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4 Back-to-school testing strategies

Students studying
Students studying
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The final weeks of August before the new school year begins can seem both endless and too brief. You may be anxious to see your peers, but hesitant to begin your new coursework. Perhaps you intend to sit for the SAT this year, and your nervousness is already apparent.

Trust me when I say you need not fret. Many test-taking strategies are equally applicable to your classroom exams and your standardized tests (like the SAT). Even better? If you implement the four strategies below as soon as your academic year begins, your back-to-school transition may be all the smoother for them!

1. View assessments as puzzles
No, I do not mean that the SAT is a no-stakes, carefree pastime. But, like all exams, it is composed by humans who write with a specific purpose in mind. Assessments are conquerable, no matter how intimidating they may seem at first. Before you select an answer to a question, critically examine the problem. What does it ask you? (This may not be immediately apparent, so consider reading it twice.) Does your response address the question’s true intent? Whether you are completing a test in chemistry or retaking the SAT, confidence and critical thinking are invaluable skills. Bring them to the table.

2. Allow yourself adequate time to prepare
“Adequate” may refer to a different length of time for each student, but it almost always does not mean “the evening before.” Even if your exam involves few topics or seems inconsequential to your overall grade, appropriate lead-time enables you to parcel information into smaller packets that are simpler to review. The more often you study, the greater your understanding is, both for the SAT, the test on Tuesday, and future classes. If you must devote a great deal of attention, time, and, occasionally, worry to your exams, why not do so in a manner with greater future rewards?

3. Be gentle with your psyche
Sometimes, failure happens. You may earn an F or you may fail to reach your target result (whether an A or a C). But failure is a natural part of life—and schooling. Rather than berating yourself for a low score, view it as an opportunity to learn and improve. What can you do differently to avoid this outcome next time? Where must you focus your efforts? On algebra? Earth science? Reading comprehension? Do not simply throw away your returned assessment or your SAT score report. Instead, examine them. They are, after all, just like free feedback!

4. Equip your body and mind to function at their peak
High school and university students often believe that they are able to function in conditions that are less than ideal. Perhaps you truly believe you can compose an essay on four hours of sleep or earn an A on a unit test without eating breakfast. And perhaps you can, once or twice. But such methods harm your grades and your health long-term. Commit to eating well, exercising, and sleeping a minimum of seven hours each evening for the duration of the school year. Both your course marks and your SAT scores will benefit.

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