What advice/tips would you give a high school student who is not a very good test taker? What kinds of things helped you take tests well? What sort of study tips worked best for you? Did you have any sort of pre-test rituals that worked?
This question was asked by a high school senior in Los Angeles, Ca who just received her ACT test scores. She's disappointed with how she performed but plans on retaking the exam. She's applying to several University of California schools this semester. #college #university #test-management #test-strategy
First of all, be kind to yourself. Very few people would call themselves good test takers, so trust me, you're not alone. Second, be careful about how you label yourself. Just bc you haven't done well in the past doesn't mean that you will in the future. You can and will accomplish great things! Know that and feel it in your gut. So, now for my tips on how to help ensure that you do well. The most important thing for me is to ensure that I am as comfortable as possible. That means feeling good. I always make sure I get plenty of sleep (even if I think I need to study more), that I'm well hydrated and that I have done everything I can to be happy (go on a walk, spend time with my family, have a good dinner before). Then I re-read any materials and look for key bullet points to help me remember what I needed to know. I usually limit it to one large note card back and front that I can take with me on the go to keep on studying. I also listened to classical music (something I learned in psychology) and rotated where I sat - on the floor, in bed, at a desk - make sure to move around. I would then create practice tests for myself and make myself do them 2-5 times, depending on how well I did. It's always good to study with other people after you feel like you understand everything and quiz/test eachother too! You've got this!
I was never a great test taker but I realized it wasn't because I got too nervous, or felt too much pressure, it was because I wasn't well enough prepared. I wasn't studying effectively or efficiently. There are all sorts of ways people study - that's because it's what works for them (some great advice to reference in this question: https://careervillage.org/questions/773/what-helps-you-study-for-a-test).
It may sound old school, who knows, but what worked really well for me in college was using flash cards. In high school I didn't use flash cards as much because it always seemed too tedious to me - having to write out every definition, algorithm, etc. It just took too long to prep for the actual studying! But what I realized in college is that it's that prep (albeit tedious!), if taken seriously, was what really helped me remember the material. I would spend hours creating my flash cards and once I started testing myself there were ones I definitely knew and would always know, so I'd put those aside, and there were ones I definitely did NOT know so I'd focus on those. I'd test myself a few times and then I'd get a friend in the same class to test me. We'd always come up with creative ways of remembering the material which helped a lot. Come test day, you see the question and immediately you think of that creative analogy you and your friend thought of.. read the answers provided and it will click.
Also be sure to start studying a week or so before the test. The more time you give yourself to prep the better you'll do. Plan out your week and schedule 2-3 hours each day to study for that test- for example, Monday I'll create the flash cards, Tuesday I'll spend 2 hours testing myself, Wednesday I'll review with a friend, Thursday I'll ...etc. etc. If you break it up it'll feel a lot less stressful, and trust me, taking breaks and getting a change of scenery when studying is a good thing. Your brain will thank you!
Remember - it's just a test. Take a deep breath and don't stress!
You will need to focus on stress and time management. In order to manage stress you have to manage your time wisely. <span style="background-color: transparent;">You have to set a routine for yourself and stick to it for the most part. Once you get into the groove of a routine it will be much easier for you to manage your time and have enough time for everything you need to do (including relaxing). Make yourself to-do lists on a weekly basis, use Google calendar or a planner to keep track of events, deadlines, and due dates. In addition to setting a routine and sticking to it, plan out relaxing activities into your day. Or set aside a time, after everything is done for the day, that you can have "me" time. I have also personally found it essential to not only find time for myself but also make use of that time in a way that is best for me and my holistic wellness. I have found the HeadSpace app to be an essential tool in helping me relax and generally feel more relaxed throughout the day, Guided meditation, even if you have a busy schedule, will make you feel more at ease and relaxed throughout the day as a whole (not just when you have the time to relax and focus on that "me" time).</span>
<span style="background-color: transparent;">Set a routine.Use Google Calendar.Set aside Me TimeWrite weekly to-do lists and use a planner.Find a peaceful and restful activity that will help you feel relaxed.</span>
Don't be discouraged because of your standardized testing scores. I had to take the SAT's 3 times to get into the college I wanted, but I ended up graduating with honors! Really, the standardized testing realm does not accurately reflect your intellect or skill level, it is one aspect of the college application process that helps administrators quantitatively assess students. Fair or not, everyone applying to college needs to take them, so my advice would be to take an ACT or SAT prep class. I did and it raised my score (on the SAT's 100 points). For me, it was all about test taking strategy (which I learned in the course) and stress management. Deep breathing, eating a healthy breakfast and getting as much sleep as possible was key. If I hadn't scored what I needed to on my third try, I was going to switch tests (from the SAT to the ACT), so try the ACT again, but then consider switching to the SAT. Each exam tests a little bit differently, so maybe your learning style is better in line with the SAT.
The standardized test is just a portion of the college application process. Remember to also spend time focusing on your GPA, extracurricular activities and essay portion of the application as well as the ACT/SAT. Best of luck!
This is a great question. Standardized tests are the worst, and rarely show your real ability.
There's a great podcast that talks about this topic, and other issues in the college admissions process that I'd really recommend called Getting In (http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/getting_in/2015/09/getting_in_a_podcast_about_applying_to_college.html)