Keeping Your Head Above Water

Only A Few Weeks Left for Summer Standardized Test Prep

We hate to say it, but summer is already halfway over. You've probably made excellent progress on your tan, maybe learned a great new skill, like boogie-boarding, but as for that pile of test prep books you were supposed to finish--they don't seem to have moved much.  So if you haven't started studying for your exams in the fall, now is the time to step up your test prep game. And if you're not sure where to start, here's some advice from NYC-based test prep tutor Leanne Dodge.

Quality over quantity. Now that classes are over, students accustomed to hours of homework suddenly have some extra time. Finding a few hours per week for test prep is generally much easier during the summer than during the year and will help alleviate stress in the fall. Good test prep isn’t about doing practice test after practice test—the quality of preparation is far more important than its quantity. A few focused hours per week can get students closer to their target scores than hours of tedious and endless repetition.

Skills and strategy. Think of test prep in two broad categories. First, students need to understand how to approach questions and learn strategies for whatever test they are taking. Second, students need to know the basic skills underneath the material being tested, including math principles, grammar rules, and reading comprehension. I work on a mix of these categories with my students. As students gain comfort with the fundamental skills they need to succeed on the test (many of which are also important for schoolwork and college), they can focus increasingly on strategy and how to approach questions from previously released official SATs and ACTs.

Choose wisely. For rising juniors, this summer is an especially important time. Juniors will be able to choose from three different tests: the ACT, the current SAT, and the redesigned SAT. The current SAT will be administered through January 2016; the redesigned SAT will be given for the first time in March 2016. While some practice materials are available for the redesigned SAT, no one knows nearly as much about the redesigned test as about the current version. In fact, the College Board will be delaying test results from the March test because even the makers of the test cannot predict what the exact scoring scale will be! That means that test takers may not know their March SAT scores in time to prepare for retaking the test later in the spring. If the current SAT is a better fit for you than the ACT—and you get started this summer and get most of your prep work out of the way—you’ll be in good shape to lock in your target scores by January.