Many students say they do their best work under a tight deadline. But if you have put off studying for the ACT or SAT, getting ready to sit for your exam will take more effort than just saying, “I work well under pressure!”
You may have missed out on weeks or even months of test preparation that without a doubt would have helped you significantly. But keep calm as you read the following six tips for test prep procrastinators. It is not too late to incorporate some fruitful review into your tight schedule as your exam day approaches.
— Take a practice test immediately.
— Target the low-hanging fruit.
— Use the answers to choose your answer.
— Review punctuation rules.
— When all else fails, choose the shortest answer choice.
— Focus on main ideas.
Take a Practice Test Immediately
The first item on your procrastination-busting to-do list is to take a full-length ACT or SAT practice exam under genuine testing conditions. This means sitting and testing for at least two hours and 55 minutes for the ACT, and at least three hours for the SAT. After taking the exam and scoring it, take note of which questions you found easy, which you found somewhat difficult and which you found very challenging.
In the remaining days or weeks before your test date, focus on boosting your performance in your weakest areas. However, on the day before your exam, boost your confidence by testing yourself only on your strong suits.
Do not try to learn any new content right before the ACT or SAT, as this can induce anxiety. Instead, concentrate on getting yourself into the right headspace by engaging in activities that will relax you.
Target the Low-Hanging Fruit
The math sections on both the ACT and the SAT typically begin with the easiest questions and become progressively more difficult.
But all math questions have the same value, so your strategy should be to catch the low-hanging fruit first — the math questions that are easiest for you to answer correctly. This is highly personal to each test-taker, and discovering what is low-hanging fruit for you involves taking practice tests.
Consider the last few math questions a bonus. If you have time for them on exam day, that is wonderful. However, you can still earn a great score if you do not, assuming you performed well on the previous questions.
Use the Answers to Choose Your Answer
Turning again to math, ACT and SAT test creators generally sequence the answer choices from lowest to highest in terms of numerical value. Students who use the “plugging in numbers” strategy on SAT math should start with answer choices B and C, which will often be the median of the answer choices provided. ACT test-takers should start with answer choice C.
If choice C works, great! But if not, at least you will have a better idea of what the true answer could be. For a smaller solution, for example, you might then move to consider answer choice A.
Review Punctuation Rules
Every ACT and SAT exam assesses punctuation rules to some degree. While the rules governing comma usage can be quite complex, those governing colon, semicolon, dash and period usage tend to be more straightforward.
When All Else Fails, Choose the Shortest Answer Choice
One of the writing principles tested on the ACT and SAT is conciseness, which is achieved through eliminating redundancies and sticking to clear, straightforward language. The conciseness rule dictates, “If you can express the same idea in fewer words, do so.”
While this should not be your default strategy in the writing section, it can be a helpful compass when you find yourself without direction.
Focus on Main Ideas
The reading sections on both tests contain several passages that vary in terms of subject area and writing style.
Given the time constraints of ths ACT and SAT, students only have time to skim the texts with an eye toward main ideas. Students must get in the habit of tuning out details that are less important to get to the gist of the passages.
While it is always better to leave yourself plenty of time to prepare for the ACT or SAT, practicing these six tips will help if you are crunched for time. They will not only empower you with score-boosting strategies, they will also boost your confidence, which is critical to achieving your goals on the test.
More from U.S. News