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Preparing for the ACT or SAT exam is hard work, but there are things students can do to make it easier, more productive and less stressful. The first is to know your learning style — be it visual, auditory or kinesthetic-tactile — and how to study in a way that supports and complements it.

Take the quiz below to learn more. The results won’t just help you prepare for your college entrance exams but for future standardized tests too.

If You’re a Visual Learner

To study for the SAT or ACT, embrace your inner organizer by creating a binder dedicated to test prep. You can start by dividing it into the test’s different sections. For example, for the SAT, it could be:

  • Reading, Writing and Language

  • Math, No Calculator

  • Math, Calculator

For help with math, try watching tutorials online. Khan Academy SAT Prep answers most test questions by solving the problem on a digital blackboard. Not only can you see the problem-solving process in the moment, but you can also take a screenshot when it’s completed and save it for the next time you may be stumped by a similar problem — just looking at it might jog your memory.

For the verbal section, consider creating your own flash cards rather than downloading an app. The process of writing them out yourself aids learning and retention, and you can add visual cues and notes as you go along. As for reading comprehension, remember that highlighters are your friend. But if you really want to take things to the next level, experiment with creating a visual index for each story. This means writing down the gist of each paragraph in the margins (we’re talking five words tops or drawing icons or simple pictures that capture the essence of what you’re reading), so you can refer back when answering specific questions. It might sound time-consuming, but once you get the hang of it, it can become automatic and save you precious minutes.

If You’re an Auditory Learner

Consider finding a study partner who’s also an auditory learner as you will both benefit from reciting flash cards aloud, asking each other questions or just talking things out. When you are studying alone, try repeating things out loud or in your head, verbalizing concepts as if you were talking to someone else or recording yourself. Making the effort to articulate thoughts and ideas will make a difference in how you acquire and retain knowledge.

You’d probably find an SAT or ACT class or tutor helpful, but if that’s not feasible, try watching YouTube tutorials, such Veritas Prep College or Khan Academy SAT Prep, to mimic the in-class experience. If you’re stuck and need someone to talk to, try posting a question on a message board (College Confidential is a good place to get quick answers). Engaging with another person, even in a nonverbal fashion, can help you work through a problem in your head.

When it comes to the reading section, your instinct may be to read aloud, but since you won’t be able to do that on test day, it’s best not to get accustomed to it. Instead, summarize each section as you read through it by jotting down a word or two in the margins. Reframing the story in your own words will not only help you retain information, but it will also create an index you can refer back to when answering specific questions.

If You’re a Kinesthetic-Tactile Learner

For starters, you want to create the optimal study environment. Your bedroom is probably the best bet, as it’s a space where you can control the lighting and temperature — both of which can distract you if they’re off — and where you can fidget and move about without bothering anyone. Once you start a study session, be sure to give yourself frequent short breaks (think five minutes for every 20 to 30 minutes of work).

The next step is to gamify your test prep as much as possible. This could mean using tools like ACT Flashcards from Magoosh or Official SAT Practice from Khan Academy. You might even compete with yourself. Go through the questions you get wrong on practice tests and identify what types they are (e.g., triangle questions in math). Then tally them up and track your performance as you improve.

When it comes to plain old memorization, consider using one or several of these tactics to commit words, concepts, formulas, etc., to memory:

  • Writing them down repeatedly

  • Tracing them in the air

  • Underlining or highlighting them over and over again

  • Repeating them aloud while you move around the room

It can also help to visualize what you’re trying to memorize while saying it aloud. If you get frustrated, take a breather. As long as you’re not doing a timed practice test, a brief mental break will help you to refresh and refocus.

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