SAT Test Preparation Tips

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As you know, one of the best ways to prepare for the SAT is to take practice tests and quizzes.

Thats why we recommend checking out SAT preparation books at your local library. These books are usually loaded with various quizzes and tests so you can practice the SAT math, writing, and reading sections.

We also recommend using some of the free SAT online tests available:

CollegeBoard.com SAT Practice Test
CollegeBoard.com is the official SAT site. They provide a great online practice test to help you learn your strengths and weaknesses. This test will get you ready for the real exam.

ProProfs.com SAT Online Quizzes
We recently checked out the SAT quizzes on ProProfs.com. This site is packed with user-generated quizzes to prepare students for the reading, math, and reading sections. These quizzes will definitely help you focus on the test areas you need the most work in.

Please let us know if you find any other free online SAT quizzes. Thanks!

How to Survive a Pop Quiz (When You Dont Have a Clue)

If youve ever had to take a test you werent prepared for – this article is for you.

Obviously, there are many types of surprise exams – and Ill provide some advice for handling each type here:

Multiple Choice Questions
If you dont know the answer straight away, here are some multiple choice question tips:

  • If two answers are very similar, except for a few words, choose one of these answers
  • If the answer calls for a sentence completion, eliminate the answers that would not form grammatically correct sentences.
  • It two quantities listed are almost the same, choose one of them
  • If answers cover a wide range of numbers (1.3, 100.89, 1000,89), choose one in the middle range.

True and False Questions
Even though you have a 50% chance of getting these questions right, they can be really tricky, so read every word carefully. Here are some tips:

  • If any part of the statement is false, the entire statement is false.
  • Look for words like all, most, sometimes, never, or rarely. Those are important qualifiers upon which the question depends.
  • Absolute qualifiers like ALWAYS and NEVER generally indicate a false statement

Essay Questions
Write as if you expect your teacher to be tired, bored, and overworked. Make your essay well-organized and interesting – and youll win every time. Just make sure you answer the question.

  • Make a quick outline to argue your point (3 or 4 solid arguments)
  • Get straight to your point – dont write unnecessary sentences like there are a variety of interesting points to consider when answering this type of question.
  • Start your essay arguing the best point first
  • Answer common objections

*This post is inspired by a tweet sent to me from Arthus – who recommended an article like this be written. Thanks again for the recommendation.

If you have a suggestion for an article, please send me an email.

How to Cram for Final Exams

Its final exam time, and that means many students are having all night cram sessions right now.

Cramming isnt the best way to study, but sometimes its your only option especially if you havent been keeping up with your class readings.

Here are some cramming tips from around the web:

Divide up your time.

  • Figure out what you actually have time to do. Tally up your total study hours and estimate how much time youll need to spend studying each major concept, allotting the most time to the material you are least familiar with. Tackle the most unfamiliar concepts first, while youre still fresh, and save the material you know best for last. If you need to re-allot your time, donate more minutes to the lowest-ranked material to make sure you understand it fully.
  • Work steadily, but take frequent five- or ten-minute breaks to conserve your energy and avoid getting overwhelmed. Take a walk; get a snack and some fresh air. Move around often to prevent fatigue.

How to stay alert.

  • If youre having trouble staying alert while youre cramming, and you have no time for sleep, drink some coffee. If youre tired right before your test, drink some more. Caffeine aids mental alertness. Tea has also been proven to aid concentration.
  • Run up some stairs or do some jumping-jacks. Exercise gets blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
  • It has recently been proven that the smell of cinnamon and peppermint can help you stay alert. So chew on some gum if youre feeling worn out.

How to remember.

  • Recite, recite, recite. Recitation will burn facts into your mind like no other study method. Recite the material out loud until youre sure that youll be able to recall the information selected.

Study selectively.

  • You have to decide which information is most important to remember and concentrate upon those facts and ideas. Resist the temptation to try and learn all of the important-looking material. Youll need to use as much time as you have to remember the material youve chosen.
  • As you go through your notes, find important definitions, concepts and equations. If you dont know them by heart, write them down on a separate piece of paperyour cramming notes or, better yet, on 3X5 note cards. This will help you identify what you need to know, and youll have a handy set of flash cards. The process of rewriting may also help you memorize the content.

Eat a good breakfast.

  • Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Fueling up with nutritious foods will help keep your nerves steady and your brain engaged. Leave yourself enough time to give the test material one last review before you leave for school, but dont look at the material after that.

Think Again Before Erasing That Scantron Bubble

Theres nothing more frustrating than changing an answer on a testand then finding out your first instinct was correct.

In fact, theres a circulating theory that students should stick with their first answer on a multiple choice test, unless they are entirely sure that its wrong.

The theory says that your first answer is typically right.

Well, over the course of 33 studies, researchers have found that this theory is a complete hoax.

Heres what they found . . .

In an article in Mays Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 88, No. 5), the researchers present their findings that people buy into the first-instinct myth because it feels worse to change a correct answer to an incorrect one than to stick with an original incorrect answer. And that feeling makes changing right answers to wrong more memorable than a wrong-to-right change and therefore seemingly more probable.

