December 18, 2018

How to prep for the SAT/ACT when your schedule is already full

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Sometimes it all feels like too much.  Tough classes to power up your GPA, extracurricular activities and volunteer projects to boost your resume, scholarship applications to bank the needed funds...and then you’re supposed to study for hours to score in the top percentile for the SAT or ACT exams?

You probably won’t find the time, but you can make the time to prepare for the SAT or ACT.  Make a plan that you can stick with and make your study time fun and convenient.

Make a plan

You will feel less anxiety–and be more productive–if you have a study plan for the days leading up to the test.  Set realistic, achievable goals by organizing your schedule. Figure out the big picture first:

  • How many days do you have until the test?
  • How many of those days could you expect to study? 
  • How many minutes each weekday/weekend could you do?

Do a practice test to figure out the details:

  • How much emphasis/time do you need to give each section?  
  • What specific skills or objectives do you need to learn?  
  • How can you adjust to get faster with the material you know?

Be consistent and try to keep to your plan, but stay flexible.  Don’t give up just because you missed a session or two. You can try to make up the time, but don’t stress–it’s not good for learning.  Keep the big goal in mind and keep going.

Make studying more fun and convenient

Using an app can be a great way to study on the go.  When you’re sitting in a long commute or waiting at the doctor’s office, just 15 minutes is enough to get some practice in.  Plus, having only a short amount of time can motivate you to work on getting faster. Choose an app with a timer and one that keeps track of what you have covered or how you have improved.

Join an online community or set a goal with a friend to keep yourself accountable.  Use friendly competition to stay motivated.

When you’re not feeling “in the zone,” look for passages or problems that have some interest for you.  Do the boring/hard stuff when you’re in the right mindset and can push yourself. Or when studying in busy places, pop in your earbuds and switch to memorization or review tasks.

Remember the realistic goals you set?   Reward yourself for keeping to your plan or for showing improvement.  When you reach a goal, celebrate--and then keep going.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

It’s not easy to make SAT/ACT studying a regular part of your schedule, but you can make it happen.  In the end, when you get the skills and scores you need, you’ll be glad you did.


The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE®) is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB®) and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME®).

ABIM® is a registered trademark of the American Board of Internal Medicine. ABFM® is a registered trademark of the American Board of Family Medicine.

NCLEX-RN® and NCLEX-PN® are registered trademarks of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc (NCSBN®).

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SAT® is a registered trademark of the College Board. ACT® is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc.

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