Standardized tests like the SAT®, ACT®, & PSAT® are hard, and “normal” test prep methods don’t work for everyone.
These tests were never meant to be comfortable. After all, the original SAT® that the College Board had created in 1926 modelled the US Army IQ test, and although the times have changed, the foundation of standardized tests remain the same. The SAT®, ACT®, and PSAT were designed to test the intelligence, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills of a high school student yet most students focus on the intelligence portion of the exam.
Conventional Test Prep Doesn’t Work For Unconventional Tests
Don’t be deceived by their names; there is nothing “standard” about the SAT®, ACT®, and PSAT®!
What’s standard about a student sitting through a 4-hour long test, having to answer questions from multiple subjects that span almost five years of knowledge? Add on the pressure of knowing that a single test can determine your academic and professional future and what you get is anxiety-filled, stressed-out students that don’t know where to start, or worse, how to study.
Historically, students have studied for these tests by repeatedly answering questions over and over again until they feel comfortable with their ability to solve a specific question set and with the advent of Youtube and Khan Academy, students have more access than ever to practice questions and videos telling them how to answer each question.
And this is where most you might be getting lost. You’re trying to study for an unconventional test conventionally; the same way you would study for a mid-term exam or a chapter test.
Because these tests are so unconventional that require such a vast span of needed knowledge, you need to approach them in alternative ways, a rewiring of their approach and execution to individual questions and the overall tests. You need to be tactical and strategic, tackling these tests with a military-like approach to battle; because ultimately, standardized tests are precisely that: a battle between your mind, emotions, and cognitive endurance.
Study Smarter With A Strategy-First Approach
Over the past 17 years the Accelerations Learning Center, an elite SAT®, ACT®, and PSAT® prep institution, has been teaching students from around the world the R.I.S.E. method of test prep.
R.I.S.E. is a simplified approach to studying for standardized tests that focus on strategies and techniques rather than memorization and recall that simplify and streamline the execution and accuracy of each question. Its a complete re-wiring of your academic brain to respond to the unique demands of standardized tests. The R.I.S.E. Method has helped students that have come from every socio-economic, racial, and academic background reach their maximum potential; and although every student’s academic ceiling is different, the R.I.S.E. Method is designed to give EVERY student a fighting chance. This means that you can achieve a great score regardless of G.P.A., gender, or race.
On average, our students saw a 23% increase in their speed, and an 18% increase in their overall score, with many students averaging more than a 300 point increase on their SAT® score when utilizing the R.I.S.E. method.
R.I.S.E. – Strategy-Focused Prep
R – Reinforce Your Fundamental Skills
Every topic in a standardized test can be simplified down to the most basic of skill sets, so we start by re-enforcing a students fundamentals Math, for example, that tests a student’s skills from algebra to calculus, can be simplified down to a handful of equations (i.e. quadratic equation). Believe it or not, if you have the right strategies, you won’t need more than an 8th grade understanding of Math, Reading, Grammar, Science, & Writing to do well on these tests.
I – Introduce & Implement Topical Strategies
These aren’t your usual strategies! These are individual strategies that are designed to break down questions to their purest form. Filmed in front of a live class, watch the President & Founder of Accelerations Learning Center, Cassandra Tokars (Mrs. T) install and implement a math strategy involving slopes that gives our students 20-30 points on the Math Section of the SAT®.
S – Simplify the test by breaking down the answers
The answers to a problem will give you clues as to what the test is searching for. Far too many students try to solve a problem at face value before looking at the answers. Once you’ve recognized what the test is looking for, you’ll know what strategy to use for that particular problem.
E – Execute The Appropriate Strategies
Once you’ve reinforced your fundamental skills, learned the strategies, and understand when to implement them, it’s time to execute! Play to your strengths and go through the test looking for questions that you know you can answer quickly and accurately within each section. Remember that this is a timed test and that the College Board doesn’t care how you get to the answers, just that you get to them. They’re not going to check your work, so once you’ve identified the answer quickly move on!
What You Need To Know About Standardized Tests
- A test that you might take in a regular class has a definitive reference point for the information that you have to recall. For example, you might have a final exam that is testing you on material that you learned over the past eight months. Standardized tests have no reference point; they test you on information that you may have learned over the past five years.
- A typical test emphasizes a students ability to memorize, recall, and apply; mostly focused on a students intelligence. In standardized tests, intelligence is only 1/3 of what they’re trying to test. A majority of the content on these tests are designed to test your problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Why do you think that they’re 4 hours long with multiple choice questions that are meant to confuse and disorient? (Think about how many times you’ve come across a problem that could have two possible answers!)
- Standardized tests are designed to produce anxiety, confusion, and panic; learn to conquer it with strategies and practice.
In conclusion, preparing for these standardized tests don’t have to be difficult, but it does take time. Students should begin studying the winter of their sophomore year and for a solid year and a half leading up to the test. Regardless of how you study, you’re going to need hundreds of hours of prep and reinforcement to navigate through these difficult exams successfully. Learn to study strategically, then practice, practice, practice!
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