Preparing for standardized tests can be a daunting task, and many high school students begin their SAT or ACT preparation process, believing it will be a long and arduous journey. Often, students begin this journey by enrolling in a SAT or ACT preparation program, and most students take this first step thinking that only math, English, writing, and, in the case of ACT, science concepts can be mastered, they will. the tests. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The success of these exams is a measure of a multitude of factors, including knowledge of concepts, preparation, stress and time management, as well as ability to take tests. In addition to these factors, family dynamics, self-esteem, motivation, and anxiety can play an important role in a student’s performance.
The good news is that there are many steps that can be taken to make this journey a little less arduous, a little more rewarding and much more successful. This article will offer some tips and hints as well as some alternative perspectives that will help parents and students during this potentially trying and challenging time.
It is very common for students to compare themselves with their friends and peers. And, it’s not uncommon for students to try to live up to the successes of their siblings or parents, such as the phenomenal SAT score that ensured a parent’s acceptance to Harvard or the ease with which an older sister navigated the test preparation process. Comparing ourselves to others can be defeatist and confusing and can undermine self-esteem and confidence. Each student begins the standardized test preparation process with their own set of skills and abilities and responds to the test challenges in a unique way. It is much more productive for students to strive to constantly advance and to their own personal starting point, and to set personal goals and monitor their own progress in cumulative steps along this path.
Having a good understanding of one’s own learning styles and preferences can have a significant impact on the test preparation process. Students with complete knowledge of their own skills, talents, strengths and weaknesses are in much better position to earn higher scores on these exams. Students can monitor and evaluate their own process by asking questions that help them identify the methods, strategies, and habits that work for them (for example, what problems cause me the most problems? What questions make me hesitate the most? ?) Am I more productive? Is time management a problem for me?).
At Academics Plus, we promote the exploration of various study methods and strategies during the preparation process. For example, visual learners often benefit from making funny and silly vocabulary index cards, while hearing students benefit from audio-recorded vocabulary lists. Once effective methods have been discovered, they should be implemented over and over until they become commonplace. This increased self-awareness can increase the effectiveness of the time spent preparing and lessen the frustration that often occurs as a result of hours and hours of less-than-efficient studies.
Set short, achievable goals
Setting goals is an important aspect of any endeavor and is especially important when preparing for the SAT or ACT exam. At Academics Plus, our goal setting process consists of several steps. First, we help students identify and articulate long-term goals. We have found that this step indicating intention creates purpose and encouragement and encourages your active participation in the process. We then help them identify and explore their reasons for selecting and setting their goals by asking questions such as: Why do you want to reach this goal? Why is a good score important to you? Or why not? This helps students discover aspects of their learning processes and value systems that may be unexplored.
Often this process helps students identify what makes them tick, what excites them, inspires them, motivates them and what discourages them, overcomes and dismays. The next step is to identify a number of short-term goals designed to help students reach their ultimate goals. Then students are supported as they reach each of the short-term goals until they reach the final goal. This procedure is very successful because it keeps the student’s attention on the steps that can be achieved rather than the overarching and often overwhelming long-term goals. During this process achievements can be celebrated and successes recognized.
Success recognition is a key component of the work we do at Academics Plus. Although students are successful every day, they often pay more attention to their setbacks or “failures” than to their daily successes. We have found it very useful to continue to attract students’ attention to what they have achieved. This acts to strengthen their confidence in their abilities and helps them internalize the belief that they are capable of success. This, in turn, leads to a healthier self-image, a greater sense of independence, and the ability to creatively and constructively overcome obstacles in their path.
With these four steps in mind, students can interact more successfully with standardized testing and, at the end of the process, emerge stronger, knowledgeable, and more effective in their problem-solving and critical thinking skills. When fully implemented, these steps can help students develop self-awareness, confidence, and motivation that will enable them to achieve their goals without the stress, tension, and frustration they commonly experience.