Studying in the SummerJul 22, 2021
Studying in the Summer
In 2018 ACT and College Board decided to offer summer testing dates. I was very hopeful that studying in the summer would help my students focus and free up time during the already overcrowded school year. After three years of offering summer test preparation and encouraging my students to study in the summer, the summer dates are NOT the answer I had hoped they would be.
Frame of Mind:
Studying in the summer does offer more flexibility, but that flexibility is a large part of the problem. For as long as we can remember summer has been for vacations, relaxing and giving your brain a rest. Studying in the summer requires a lot more dedication than studying during the school year. Families schedule “summer vacations.” Kids go to “summer camp.” Summer schedules change from week to week and we all know that summer goes WAY too fast. Getting in the proper state of mind to prepare for a test like the ACT or SAT is hard enough during the school year. It is even more challenging when your friends are headed off to the beach or your family has come to town for a visit. Studying in the summer is not for the weak. You need to face it with the energy of a warrior.
I am not saying students shouldn’t take the June SAT or the June or July ACT. I am saying BE REALISTIC! The June test dates are right after you finish your school year or for some students during their final exam weeks. Your brain can only do so much. Trying to take a standardized test while taking school exams is a heavy load. Trying to take a standardized test right after you finish exams is like finishing a marathon and then running a sprint.
Set a Schedule:
You need a preparation schedule as much as, if not more, for the summer test dates. The July dates are in the very middle of summer. You have probably taken a vacation or have one planned, or maybe you have been away at camp. Getting back in the test frame of mind will be a challenge. Recognize that preparing for these tests takes at least 6 and often 10 - 12 weeks. Get your calendar and cross out any dates you know you aren’t available. Now look at what you have left and schedule your time for preparation. This time is a commitment. If you want to score your best, you will need to honor this commitment like Olympic athletes honor their practice schedule. Studying in the Summer takes commitment.
Set a Long Term Goal:
We all perform more consistently when we have a goal. Setting a goal is even more important when you are studying in the summer because there are so many distractions. It is crucial that you know exactly WHY you are setting aside your precious summer time to study for this test. Once you have set your goal, keep it visible in your study area. If your goal is your dream college, get a bumper sticker or pennant and hang it above your desk. If your goal is your intended career, find a symbol of that and place it where you can see it: a stethoscope, scales of justice or other symbol.
Turn that goal into actionable steps:
Now that you have established your long term goal, set short term goals. For example plan to study 30 minutes 4 times a week. If you meet that goal, give yourself a reward. Skipping a study session is NOT a reward. I know that this may sound a bit silly but think about it. Don’t you practice harder right before a tough game or the end of the year recital. I bet you think about your grades a lot more at the end of the quarter than at the beginning. It is human nature to push harder when the end is getting close. Setting short terms goals keeps the end in sight.
Get the most from your efforts:
Studying in the summer takes a lot more discipline than studying during the school year. During the school year you are in study mode five days a week. Sure you have a lot more demands on your time, but your brain is already is study mode. If you decide to spend your precious summer time studying for one of these tests, make sure you get the most out of it. Be committed and ask your family and friends to be committed too. There are a lot of activities and studying in the summer will be a lot easier if you have the support of your family and friends. Every decision is what you make of it. If you decide to take the summer ACT or SAT, be ready to meet the challenges of studying in the summer!
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