Welcome to Junior Year. The homework is harder, and there’s more of it. You’ve got a bigger role in the school play, or made the varsity soccer team, or both, and you’re excited – but also pretty overwhelmed. And just while you’re getting the hang of juggling your expanding commitments, yet another one gets tossed into the mix: preparing for college admissions tests.
Take a deep breath. Your test scores are an important component of your college application, but if you plan well – and stick to your plan – getting them where you want them to be. Here’s how you can make it work.
A little bit at a time.
You probably can’t easily see where you’re going to find an additional two-hour block dedicated to test-prep homework in your week. But the good news is you not only can do much of your prep homework in bite-sized portions but should. Doing 10 minutes of linear algebra questions on Tuesday and another 10 on Thursday is an excellent way to build spacing into your studying, which helps you remember what you’ve learned. If you combine a 10 minute block of algebra with a 10 minute block of reading one day, then combine a 10 minute block of English with a 10 minute block of geometry the next, you’ll get a bigger impact than with a painful single sitting.
With some exceptions.
Remember a sentence ago when it seemed like the painful single sitting was a thing of the past? It’s back. Spacing is a great way to maximize efficiency, but it doesn’t simulate test-taking conditions and doesn’t improve stamina. Because the nature of college admissions testing is that it is done in one long sitting, your tutor will assign individual test sections to be done in single sittings, which can take up to an hour and a half if you have extended time, and practice tests, which take, well, somewhat more time than that. Yes, it is harder to fit a practice test into your schedule, but this is where planning comes in. Consider well ahead of time the weekends that will work best for diagnostic tests and discuss your schedule with your tutor. Don’t pretend they don’t exist until one falls on the weekend of your star turn in the school musical or domination of the regional juniors fencing tournament.
And remember, it may seem like someone’s cruel idea of a joke that you have to prep for college admissions tests at the same time that all your other commitments becomes more demanding, but you can think of it as a good time to set up good studying habits.