answers that you know are incorrect), an answer masker (which allows you to hide the answer choices when reading the question), a line reader (which allows you to display only one line of text at a time), and a magnifier (which allows you to - you guessed it - magnify the text or figure within the magnifying window). In the English and Reading section, questions that refer to specific lines also highlight the relevant text in the passage, making it easier for you to find and go back to that information.

So which site is more similar to the one that you’ll see in September? The representative I spoke with informed me that that ACT was still “putting the final touches” on the test-taking interface for students and that it would release more information about what the actual format looks like (along with practice resources for students) “later in the summer.” So basically, stay tuned until more information is released.

What does this mean for me as a test taker?

Well, some of your strategies will need to change. You won’t be able to write on the physical test, for one, which can make the Reading and the Science passages harder (since you can’t underline the text or draw on the tables and figures). It’ll also be slightly more difficult to scan through questions in a given passage to quickly identify which ones look easy or which ones have line references since each question is displayed individually. That means that any strategies involving the order in which you answer the questions may be somewhat less valuable time-savers than they would be on the paper test.

On the other hand, there are some things that the computer-based test might actually help you with. I find that some of my math students are more accurate when I put math problems on the screen and ask the students to solve using either the table or scratch paper in front of them. These students actually end up writing out more of their work when the question is on a surface they can’t write on, which leads them to make fewer careless mistakes. The lesson to learn here is to use your scratch paper - a lot.

The Writing (aka Essay) section is another section where the computer-based format will actually be helpful. I know that most of you reading are with me in that you also type significantly faster than you write on paper, so timing will probably be less of an issue with the computer-based test. As far as other features go (such as the ability to cut and paste text from one section of your essay to another)… they might be available to you, but don’t count on them. The ACT representative I spoke with seemed to think that the word processor in the testing interface would not include these abilities, but I know that other standardized computer-based tests, such as the GRE, do. If I were to venture a guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ACT were to follow suit.

Long story short, when you take the ACT on a computer screen, some things will be easier and some will be harder -- practice will help you to smooth out the challenges. I had some experience with computer-based standardized tests when I took the GRE a few years ago. I definitely found some things frustrating - like not being able to mark up the physical test - but with practice, you do learn to adjust.

So how do I practice? 

Number 1 - keep doing the paper tests. The most important thing about the test - the content - is not changing, and all the same preparation you’ve done (and will do) on paper will still be relevant to the new format.

Once the ACT finalizes the computer-based format, it promises to “provide a tutorial and practice questions” in the style of the real test. Like I said before, this will probably be released in late June or July, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, the ACT does have some practice resources you can play around with -- they just might not be the exact format that you’ll see in September. The ones I mentioned before -- ACT® Academy™ and TestNav -- are free, and there’s also ACT Online Prep, which is available for purchase through the ACT website.

And rest assured -- we’ve got you covered. Those of you who have already worked with LogicPrep know that we have always been dedicated to the continuous development our proprietary software to support our students’ growth. We’re already in the process of investigating how we can augment our current software capabilities to provide students with the experience of a computer-based practice test, especially in the weeks immediately before an official exam.

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Are there any other implications? 

Yes. First of all, register early. At least in the first year, the ACT will not allow students to bring in their own laptops to use for the test. This means that testing centers will have to limit the available seats based on how many computers they have for students to use. The ACT promises to use a combination of existing test centers and new commercial testing centers to meet demand, but to ensure that you have a seat at your desired testing center, we recommend that you sign up as soon as registration opens in July.

The flipside of the potentially limited seats on a given test date is that there will likely be more test dates to choose from. Currently, there are five international test dates, with one in September, October, December, April, and June. With the switch to computer-based testing, there could be as many as six testing windows (in September, October, December, February, April, and June) with four test sessions for in each (Friday morning, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon). It’s not clear whether you can select your preferred time, and the ACT has not promised that all sessions will be available at all testing centers, but one way or another, there will likely be more than five sessions opening for registration in July.

Another implication - this one’s a good one - is that you’ll get your scores sooner! Multiple choice scores will be delivered as early as 2-3 days after the exam, so no more agonizing waits of 3+ weeks for your results!

Phew - that’s a lot of information. Let’s recap!

tl;dr (parents, this stands for “too long; didn’t read”)

  • DON’T panic. The content of the test (which is the part you need to study) is staying the same. The computer-based format will make some things easier and some things harder-- but you’ll adjust with practice.

  • However, if you’re applying at the end of 2018, DO try to get your ACT out of the way before the change, if possible. If you can avoid having to rework some of the strategies that you’ve practiced with the paper-based test, you’ll have one less thing to worry about in September.

  • If you are taking the test in September, sign up EARLY once registration opens in July. Testing centers will probably be switching around a little bit, and you’ll want to make sure you get a seat reserved in your preferred location!

  • Finally, stay tuned. There’s a lot of information that the ACT still hasn’t released, and more will definitely be reported later this summer (i.e. June/July). Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted, and as always, we’ll be prepared to support you through all the changes in the test-prep world.

