By Priyam, IvyWise Master Tutor
Although summer break is meant to be a time to relax, recharge, and develop interests through summer activities, these three months also hold the potential to destroy carefully laid preparations for college entrance exams. It is important for college-bound students to keep their brains academically sharp during the summer months so that they’re ready for the rigors of SAT or ACT testing come fall.
Summer brain drain is real, and it can significantly set back your test prep if you’re not careful. However, staying engaged and continuing your test prep programs into the summer does not have to be difficult. It’s as simple as following the 3 “R’s”: Routine, Reading, and Reviewing.
A routine can be as simple as answering just one practice question a day and gradually motivating yourself to ramp up over summer. Breakfast is a great time to do a problem (or more) early in the day, before any other obligations intrude on your schedule, and it still allows you to continue with your summer plans.
For those who want a more dedicated study time, scheduling a weekly study session is more beneficial instead of short, daily bursts of review. Block a time slot on your calendar on your computer or smartphone for a weekly study session. Choose a time when you can be free of distractions, and schedule your other summer activities around this dedicated weekly study commitment. Your study session doesn’t need to be long, but you should ensure that it is focused. Two hours of review, for example, is adequate to keep yourself engaged without crowding out your other summer plans.
Lastly, there will always be those students who want to optimize the summer for exam prep. For those students, it can be beneficial to organize a study plan, ideally tailored to the student’s strengths and challenges with exam topics. Here’s an example study plan: Three days per week, take partial, timed exams focusing on your most challenging sections; two days per week, practice untimed questions in your mid-level areas and practice your strong areas through challenging problems once a week. For those who have difficulty creating your own study plan, it can be helpful to take a summer prep course or hire a tutor.
Reading during your summer break can positively affect your prep. Both the ACT and the SAT are shifting to place more emphasis on reading comprehension and interpretation, so emphasize books that force you to use these skills via active reading rather than magazines, comic books, or other books that only require passive reading. A key skill to practice through active reading is parsing dense language while getting to the bottom line or main point of the excerpt. Some people enjoy reading while others hate it, but finding something you can enjoy, all the while allowing you to hone those necessary test-taking skills, would be the best match. Classical books by authors such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, etc., can boost your brain engagement over the summer.
Test prep can sometimes be as simple as reviewing what you already learned during the school year and perhaps teaching what you know to others. Many school districts, as well as churches, clubs like the YMCA, and even public libraries, offer tutoring and academic enrichment classes during the summer months. Look for a volunteer opportunity where you can work with younger students who are learning skills in your weakest area (i.e. English, reading, writing, math, or science) and you may find that teaching those skills truly sharpens your own understanding. As the saying goes, you cannot really understand a concept until you can teach it to someone else. And as a bonus, your volunteer activities can show leadership and initiative on your college applications.
Continuing your test prep into the summer doesn’t have to derail your summer plans or significantly cut into time meant to help you relax and recharge. By taking the time to set a routine, do some outside reading, and review what you already know, you’re on track to not only fight off the dreaded summer brain drain, but also set yourself up for a successful testing season come fall.
IvyWise tutors are the best of the best, and they work with students to develop comprehensive test prep plans that can take them through the summer lull and beyond. For more information on IvyWise’s tutoring services, contact us today.