Preparing For the SATs Like a Marathon Runner

Find out the similarities between a standardized exam like the SAT and a marathon race and how the same methods of preparation can be applied to both. The SATs are strenuous both mentally and physically, but with the right exercises you can maximize your potential and guarantee focus come test day.

The SAT exam is known for many characteristics. There’s the quantitative section, verbal, the vocabulary that you need to memorize and math formulas that you need to study. Years after taking the test the only memory you will have left, however, is the length. It is for this reason to not only study the content on the exam but also condition yourself for the test like environment. Knowing how to solve every math equation will not help you if you run out of time to answer all of the provided questions. General fatigue is also a great concern. Imagine doing anything for several hours sitting still in one place. In some countries it could be considered a form of torture. Fear not and know that if you prepare for the exam the right way not only will you breeze through it but you will actually feel ready for the two to four year marathon of college that follows.

  1. Practice Speed Reading

    A standardized exam is as much a mental test as it is physical. Any time a test is presented under limited conditions, such as test taking time, you are forced to perform at a pace that might not be natural to you. The best way to circumvent this limitation is to change and enhance your natural abilities. The ability to comprehend test problems and deduce answers is trained through completing practice exams and working with a qualified instructor in a test-prep course. This involves thinking and is difficult to train and requires a lot of time. What you need to also train are your reflexes, such as reading. Increasing the pace at which you can read will cut your test taking time and give you a longer opportunity at working problems out. To increase the speed at which you read you need to take a page from a book and time yourself as you read it. Attempt to read the next page and beat your previous time. Continue this pattern. You are forcing your reflexes to behave quicker and thereby training yourself to read faster.

  2. Time Your Practice Tests (With Less Time Than the Exam Allows)

    The same technique used to enhance reading speed can also be used to enhance test-taking speed. There is a difference between reading and test-taking, recognize this difference and work on both techniques independently. Take a SAT practice test at your normal pace, don’t worry about the clock, although you should be timing the exercise. Once you complete the exam, check your test-taking time and begin assessing your score. Mark both figures in your test-prep notebook (absolutely get a test-prep notebook). The next day, and you should leave a day in between to allow your mind and body to rest. Test-taking fatigue is a real condition and overworking your mind and body will have the opposite effect on your test-preparation. The next day take a practice test again but this time instead of a stop-watch set an alarm, with 15 minutes less time on it than the time it took you to complete the exam the previous day. Again compile your score. Continue taking the practice test at this time scale until you improve your score, once your score has been improvised begin taking the practice test but with 15 minutes less time on the alarm clock. Continue practicing this exercise until you are content with your score at a time that is 30 minutes less than the allotted time you will have on the actual exam. You always want to be conditioned for harsher conditions than you will have at the actual event. The goal is to feel so relaxed with the amount of time you will have on the exam that you are left stress free in terms of a clock and are left to focus entirely on the questions at hand.

  3. Little Victories

    In marathon running there exists a highly recommended strategy to maintain mental health during the grueling duration of the run. This strategy is to divide the marathon into segments, set smaller segments so that each victory feels closer and easier to reach. Several hours of an exam can be monotonous and draining, lowering your energy and cause you to lose focus. By focusing on completing a single page of questions as opposed to the entire test you have less to worry about and can actually see your goal. Completing a page of questions is a victory, a good feeling. Follow that accomplishment by aiming to complete the following page, and section. By dividing the exam into smaller portions you make the test more manageable. Mental health is very important because energy levels are dictated by how you feel. Sitting still several hours is not that strenuous of a task, however, can feel like torture the more you don’t want to be there and feel like you won’t reach your goals. The little goals you set and reach are little victories but little victories raise energy whereas a large source of anxiety will only act to lower your energy. You create a situation where your mind sees the cup as half full and feeds your motivation to accomplish your goals.

The key to successfully running a long race is conditioning. The same exercises can be applied to standardized tests because any test lasting several hours is not just a mental strain but physical as well. Fatigue can affect focus and concentration resulting in sloppy mistakes and a lower score. By conditioning your body to maintain focus over the course of several hours you allow your mind the freedom to exhibit the results of SAT test-preparation. It is important to utilize a qualified test-preparation service to ensure that you have a strong grasp of the concepts that will be found on the exam. Your mind and body working together will almost guarantee a higher score and a better chance at acceptance to your preferred school.