8 Things You May Not Expect About College Life

1. Textbooks are extremely expensive

With 4 or 5 classes a semester and textbooks that run around $200 a piece, getting ready for the semester can get really expensive really quickly. Luckily, there are a few alternatives. You can try to buy textbooks from students who have already taken the course and will probably sell to you at a discounted price to get the book off of their hands. You can try to buy used books from the campus bookstore as opposed to new ones (Pro Tip: often there are new editions to textbooks each year, but very little changes from year to year; older editions are often less expensive and provide the same material). You can also try to rent your textbooks from the bookstore or online; both physical and digital versions of these books are probably available. The best option in my opinion, however, is to try to find free PDFs of these textbooks online at no cost. 

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2. You need to actually talk to your professors and their TA's

Coasting by in the back of the classroom isn’t going to cut it anymore. If you want the professors to know you, care about your performance, and help you succeed in their class and beyond, you need to make sure you develop a good relationship with them. Not only is this practice helpful when you need help with material in the class or that little grade bump at the end of the semester, but it is also a helpful beyond the classroom. Professors are key to connecting you with great career opportunities, whether that be working in a lab or getting your next summer internship. Also, they may even take you out to dinner for free (once you are in college you will realize how revolutionary that is)!

 

3. Dining Hall food WILL get boring

While in most cases dining hall food doesn’t dip into your wallet, it can get a little mundane after a while. Even if you go to a school where the food is always really good, the same menu options can only get you so far after weeks of multiple meals per day in the same kitchen. Great ways to help combat this issue are to get your own food from the grocery store, take up cooking as a hobby, or try new dining halls maybe a little further from your dorm!

 

4. Amazon Prime™ is your best friend

You WILL need things over the course of the semester that you didn’t realize you’d need until mom and dad are gone. Amazon Prime™, with a discounted student membership fee, will save you in your times of need. In just two days, you can get any books, school supplies, or dorm necessities delivered to your dorm. This opportunity might not seem so pivotal now, but once you are outside of your house and need to be resourceful on your own time, Amazon Prime™ is there.

 

5. Spotify® is also your best friend

Just like Amazon Prime™, you can get a discount on a Spotify® Premium subscription for being a student! Whether you’re creating a playlist with the people on your floor, tuning people out while you study in the library, or just relaxing in your room, ad-free music is a must-have for any college student.

 

6. Venmo® is also… a really good friend

Even if you personally always have cash on you, you will come to realize that 95% of college students do not. Going out for food with friends is fun, figuring out how to split the check when everyone only has their credit card is a hassle. Venmo® makes it easy for you and your friends to split bills, cover each other for small purchases, etc. and most people you meet in college are already using it. 

 

7. College can be a bubble, so keep yourself updated on current events by reading the news

College keeps you pretty busy, and sometimes it’s hard to remember the important things you should always be doing, like calling home and keeping up with the world outside. If not for your own knowledge and ability to talk about important happenings around the world with your peers, you should make a greater effort to keep up with the news because being an active global citizen is an important part of attending university. As part of the generation that will be taking power in the next few years, we should all be informed about what problems others are experiencing, what political and economic tactics work and don’t work, etc. 

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8. You’ll make way more friends than you could ever imagine

From the first day of orientation week, you will be bombarded with a bunch of unknown friendly faces and you will be forced to pick who you are going to be friends with. Especially if you go on a pre-orientation trip, you will make a lot of friends right at the beginning of the year, and you might be worried that this friend group will be the only one you will get close with during your time at college. That fear is totally misguided: this isn’t high school anymore. Every semester you will take new classes you are interested in, become involved in different clubs or professional organizations, and meet new people who share your goals/hobbies. As an adult, you will begin to schedule times to catch up with a friend for lunch or off-campus, and you can maintain a much larger network of friends than the group of people you ate lunch with in high school. In fact, sometimes it becomes hard to remember all of the people you’ve met because there are so many of them! (Pro-tip: when putting people’s contact information in your phone, put the name of your school as their company so you have your own directory of college acquaintances that you can search through if you ever want to remember the name of that one person you played basketball with, or to catch up with the person who sat next to you in your freshman writing class.)

No Time, Time Management Techniques

So you’ve been studying for the ACT on top of completing school assignments, playing sports, and dealing with all of the “extras” of being a high school student. Before you know it, the test is two weeks away. If you’re anything like me, you have the best intentions for time management, but can’t seem to find enough hours in the day for free time (or sleep for that matter). Fear not! Over the course of my educational career, I’ve compiled a list of what I call “no time, time management” techniques that have helped tremendously, allowing me to approach standardized tests in the college prep process and beyond. Here are a few of the most successful:

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Active downtime 

This sounds counterintuitive, but when the 3 pm wall hits and you’re tempted to reach for the caffeine, try to get up and do something that will make you sweat instead. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain that are great to lift your mood, release stress, and renew your focus. Even if exercise isn’t your thing, it doesn’t have to be intense. A simple walk and some sunshine away from a stuffy study space will do wonders for your focus when you return!

