You’re meeting with a coach, working through practice tests, and counting down to your scheduled test – but you’re not seeing the improvements you’d hope to see. What gives? Even if you have the best test prep intentions, there are a few common mistakes you might be making that will keep your score from rising. These are four big reasons why you may not be making the test prep progress you want.
You are cheating.
The term “cheating” has a nefarious connotation, but it’s not uncommon for test prep students to cut corners without bad intentions. Whether you’re blatantly cheating – like Googling the practice test answers or skipping straight to the answers in the back of the book – or just “completing” your homework by circling answers without reading the questions, you aren’t just cheating on your work – you’re cheating yourself. Yes, that’s a cliché, but it’s also the truth. When you don’t take the time to read the questions and utilize the strategies you’re taught, you’re not actually mastering the process or storing anything into your long-term memory. You’re not engaging with the material, and you aren’t doing yourself any favors in preparing for the ACT or SAT. Like it or not, you must put in work every single week to see real progress.
You’re not putting effort into your homework.
The weekly homework assignments are designed to help you master different strategies and become a test-taking pro when the test date comes around. It can be tempting to cruise through the questions using whatever strategy (or lack thereof) you’ve used in the past… but that isn’t going to result in improvement. If you aren’t using the strategies your coaches are teaching you, you probably won’t see substantial progress.
In the same vein, when you’re asked to go back and revisit missed questions from previous tests using your notes from the session, that’s an opportunity to become a much stronger test taker. “Guessing” is a strategy that might be OK while watching Jeopardy! but guessing is not your best strategy on the ACT or SAT.
You aren’t timing yourself.
It’s one thing to calmly work your way through a practice test on your own time. It’s an entirely new ball game to work through the actual ACT or SAT while the clock is ticking. In order to adequately prepare for the real deal, you need to time yourself every time! All of the test prep strategies in the world cannot help you if you’re unable to manage your time while taking your exam. There is a timer on every smart phone in the world – use it!
You make excuses – and allow your parents to make excuses for you too.
“Their schedule is just too packed for the amount of prep they really need.” “I’m just not a good test-taker.” “The testing atmosphere is just too stressful.” Whatever the excuse, it is exactly that – an excuse. That is not to say that high school schedules aren’t hectic, some students excel more than others on these types of tests, and testing anxiety isn’t real – however, these excuses can impede improvement. Why dedicate so much time to learning strategies and taking timed practice tests if you (and your parents) already have ten excuses in your back pocket? Drop the excuses entirely and see what happens.
You’ve probably heard the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This applies perfectly to test prep. If you don’t practice, incorporate new strategies, time yourself, and push past your excuses, you’re doing the same thing you’ve done and you’re going to get the same results. Your coaches are here to show you what to do – but in order to see the progress you want, you’ve got to put in the consistent work.