BY RACHEL JACOBS, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR
Everyone tells you, again and again, that junior year is stressful, but you don’t really understand it, until you go through it. In addition to my growing internal pressure, I had a rigorous academic load stacked with AP and Honor’s courses, extra curricular activities and a part time job. On top of that I had prep work for the ACT/ SAT, leaving me little time for anything else besides a few hours of sleep each night. How can you get it all done? Here are my top tips for how to navigate the SAT or ACT. I hope this helps to minimize the stress and chaos you’re sure to feel at times.
1. Get Ahead: If you are working with a tutor, enrolled in a class or working on your own and have homework, DO NOT Wait until the last minute. The first time I went to my tutor, she assigned me four ACT sections due on the following week. Naturally, I waited until the last minute. Well, I soon found out it’s very hard to do all four sections in one night on top of all your other schoolwork. Lesson learned: make a schedule and tackle a section a day or every other day. Be sure to time yourself with no distractions to mimic the time crunch of the tests. (Leave your phone in another room so you’re not tempted!)
2. Sacrifice: Take practice tests over the weekend. I know it’s no fun to wake up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to take a long test, but this is the best way to see results. Standardized tests are all about strategy and just like playing a sport; in order to get better you have to keep practicing. One technique I learned: if you don't finish a section, bubble in the ones you missed instead of leaving them blank. You are not penalized for an incorrect answer and have a chance to get it right, especially if you eliminate one or two of the obvious wrong choices. Keep things in perspective, its only five hours and you still have the rest of the day!
3. Be Prepared: The night before the test, get everything ready for the morning. For me, the more I rushed in the morning, the more rushed I felt during the test --the worst feeling. There is already enough pressure; you don’t need to add more. Be sure to put fresh batteries in your calculator, sharpen all your pencils, put your watch, ID and test center receipt in your bag, and pack a snack for the break. Gum, mints or your favorite candy are good to help you focus during the test so buy them beforehand. Now, all you need to do is get a good night’s sleep, and eat breakfast in the morning. And these two things are imperative! Get in bed early and be sure to eat a hearty, healthy breakfast to keep you satisfied for the first half of the test till you can have a snack.
4. Be Early: On the test morning, make sure you arrive early to your testing center. I had a friend who showed up late and the center gave away her seat! Before you leave your house, triple check that you have all the required materials. When you are assigned your room choose a desk, and make sure it doesn't squeak. My biggest pet peeve or distraction is a wobbly or squeaky desk, it makes it hard to focus. I always dressed in layers because some test center rooms were hot and some were cold. Before you hand the booklet in, make sure you bubbled in correctly or your score could be delayed, the last thing you want.
5. Breathe: I know it’s hard, but try not to overstress. The SAT and ACT are not a measure of how smart you are. Some people are just natural test takers, while others are not. There are many factors that can affect your score and do not let it get you down. Even going up a point or two from one test to another is significant! In the end I realized that in 5 years no one will ask me my score, because in the long run--it does not matter. That said, still try as hard as you can and do not give up. If you get the same score or happen to go down a few points, it is not the end of the world. Next time you may do better. The ACT is offered every other month and the SAT every month so plan well in advance, allow yourself numerous opportunities to take the test before applications are due.
Good luck, now your ready! I survived Junior Year, and my hard work payed off with an early decision acceptance. Put in the time, stay focused and keep your sights on the finish line—I’m confident you will do amazing.