We’re glad to hear that you are putting in the effort to study! That's the first step in this part of your college journey and you are already on your way. Tests are certainly not an easy time, but there is a lot you can do to work on improving your performance. The PSAT, SAT, ACT, and other timed examinations are special because they challenge you to present your knowledge and understanding in very limited time. These tests also are a way to universally gauge college readiness (and is a serious element of your college applications, no doubt).
While good grades on homework will certainly help you, there are some ways to practice especially for standardized tests that can help you function to the best of your ability on test day.
- Recognize that standardized tests aren't monsters. You can do it; resources are much more available now than ever before to help you succeed. These tests are designed to determine what you know and what you need to work on (yes, they help you). One way to think of it is this: Challenges provide you with new opportunities to practice overcoming other challenges that will arise.
- Get motivated. I've experienced a lack of motivation, and when it happens (I try not to lose motivation), it makes it much harder to have fun and enjoy what you are doing. Sometimes you just need a little nudge or jolt to get you going (maybe some of your favorite music or show). Ultimately, if you aren't feeling it with your studies, you don't have a desire to work on it and improve, which can't lead to success because you likely won't end up following through or will work very slowly. Once you have the motivation, the rest becomes simpler and the path opens up.
- Figure out how you are doing. Take a practice test and see exactly what you need to work on. You can practice using the Official Khan Academy SAT Practice (it's really awesome).
- Identify the questions you need to review. Once you know what questions you need help with, start learning/reviewing skills and practicing them. You can use answers to help you understand what aspects of the questions you need to figure out.
- Practice working under timed conditions. The standardized tests cover a lot of skills in a short amount of time, so being able to solve problems and read quickly are very important to work on. I suggest timing yourself on mini-sections (even if there is no built-in timer).
- Improve your stamina for the tests. Although tests move quickly, you are working for upwards of 3 hours with minimal breaks. Not everyone is used to working hard for that long, so by practicing your skills in the form of full-length practice tests, you can build up that endurance for test day and be better equipped to show your true potential in your work. Think of it this way: How would you train for a marathon? If you don't build up the strength necessary to succeed, you cannot logically do well. If you practice for it and build up leg strength and master your breathing control, success is much more likely for that marathon. Although the SAT doesn’t include any physical activity, it’s a marathon of its own.
- Practice bubble-filling accuracy. Sometimes students will unintentionally start marking their answers one off and end up doing poorly because they simply did not pay attention to their answer document. Make sure to work on the bubbling in some way and ensure you are accurate every time.
The steps of college applications aren’t a breeze, they are certainly achievable with dedication and effort. If you focus on improving your skills, you can totally knock the test out of the ballpark. As long as you remain calm, cool, and collected, the test won't break you (neither will anything else), and you will be on your way to tackling the challenges of the future.
You can do it. Everyone is behind you, including Khan Academy and all of us here in Support Community. We are here to help and guide you, but ultimately it is up to you to do your best, push your limits, and reach for a successful future.