 

Write your schedule down

This was a groundbreaking concept for me even as a 22-year-old in college. If I wrote down what I was supposed to be doing or studying in each part of the day, I always managed to get it done with free time to spare. This will also help you track when your brain works best for certain things. For example, I write well in the morning and horribly in the afternoon, so I read after 3 pm. If I hadn’t been in the practice of writing down and adjusting my schedule accordingly, I would probably still be murking through writing assignments at night while getting nowhere.

 

Apply the 10-day rule

As a chronic procrastinator who lacks discipline, this one is my favorite. I always admired peers who could follow a sleep schedule religiously, but I never managed to achieve this. A friend once told me that I did not have to pressure myself to be like them, but instead I could implement a strict bedtime in the 10 days leading up to a standardized test (or college finals). I tried this once and found that on test day I was up naturally about two hours before test time, and by the time I had my pencil in hand, I was fully alert and awake. I did way better on that test than the one I stayed up all night cramming for. This worked so well, I transferred the method to college finals with great results!

 

I hope these few small changes are useful in the course of college preparation and beyond. To me, time management does not have to be a huge lifestyle overhaul, but can instead be a small set of changes that lead to lasting habits and results.

Pro Tip: Organization is Key

Have you ever woke up abruptly in the middle of the night with the terrible realization that you have a paper due in 5 hours that you forgot to finish? Somewhere between a group project and your laundry, you neglected to actually write your history paper, even though the research has been done for weeks. It’s in this moment while you’re furiously typing, stealing quick glances at your pillow, that you realize with just a little more organization, this situation could have been avoided.

 

Clear your desk of clutter

That pile of papers on your desk that has been growing taller for weeks is doing more harm than you realize. Besides making it more likely that you will misplace an important paper, physical clutter can actually affect your mental state. Your mind is subconsciously processing the mess making it harder for you to remain focused when it really counts. When you are not focused, you run the risk of forgetting something important. So before you even open a book, make sure your surroundings are clean!

 

Write everything down

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Even with the best of intentions, something will slip your mind. To avoid this, write down everything you need to accomplish the moment it is assigned to you. Your phone can be a helpful tool when it comes to keeping an up-to-date list. Creating a list in your Notes App will ensure you won’t misplace it (or add to the clutter on your desk).

 

Relax

Before you go to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on the day’s events. Quickly review everything you accomplished, upcoming due dates, and look at what is on the agenda for tomorrow.  These brief moments of reflection will help ensure you finished everything you needed to so you can always get a good night's rest. 

How to Overcome Senioritis

Seniors - first off, congratulations! All of your hard work to this point has paid off, and you have been accepted to college! Some of you have known where you are going for a few months, some have found out recently, but you all have one thing in common:

Senioritis
/sēnyəˈrīdəs/
Noun
A condition that occurs once a student is accepted to college. Symptoms may then include the inability to do homework or the lack of motivation to study for tests.

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We get it, we’ve all been there. It is nice to have the pressure of college decisions gone and no longer in front of you. However, it is important to keep your grades up! You don’t want your college to revoke their letter of admission because your grades dipped too much at the end of college - this, unfortunately, does happen. You should also make sure to do well on your AP exams as those scores can help you earn credits for college and ease your workload on campus. Also, waitlisted students should maintain high grades and mention them when following up with admissions officers. 

Overall, though, you made it. Now is the time to catch up on all of those things you meant to do previously but didn’t have the time for because you were writing essays. No, I don’t mean the new season of Westworld; I’m talking about thanking the people that wrote the letters of recommendation that helped get you into the college you are so excited about. And especially thank your parents who helped drive you all over the place visiting colleges, among other things, as this wouldn’t have been possible without them. 

This is also the time to try out new things - go audition for that play! - as you may find a new activity that you want to explore in college. Read some books that aren’t assigned (keep an eye out for our summer reading list coming soon!). And most importantly, have fun and relax - just not too much!

How to Maximize Your Time on the ACT

One of the biggest offenders in the ACT is time. It can creep up on us, facilitate confusion, and make even the best of us lose focus in critical moments. When short on time, many of us feel inclined to abandon reason and madly guess, so success in this environment comes down to two main elements. 

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1. Practice.

The more you experience pushing through the test under pressure, the more comfortable you will become encountering difficult questions in that setting. At a certain point, there are few lessons on material that beat practice. Each test will lend perspective, help you strategize for the next round, and allow you to trust your ability.  We want you to walk into the real test knowing that you can tackle anything it throws at you, whether you’re short on time or not. 

 

2. Staying Practical.

Practicality and keeping a cool head can feel antithetical to the ACT, but it can make a colossal difference. If you’re concerned about time, take a deep breath, keep your head down, and focus on the questions you have the best shot at getting right. Every minute you’re in there is about efficiency, so making live judgments on where you can get those final crucial points has to be a question of informed practicality. 

 

Every person has a different strategy when it comes to time management. Some people bounce around the test, some move chronologically through it, and others divide and conquer by topic. The key to confidently hitting back when time comes knocking is to have a plan. Going in and knowing how you’re going to execute will serve you every time you take the ACT. Stick to your strategy, knock 'em dead.