Preparing for the SAT and/or the ACT takes quite a bit of dedication and hard work. When students are busy managing their schoolwork responsibilities, extracurricular activities, obligations at home, and personal interests and relationships, many of them struggle to feel motivated to set aside time to prepare for the test. Even though many schools have elected to go test-optional, a student’s SAT/ACT score is still a valuable item that admissions agents take into consideration, and a high score can also provide notable college scholarship opportunities. Doing well on the test can open up doors that other factors listed on a college application cannot, so it is in a student’s best interest to do as well as possible.
If you are a student who wants to succeed on your SAT/ACT but are having difficulty staying motivated to maximize your study efforts, here are a few ways to reignite your inspiration as you prep for your test:
Focus on the Long-Term Payoff that a High SAT or ACT Score Can Bring
Don’t lose sight of the purpose behind your test prep efforts. It may seem like a never-ending process, but keep in mind that the score you receive is not a fleeting event. Even though many colleges have elected to become test-optional, there is still a significant number of schools that do require students to submit their SAT/ACT scores. Additionally, test-optional does not mean that schools won’t take student scores into consideration. An impressive performance on the ACT/SAT can help offset any other areas on your application that are not ideal, such as a lower GPA. A high score also means that you are more likely to be accepted into the schools you are interested in attending, and this can be especially true if those schools tend to be highly competitive.
An impressive performance on your test can result in a literal payoff, as many merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who excel on the SAT/ACT. Your test score can often be the determining factor in whether you earn access to thousands of dollars in scholarship money.
The possible long-term rewards of improving your college admissions outcome and being able to fund your college experience without accruing large amounts of debt are well-worth the short-term investment of making time to study for the SAT/ACT. Your future self will appreciate the hard work you put in today.
Schedule Your Study Time into Small, Manageable Sessions
Studies have shown that studying in short bursts rather than for long marathons is more effective, and this strategy can also make the test prep process less intimidating. Knowing that you will study for an hour-long session a few times a week is much less overwhelming than mentally preparing to settle into an all-night session that will continue indefinitely. The act of creating a schedule itself is valuable as well. You’ll be more likely to follow through with your test prep if you set aside a specific time to study rather than making a vague commitment to hit the books sometime during the week. Scheduling time to prepare for the SAT/ACT also helps ensure that you can cover all of the necessary material before the day of your test.
Form a Study Group
If you feel isolated studying alone, you may benefit from finding a few friends or peers who are interested in forming a study group. Working with others can help keep you accountable, and reviewing concepts with peers can also make the material more engaging. Additionally, you most likely excel in a subject that a fellow student does not, and that person may be more naturally inclined to understand a topic that you struggle to grasp. Being able to trade ideas or share different ways of understanding a concept can often help both of you form a better, more nuanced comprehension of different areas of the exam.
Create Milestones and Celebrate Meeting Them
While the fruits of your labor may seem far away, you can help incentivize yourself to stay on track by creating milestones to celebrate throughout your test prep journey. Setting smaller, obtainable goals helps make the test prep process more digestible, and it also helps you see the tangible progress that you are making. For example, raising your score on a practice SAT/ACT, or mastering a geometry concept that you initially felt was impossible to grasp, are excellent markers that your hard work is paying off. Your progress is worth celebrating, so when you hit these milestones, find a small way to reward yourself, such as by scheduling a movie date with a friend, enjoying your favorite meal, or playing your favorite video game.
Create a Distraction-Free Study Space
When it comes to effective studying, your environment matters. Try to find a study space that is quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions. Turning off non-essential technology can be a great idea, as social media and cell phones can quickly pull your focus away from your studies. If you are using a digital app or online test prep resource, you can still minimize distractions by using apps designed to keep your online activity productive. For example, Freedom is an app that allows you to block websites of your choice while you are in study-mode. Utilizing apps like this can help you ensure that the time you set aside to prepare for the SAT/ACT is not eaten away by mindless scrolling through Instagram or Reddit. When you’re done studying for the day, you can unblock the distractions and browse the internet normally.
Enroll in an SAT/ACT Test Prep Course
Another great way to remain motivated to study for your SAT/ACT is to enroll in a test prep course. If you elect to choose a traditional classroom-based course, you will be learning alongside other students, and this can help make the material more engaging. There are also private SAT and ACT tutors if you feel that you will benefit more from personalized instruction. Working with an official test prep instructor in either environment can help keep you motivated, as a quality one will understand how to create an encouraging environment. Experienced instructors understand the SAT and ACT inside and out, and they will know how to structure the course in a way that creates manageable goals that fit your individual needs. Feeling like you have a partner invested in your success also goes a long way to help you stay focused on the big picture.
Studying for the SAT and ACT is a big task, and when you are juggling multiple responsibilities, it can often feel difficult to encourage yourself to set aside time to study. Hopefully these tips give you an idea of how you can stay inspired as you prepare for the SAT and/or ACT. By keeping your eyes on the long-term payoff, splitting your study time into consistent, manageable increments, studying with other students, celebrating your progress, minimizing distractions, and working with a test prep instructor, you should be able to stay focused and motivated until your test day arrives. Good luck!
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