The researchers examined the introductory psychology midterm exams of 1,561 University of Illinois students for eraser marks. They counted the number of times students changed answers and found that 51 percent of the changes were from wrong to right, 25 percent were from right to wrong and 23 percent were from wrong to wrong. Changes from wrong to right outnumbered changes from right to wrong 2-to-1, Kruger points out.

When the researchers surveyed 51 of those students for their intuitions on answer-changing, 75 percent expected changes from right to wrong to outnumber changes from wrong to righta sentiment proven false by the eraser marks on the students tests.

In further tests, students indicated that switching a correct answer to an incorrect answer is more regrettable, frustrating and memorable than failing to switch from an incorrect answer.

Its not that first instincts are generally bad or wrongjust that people are too conservative in changing answers.

Read more from the study . . .

Beware of These Tricky Words on Essay Exams

Ive taken tons of essay exams as an undergraduate and graduate student.

And one of the keys to answering the essay question successfully is to fully understand the question.

I know that sounds obvious, but youd be surprised how many students skim the essay question and start writing without paying close attention to the words. And thats a sure way to get yourself into trouble.

You see, your professor has spent time crafting the essay question. And he or she has used certain words to identify exactly what sort of answer you should provide.

Here are some common words used in essay questions that should signal to you how to respond:

Analyze
Discuss, examine, and interpret what you know about the subject. Back up your opinion with facts.

Compare
Examine two or more things and identify the similarities and differences.

Contrast
Show the differences.

Criticize
Criticism not only means giving your opinion, but it also means discussing and examining what you know about it.

Define
Explain the exact meaning of whatever is being asked. Be specific.

Describe
List the characteristics and break everything down into parts.

Discuss
This keyword is often thrown into essay questions all the time. This word entails: debating the pros and cons; comparing and contrasting; giving a detailed account

Explain
Make the idea understandable. Simplify and show your Prof that you really know this subject well.

Prove
Become a lawyer and argue your case well with facts. Think of objections and shoot them down.

Relate
Reveal how the ideas connects to a larger theme

State
Explain well

Summarize
Give a concise account of the subject

Trace
Provide an order of events for a particular subject or event

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How to Prepare Yourself for Final Exams – 5 Smart Ways

So were all about one month away from final exams.

And that means that its time to start preparing ourselves mentally for the exams ahead.

If youre taking four courses, then you probably have to write four final papers; review notes from 40 different lectures; finish reading 8 to 12 different textbooks; and find time to prepare for final exams.

It can seem overwhelming, but if you start preparing yourself now, youll feel a lot better about getting everything accomplished.

Here are 5 ways to help you prepare your mind and body for a successful final exam season:

Spend Time Studying for the Tests that Carry the Most Weight
Not all final exams and papers are weighted the same. Make sure you know what percentage each paper or final exam is worth to your grade. That will give you some perspective on how much time you should designate studying for each class.

Focus Your Time on Difficult Classes
If youre pulling a solid A in American Literature, then you obviously dont need to spend as much time studying for that class. Instead, spend most of your study time on the difficult classes where your grade is borderline.

Spend Time Reviewing Class Notes Now
Do yourself a favor and spend at least one hour per class reviewing class notes. That means youll have reviewed all your class notes in just 4-hours. Highlight all the areas that are important, and look at the syllabus to narrow down the key areas you should spend your time studying. By simply going over all your class notes, youll get a good overview of the specific areas you should start studying. This will also provide your mind with a good summary of everything youve been learning this quarter (or semester).

Organize Study Groups
Most students wait until the last minute to form study groups. And those group meetings often turn into cram sessions. To avoid this, organize your study groups now to go over class notes and areas that should get studied. Youll all feel ahead of the game if you start your study groups now – and thats a huge way to reduce stress during finals week.

Design a Study Schedule and Stick to It
Make a commitment to spend at least an hour a week (per class) to focus on the final exam. By setting aside time now to focus on the final exam, youre preparing your mind for whats ahead. And youll also find areas that you have questions about. This will provide you plenty of time to get answers from your professors.

Group Study 101 – How to Avoid Goofing Off

I love to study in group sespecially before an exam.

The only problem is that if you dont have the right people in your group, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And thats not helpful for anyone.

Here are some tips to help you avoid goofing off when studying in a group:

Find the Right Students
There are many ways to stay productive during a group discussion, but it all starts with finding the right people. I recommend selecting the members for your group yourself. You know who in your class participates in class discussions. You know who seems to be serious about their education. Its those people that you want to join your group. The more motivated everyone is, the better off youll be. I know its fun to join a group with a bunch of friends, but those are the types of groups where its easy to goof around and not study productively.

Limit Your Group to Under Six Students
The larger the group, the more difficult it can be to keep everyone focused. If the group begins to grow for some reason, I recommend splitting everyone up into groups of 5 or 6. I tend to find that small group sizes work better together.

