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Standardized test prep can get incredibly monotonous.

There are only so many 25 minute essays about finding success in failure one can write before exploding. One escape from the monotony of carrying a 400-page book everywhere you go is to find new methods to study and, in doing so, create a different (perhaps better) approach that will keep things interesting. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Older Practice Tests

My tutor once told me that he was saving all of the tests he had accumulated over the years for his kids to use one day. While sections are added or taken away over the years, the major tests do not change all that much and regardless aim to test the same skills as they did 20 years ago. By saving tests from siblings, cousins, or even kids a few grades ahead of you, you can be sure that you will never run out of new questions more or less similar to the ones that will come your way on test day. (Also, maybe be the one to save tests instead of burning them in a sacrificial bonfire after you’re done with them? Just a thought).

Try the Other Test

Most students choose to take either the SAT or the ACT fairly early on, but they forget that the differences between the two can be fairly marginal. Yes, one has a science  section and the other requires an essay, but they both have math, English, and reading sections. By trying preparing for your test using the other test, you can look at your own test from a different perspective. Who knows, you may even find that you like the other test better, or even that you might want to try taking both and see which one you achieve a higher score on.

Prep from Different Tests

Whether it’s the ISEEs, GREs, or LSATs, all standardized tests are designed to train certain basic mental skills. While you will not get the exact same reading passage type or sentence correcting sections, looking at tests that test similar skills can help you hone some elements of your abilities that will help with those sections. Additionally doing the lower level ISEEs or the higher level LSATs can be useful at the beginning and end of test prep to meet you at your level.

There’s an App for That

There are dozens and dozens of apps geared to help with standardized test prep, but some of the most obscure ones can be the most enticing. I loved a Hangman app I had that used only SAT words, and once I had guessed the word, the app would link me to the definition. I found that extending the process helped me to really remember the word and what it meant. Other more focused apps range from SAT question of the day to vocab flashcards to complete or partial tests you can do on your phone. While apps don’t exactly mimic a testing environment, they’re better than nothing, and are good for a quick dose of the SAT during a break between classes or even commercials.

Ultimately the goal is to get you to practice in the best way for you. By exploring some of these alternative options you can really tailor your test prep to focus on what you need to work on. Additionally, every little bit helps. If you can do a few minutes a day of vocab Hangman in addition to your regular prep, it really adds to your vocabulary knowledge. Whether you’re at the end of your time in the land of college standardized tests or just beginning, never be afraid to explore different approaches to what can sometimes be stale material.

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  1. Jenny V. on February 2, 2015

    Try your public library! 🙂

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