The January SAT is often the last chance for seniors applying to college to earn their needed scores and for juniors, their first foray into the world of college admissions testing (if they haven't already started).
While students may not want to spend their winter vacation studying, they should still plan to use some of their time off to prepare and maximize their scores so that once school starts back in January, they're not as stressed.
Here are some tips for Jan. 24, 2015, test takers:
1. Take a full-length practice test. Visit sat.collegeboard.org to get the official 2014-2015 practice test. Set aside at least four hours of uninterrupted time and try to imitate the exam day as much as possible. Students should follow the time limits exactly for each section, use a watch to time themselves, and take a five-minute break after every other section. Follow the scoring directions carefully.
2. Strategically use the results of your practice test. Which area (reading, math, writing) is the weakest? Within that area, consider which specific skills need the most work. In critical reading, for example, do you need to understand more about vocabulary in context, main ideas of passages, or how details relate to one another? In math, do you need more practice with certain math concepts such as data interpretation or integer properties? Use print and online resources (textbooks, quiz portals, etc.) to find additional problems for practice. Don't try to work on all the content areas during each practice session. Set up a schedule to focus on one concept or two at a time.
3. Review your PSAT score report. It indicates which specific skills students need to improve upon as they prepare for the SAT, and the answer section indicates the difficulty level of questions students answered correctly and incorrectly. The PSAT also tells students how to access My College QuickStart, a personalized online tool that allows students to review incorrectly answered questions and the answer explanations. The tool also gives students access to additional practice questions based on the ones they missed on the PSAT, thus helping students focus on areas of needed improvement.
4. Practice in the mornings. Afternoons and evenings can be used to reward yourself for achieving your study goals.
Sheba Lowe Brown is a Durham mom of four, a former long-time teacher and owner of A+ Test Prep, which offers test prep, study plans, tutors and other academic help for students.