How NOT To Study for the ACT & SAT

As most of education has moved online, learning to effectively “self-study” is more important than ever.

Here are a few common unproductive ways we’ve seen students study for the ACT & SAT:

1. Just Doing Practice Tests 

While practice tests are a great way to become familiar with the format and pacing of the test, repeatedly doing practice tests doesn’t always help. Often, students will simply repeat the same mistakes over and over. To effectively study for these kinds of tests, students should combine taking practice tests with a guided review of question types, common mistakes, and areas they are lacking in content knowledge. 

2. Doing Practice Tests Untimed

Similarly, doing practice tests untimed does not model the real test scenario. Usually, untimed test practice leads students to think they will score higher on the test than they actually do. Much of preparing for the ACT or SAT is developing a timing strategy and becoming familiar with appropriate pacing. 

3. Focusing on Completion Over Accuracy

Students often take practice tests with the goal of completing every single problem within each section, even if that means having to rush through easier problems. Often, this leads to making silly mistakes and lowers the overall accuracy. Part of practicing for the ACT/SAT is learning what to prioritize and when to guess to avoid getting stuck. 

4. Checking Answers as You Go

When doing homework or practice tests, students sometimes check answer keys as they go. Doing practice ACT or SAT exams in this manner doesn’t model the real test scenario and leads to a habit of second guessing and a lower level of confidence within test-taking. It’s rarely beneficial to check answers as you go.  Do the entire section, timed, before going back and checking your answers. 

5. Focusing on Individual Mistakes rather than Identifying Larger Patterns 

Some tutors and/or students review practice tests and simply rework each individual mistake that a student got incorrect. Unless this kind of review is linked to identifying larger error patterns or addressing broader content deficiencies, then there will likely only be a small amount of progress from test to test. Students should strive to use practice tests to identify error patterns, such as a misunderstanding of apostrophes, in order to make consistent progress.

Maximize your test prep by avoiding these five study techniques.

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