SAT Tip of the Week: 3 Steps To Stay Sharp During The Holidays

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAs the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey, (or a delicious vegetarian alternative) it is easy to put studying for the SAT to bed for a long winter’s nap.  It is almost certain that taking a little bit of time to not think about standardized tests is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work. With a work out plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true of SAT studying as well. Students can use these three steps (which should take less than twenty minutes) four days a week to help continue the process of conquering the SAT, while still leaving you lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how tall you’ve become.

  1. Do Four Problems From Every Type Of SAT Section. In my mind this is three or four math problems, three sentence completions, two short reading passages or one medium reading passage, three improving sentences problems, and three identifying sentence error problems. Once or twice a week, just go through every type of problem to give you some practice changing your mindset to attack different types of questions.  All of this together should take about fifteen minutes of your day and keep you in the mind set of answering SAT questions through the holidays.  Set a clock for fifteen minutes and see if you can get through the whole section in the allotted time. Try to do the types of questions you find challenging but not impossible.  If you make careless arithmetic errors, be sure to include some easy and medium problems so that you can practice avoiding such errors.
  2. Every Couple Of Days, Pick A Section And Do Half Of It In A Timed Setting. On your other two days, pick a section and do half of it in a timed setting. This doesn’t have to be exact as the reading section can be difficult to split that way. But the usual recommendation is to do four sentence completions and a long passage (or the long comparison passage).  This keeps you sharp in making sure you are dealing with the time properly.  For many students, one of their biggest problems is that they don’t do enough practice in a timed setting so pacing on test day becomes overwhelming.  Help acclimate yourself to this stress by normalizing the timed nature of the test.  Make it a game to see how quickly you can do problems without making errors.  Feeling like you have a handle on the timing of the SAT can go a long way toward helping you to feel confident during the test.
  3. Learn Five Vocabulary Words, Review Ten Words. Developing a system for vocabulary with regular learning and reviewing is crucial on the SAT.  This kind of concerted vocabulary training will not take more than five minutes, but can produce fantastic results.  In just the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, students can add 120 vocab words to their repertoire.  If you are using vocabulary lists in the SAT 2400 In Just 7 Steps book by Shaan Patel, remember to eliminate words you already know to maximize your efforts (though it’s a good idea to review all of the words, just in case). This method will actually prove extremely effective in creating long term memory for these definitions as gradual repetition is one of the best methods for forming memory.  Challenge yourself to use all five words in a conversation the day you learn them.  Show your great aunt you are brainy as well as tall.

The Holiday season should certainly be a time of rest and relaxation and I firmly believe that it is good for the brain to have periods where it is not asked to complete arduous tasks.  With that said, the slightly lower work load from school provides an opportunity to utilize your time for other efforts (like college applications, extracurriculars, and the SAT).  Remember, consistency and attitude are the two keys to success, so carve out twenty minutes, turn off all distractions, and use the Holidays to bolster your studying so you come out of them rested and ready to attack the test!

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David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.