SAT Tip of the Week: How to Stay Sharp Over the Summer

SAT Tip of the Week - Full One of the biggest barriers to success on the SAT is summertime. For most students entering their senior year, the summer represents the first time during their SAT prep experience that they will have a prolonged break from school. After months of prep, you probably took the test in either January, March, or May, but still didn’t get that exact score they were hoping for.

Some students fall into a false sense of security during the summer months and don’t stay sharp. The October date represents the next available time to take the test, and while that seems like a far off time in June, it’s actually just around the corner.

Staying sharp and actively preparing throughout the summer is an absolute necessity for students seeking a top score. In reality, it would be even better if students were able to take advantage of the summer months to advance their skills and take their score to the next level. However, sometimes, the allure of a break and “leisure” time after an academically rigorous semester makes students want to kick back and rest. Don’t be like the others, understand that if you want to get into your top school, you need a top score.

Understanding this reality, here are a few tips that can keep you sharp during the summer without truly overextending your mind and feeling too stressed out.

  1. Read Leisurely. Keeping your mind sharp and reading actively will work wonders for your SAT score. In general, students who enjoy reading for fun and have done it since childhood do better on the reading comprehension section. Even if it isn’t your favorite thing to do, picking up your favorite series or diving into a new fiction book is very helpful for the test. It helps build vocabulary, keeps your mind active, improves your reading stamina, and also forces you to critically think. All of these skills are very helpful, and will pay off at the end of the summer. Aim for one book a week. While this may seem like a lot, try it and after the first week you will see it’s no more than thirty to forty five minutes a day of straight reading. Make it easy on yourself by picking a book or genre you like to keep your interest up, and allow you to stay continually motivated.
  1. Study Vocabulary. Studying vocabulary is something you can do every day, no matter where you are. As this is the only part of the test that requires memorization, your performance on vocabulary is highly correlated to effort. If you put in the time, and make vocabulary a challenge, the summer is the perfect time to use this to stay sharp. It will keep your mind active for ten to fifteen minutes a day, and add consistency to your routine. Building this habit will allow you to snap right back into the heavier test prep once you resume that.
  1. Take a prep course or online class. Taking an academic enrichment course is another way to keep your mind active and it allows you to pursue an interest you like, or get a leg up on the SAT or ACT. These courses are less of a commitment than school, and you don’t have the added pressure of performing well for a grade. Instead, you can take this at your own pace, and the results are indicative of the effort you put in. It’s another great way to stay in a routine, to make sure your mind is sharp when the SAT ramps up again.

All of these tips follow a similar model; keep your brain active and engaged and make sure that you don’t lose all the progress you have made up to this point when it comes to getting ready for the test. Happy studying this summer!

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Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.