How Test Prep Changes More than Your SAT Score (Really!)
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When you're prepping for the SAT or ACT, it can feel like you're devoting a lot of time to a single goal. More time studying pays off as a better score, right? Well, yes—but it also pays off in a lot of other ways! The next time you're feeling down about the time you're spending prepping for a standardized test, keep in mind that there are way more benefits to the time you're putting in than you might think.
1. It makes you a master of time. One question per minute; one question every thirty seconds; an essay in 40 (or 50) minutes. Time is a big issue for a lot of students prepping for standardized tests, and with good reason: the more questions you answer, the more points you're likely to receive (provided that you answered them correctly). It's really useful to know exactly how much work you can get done in different areas in a given period of time. Need to give a one-minute introduction to a speech in the future? Now you'll know what one minute feels like! Only have an hour before your essay's due? Now you'll know what kind of essay you can write in 50 minutes. More than just time, though, test prep has another big advantage…
2. It makes you a master of time management. For the vast majority of students, test prep isn't something that they undertake leisurely or because they're bored. Instead, it comes on top of many other commitments: homework, family, sports…the list goes on. Finding the time to prepare for a standardized test helps you find the "extra" time in your day and helps you maximize that time once you find it.
3. You learn when to cut your losses. There's a certain point past which more work on a particular problem isn't going to make a difference. Furthermore, when you spend too much time on a tough problem on the SAT or ACT, you waste time you could otherwise spend answering other, easier questions correctly. Life lesson!
4. You learn when to take a different approach. Just as you figure out when to cut your losses, test prep can also show you when looking at a problem in a different way (and/or coming back to it later) can help you solve it. Struggling with a geometry question? Look at the shape differently (and find the triangles!). Having trouble with an algebra problem? Rewrite it in a different form and see what becomes clearer.
5. It shows the benefits of persistence. Even though it's really (really) common for test-takers' scores to plateau at some point in the prep process, you'll generally see progress while taking regular practice tests. This is pretty reassuring in a world where not every venture pays off right away! But in test prep, you can see big results when you just keep going.
6. It helps you take things in stride. You're pretty sure you got the last question wrong? That passage was frustrating? Oh well! You have to move on to the next question, so leave it behind you. You can't let a single question throw off your performance for the rest of the test—a mindset that will be useful in life, too.
7. It makes you more thoughtful. Maybe you love to read for fun but never thought about breaking down a reading passage into its component parts before. Maybe you always went with what sounded good and never thought about grammar or parts of speech. Standardized tests force us to read in different ways—and this, in turn, forces us to think in different ways, not only about what we read, but also about the world around us.
Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about test prep and admissions for Magoosh. She has a BA from Brown University, and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (PhD). She has taught and written about test preparation and admissions practices for over a decade.