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

Take the quiz below to learn more. It won’t just help you prepare for these tests, but for future tests too. And there’s going to be a lot!

If You’re a Visual Learner

To study for the SAT or ACT, embrace your inner perfectionist by creating a binder dedicated to test prep. You can start by organizing 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 of its questions by solving the problem on a digital blackboard. Not only can you see it in the moment, but you can also take a screenshot when it’s done and save it for the next time you’re stumped on 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. You’ll enjoy making them, and you’ll be able to 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 even drawing icons or simple pictures), so you can refer back when answering specific questions. It might sound time-consuming, but once you get the hang of it, it can actually save you precious minutes.

If You’re an Auditory Learner

To study for the SAT or ACT, consider finding a study partner who’s also an auditory learner. You two will thrive when reciting flash cards, asking each other questions or just talking things out. When you are studying alone, try repeating things aloud or in your head, explaining concepts as if you were talking to someone else or even recording yourself. Just the act of verbalizing thoughts and ideas is beneficial to you.

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 an answer quickly). Engaging with another person, even in a nonverbal fashion, can help you work a problem out 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 too comfortable with it. Instead, summarize each section as you read 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

The first thing you want to do is create the right study environment. Your room is probably the best bet, as it allows you to control lighting and temperature — both things that can annoy you if they’re off — and makes it possible for you to fidget and move about without bothering anyone. Once you do start studying, allow yourself to take frequent short breaks (think five minutes for every 20 to 30 minutes you work).

Then, gamify your test prep as much as possible. This could mean using tools like SAT Flashcards, ACT Flashcards from Magoosh or Official SAT Practice from Khan Academy. You can 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, try some combination of these tactics:

  • Writing things repeatedly

  • Tracing words in the air

  • Underlining or highlighting 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, these time-outs will help you.

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