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How to Ace Standardized Testing

Improve your score overall with these effective tips and tricks.

Whether it’s the SAT, ACT, or something else, chances are that you’ll encounter a standardized test at least once in your life. You may already have some experiences with bubble sheets or multiple choice questions that aren’t so pleasant. Granted, standardized testing is designed specifically to be tricky. That’s why LeadYouth has several strategies up our sleeves that are sure to boost your confidence—and score.

Tip #1: Create a realistic study plan and environment.

Although it may sound obvious, a study plan is essential for the weeks or months leading up to a standardized test. You want to maximize your time as efficiently as possible in order to reap the most benefits (and avoid a retake!). First, take stock of how much time you have to study everyday—it can be a block of thirty minutes or several little chunks of ten minutes. Either way, be realistic with your other priorities, but make sure to give yourself plenty of room for improvement. Ideally, you should be planning your study schedule a few months before the actual test. If not, don’t fret—you can still create one without cramming.

Next, secure as many legitimate practice tests as possible by searching them up online or buying a prep book. In order to imitate a real-life testing setting, clear out an environment where you have minimal distractions or noise. It may be worth going to a library or other quiet place if your living space doesn’t cut it. Finally, you’re ready to write down your plan. Use the following template as an example:

“To prepare for my test on __/__/__, I am going to study for x minutes per day, y days per week.”

Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice.

Believe us—you won’t find any shortcuts to practicing. Once you’ve created your study plan, do your very best to commit to it. Some days may be harder than others to find motivation, but think about that feeling of finishing the test and knowing you did your complete best to prepare for it. It’s okay to wish for a score, but what’s more important is your work ethic at the end of the day. For example, when I studied for the SAT, I set little goals for myself for every practice session. I wanted to master a certain math concept, so I did. These small wins were crucial for me to maintain my dedication. Try it yourself!

Tip #3: Don’t compare your progress to others.

As you’ll be taking the test along with thousands of other people, it may be tempting to compare your study plan or strategies with them. After all, there are plenty of eye-catching advice or “hacks” to a full score on social media, school, or other networks you’re in. However, remember that what works for them may not work for you. It’s just like exercise goals or diets—everyone retains information slightly differently! This isn’t to discourage you from trying out new test-taking methods, but if they lead to feeling insecure or doubtful about your progress, don’t give into the pressure. Instead, focus your sights on your own goals and dreams.

Tip #4: Treat test day like any other practice day.

The big day is quickly arriving—what should you do to prepare? Well, ideally you will have taken several practice tests already in a similar environment, and you know what to expect. The day before your test, pack your belongings and outfit so you won’t be rushing around at the last minute. In addition, plan a hearty meal and good night’s sleep—these are both crucial to your success! Your brain needs rest and fuel for its endeavors. Double- and triple-check the requirements from your exam proctor or administrator to make sure that you’re following all the rules. And last but not least, breathe. Refrain from cramming information or studying the night before your test, because it may very well backfire on you. Think about how much effort you’ve put in these past few months to get to where you are.

Tip #5: Celebrate your win!

You’ve survived the test—no matter how you’re feeling at the moment, you deserve to congratulate yourself. Rather than worrying or overthinking about your answers, which will do more harm than good, try to occupy yourself elsewhere. Spend time with family and friends, or treat yourself to a pint of mint chocolate chip—no one’s judging. When the time comes, your score will reflect the fruits of your labor, but remember: a score does not define who you are. Only you have that power, so use it wisely.


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