You’ve got your SAT prep book. You’ve sharpened your #2 pencils. You’ve got your favorite coffee mug/energy drink/IV of caffeine ready and waiting. It’s time for SAT prep. But before you leap head-first into your test prep, make sure to avoid these common SAT prep mistakes.
#1: Waiting until the last minute.
There aren’t many areas of life in which procrastination is helpful—and SAT prep definitely is not one of them. Thorough SAT prep requires that you master key foundational knowledge and skills: reading comprehension, speed, and analysis; mathematical reasoning and numeracy; and an understanding of the nuances of language. None of these skills can be learned in a week or two—good SAT prep requires months, not days.
#2: Drill and kill test prep.
The phrase “drill and kill” might sound like something out of a first-person shooter game. It’s so much less cool than that. “Drill and kill” test prep is when you just do practice set after practice set, drilling each type of question until your trusty pencil is worn down to a nub.
In a way, this test prep approach makes sense. After all, if you want to be really good at free-throws, you go to the basketball court and practice free-throws over and over again, right? You’d think the same would apply to acing the SAT—just do a lot of SAT practice.
There are two problems with this approach to SAT prep: first, it’s not really that effective at maximizing scores, and second, it doesn’t help you beyond your test date.
There are a lot of variables at play on the SAT—too many to account for through drill and kill. To be able to roll with the punches, you need to truly master the underlying skills needed for the test, and drill and kill doesn’t help you master anything other than how to answer a multiple choice question that’s presented exactly the same way as the multiple choice questions you practiced on.
Since drill and kill doesn’t actually lead to mastery of key skills, it won’t help you beyond test day. Sure, SAT practice is intended to increase your SAT scores—but wouldn’t it be nice if all that time and effort you put in also helped you excel in college classes later on? Mastering reading analysis strategies and mathematical reasoning skills will help you succeed in a lot of different classes later on.
#3: Skipping strengths.
A lot of students focus their SAT prep on their weaknesses—makes sense, right?
If you only practice areas where your performance is weak, you risk losing ground in areas where you were already doing well. Boosting your score in one area won’t help if your score drops in another area, so it’s important to incorporate practice on areas where you’re already strong as well as areas where you have the greatest room for improvement.
#4: Cramming in the days leading up to the test.
Cramming is bad. There’s virtually no situation in which cramming for a test is going to be helpful.
- Cramming increases stress, and stress decreases performance on tests.
- Cramming is an ineffective means of committing information to memory. The brain doesn’t have enough time to process and store the information.
- Cramming cuts into sleep, and sleep is key to mental performance.
- Cramming leads to anxiety, which leads to bad test scores.
Don’t cram. The sleep you gain will help your scores much more than those last-minute cram sessions.
#5: Refusing help.
Did you ignore the notices for free after-school SAT prep in your halls? Did you decide not to check out online offerings? Did you turn your nose up at the idea of a test prep tutor?
SAT prep help isn’t for the weak. The students who score the highest are those who take advantage of every available resource, from free online resources to school programs to private test prep. Find people who know the test inside and out and soak up everything they know.
Keep these SAT prep mistakes in mind in your efforts, and you’ll be on your way to maximizing the results you need to score big on test day. If you’d like some personalized SAT prep, be sure to contact your local C2 center for a free consultation.