Once again, we have reached that oh-so-special time of the year, of spring, and sun, and flowers, and not getting to enjoy any of it because we’re stuck inside studying for exams. AP, IB, SAT, ACT, SAT, Subject tests . . . all conspiring against us ever having any time to ourselves to enjoy the wonderfully dreary and wet springtime for which our city is famous. This is my set of suggestions for surving exam month.
Start studying early, and study often, but in bursts, not in long chunks. If you start studying and preparing in mid-February, you can study each subject in shorter periods of time. This means less mental fatigue, and so, more retention.
Study in different places. Science has shown that, if you study in the same place every time, your brain has nothing new to make connections to. If you instead move around (at the library one week, the kitchen table the next, the backyard, and so on) your brain will have more assoiations with each topic, making it easier to remember what you learned, heading off that awkward “I know I knew this” moment of test day.
Before the test, get a good night’s sleep. Don’t cram. IT WILL NOT HELP!!!!! If you don’t know the subject by the day before the exam, one more night won’t help, and it will probably hurt. In a similar vein, eat well, stay hydrated, and make sure to watch some TV, read a novel, listen to some music, and relax however you see fit. If you can come into the test calmly, not strung up from hours of last minute studying, you stand a much better chance of working quickly, efficiently, and, above all, correctly.
Finally, don’t just study the material. Study the test itself. Find some tests from previous years, and do them in a situation as close to the real thing as you can manage. This way, when you walk in on test day, it won’t be the first time you’ve seen the test, and so you’ll be able to spend your time answering things, not figuring out what the question is or what it means.
This is easier than you think! Try LearningExpress Library (linked from the bottom of that page). It’s a free resource on the library’s website–you’ll just need to log in with your library card number and PIN. It lets you take free practice tests for just about any standardized tests! A pretty amazing way to figure out how you’re doing, and where you need to improve. The library also offers SAT or ACT practice books (as well as lots of other college prep resources). However you do it, make sure you study both the material and the test. Don’t wing it, because it won’t work.
— Aiden, Teen Center Advisor