Many students wait until the last minute to study for tests or do major projects. Before I get too far in, let me just say that for a long time I was one of those students (and sadly, sometimes I still am). Putting things off is easy to rationalize – after all, if you get the work done eventually, it doesn’t matter when you do it, right? Wrong! Waiting until the last minute is a bad habit and extreme procrastination almost invariably brings down the quality of whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.
On the SAT, putting off studying until a week or two before the test is an all-too-common phenomenon. I know a lot of students who wouldn’t even think about the test until it was already almost upon them. Fun fact: many of those students didn’t do nearly as well as they wanted to.
It’s no secret that in order to do your best on the SAT, you have to put in the time. The test isn’t really about knowledge, but rather, is about being familiar with the questions and knowing how the test operates. With these two topics, cramming is of very little help. You can’t cram familiarity and understanding – you have to be disciplined over an extended and consistent period of time.
My recommendation for how to best manage your time studying for the SAT is to spend the two months leading up to your exam date studying in small, manageable chunks. Spending 30-40 minutes per day, three-four times per week, is a lot more helpful than spending 4 hours on one day the week before the official exam. It’s pretty easy to find 30 minutes of free time in a day; it’s a lot harder to find 4 hours.
This 30-minute chunk method is how I studied, and it had a lot of benefits for me. Here are 3 biggest ones:
- I felt like I really understood the test. Instead of seeing the SAT as an unpredictable monster, I came to be really familiar with how it worked. Spending a little time with the test on a consistent basis made me more comfortable with the structure and the patterns of the questions, so I knew what to expect on test day.
- I didn’t feel rushed to learn everything I needed to. Since I started months before my test, I knew that when I found a weak spot, I would have time to fix it. This gave me the confidence to be honest about my shortcomings. I could devote a week to the Writing Section if I found that I was bad at comma usage and still not feel like I was rushed to teach myself geometry. The feeling of having plenty of time made my stress surrounding the test significantly decrease.
- I found it much easier to focus for a half hour than it was to focus for 4 hours. I don’t know about you, but my attention span really isn’t that long. The best way for me to maximize my study time was to use short intervals of serious focus. Doing full practice tests is important, but if that’s your entire study strategy, you’re likely to get bored and burnt out pretty quickly.
I urge you to resist putting off studying for the SAT – if you start studying early and keep yourself on a regular, manageable study plan, your anxiety about the test will fall while your SAT score will jump.
By Aidan Calvelli.