If you’re serious about getting more than just an average SAT score, you should make sure you’re doing the best prep you can do. You want to get as much out of the experience as possible and remember what you’ve learned.
At the same time, you want to make sure you’re not getting distracted. Every hour that goes into your study time should be filled with studying. Not looking at lolcats. Or reading Perez Hilton. Or getting in a quick game of League of Legends.
So where does that happen?
Get out of your bedroom and go somewhere
Your room isn’t the best place to study, because chances are you do a lot of other, more enjoyable things there. If there’s a TV in your room, you’re going to turn it on before you should.
If it’s possible, you should try to go somewhere else.
Option 1: Study at school
If you can stay after school, this is a great choice—especially if the library is open. Bring your College Board blue book (the “Official Study Guide”), something to listen to music with, and maybe a friend. A friend who’s also serious about getting better SAT scores, that is. Whatever open space your school leaves for you—even if it’s just the cafeteria—is going to feel more studious and energizing than home.
Option 2: A library
If you live far from a library and you can’t drive yet (true of a lot of SAT-takers), then this might be harder to swing. But if you can get to a library, it’s great. Everybody there seems so focused. And that tends to rub off on you.
Option 3: Coffee shops, cafés, etc.
This is by far my personal favorite. Any place that will let you sit around for a few hours after you order a bit to eat or drink is great. You’ll be happier than at school or in a library, because even though there’s not much to distract you, you’re in a place you associate with socializing, independence, and… deliciousness. And building positive associations is an excellent way to get yourself doing more SAT prep.
Option 4: Somewhere different at home
If you can’t get to any of those places so easily and find yourself stuck at home, there’s still hope. Set yourself up somewhere you don’t usually hang out, if you can. Set up in the living room, on that couch that never gets used. If you don’t normally do work at the kitchen table, that’s a great place to go. Or how about outside? Again, it’s a good idea to have headphones in, so your family can’t interrupt you.
Vary it up
Most sources will tell you exactly the opposite, but from my experience, I remember things the best when I’m in new places. The first day at a new school will stick in your head forever; the fiftieth day probably won’t. The vocabulary words I remember best have often been from SAT flashcards I had with me in unique places. Use that to your advantage, and do your studying in places you’ll remember. Just make sure they’re not distracting places. Six Flags may be memorable, but it’s not exactly studious. You’ve got to find a balance.
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About Lucas Fink
Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.
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