Test Questions, Single Passages, Entire Sections, and Full Practice Tests: What to Do When Preparing for the SAT or ACT
Single Passages*: There are two great reasons to do single passages.
First: you’re refining your test-taking taking techniques and strategies and getting a sense of micro-pacing (how long one passage should take).
Second: You’re trying to maintain your skills while focusing the bulk of your prep time on other subjects or are particularly limited in your prep hours. You probably won't improve as much this way as you would doing multiple passages by virtue of exposing yourself to fewer questions. But it is a valid strategy when you simply want to maintain your skills.
Do not limit yourself to single passages! Doing so creates an extra hurdle once you're taking full-length tests.
*Within the Math sections (which don't have passages), you might focus on the first half if you’re trying to minimize careless errors or the second half if you want to get better with the harder questions.
Entire Sections: Entire sections should be your default when doing test prep during the week. They give you the chance to practice the full length of the section and get a sense of overall pacing—how it feels to move through the section in its entirety. With longer sections like the SAT Reading section or the ACT Math section, it also gives you practice concentrating for an extended period of time. For an added challenge, do two sections back-to-back to strengthen your ability to focus for even longer stretches.
Full Tests: Do full-length tests on the weekend when you have enough time to take the full 3-4 hour test. This is your chance to build endurance for the official test day. Give yourself the opportunity to notice the challenges that arise two-and-a-half hours into the test so that you can experiment with different ways to manage your attention and energy on future full-length tests.
But that’s not all… Always schedule time to review what you’ve already done! It’s the only way to optimize for the time you invested when doing the passage, section, or test so that you can be better next time!
If you find it challenging to review questions, have trouble transitioning to working for longer periods of time, want expert guidance on what to do relative to your strengths and weaknesses, or simply want to elevate your test prep, now is a great time to reach out to a tutor or coach. Find information about my test prep programs here and ask your parent to sign up for a free consultation here. Once I've spoken with your parent, you and I can schedule a free consultation, too!
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