Five Test Prep Mistakes to Avoid

Five Test Prep Mistakes to Avoid

The following are the top five test prep mistakes to avoid when preparing for a high-stakes assessment, like the ACT or SAT.

1. Not carving out time to take full-length practice tests
Taking practice tests is essential to preparing for the real thing, but many students decide to skip it. We understand that taking full-length practice tests means you to lose several hours of the day when you could be doing other things, but we assure you that practice testing is time well spent. We recommend taking a full-length practice test before you begin test prep and every few weeks before you take the real thing. Similarly, if you were going to run a one-mile race for a big competition, you would need to run one-mile races during practice so that you have a sense for how you will do during the real race AND so that you can make adjustments to your approach to be sure you are making progress toward your goal time.

2. Not setting goals
In school, sports, and life, it’s important to have clear goals, and college admissions testing is no different. One of the main reasons students cite for why they don’t set testing goals is that they don’t understand how to set realistic yet ambitious goals for themselves on a standardized test. What am I capable of? Is 20 points a big jump or small jump on the ACT? How hard is it to increase my ACT score by 10 points? We will share a blog post in the next few weeks on ACT and SAT score increases, but for the large part, goal setting is unique to each student—based on how they performed on a practice test, how they typically perform in school, what college they hope to attend, and how much time they are willing to dedicate to test preparation. Our team can guide you through this process with clear goals and a detailed plan to get you there.

3. Banking on test-taking strategies without digging in on content.
We’ve found that quite a few students think learning a few testing strategies will create a massive point increase. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. Strategies are important and account for 5-10% of a your ability to improve on a standardized test. But, the ACT and SAT are cumulative tests of content mastery covering many years of schooling. Your deep understanding of the content and ability to show what you know in a high-stakes setting is critical for success. Please don’t bank on strategies alone to reach your goal.

4. Not having a clear study plan or accountability
Quite a few students jump into studying for a standardized test without a clear study plan. In other words, students study at random times and with varying levels of commitment and focus. When they decide to sit down to study, they don’t necessarily have a plan for how they will spend their time. They simply pick up with the next chapter of a book or turn on the virtual test prep class again. Unfortunately, in this scenario, students are not maximizing time by honing in on the skills, knowledge, and strategies that they personally need to be successful. Our team develops goals and a study plan to maximize time and keep each child on track. Additionally, working privately with a test prep tutor creates another level of accountability. There is someone consistently checking in on progress to ensure practice assignments are completed and time is maximized.

5. Passive studying without personalized support and accountability
Many students tend to scan a test prep book, casually tune into a virtual test prep class (perhaps with YouTube pulled up on another screen or phone), or attend a large-group test prep seminar (while possibly texting their friend about plans for the weekend). For many learners, the information doesn’t really “stick” this way. It is critical that students are actively engaged in preparing for standardized tests. This looks different for every person because we all learn differently and need different teaching techniques to fit our style. When you invest in personalized test prep with a private tutor, you will maximize time and engage with the content in a way that is best suited for your learning style, strengths/weaknesses, and goals.