Practice exams are a crucial component of preparation for college admissions tests.
STUDENTS OFTEN DO NOT relish the thought of taking a practice test before a real exam, but this is a critical step in test preparation. Making the time to complete one or more "test runs" can improve your score on the ACT or SAT, especially if the results of each test are used wisely in order to identify appropriate study actions or strategies.
Here are three crucial reasons to carve time out of your schedule for a practice exam.
Practice exams may lessen test anxiety. The unfamiliar can be frightening. One of the very last things you will want to experience during the ACT or SAT is feeling off-balance because the exam is conducted differently from what you imagined. Students who take the ACT or the SAT without first completing practice exams may not know what pace is required to finish on time, for example, and this can cause anxiety.
In addition, proctors will be reading instructions on test day. While some of these instructions are common sense, others may surprise students who have not thoroughly researched the format of the exam. Knowing exactly what to expect can help you feel secure in your knowledge so you can focus on getting as many questions correct as possible.
Should they feel anxious on test day, students who have taken a practice test can remind themselves that they know what they are walking into and have taken the time to prepare. This should help them feel more confident.
Practice tests can help with motivation. It can be challenging for students to try their hardest on the ACT or SAT when they are not sure how hard they must try in order to reach their goal score.
By taking a practice test several months before the real exam, you can analyze your results to determine what areas need improvement and attention. This will allow you to set an appropriate study plan.
A practice test can also motivate students who need to improve by a sizable amount to start early and commit fully to studying. When you know what areas need improvement and how much improvement they need, scheduling study time can seem more important.
As an added bonus, if you do extremely well on a particular area on your practice test and do not need to improve to reach your goal score, you can save time reviewing that area.
Practice exams can help you synthesize knowledge. The ACT and SAT are about content knowledge, strategy and speed. Missing any one of these three items can have a negative impact on your score, and practice tests are one of the best ways to ensure all three are aligned.
The aspect most commonly neglected during regular practice is timing. Students can easily form a habit of completing problems in the most familiar way possible without considering if it is also the fastest way. Even students who have learned various strategies and timing tips sometimes do not practice using these strategies, which means they are not ready to use them on test day under pressure.
For example, a student who realizes there isn't enough time to finish ACT or SAT math without using guessing strategies will thus be motivated to change the approach to exam questions. It is not always possible to reach this conclusion and synthesize knowledge in this way without practice tests.
In short, taking a practice test well in advance of a scheduled ACT or SAT date should be standard practice for all students looking to achieve their highest possible score. This allows students to set realistic study schedules, tackle their fears, build confidence and make sure their plan for how to approach the test is working, with enough time to make modifications as needed.
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