Follow a Summer Study Plan to Maximize SAT Preparation

Make studying for the SAT a fun and productive part of your summer routine.

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Reading literature is a natural way to broaden vocabulary and improve SAT results.

October's changing leaves and SAT dates might seem far away in these early summer days, but the weeks and months speed by quickly. For students planning to take the October SAT, summer offers an opportunity for a slow and steady approach to test preparation.

The following summer SAT study guide provides students with a plan to make the most of the summer months.

1. Organize a study plan: A roughly 12-week summer study plan allows students to retain a lot of material. Because of that extra time, a plan should be tailored to the student's strengths and challenges with SAT topics. The best way to assess the focus of a study plan is to first take a practice exam.

Before the Fourth of July, students should take a timed practice exam in a test environment. Students should score the exam using three colors to identify the areas where they experienced low, middle and high levels of difficulty.

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The next step is to note the following three tasks on an easily visible calendar, and carry them out for the first five weeks of study:

• Three days per week, take partial, timed exams focusing on your most challenging sections.

• Two days per week, practice untimed questions in your midlevel areas.

• Practice your strong areas for 30-60 minutes a day in fun ways.

Over the course of five weeks, use the colors from the previous timed exam to note which types of questions shifted from high to medium to low levels of difficulty.

Summer is also your opportunity to master two important tricks and skills for the SAT. First, memorize the top SAT vocabulary words, such as the top 200 words on Quizlet. Second, learn to simplify math problems with the plug-in method. This strategy involves inserting a number to get a value when math problems mention integers such as "x" or "y."

A great deal of success on the SAT is not only knowing the materials, but knowing how to take the test. Techniques like the plug-in method for SAT math mastery take time to learn – something summer study provides. More information on test-taking techniques is available through online sources and books.

2. Take SAT study on summer adventures: SAT prep is very portable, and it can be fun. Gather up some crossword and Sudoku puzzles, a beach or hiking blanket and enjoy the summer weather while you study.

Puzzles require the key skill of creative critical thinking, which helps keep a student's mind nimble while also stepping outside the SAT format.

Excerpts of internationally recognized journal articles and early 20th-century literature make for great on-the-go summer study sessions. Reading Scientific American or a short story by James Joyce might not be the same as following the Kardashians on Twitter, but it helps students develop an ease with sophisticated writing, which can increase reading comprehension and vocabulary.

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Social studying plans heighten morale, so invite others to join your study plan. Play Scrabble to boost on-demand vocabulary skills. Have friends challenge you with math or grammar flashcards.

3. Gear up for game day: Around week six, students should take a second timed exam and capitalize on their improvements. Note how much of the exam you completed when time expired. Score the exam, but also finish the rest of the questions untimed. Adjust your study calendar and spend less time practicing items that have become easy.

From weeks seven to 10, practice by taking two sections per week under timed conditions in your remaining high-challenge areas, one per week in midlevel areas and one untimed practice session in low-challenge areas. Make sure also to include one entire timed essay section each week, even if the essay poses a low level of difficulty.

Around the end of August, consider signing up for SAT tutoring for help with any continuing trouble spots. Even one or two sessions can help open up creative solutions for studying roadblocks on a given section.

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During the last two weeks of September, adjust your study calendar to accommodate three timed exams. Just like any activity that requires conditioning for success, SAT prep includes building the stamina it takes to sit for almost four hours.

The more frequently students experience test-like conditions, the more agile they will be on test day. Mimic those conditions by taking the test at any location that will challenge your concentration and help you refine your focus.

Starting SAT prep now will help you take a deliberate approach and avoid scrambling to prepare during the school year. Those puzzle-beach-blanket days will be worth it in the end.

DeAnna Rivera is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York — Stony Brook and a J.D. from the University of Arizona.