5 Tips to Help You Balance SAT/ACT Prep with Finals

The following is a guest post written by Hillary Gan of Varsity Tutors.

studying for finals

Finals are quickly approaching, as are college application deadlines, but meeting your goals for both is still very possible. Assessing the amount of work, the overlap in subject areas, and creating a realistic schedule that avoids burnout are all methods to properly coordinate standardized testing preparation while studying for finals.

1. Have a plan

No matter when you begin, having a realistic understanding of what you need to accomplish and how long it will take is essential for approaching your studies. Consider what your goal is for the ACT or SAT and research how many hours of study that will require; then check with your teachers about what the final will cover and estimate the workload for finals. Add up the hours and distribute them over the days you have before your test. Does the amount of time per day seem reasonable? Are you giving yourself enough time off during the week? If not, consider what adjustments you could make to your goals that would result in a more achievable schedule.

2. Tailor your plan to you

Make sure that your study plan takes your personality and circumstances into account. Do you study more effectively right after school, late at night, or even when you get up? Can you study at home, or will it be better to schedule trips to the library where you can have peace and quiet?

Also, be aware of the weight of each test you’re taking. Is this your first SAT or ACT, or are you just trying to bump your score a little? What percentage of your final grade is your final exam compared to your homework? Consider these factors when determining how much time you’ll spend on each subject.

3. Combine tasks

One simple adjustment is to consider overlaps in subject matter. For example, practicing for the essay section of the SAT can potentially be combined with essay practice for your English class, or the science sections of the ACT might align with your biology final. However, don’t just assume that the math section and your pre-calculus final will cover the same questions. Work with a parent or teacher to identify subject matter similarities ahead of time.

Also, take note when your homework addresses material that you expect to see on a final exam or standardized test, and spend a little extra time connecting the homework’s concepts to your study material.

4. Change it up

When you implement your study schedule, don’t plan on spending too many large chunks of time on one subject. Doing so can lead to burnout or leave too much time between your study date and the test date. It might be best to schedule 30 or 45 minute chunks of time on each subject, and aim for two or three subjects during a session. Make sure to take breaks in between; studies show that proper short breaks help increase productivity.

5. Evaluate your progress

Sometimes life gets in the way. Track your progress with a calendar or scheduling app, and if you find yourself struggling, take a step back and reassess. What can you cut, and how can you get back on track? Do you have just one busy week that’s throwing you off, or do you need to account for other factors in your overall schedule?

The end of the semester can be a stressful time, but keeping perspective and having a solid plan will get you through to the other side and help you meet all of your goals. Good luck!

5 Ways to Prepare for Essay Exams