So you only have a week before the ACT/SAT: Five Tactics to Master

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Written By Keith Brown

Here are five things you can master even if your test is this week!

1 POE

2 RTFQ

3 Blanks

4 Write stuff down

5 Sleep

1. POE is short for “Process of Elimination.”  These exams are, for the most part, multiple choice or as my Anatomy and Physiology professor used to say, “multiple guess.”  That means that there is one correct answer in a field of wrong ones.  Sometimes, it is easier to eliminate the wrong answers instead of finding the correct one.  For example, in the SAT English/Writing section, you may be able to spot GRAMMATICALLY incorrect answer choices, i.e. semicolons with FANBOYS, abused commas, or erroneous apostrophes.  In math, you may notice negative answers instead of positives or large numbers for small ones.

It is worth your time to look over the answer choices to eliminate any incorrect answers, efficiently narrowing your choices.

2. RTFQ is short for “Read the FULL Question.”  If I had a nickel for every time I needed to have students reread (or read) the entire question before they realize the mistake they made, Jeff Bezos would not be the richest billionaire in America.  Ok, maybe I exaggerate, but if so, not by much.  Sometimes, we need to slow down for a sec and read the question, so we can identify missing or mystifying facts from charts/figures/graphs.  Or, maybe we need to determine what the question is asking (i.e. x/y vs x, the diameter vs the radius, or the opinion of the author vs a character).

3. Blanks – Never leave anything blank.  While it is true that your score for the ACT/SAT is determined by the number of correct answers you give, they do not make any judgments on how you arrive at the correct answer. Points are not rewarded based on work shown. If you have 2 minutes left, and more questions than you can realistically answer in that time, pick a letter (or column on the ACT) and bubble in answers.  For most sections (math excluded), there are 4 answer choices.  This means there is a 25% probability rate that you could get it right.  Any additional correct answers you get can increase your score.

4. Write stuff down – I should have this plastered on my background.  Students (and sometimes myself) think we can do everything in our heads.  Well, that just increases our opportunities to make mistakes.  Mistakes lead to wrong answers.  Wrong answers lead to a lower score.  You can see where I am going with this. Making notes on the test in the math or reading section allows a student to focus on the problem step by step instead of trying to keep it all in their head.  Additionally, annotating in the reading section can help students concentrate on the relevant information to answer the questions.

5. Sleep – Not much of an explanation should be needed, but sleep is a crucial part of brain function.  High School students need approximately nine hours of sleep DAILY in order for their brains to function properly.  Most of my students barely get seven: in bed by midnight and up before 7 am.  If you would like to know more, please check out my earlier articles here and here. I strongly recommend students get 9 hours of sleep in the days leading up to the exam.  Not only can proper sleep improve brain function, but also it can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Well, there you have it.  If you have a week (or less) to prepare for the ACT/SAT, these five steps can help you prepare.  Good LUCK!!!!

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