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There are usually three categories of students: the anxious, the bored, and the prepared.
Many students are anxious before and during a test. It is very normal and natural. You don't take tests everyday, especially those with high impact on your future. It is almost like the Olympics!
Other teens might wonder about sitting in a seat for four hours answering questions that have no relevance to a teen's life? Boring? Uncool? Unfortunately, welcome to the world of test taking. You have to do take the test in order to get into a great college. During the test, you'll lose interest. Your mind will wander and lose focus. You'll feel tired. What to do?
And then there are the prepared teens, those who have invested or plan to invest in taking test prep courses and lessons and are fully prepared. However, just knowing the content is not good enough. You have to have strategies to maximizing your test taking abilities and efficiency. And even the most prepared will feel some anxiety or nervousness during or before the test. This is all normal. In fact, if you feel something, that means you don't care.
Use these seven tips for teens to maximize your efforts on the ACT and the SAT tests and earn the high scores that colleges want.
1. Slow Down To Move Fast
Don't rush! Pacing is critical in tests. Don't rush on the easy questions. The hard questions are worth the same number of points as the easy and intermediate ones. If you rush through the test, you are likely to make errors that will cost you points on the easier and intermediate questions.
At Hillview Prep we use our proprietary Smart Scoring System to teach you how to pace yourself. Most students don't know how to pace correctly. We reset your natural pacing to what is required for the ACT and SAT tests. It involves slowly changing your habits so you succeed in the tests.
2. Verbalize To Decide
Instead of rushing to decide whether an answer is right or wrong, tell yourself, in your own words, why one answer is better than another. By talking through your reasoning, you allow your auditory skills to come into play, and you slow down the process which helps you think through the solution and find mistakes. You don't have to talk loud: just whisper voice is sufficient.
3. Use The Power Of The Pen
Take notes, do calculations, create an outline. When you write things down, you are more likely to get a problem correct. Researchers have found that when writing or drawing by hand, different parts of the brain were active and in different ways. Activate your brain cells to help you succeed in tests by writing things down. Write down key points, key words, key numbers, formulae, etc.
Don't keep everything in your head. Your analytical part of the brain is not well suited to store chunks of information. You can at most hold 7 pieces of information at one time. We suggest 3-4 pieces of information. That is why writing down key words and underlying key phrases is so important. You store those information on paper, which in many ways, is a storage device, and then let your brain free to make decisions and do analysis and synthesis. Analysis is about breaking things apart, about differentiation. Synthesis is about putting things together, like finding the theme, the summary, etc.
4. Quiz Yourself
Use good comprehension questions to help you narrow the choices and move towards the right answer. Some good comprehension questions are the 'what' questions: "What information is the question asking me for?" or "What type of word or information is missing from the sentence — a thing, action, or description?" or "What opinion am I being asked to agree or disagree with?"
Always ask the 'what', 'how', 'when', 'why', and 'how' questions. These questions will unlock your thinking. In most tests, the focus is on 'what' and 'why'. And then you have to provide the 'how' as in, how do I solve this problem?
5. Use Shakespeare's Help With Math & Science Questions
A big secret of acing these tests using reading comprehension to help solve math and science questions. How so? Well, many math and most science problems are written with words, and often the issue is understanding what you are being asked to solve. Are you struggling with ACT Science or with Math? Try improving your reading comprehension! What does reading comprehension have to do with science or math? Simply put, both have the same approach and same comprehension methods. Contact us to learn more about how reading comprehension strategies can help you ace your ACT and SAT tests.
6. Mark Wrong Answer Choices
If you are not sure about an answer, at least mark down the wrong choices. That way, you will remember that it’s wrong if you come back to the problem. Tip: When you do cross it off, draw a line only through the letter, not the entire answer choice. You won’t have as much erasing to do if you decide that it may be correct when you review it again.
Again, don't overload your brain with information it does not really want or need. Store information on paper.
7. Take a Break
If you notice you’re getting tired or wandering off, rest your brain. Put your pencil down, look away from the test, and think about anything else for two to three minutes. Stretch your arms and legs. Stand up and stretch, if necessary.