The internet offers numerous resources for developing ACT and SAT study plans, but one source of information that high school students may overlook is former test-takers. High school seniors and college freshmen can provide firsthand insight about these exams – information that can sometimes be difficult to find in writing.
When asked, most former test-takers are open about their prior experiences with the ACT and SAT. Teammates, your siblings’ friends, neighbors, and others are likely to verbally offer you advice without any hesitation. However, posting on social media can be a helpful alternative for students who prefer to inquire about these tests less directly.
To broaden your test prep plan and account for unforeseen challenges, ask a former test-taker these three questions:
• What most surprised you about the ACT or SAT?
• If you were to retake the ACT or SAT now, what would you change about your SAT test prep plan?
• What one study technique was most effective for you?
What most surprised you about the ACT or SAT?
The answers to this question will vary, just like the individuals you interview will. For instance, you might receive feedback regarding the testing environment, the perceived ease or difficulty of the exam, or the content of specific questions. In any case, you will likely hear comments that you were not expecting and could not find in an ACT or SAT guide.
Asking this question will allow you to consider the ACT or SAT in a holistic manner. While mastery of content is critical for success on either college admissions test, there are also other less obvious factors that can greatly affect your performance, such as guessing strategies, stress, and timing. Your peers’ feedback may mention some of these areas, which you can then weigh as you design a test prep plan.
If you were to retake the ACT or SAT now, what would you change about your test prep plan?
“Hindsight is 20/20,” as the old adage goes. We may not realize that our approach is ineffective until the results indicate this fact to us. Mistakes are a powerful learning tool, but you do not always have to make the mistakes yourself to learn from them; instead, learn from the ACT/SAT mistakes of others.
High on your list of priorities should be talking to former test-takers about regrets they have or changes they would make to their study plans. This course of action can save you some of the headache that previous test-takers endured.
Just bear in mind that, since every student is unique, what worked for another student may not work for you. Always handle feedback with discretion.
What one study technique was most effective for you?
This question may yield some surprisingly unconventional answers. A former test-taker might tell you that she had her most productive study sessions while in bed, while outside, during exercise sessions, or by making absurd acronyms to memorize content.
Such techniques are not necessarily seen as traditional, but they can be quite effective for many students. Asking this third question could provide you with some odd yet brilliant ideas that are worth trying during your own studies.
However, as is the case with the second question, you must remember that not every student finds the same techniques helpful. When deciding which SAT or ACT study techniques to rely on, you should always consider your learning style before anything else. Reflect on whether you learn best visually, verbally, kinesthetically, aurally, or through some combination of these methods. Then modify your study habits based on your conclusions.
Experienced ACT and SAT test-takers are an invaluable resource for standardized test prep. Take advantage of the presence of former test-takers in your community by asking them these key questions. Remember, however, that this is just one step in developing a strong test prep plan and should not form the bulk of your strategy.