Even if you are a math genius. Even if you have the gift of magically comprehending every reading passage you’ve ever read, at the first skim through. Even if you know every vocab word, every grammatical point, every geometric rule – the SAT and the ACT can still be tough tests, if only because of their sheer length. It takes incredible endurance to rock out these standardized tests, and your endurance muscles are way different than your math and English muscles.
The SAT, with its ten sections, lasts three hours and forty-five minutes. The ACT, broken into only four sections and an optional writing, can stretch closer to four. Four hours of answering question after question, constantly applying your mind to difficult inquiries that have been designed to push you to the bounds of your cognitive ability. It doesn’t matter who you are – after these mental defenses have been pounded with missiles for long enough, they’ll start to crack. That’s when you start making silly mistakes – multiplying when you’re supposed to add; skipping over the part that says “all of the following EXCEPT”; missing obvious grammatical mistakes.
Shore up those defenses by practicing with full-length practice exams. In the Victory Step classroom course, we expect our students to take four practice tests over the length of the class. You can try this at home, too. Make sure you’re timing yourself in these practice tests to ensure that you’re getting a good grasp of what you have time to worry over and what you don’t, and then strap yourself in for the full length of the exam. The longer you can answer questions without your head spinning, the better.
Taking the actual SAT or ACT isn’t the only way to build this endurance. You can practice with your homework, too. Instead of taking small breaks in between each assignment, try working straight through for as long as possible. Try increasing your intervals each day! Start with thirty, then go to an hour, then longer. This is building your endurance. Read your Faulkner and your Shakespeare without stopping every page for a congratulatory trip to the refrigerator, answer your math problems without checking Instagram in between each one, and don’t even think about watching TV while running your Spanish flashcards. All of this is building your attention span and strengthening your mental endurance.
Enough of this mental weight lifting, and you’ll find yourself ready and rearing to go for the actual test. Make sure you get enough sleep and pack a sweater, and you will find yourself answering questions with ease from beginning to ease! Who knows – after the test’s over, you might even crave more!
By: Catherine Martin