Before I roll up my sleeves and dive into any ACT and SAT concepts or sample problems with my students, I make it a point to take a step back and get a gauge of each person’s perspective on their overall performance on previous college entrance exams. Oftentimes, I hear the proverbial “I ran out of time because I lost focus” or “I just stumbled across the finish line on fumes.” When I hear this, I know the issue is likely not a matter of a lack of subject knowledge or test taking technique. These responses lead me to believe that the main driver of the wrong answers is more about a lack of mental endurance training.
Test taking endurance has to be built well before the ACT or SAT testing date. With the athletes that I tutor, I often refer to the analogy that games are won in the 4th quarter. This principle is no different when it comes to standardized tests and college entrance exams. The ACT and SAT test makers are notorious for inserting the more challenging questions in the later phases of each section (let’s say for the sake of simplicity, the last 5-7 questions). If your son or daughter lacks the necessary energy to do the mental pushups to get these final questions right, then he or she is just giving points back to the test maker and chucking Hail Mary’s at this critical juncture of the exam. The best SAT and ACT prep coaches should approach helping students beyond just giving them sample questions. Below are a few basic lifestyle choices that I encourage my students to adopt in the months leading up to the exam.
If I am being honest with myself as an adult and parent, I am not that surprised when I find out that my typical high school student often doesn’t eat breakfast on a school day. Without being too overbearing, I always recommend to my students to have at least 3-4 meals a day, including breakfast, and an easily accessible snack (trail mix, yogurt or a granola bar) to keep energy up through the end of the school day. Furthermore, I often stress to them to keep their Yetis or Hydro Flasks close by to stay hydrated. Over time, your child will start to perform at an optimal level and build endurance that will translate to favorable results on test day. Gone will be the days of missing critical keywords or “hot words”, such as “Except” or “Not” in a given question because of a lack of focus. Now, your child will be in a better position to succeed in the later stages of the ACT and SAT with time to spare!
To a typical high school adolescent, the notion of getting enough sleep is a lot easier to say than actually commit to on a nightly basis. Usually, texting friends, passing time on various social media platforms, staying up to play Fortnite or even cramming for an AP Calculus test hinders my students from getting adequate sleep. While study help and tutoring for high school students are part of what I do to improve academic performance, I also try my best to encourage them to factor in sufficient sleep into their daily schedules with built in buffers to just be a kid.
Daily exercise keeps the mind and body fresh to conquer any of life’s challenges. This lifestyle habit comes relatively easy to the athletes and dancers that I tutor. For students who don’t have built-in exercise through extracurriculars, I encourage them to throw their earbuds on and go for a jog, bike ride or walk to just clear their heads. This is a healthy way to relax and do some self-reflection on what’s relevant in their oftentimes evolving and challenging lives. Keeping active reduces the stresses of life and enhances one’s overall physical and mental well-being to overcome any obstacle that any standardized test may present!
Remember, the best ACT and SAT prep partner will try to encourage high school students to adapt healthy habits when it comes to approaching college entrance exams (and life in general).
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