Standardized test prep and fun are not terms that ordinarily mix. Students don’t typically associate studying vocab, taking practice tests, and getting ready for the high stakes exams with a party. Well guess what? Prepping for standardized test CAN BE FUN! Here are five ways:
1) Change your attitude. Like most activities in life, it all starts with your attitude. If you think studying for SATs/ACTs and taking practice tests will be dull, tedious, and otherwise painful, they will. On the other hand, if you look at these activities as opportunities to become a better all-around student, to raise your scores on tests that really count in the admissions game (even though they don’t really measure anything worth measuring), and to master a body of material that, in the end, is good for any college-bound student to master, then suddenly your work has deeper purpose. With the right attitude, you’ll discover a sense of true meaning and begin to invest more energy and much more productive time in the whole enterprise. How you think about test prep is vitally important. Remember what Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”!
2) Have a Routine and Chart Your Progress. It’s no fun to lose. Everyone prefers to win. Duh. This simple truth explain one of the primary reasons why many students refuse to study and practice for standardized tests—the fear of failure, the dread of losing. The good news is that with proper preparation, everyone can win at the game of standardized tests, and equally good news is that you can see your progress as the process unfolds. The keys are to have a regular practice routine (see the links below for “The Secret Magical Formula to Cramming for SATs and ACTs” and “The Secret to High Scores on the SAT & ACT Revisited”) and to chart your results after each practice test. CPE students, for example, use Bi-Weekly Daily To-Do Checklists, which affords them both a regimen of studying specific material and taking practice tests and a little endorphin rush every time they put a check in a box, and then enter the results of each practice section in a simple “Student Progress Chart.” Knowing that your knowledge base is incrementally deepening and seeing your score inch toward your goals are great ways to make the whole process a lot more rewarding and enjoyable!
3) Use Online Resources. See blog, “Quizlet.com: Fun, Free, and Effective.” Playing games and quizzing yourself online to learn vocab and math facts and skills are obviously a lot more fun than poring over books and other printed material. Moreover, students report spending more time on task when they’re playing games and using quiz sites, and more time on task always translates to higher scores in the standardized testing world.
4) Make It Social. Find a “study buddy,” or several study buddies. Sign up for a class together or make your own small study group. Knowing that a few close peers are in the same boat and rowing in the same direction not only bestows a modicum of useful friendly competition, it also makes the journey more enjoyable for everyone involved.
5) Give Yourself Plenty of Chances and Relax! Since you only have to send the test results you choose to colleges (see blog, “Standardized Test Reporting”), make sure you don’t stress yourself out by taking only one SAT or one ACT, knowing it will have to “count.” Every student is more relaxed and has more fun on a test that only counts if it helps his or her overall average—I KNOW this as a classroom teacher for more than two decades—and standardized test takers are no different: start early and take the exams often, stopping when you get the score you’re looking for. In the case of college-bound test-takers, start in January of your junior year and plan to take one college entrance exam (SAT or ACT) every month until you reach your goal. Knowing you have several chances to do well will help you feel relaxed and make the 3.5-hr test-taking marathon a lot less torturous. (For more on staying calm and reducing general test-anxiety, listen to CPE’s last “Prep Talk,” “Managing Stress in the College Admissions Game”) see CPE’s Mindfulness-Based Test-Anxiety Reduction Workshops).
For more on the topic of enjoying your standardized test prep, listen to “Prep Talk” with CollegePrepExpress with test prep expert, K. Tichenell, author of the recently published book, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, College Prep English Practice, as we discuss ways to make your test preparation more meaningful, enjoyable, and—yes—FUN!