Smarts pair as naturally with standardized tests as peanut butter does with jelly (or chocolate or Nutella or marshmallow fluff, am I right) It’s smart to take the SAT or ACT if you want to attend college. It’s smart to prep for the tests. Smarts can carry you far on these reading, writing, problem solving exams. But to earn your best possible score, you must be more than smart; you need S.M.A.R.T. goals.
S.M.A.R.T.–as you smarties probably realized–is an acronym inspired by Peter Drucker’s business writing that eventually expanded to all manner of applications. SAT and ACT might not be acronyms anymore, but every letter in S.M.A.R.T. stands for something powerful:
SPECIFIC – State simply and sensibly what you want to accomplish.
MEASURABLE – Establish meaningful smaller mini-goals to measure accomplishment.
ACHIEVABLE – Set your sights high but within the limits of ability, time, and resources.
RELEVANT – Pursue a goal that is reasonable and realistic for where you want to go in life.
TIME-BOUND – Give yourself time, but set a sensible deadline for accomplishment.
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals eliminates the flaws that routinely undermine our best intentions. No matter how motivated you are, your chances of achieving meaningful objectives that are vague, subjective, unrealistic, irrelevant, or untethered to a timeline are minimal at best. Defining the what, where, when, why, and how of progress outlines a powerful path to success.
Just the act of defining S.M.A.R.T. goals can push progress forward. According to Gina Thackery, Director of Innovation and Deeper Learning at Thrively, people who set goals are more likely to accomplish them, even if they don’t actively pursue them. However, establishing a daily practice to achieve established objectives obviously brings those big dreams much closer to becoming reality.
What do S.M.A.R.T. goals for the SAT & ACT look like? Consider this set of objectives for a typical student who commits to effective preparation:
SPECIFIC – Work with the best tutor or program available to earn a test score meeting or exceeding the 75th percentile range for my target colleges.
MEASURABLE – Take practice tests every 2-4 weeks to measure incremental improvement.
ACHIEVABLE – Increase my scores 150-300 SAT/2-6 ACT/20-30 percentile points.
RELEVANT – Improve my chances of earning the acceptance/program/scholarship I want.
TIME-BOUND – Earn my target scores on the official tests 2-4 months away.
Doesn’t this plan of action sound more realistic and action-oriented than the typical undefined intent to earn higher test scores? Be smart about test preparation with S.M.A.R.T. goals!