Category Archives: Test Prep

We’ve long promoted the necessity of sleep for teens and analyzed the causes and remedies for test anxiety. Yet, the recent research uncovering a connection between the two still came as a surprise. Researchers from the University of Kansas wanted a better understanding of the relationship between sleep, anxiety, and test performance, particularly how their mutual interactions unfold over time: “(Nancy) Hamilton and graduate student co-authors Ronald Freche and Ian Carroll and undergraduates Yichi Zhang and Gabriella Zeller surveyed the sleep quality, anxiety levels and test scores for 167 students enrolled in a statistics class at KU. Participants completed an electronic battery of measures and filled out Sleep Mood Study Diaries during the mornings in the days before a statistics exam. Instructors confirmed exam scores. “The study showed ‘sleep and anxiety feed one another’ and can hurt academic performance predictably.” Was reported test anxiety a valid predictor of academic underperformance?…

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As feared, the coming of fall this year has also brought a surge in COVID-19 infections. Fortunately from a testing perspective, test sites for the August SAT should remain open in most areas. Our Annotated Test Day Checklist already includes a facemask, and it looks like you’re going to need it. As per College Board, here’s what you should expect when you arrive to take the SAT: All students and staff must wear a mask regardless of vaccination status upon entering the test center and throughout the duration of testing. We recommend you bring a spare. You won’t be allowed into the testing center unless you are wearing one. You’ll be required by test centers to be seated at least 3 feet away from other students. Check your test center’s website for any additional health and safety measures so you’ll be prepared to follow them. If you don’t feel well…

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While summer will always be my favorite season, this time of year presents particular challenges for educators. Every student and family carries particular learning or prep goals into the summer, but– far too often–other plans and priorities push academics to the end of the year. We always see a flood of students seeking to compress months of prep into the final two weeks of August, usually right up to the August SAT. But can months of prep and practice really be condensed into a shorter time frame? Not really. Yes, students with sufficient motivation and time can accomplish a ton in a short period. Yes, students can work with their coaches to interleave instruction, practice testing, and review into a productive daily rather than weekly sequence. Yes, prepping at the last minute is better than not prepping at all. But no–you can not expect to improve at the pace of…

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The traditional testing paradigm has high school juniors struggling to fit SATs and ACTs in at the end of the academic year, just as Spring Break, APs, finals, prom, and creeping summeritis set in. Some traditions deserve to be consigned to the trash heap of history along with bull fighting and jello salad. Instead, embrace a new way of looking at testing: juniors should test as early in the academic year as makes sense based on their goals and activities. For many juniors, that philosophy reveals September as the perfect time to take the ACT. Seniors, of course, are already lining up in droves for the September ACT. The traditionalists who took the June tests–at least the ones who didn’t plan for the July test date–have been waiting for months for another crack at the test. Testing in September presents plenty of upside with minimal risk for 12th graders. September…

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A sophisticated college-level vocabulary is so last century, at least as far as the SAT, ACT, and possibly colleges themselves are concerned. The priority for today’s academics and knowledge workers is graphical literacy. ACT was actually ahead of the curve on this one with the data-rich Science Test, but College Board only got the memo in the last decade. The 2015 revision of the SAT Reading section jettisoned the last of the discrete vocabulary questions in part to make room for a new and unfamiliar–at least to the SAT–addition: passage-based graphs. The Reading section of the current SAT presents 52 questions across 5 passages covering a wide range of topics. Test takers can expect 3 of those passages to present natural and social science topics, and these passages can include a total of 3-4 graphs. Usually each passage will hold 2 graphs but sometimes a single one appears. The most…

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When one considers the many reasons why students fail to earn their test scores, each factor seems susceptible to a chemical solution. Depressants might take the edge off anxiety, whereas stimulants and study drugs could provide the boost needed to power through tough questions. Considering how complex and challenging some test questions can be, couldn’t the mind-expanding properties of psychedelics be a potent secret weapon. In a word, NO. Sure, you may say, some people sit for high stakes tests while drunk or high. Chelsea Handler famously admits to taking her SATs on acid, and things turned out very well for her. Then again, she didn’t even go to college. In fact, I couldn’t find any evidence of beneficial outcomes of controlled substance use during standardized testing. Even vaunted study drugs and cognitive enhancers hurt rather than help test performance. Non-prescription use of prescription drugs like Modafinil or Adderall impairs…

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