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Each week, the coaches from Milestone Academic Counseling offer timely advice for high school students in the Princeton area.

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2 comments - Last on 01/18/2011

Fundamentals of SAT Preparation

It’s January, and that can mean only one thing: It’s time for high school juniors to start preparing for the March SAT. Needless to say, the mere thought of sentence completions and data analysis problems makes the Milestone Team jump out of our seats with excitement. We do realize our enthusiasm may not be universal, particularly among high school students. Nevertheless, an SAT score has the ability to open (or close) a lot doors, so preparation is important. To get started, here are a few tips that we use to get our students ready for the test.

1.       Plan your attack. Even if they start early, students err if they prepare haphazardly. Start rigorous preparation 10-12 weeks before the test, and take the time to devise a solid study plan.
2.       Record your progress. We have our students designate a single spiral notebook for all their SAT material. This helps them keep track of what they’re learning and how they can improve. It also helps with motivation, because they can see how much progress they’re making.
3.       Schedule a regular study time. Make an appointment with yourself for the same time each week, and hold yourself accountable. It’s easy to procrastinate unless you establish a pattern early in your preparation. Your parents will be happy to help you keep your study date if you ask them.
4.       Practice in the testing environment.   Practice scores can vary widely depending on the level of stress in your environment. By practicing in a place that recreates the feel of the real test, you get a more accurate measure of your capabilities. This often means leaving the comfort of your kitchen table, where distractions abound, and finding your way to a quiet corner of the library. Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need, like your SAT notebook, calculator, and practice problems.
5.       Learn the vocabulary. Who doesn’t love learning new words? If etymology doesn’t get your blood running, we don’t know what will. Studying hundreds of new words may seem daunting, but questions designed to test vocabulary can account for 50-100 points on the test. Furthermore, a better vocabulary will improve your reading speed and comprehension, helping you gain points elsewhere. 
Even if you’re not looking forward to the SAT, you can ease the stress by preparing effectively. With a deliberate approach to test preparation, you can enter the test ready to put your best foot forward. 
Milestone Academic Counseling offers Academic Coaching and SAT Prep to high school students in the Princeton area. Staffed entirely by graduates of Ivy-League schools and their peers, we offer both one-on-one and small-group instruction. (609) 751-1677.

Moderated by Jake Cornelius.

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Love this information.  Hate the anxiety that comes with SAT/ACT.  How does Milestone feel about meditation for teens?  I think there's an untapped market there . . .

becoming quickly unnerved mother of an 11th grader

Many of our tutors have participated in sports at a high level, so mental preparation is something we think about a lot.  It's certainly true that a student's emotional state plays a major role in his or her performance on test day.  Some students are mature enough to manage this on their own with visualization, breathing exercises and the like.  Others benefit more from simply having someone they trust reassure them; they go into the test confident, but this confidence stems from external reinforcement rather than from a conscious decision on their part to enter a positive emotional state. 

Often students who are athletes or performing artists can relate to this challenge if it's framed the right way.  There are a lot of situations in life that demand a high level of focus (think final-minute free throws, violin solos, and public speaking), and people at any age are rarely too relaxed at crunch time.  As you imply, the challenge is usually staying composed under pressure.

We think the best way to prepare for these situations, both on the basketball court and in the classroom, is to recreate the testing environment as accurately as possible.  This means recreating the emotions you anticipate feeling on test day by using the power of the imagination.  What does it feel like to wake up early on a Saturday?  How does it feel to sit in a room full of your nervous peers, waiting as the test is handed out and you fill in your name and address?  What does it sound like?  Do you hear your neighbors scribbling as you stare helplessly at the first question, or is the clock ticking too loudly?  What about when they put their pencils down, you notice they are finished, and you have 15 questions left to answer?  Make your palms sweat, if you can, then collect yourself and go to work.

We were all told as kids what an asset a good imagination can be.  What an opportunity to put it to use!


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