You may have heard some old-timer tell you that “a carpenter is only as good as his tools,” or something like that. You won’t be crafting finely polished furniture, but there are still some essentials things you’ll need in order to get the most out of studying. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of beginning a study program, start by picking up these items. The same old-timer probably told you that “every journey begins with a single step.” Here, that step is a trip to Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
The Big Ol’ Blue Book
Oh, you actually have to do SAT tests to get better? Yeah, practice is funny like that. There are many popular prep books on the market, all from usual suspects: Princeton Review, Barrons, Kaplan, etc. However, most wizened SATers recommend the official College Board one. It’s written by the actual test makers, which hopefully means that the practice tests will be the most accurate and the study info will be the most relevant. If you’re one of those kids that burns through all ten free tests, move onto any of the other companies. They’re all arguably the same, so just get the cheapest one you can find.
Flash Cards – Boring But Useful
The word “flash cards” usually doesn’t evoke happy or fond memories in most students’ minds, and for good reason. Still, they’re the best way to memorize a list of items or information. Either buy a set of words from the aforementioned companies or make your own from difficult words you encounter. Regardless, you should aim to weed the giant stack of words down as the weeks progress. Set aside the more comfortable words and focus on your weaknesses. Believe it or not, many students have shared their sets on popular online flash card sites; just search around and you’ll get a free pile of tried and tested words.
DIY Formula Sheets
You could easily put math formulas and diagrams on flash cards, but many students find it easier to look them over together and reference them while working through problems. Whenever you learn a new technique or equations, jot it down on a blank 8.5” x 11” piece of paper. After passing through a bunch of tests, you build up an arsenal of weapons to take down any math problem. These can also be bought from test prep companies, but you should focus on what’s new to you, not the standard slew of formulas from math text books. This tool can also work for grammatical rules.
Everyone’s Favorite Question of the Day
As soon as you’re done reading this article, go to College Board’s website and sign up for the free question-a-day service. Each morning, you can leap out of bed and dash to your computer to answer the daily math, reading, or writing question! It’s like Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza/Festivus every single day! OK, maybe that’s a bit too far, but this is too good of an opportunity to pass up. If you’re the lazy type, this is a great form of self-discipline and daily reminder to study. See how many consecutive days you can go without missing one.
The Lure of Sticky Notes
What could be easier than slapping a colorful slip of paper onto a page? Use these to mark important sections in your prep books. Study again the page on dependent and independent clauses; revisit that reading section in which you scored 2/9. A neon-green flag poking out of the 700 page book will work much better than quickly making a mental note to come back later.
Your Self-Made Study Kit
As a previous blog post describes, make a personal SAT survival kit with essential items for the test: #2 pencils, erasers, calculator, batteries, timer, etc. Buy a special case for these things. The trick is getting them when you actually begin studying, not the Friday night before test day. Have it by your side whenever you’re studying, even if it’s just flipping through a few flash cards before practice. The more familiar you are with your test tools, they more ready you’ll be when you sit down for the real deal.
See if you can inherit or borrow these things from a recent graduate or older sibling. Testing and application fees cost enough without having to shell out for books and pencils. Of course, don’t pick up these things, call it a day, and blow off studying until the week before the test. This is just the first step, after which you should set-up a weekly study plan, contact a local tutor, or sign-up for a test prep service like SAT Habit.