3 Tips for Building an SAT, ACT Spring Break Study Schedule

Meghan Moll

If you, like many high school students, put off studying for the ACT or SAT because the prospect of college seems distant, you aren't alone. When students take on schoolwork, extracurriculars, athletics and a whole host of activities, it can be challenging to find the time or energy to review for standardized tests.

Spring break may seem like the worst opportunity to increase your preparation time, but there are several advantages to using that week of vacation to study. You will be able to study during typical class times as well as have a reprieve from extracurriculars and a change of scenery, even if it's simply escaping your high school.

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You will likely have a full week of break plus the weekends before and after to study. But even this is not unlimited time, which means that you must devote yourself wholeheartedly to readying for a spring or summer test date. Follow these suggestions to maximize the days you do have.

1. Gauge your learning needs: Completing a full exam under realistic testing conditions is a task you will need to cross off your checklist on the first day of your break. Knowing from the outset where you stand on the various sections of the test will aid you in developing your spring break study plan.

If your first day off is a Saturday, purchase a study guide before that date and sit for a practice exam on Saturday morning. You will need several hours to do so.

Once you complete the test, grade yourself. Grading is just as important as taking the test. You only grow from mistakes if you know you committed them and take steps to learn what the right answer should have been.

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After scoring, you can assess which specific sections of the exam are your largest weaknesses. Rank the sections from most difficult to easiest based upon your scores and lay out a study plan.

Spend Sunday and Tuesday working on untimed problems from the most difficult sections, Wednesday and Thursday working on the portions that are moderately challenging and Friday working on your strengths. Use the following Saturday to review all the sections and to sit for a second timed test. If you have truly committed yourself, you will see the improvement from the first to the second complete exam.

2. Work in the mornings: Setting aside your mornings for review leaves your afternoons and evenings free and provides your days with a sense of accomplishment. If you are like most teenagers, you will want to sleep in until noon -- fight that urge!

Working when you don't have to forego entertainment options makes studying for the ACT or SAT slightly more bearable. Wherever you happen to be, exercising your brain early will free the rest of your time to spend lunch with friends, work on your tan or do sightseeing with family.

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3. Celebrate hard work: By the second Sunday of spring break, you will have ideally covered a great deal of ground. Celebrate your accomplishment by doing something special on your last day of vacation.

If you're on vacation, visit the site you most wanted to see on the trip, indulge in several scoops of your favorite ice cream or learn a new skill like salsa dancing. Identifying a reward to look forward to will keep you on track and provide immense satisfaction at the end of a long week of test preparation.

Meghan Moll is a professional science, math and ACT tutor with Varsity Tutors. She has a degree in biomedical engineering from St. Louis University.