Tag Archives: practice

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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If you know anything about Chariot Learning, you know that we love practice tests. A quick scan of our Events Calendar reveals one common element for our many, many proctored practice SAT & ACT exams: no matter where we run these tests, they are held in the morning. But why? Because the official SAT and ACT are also administered in the morning. Effective deliberate practice requires conditions as close to the real thing as possible. Just as athletes scrimmage on regulation fields and performers rehearse on the big stage, test takers want to replicate all the elements of an official test. Of course you want to use official test material and set a stopwatch, but even factors like where and when you test impact the quality of your practice. We strive to simulate test day conditions as closely as possible within reason. For example, we administer tests at our office,…

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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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How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You probably know what the old joke says: Practice, practice, practice. Really, practice is the only way to get to most destinations worth aspiring to. And not just any practice will do. Only perfect practice makes perfect, so if you want to improve, embrace the right kind of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice for standardized tests depends on high-quality practice testing and targeted review. In fact, if you don’t take practice tests, you’re not really doing test prep. Practice tests (and review) unlock all kinds of benefits, including some you wouldn’t even expect, as long as you take them right. Proctored tests, like the ones we run at our office as well as partnering libraries and schools, incorporate most of the elements of perfect practice. But if you can’t make one of those opportunities, you can still optimize your own practice test if you…

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