Set an Agenda
Once everyone arrives for your study group, decide on a quick agenda (if it makes sense). An agenda will keep everyone focused on whats ahead, and what they should be concentrating on. Set approximate time lengths for each item, and try to assign various tasks for each person (depending on what youre studying). Sticking to an agenda is a key to good productivity.

Discuss Class Notes
If everyone is studying for a particular test, have everyone make copies of their class notes. Everyone takes notes differently, and its helpful to look at a range of notes from different student perspectives. Everyone will benefit from seeing everyones notes. This could also spark some great discussions on areas that should get studied.

Discuss Possible Test Questions
Tell everyone in your group to bring a list of questions they think might be on the test. These questions are a great way to get the groups mental juices going. If possible, email your professor or teachers assistant ahead of time to get a list of areas to focus on. All the questions brought to the group are a great way to keep everyone thinking about the exam. It will also highlight particular areas that need more attention.

Everyone Should Teach
Some students are going to understand test material much better than others. If it makes sense to the group, have each person talk about the particular area they know very well. Have them explain what they understand about the particular topic, and have them field questions from the group.

What are some ways you keep your study group productive?

How to Study Effectively – 8 Concentration Strategies

We found a killer list of concentration strategies for students.

This list is perfect for those who want to know the best way to cram for an exam. Check this out:

Eat Frequent Small Meals
Avoid eating a big meal before a study session. Too much food will send your body into a rest mode. On the other hand, dont starve yourself either. Frequent small meals are best.

Study When Youre Sharpest
Study according to your body-clock. Are you sharpest in the morning or at the evening? Schedule your most difficult materials when you are mentally at your best, and schedule the easier ones when you are mentally less efficient.

Drink Water Often
Drink plenty of water during a study session, especially when you feel sluggish. Caffeine may help you to stay awake, but it can increase your anxiety – use it in moderation.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable in Your Chair
Choose a chair that supports your back. It should be comfortable, but not too comfortable. Just like an athlete during a performance, your body should be relaxed, so that all your energy goes to where it matters – your brain.

Clear Your Desk of Everything You Dont Need
Have everything you need on the desk. Put away what you do not need for the study session. Seeing reminders of other assessments or domestic bills may increase your anxiety and distract you.

Take Breaks Every Hour
It is important to take a break before you feel tired and lose your concentration completely. Regular breaks at least once an hour helps to sustain your concentration. If the work is not going too well and you have difficulties in concentrating, you may need a long break and go back to it later

Stretch During Your Breaks
Know and respect your concentration span which will vary from hour to hour and from day to day. When you sit for long periods, gravity draws the blood to the lower part of your body. When you take a break, take a few deep breaths and get more oxygen to your brain: try walking around and doing some light stretching for a few minutes. It will help to release tension in your body, and help your circulation.

Study at the Same Time, Same Place
Study at the same time and at the same place, devoted to study only. This helps you to associate the time and place with studying and concentrating. You will find that you get into a habit of studying as soon as you sit down.

Check out the other concentration strategies . . .

Smart Ways to Answer Multiple Choice Questions

Weve all had to make guesses on multiple choice tests. Sometimes we guess right, but its really easy to guess wrong.

About.com posted some tips on how to answer multiple choice test questions. Here are some of our favorite tips:

  • Don’t second-guess yourself. If you make an educated guess the first time around, don’t go back and start changing your answers around.
  • When you narrow your choices to two, try each answer with the question to see if they both make sense. Sometimes you’ll find a hidden clue, like a subject/verb agreement that gives it away.
  • If all else fails, choose B or C! A few studies show that those answers are correct at a slightly higher rate than A or D.
  • Read the question carefully and think of an answer before you see your choices. Read the choices to see if your answer is there. If so, it is probably right. Read the other answers quickly to be certain.

Check out the other tips on answering multiple choice questions.

How to Deal with Exam Stress

We love The Student Room (the United Kingdom’s largest online student community) website.

They have a cool wiki project with students posting tips and advice on a variety of subjects—everything from anthropology to veterinary medicine. The wiki project just launched, and were excited to already see students submitting helpful content.

Anyway, they have a great collection of tips on how to deal with test stress.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • If your mind goes blank, don’t panic. If you worry and panic, it will make it harder to recall the information. Focus on some deep breathing for a few minutes. The information is there, you just have to get to it. If after relaxing for a few minutes, you still can’t remember the answer, move onto the next question and come back to this one later.
  • Don’t try to be perfect. We all want the best possible grades that we can get, but sometimes it just doesn’t work like that. If you think that ‘anything less than an A means I’ve failed’, then you are just creating unnecessary mountains of stress for yourself. Try to do your best, but remember that we can’t be perfect all the time.
  • The night before your exam, make sure you have a relaxing evening, doing as little revision as possible. Get a good night’s sleep, and try your best not to worry; you have already done all your revision anyway! On the day, make sure you have plenty of time to get ready, have a good breakfast and arrive at college or school in plenty of time.

Check out the rest of the test taking strategies to reduce stress.