By Dan Marlin
As the school year winds to a close, you have finals to complete, hopefully followed by fun, relaxing, and rewarding activities! Understandably, test prep is likely not at the top of your mind. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep up momentum during the summer, which can be difficult to do given that you’ll no longer have the daily structure of school. So here are some of our tips for summer test prep.
1. Read. Read and read and then read some more. This is by far the most important thing you can do; it not only helps with the Reading sections, but also with English and even ACT Science. And you don’t just have to read ACT/SAT passages…
- What are you interested in? Find a book, magazine, or website with topics you like to read about. Some popular places to find ACT/SAT-style pieces are major newspapers and magazines that cover a wide variety of topics (The New Yorker, The Atlantic, etc.) Longreads.com also curates these kinds of pieces.
- Do you have a reading list for your English class next year? Great! Use that to your advantage. Come up with a schedule of how many chapters you’ll read each week.
- If you’re doing test prep with us, there are lots of passages in our materials. Ask your tutor for their suggestions.
- Of course, actual passages put out by ACT and the College Board are useful, too. Example passages can be found on the ACT and SAT websites.
2. Do math problems. Math skills tend to erode over the summer for the same reason as reading: you’re not doing it every single day as you would be during the school year. Here, you’ll probably need to rely more on official problems from the ACT or SAT, or prep material from sites like Khan Academy. But there are DIY options, too — for instance, you could make and study flashcards with formulas that give you trouble. If you’re doing test prep with us, your tutor will be able to guide you to additional resources.
3. Schedule smartly. Don’t do three hours of math on a Tuesday morning and then nothing for the rest of the week. Again, we’re trying to simulate the parts of school that can help with the ACT or SAT. Space out your work; if you find yourself with a spare 30 minutes, do a Science passage or two, or a handful of math problems, or read a chapter in a book. Be sure to keep to a regular schedule with your tutor; speak to them about any upcoming vacations so you don’t have to take off multiple weeks at a time. After all, even if you can’t meet in person, there’s still a virtual option. All of this isn’t to say that you should spend the entire summer preparing for standardized tests. On the contrary, after the year we’ve just experienced, it’ll be great for everyone to get away for a bit and refresh. But doing work in bite-size increments can make your summer test prep feel less burdensome.
4. Take regular practice tests. Practice tests are the best way to test out strategies and measure your progress, and that’s just as much the case over the summer as it is during the school year. In fact, signing up for and taking practice tests might be the best way to keep you in “test prep mode” over the summer, since they force you to be at one place for a defined period of time. The frequency at which you should take practice tests will vary based on where you are in your prep sequence, but you should take a practice test at least once a month.
These four tips provide a basic framework that should put you on track for next year’s ACTs/SATs while also keeping your prep time manageable. Have a great summer!