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How Student Athletes Can Find Time to Study for the ACT or SAT

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When you’re a student-athlete, it can already feel like you’re working not one but two full-time jobs. Between practice and competition—oh yeah, and school—where are you supposed to find the time to study for the SAT or ACT? After all, I’m sure you like sleeping as much as the rest of us.

Well, the good news is that there’s no need to give up your sleep! (Don’t give up your sleep!) Here are a few ways to find time to study for the ACT or SAT.

Start Early

You’ll need to begin your prep earlier than your friends who aren’t participating in sports, simply because you’re less likely to have large chunks of time to spend working on test prep. It’s easy to think, “Hey, no rush. I have three months to study.” But the thing is that when you’re a student-athlete, three months aren’t three months.

Take your calendar; block out time for sports practice, school, homework, games, vacations, and any other commitments you have over the next few months. That’s how much time you actually have to study for the SAT or ACT. That means that you’ll have to work for two months at half-speed, when other students might only have to work for one. However, there are ways to make the most of your time (even when you don’t have a lot of time)!

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Use “Dead” Time

This is time we usually spend paging through magazines (at the doctor’s waiting room), waiting in line (at lunch), or chatting (on the bus to games). That last one sound familiar? Yep—away games have become your new best friend. Use the bus time to study. If you don’t want to lug a book around—and who does?—you can use a flexible online video program like Magoosh on your phone. Bonus: you won’t have to constantly reschedule with a tutor. Double bonus: there are study apps you can download, too!

Where else can you find dead time? It’s important to focus fully on whatever you’re doing, so don’t try to study while warming up or stretching. But there’s lots of down time at the beginnings and ends of games, before and after the official stuff has happened. Basically, any time you could chat with your teammates, you could also use to study.

Do Mental Math Practice

More specifically, make your game into mental math practice. Both the SAT and the ACT require strong mental math skills. Even if yours are already strong, you can up your game even more by using them during the, uh, game! What would the score be if you score this goal? If you get a penalty? If the first three runners on your cross-country team place in the top ten? If your opponent double-faults? Don’t let math distract you from actually taking part in the game, but it’s a great way to brush up on your skills while watching from on the bench or running through empty fields.

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Paraphrase What’s Happening

Paraphrasing is an important part of the verbal sections on both the SAT and the ACT. You’ll need to build this skill to choose the right summary of a passage, for example, or to select what the author’s really saying in line 14. So your coach told your team to get your heads in the game? Before you get back out on the field, think about how you could say the same thing in different ways. Focus. Pay attention. Don’t get distracted. (On second thought, this may actually be a better tip for the post-game recap.)

Finally? Don’t Overcommit

Sorry, am I sounding slightly parental? That’s because there really are only so many hours in a day, and if you try to use each of them in three ways, you’ll just end up exhausted, frustrated, and even injured (lack of sleep can affect your body!). But if you start early, use found time, and use what’s going on in the game to keep your math and verbal skills sharp, you’ll maximize your time without stretching yourself too thin.

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