Tag Archives: practice

Whatever scores you or your child have recently earned on important tests, you probably want to see improvement. Honestly, just about everyone–from the testing elite to those barely scraping by–aspires to greater achievement. Unfortunately, the path to next level performance doesn’t always look that appetizing. How can a test taker who fell short of his or her score goals improve those scores? How does anyone get better at anything challenging and worthwhile? How does a pianist improve speed, timing, and precision on difficult pieces? COACHING AND PRACTICE How does a runner increase speed while building endurance? COACHING AND PRACTICE How does a baker create more consistently elaborate and delicious confections? COACHING AND PRACTICE How does a baseball player improve batting average? COACHING AND PRACTICE How does a potter expand the size and volume of pots thrown while maintaining quality? COACHING AND PRACTICE How does an actor master all of the…

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Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are long… really long. These exams feel far more like marathons than sprints. The marathon comparison may actually be unfair to the famous run, as elite race winners finish their 26.2 in less than 2.5 hours. At 3.5 hours each (without the essay, of course) the SAT and ACT demand much more, at least mentally. Like marathons, these long tests challenge a participant’s body, mind, and will. So what do marathoners know that test takers can learn from? Mimic the Course Runner’s World suggests that, when possible, you start doing training runs on the same topography as the marathon. “For example, go up and down lots of hills if you’re running New York City, and get used to several hours of pancake flatness if you’re running a course like Chicago.” The benefits of simulating your race day challenge in training matches up well…

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Have you ever observed someone whose excellence seemed effortless? You may not imagine yourself in this category, but we exhibit moments of effortless excellence all the time. Consider a task as simple as driving. When we first learn how to drive, the entire process seems bewilderingly challenging. I learned to drive in midtown Manhattan during the morning rush and could not conceive how my brave instructor expected me to change lanes without slowing down while whipping past taxis and buses on 5th Avenue. More than a million miles later, I don’t hesitate to make that same drive while, at the same time, adjusting the radio, carrying a conversation, and actively questioning what I’m doing on Museum Mile during rush hour. The journey from roadkill to Road King begins with a basic inability to grasp how difficult the act of driving really is. Once a neophyte gets behind the wheel, however,…

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What if you could go to the gym once and be fit for the rest of your life? Or you could have one conversation in a foreign language and be entirely fluent? The sad truth is you can’t. There just aren’t shortcuts to success. What’s more, imagining the possibility of such outcomes might, in fact, be the thing that holds you back from actually accomplishing these sorts of goals. When you look around at successful people—in any discipline—what you don’t see is the months, years, even decades of hard work and incremental improvement that brought them to where they are. Mastery, it turns out, is not so much about innate ability (though that helps) or sudden revelation (even if artists sometimes depend on this) but something more akin to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. But, what’s going on in those 10,000 hours exactly? Hard work, a little luck, and trust in…

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In a world of uncertainty and subjectivity, one objective, undeniable truth stands out: better takes practice. What athlete or artist would deny this? Yet, we sometimes hesitate to apply obvious lessons to stressful situations. How else to explain how many students take important and challenging tests like the SAT and ACT with no preparation whatsoever? The College Board has observed this disconnect for decades, watching high schoolers pour countless of hours of practice into extracurricular activities while complaining how impossible the SAT is. Sure, the SAT is really difficult if you don’t prepare, but then again, so is performing in a high school musical or competing in club soccer. Everything worth doing is tough until practice makes it easier. The College Board’s campaign to raise awareness of the connection between preparation and production is titled Better Takes Practice. While the overt intention of this campaign is to push adoption of…

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No one who lived through the 80s could forget Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Robin Leach’s encomium to American opulence. But wealth, at its best, offers much more than lavish mansions and gold-plated yachts. Once life’s necessities have been taken care of, parents and children alike are free to dream, to plan, and then to devote resources to achieving even the loftiest of aspirations. And what is more aspirational than college admissions? The SAT might have been created to democratize college admissions but the oft-reviled exam has, in recent decades, been condemned as a “wealth test” or, even worse, a Student Affluence Test. However, critics who point out the correlation between student success and parent income tend to unfairly minimize the contributions of the former in favor of the latter. Anyone with experience in standardized testing can assure you that scores cannot be purchased. Wealth may open access to…

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