By Carl F., IvyWise Master Tutor
Summer is a magical time. We get a nice, season-long break from being graded, waking up early (hopefully), and having homework due. Come fall, however, our big standardized tests, the SAT and ACT, still await us, and we don’t want to be rusty in August and September when we get our next shot at them. Thus, here are three helpful tips to keep you sharp all summer.
Learn Grammar Rules!
Right away, I will concede that this may be the last piece of advice you want to hear. Likely, you learned this stuff back in the day, but if you don’t take a little time to familiarize yourself, you might be paying for this oversight come test day. Most of my students, at least before I meet them, trust in their grammatical intuition. This yields uneven results. The reason for that is a big misconception about the Writing and Language Test (SAT) or English Test (ACT). We assume that because the topic is language art there is all this nuance and opinion that is present in English class when we are debating on the artistic merits of a novel. These tests are not school. Huh? I’ll say it again for the people in the back. THESE TESTS ARE NOT SCHOOL! In fact, they are very unlike school, and nowhere is this more apparent than on this section of your preferred standardized test. It’s right there in the name: standardized. Do you know what else is standardized? The rules of the English language. The SAT and ACT test a very specific and finite list of rules related to things like subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, and punctuation usage. Ultimately, it’s very logical. If the rule is violated (it usually is), correct it. Your intuition may be right, but you’re not a grammar robot, so you likely don’t speak perfect English. So take some time to review a test prep book, Khan Academy, or some simple phonics lessons, and get familiar. Your score will shoot up.
Revisit the Math Formulas from 8th and 9th Grade
Most students sit for their first SAT sometime during junior year. The problem with this when it comes to the Math sections, the math you’ll encounter on the SAT is not the math you’re currently working on in school. In some cases, students are engaging with concepts they may not have seen since the 9th, or even 8th, grade if they are currently taking pre-Calc or Trig. There’s nothing like that in the SAT. The ACT goes a little deeper into a student’s math journey, but the questions that ask about more recent concepts don’t show up until the last 15-20 questions on that test. But what about the first 40-45? You’ll need to take a stroll down your linear memory lane–stop and smell the y=mx+b. A great place to start is the reference table given at the beginning of every SAT section. It’s there for a reason. The concepts particularly in the first row may be a distant memory, but we need to return them to the forefront of our minds.
Reading Comprehension is the section across the SAT (and to a lesser extent ACT) that takes the longest for students to see big score gains. Help yourself by working your critical thinking muscles over the summer, instead of allowing them to atrophy until you’re required to go back to the gym (school) in the fall. This means that you should read! No, Twitter does not count. Not all reading materials are created equally. What should you read? Good novels, like the ones that might be found referenced on AP English exams, are a great place to start. Some of us aren’t wired for such long-form reading, and thankfully short stories exist too. While literature only constitutes one passage out of four or five, the habit of reading good literature helps our critical thinking and perceptive analytical skills. An even more direct way to engage is with the type of writing most prevalent on these tests: argumentative writing. This can be found in high level newspaper and magazine articles. Look up which publications have recently won awards for their level of journalism, and let your own personal preferences take you the rest of the way.
The SAT and ACT aren’t going anywhere any time soon, so it’s important for college-bound high school students to stay fresh with their test prep–even over the summer. At IvyWise, we work with students all year round to help them identify and prep for the test that’s the best fit for them. A great standardized test score can help you stand out in the competitive college admissions process–even if the school is test-optional. For more information on our tutoring and test prep services–contact us today!