The Best Way to Structure a Study Session

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Jake Davidson at Veritas Prep.

The mere idea of studying for the SAT sometimes sends students into fits of nervous anxiety. While the SAT daunts some, students can create a study schedule that will help them excel on the SAT. Since preparation is the most essential aspect of succeeding on the SAT, having a good study plan can help take your score to the next level.

In my experience, students work best when they structure study time the same way every day. This structure doesn’t include taking full-length tests. That should only be done on the weekends, at the same time you would take the SAT. When taking full-length tests, you should not have a phone on, and you should be keeping official time just as you would during the real SAT.

Any great study session should last approximately an hour. Make sure to turn off all distractions. Leave your phone in your backpack. Turn off your computer. Nothing should be able to distract you or take you off your game.

The first 15 minutes should be dedicated to vocabulary. Whether it is learning new words or reviewing old ones, fifteen minutes is ample time to improve your vocabulary skills. Vocab is area in which any student can experience a great jump in points, so dedicating time each day is prudent. When reviewing old vocabulary words, make sure to study first the ones you learned most recently. Many students make the mistake of going back to the beginning in each study session. While that will help you best master the first words you learned, it doesn’t allow for maximum exposure to the more recent words. To really excel on vocab, this is a must.

After reviewing vocabulary, take a quick two-minute break. Walk around or do some jumping jacks. Anything to get the blood flowing. With all the distractions in the world, a lot of students find it hard to focus on any one thing for an hour. This helps break studying into separate 15- and 40-minute increments.

The 40-minute increment is where the bulk of studying will get done. You can use this period to learn, practice, or review. If you are going to a do a practice section to improve math, I recommend doing it at the start. Time yourself for 20 or 25 minutes. Take a two-minute break after you are done. Then review the section. Find any problems you did wrong and look up those concepts in your test preparation booklet. Spend 10 to 15 minutes expanding on the concepts and doing a few more practice problems in the area of concern.

If you are still struggling with the concepts and problems at the end of the hour, make a note. When you start your 40-minute increment the next day, that should be the first thing you review. A lot of times, looking at something with a fresh mind will help the material really sink in.

If you are reviewing old tests, I would spend about 20 to 30 minutes on any one section. When reviewing these sections, find the problems that were hard for you or that you got wrong. Identify the concepts behind these problems. Once you do this and work on mastering the concepts, make sure to take some time to write out how you are solving these problems.

While it may sound silly and time-consuming, doing this over a long period of time will have an incredible effect on your test performance. All it takes is about an hour a day to really excel on the SAT. Now keep in mind, that it is an hour a day for three or four months. Not an hour a day two weeks before the test. Cramming doesn’t work on the test. Only spacing out your sessions, and making each one count will result in a great score.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources, including free SAT video lessons.