7 Study Habits to Help You Prepare for the ACT or SAT Exam

Student with poor study habits asking for helpStudying is one of the biggest challenge for many students. You’re basically on your own to figure out the right approach. Not knowing how to prepare for an upcoming exam can be frustrating. Studying for a standardized test, like college entrance exams such as the ACT, SAT, GMAT or GRE, can seem even harder. Like any skill, good study habits can be learned and with some practice and discipline, studying gets easier and you’ll see a clear difference in your test score or grade.

Try these 7 study habits to optimize your test prep study time and help you get the result you want:

  1. Location, Location, Location Where you study is just as important as when or how. Pick a quiet place, away from distractions. High traffic areas, such as the kitchen, or areas with distractions like the living room in front of the TV are bad ideas. Sometimes a neutral place helps you focus on the task at hand. An alcove at the school or public library can be a great place to get in some solid study time. Your own room is fine, as long as you make sure to minimize distractions. Make sure you have plenty of light to avoid eye strain and preferably a desk so that you can easily read study materials and write down notes (and maybe be less inclined to fall asleep than if you study on the bed).
  2. Student taking a study break by stretchingManage Your Time – Yes, there is a such thing as too much studying. Set a defined amount of time in which to study during the day, focusing on the subject at hand. After that time, move on to other tasks. You will retain the information you learned better that way. The trick here is to keep to the schedule, and don’t skip sessions and then fall behind.
  3. Take a Break – The workplace “coffee break” is there for a reason. Our minds process a lot of information and without breaks, it can get jumbled up and not ever filed away properly. Without time to process the information, your brain’s ability to retain the information and to understand it at a deeper level is reduced. Taking a short break every 45 minutes or so can help you to “reset” your brain. Physical activity during the break is important to improve blood flow and increase oxygen to your brain: stand up and walk around, do a bit of exercise, grab a drink of water (hydrating is important for your brain too).If you can go outside for a breath of air, try focusing on a distant hill or cloud – this is actually restful for your eyes and brain, especially if you’ve been staring at a computer screen.
  4. two students studying togetherFind a study buddy – Studying with a buddy can actually help you study harder. If you have friends in the same class or taking the SAT or ACT along with you, partner up and study together. You can set a timer and enjoy breaks together.  And, you can quiz each other on important topics to make sure you both understand the material covered. Make flash cards or a practice test to give each other. Just set some rules about quiet study and stick to them and you’ll have a great time.
  5. Take Notes –  Why take notes when most tests aren’t open-book, and standardized tests certainly don’t allow you to bring notes? Well, writing something down requires you to commit brainpower to the act of doing so, and you are more likely to remember something important that you wrote (this is called kinetic learning – learning by doing in a physical way). Muscle memory from writing a specific piece of information can make all the difference when you run into a difficult question. And you can use your notes in short summary review sessions of your own which will help you recognize and re-memorize the information that you thought was important or particularly difficult for you.
  6. Female student taking notes on laptop while studyingMnemonize to Memorize – Okay so “mnemonize” probably isn’t a word, but developing a mnemonic to help with particularly difficult acronyms or strings of words important to a concept can make it much easier to remember them. For example, in biology class you might need to remember the order of animal classification- Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species (an African Lion, for example is:  Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Carnivora, Family: Felidae, Genus: Panthera, Species: Leo). This order of classification could be memorized with the Mnemonic “Please Come Over For Gaming Soon” with each word’s first letter matching the order of the memorized words. Give this a try when you’re facing a memorization challenge.
  7. Pay Attention to Questions you Missed – On practice exams, school assignments or other tests, pay attention to the questions you got wrong. If you go back to your textbook and review the topic, or for math or science, re-do the problem and solution, taking the time to get the right answer (even though it won’t change your grade), you’ll be more likely to get the information right the next time. Treat each error as a learning experience and make corrections so you don’t make the same mistake twice. You will discover what you find are your weak areas and then be able to focus your studying on those topics.

When it comes to good study habits for exam prep, a good tutor is trained in good study and test prep techniques, such as finding and focusing on academic weaknesses. Z Prep! offers personalized tutoring programs for every standardized test, adapted to your study needs. Contact us today for more information, and happy studying!