Summertime is Test Prep Time

On June 26, 2012, in ACT, Assessment, SAT, Test preparation, standardized testing, by Scott Cronenweth

With so little time available for yet more studying while school is in session, summer is perhaps the most popular time to prepare for standardized tests. In particular, summer is the perfect time for high school juniors to begin preparing to take the ACT or SAT test in the fall. The same goes for seniors who are planning to take either test again.

Summer is also a great time for SAT Subject Test prep, which can be important for college-bound students. Likewise, summer is a popular time to build core skills in math and reading in preparation for taking achievement tests. This is especially important for seventh graders who will seek admission to competitive high schools.

Then there are the standardized graduate school admissions tests like the LSAT, GMAT and GRE. And younger students might need to prepare the PSAT or a high school entrance test. Altogether, it seems like practically every student in America, whatever his or her age, might potentially be in the market for some test prep this summer!

Summer learning programs

Many students also enroll in summer learning programs to help offset the “summer slide” and avoid regressing academically when not in formal classes. Some experts feel that students can lose one month’s worth of skills on achievement test scores during summer vacation!

Presumably this is due to a lack of opportunities to reinforce skills. More and more schools offer summer programs for this reason. Even if a student is not enrolled in test prep per se, a summer program should help slow and reduce skill loss and thus enhance test preparation and test performance.

More and more school districts are now making summer learning mandatory, or at least offering free or low-cost programs.

Planning for test prep

What’s the most effective way to undertake summer test prep? The key is “don’t start without a starting point.” What are a student’s strengths and weaknesses? What is it most important to work on? Learning analytics and reports are an ideal – and cost-effective — way to help students identify which tests they will perform best on, and help refine and focus their preparation for fall test dates.

Once you know where to focus your energy you can develop a study timetable. Students studying on their own will need to plan out goals and make sure adequate time is devoted to all areas of the test. Don’t forget to include study time with friends to add some fun and share experiences and ideas.

Next, practice your time management. Most if not all standardized tests are timed tests, so time management skills are vital to optimal results. Practicing test-taking strategies is also important – and YouTube is a great place to find good guidance.

Of course, you need to practice the above skills in the context of exam practice. Students are advised to take full-length, timed practice exams at least once or a few times as part of their summer test prep. Practice exams can help build confidence, provide data for assessment of skills and progress, and give you a “learning history” to track and analyze.

In your experience, what steps makes for effective summer test preparation?

Featured photo courtesy of Newton Free Library.

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