When you want to study for the SAT online, the internet becomes your best friend and your worst enemy. Yes, you have access to wonderful resources all in one place, from the comfort of your own home. But, oh the temptation to procrastinate!!
You know what I’m talking about. You go online to check Facebook for 2 minutes, and 30 minutes later you’ve delved deep into a friend of a friend’s pics from 3 years ago. A 20-minute break to watch a quick episode of something becomes a full-on Netflix binge. Don’t even get me started on the black hole that is YouTube. Or Pinterest. Or Instagram.
Realistically, this can happen whether you’re studying for the SAT online or with a prep book. This procrastination is only half fun and it’s killing your study momentum. Stop this madness!! I’ll help.
SAT Studying Life Hacks
Let’s start with apps. I figure, if technology is the problem it might as well be the solution too.
Here’s the deal: This app works for Mac, and allows you to block certain sites on your computer for a set period of time. For example, imagine that I commit to studying for the SAT online with Magoosh for 2 hours. I can set SelfControl to block Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, email, etc. for two hours. After I click “Start”, I can’t access those sites no matter what.
A word of warning: This app is harsh. Once you’ve activated it for a certain period of time, you can’t deactivate it even by restarting your computer or deleting the application. (Harsh, but brilliant.) For a less-severe alternative, try Concentrate ($29). It has similar options, but you can unblock sites by restarting your computer.
Here’s the deal: Like SelfControl, StayFocusd allows you to block distracting and addictive sites. The cool thing about it is that it’s a free chrome extension, and therefore can be used by both Mac and PC users. Just download Google Chrome! This extension allows you to pick how much time you’re willing to spend on distracting sites each day. You pick which sites are distracting you (it lets you get really specific), and once you’ve used up all your procrastination time, those sites become blocked for the rest of the day.
Here’s the deal: This Chrome extension is not nearly as strict as the two apps mentioned before. Yes, you can block distracting sites, but I-Am-Studying allows you to “snooze” your study time and browse your blocked sites for 10 minutes every hour. The app collects data on your browsing habits and lets you know which sites you waste the most time on (*cough* … Reddit … *cough*). If you’re not strong-willed, this is probably not the solution for you.
Let’s step away from apps for a minute and talk about a solution that actually improves your study and time-management skills.
The Pomodoro Technique
Tools needed: One ordinary kitchen timer, a pen, paper.
Here’s the deal: This technique is all about time-management. The idea is to thoughtfully choose a task that you need to complete and then to break the time it takes you to complete this task into 25-minute intervals, called “pomodori” (the plural of “pomodoro” which means tomato in Italian). You set your kitchen timer for 25 minutes, and when the time is up, you take a short (3-5 minute) break. Keep a piece of paper handy and write an “X” every time you complete a pomodoro. Then, after four pomodori, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
The cool thing about this method is that you can keep yourself organized by planning your study sessions, tracking and recording your progress, and prioritizing tasks using an estimation of how much effort (how many pomodori) they will take to complete. Also, you get to take breaks which allow your brain to process and retain information! Win-win.
Life is distracting. One second you’re studying your heart out and the next you’re sidetracked by the music you’re listening to, TV, social media, a shiny object… And these distractions are ruining your SAT practice.
Be strong! Find a system that works for you. Maybe you combine the Pomodoro Technique with an anti-distraction app, or maybe you just use your awesome willpower to stay away from addictive sites on the internet. Either way, commit to your technique and you’ll start to see your focus improve.
(For more unexpected study techniques, check out our SAT Lifehacks Infographic!)
Share your study life hacks
Have you mastered time-management and learned to study online without getting off-track?
Share your story and your tips by leaving us a comment below!