There it is: you passed your application form, got the recommendation letters, paid the testing fee, put on your lucky pineapple-design shirt—or what ritual of good fortune have you—and went to the site. You are about to get into a battle in getting into that prestigious yet affordable college, and you made sure that you did not miss out on a single thing to prepare yourself on the way to the college entrance exam. Except… wait, did you prepare for the test itself?
The college entrance exam is one of the most daunting steps to getting into a college that you always wanted. Length and coverage aside, what makes it so scary is the anticipation itself. Yes, results come out months after the exam, but you will already feel the anxiety even during the exam. The exam is basically the gatekeeper, testing if you are worthy to enter the new chapter of your life. You cannot get through the exam—you cannot go to college.
It is a scary thought: not passing the college entrance exam can leave you doubting a lot about your future. The best way to beat this thought and to pass the exam, most of all, is to learn how to best prepare for it.
Research on what the college entrance exam is about
One of the first steps to succeeding in the exam is to know what you are getting yourself into.
First thing to consider: not every college entrance exam is the same. Each college has its own specialty, its own way to measure how well someone performs as a student. Some colleges may put a premium on science subjects and give focus on biology, botany, and the like in the exam. Ivy League institutions like Harvard and Yale measure the applicants’ knowledge in multiple fields.
In general, there are two main things that you will want to know about a college entrance exam:
This is the substance of the entire college entrance exam. Learning about the coverage of the exam allows you to know exactly what to prepare yourself for. One of the worst feelings with studying is realizing that the things that you studied for never appear in the exam. All that effort—gone!
You will not experience that heartbreak if you learned exactly what you need to learn.
Frankly speaking, knowing the coverage alone allows you to already take the exam head-on. Knowing what other people experienced with it, however, allows you to calm yourself by a whole lot—and being calm is very important in success, as it will be be talked about later.
Learning about other people’s experiences allows you to measure just how difficult the exam is. More importantly, however, it lets you relax as you realize that your feelings of anxiety and doubts are something that other people also felt. In the end, you would not feel alone because of it.
One of the best ways to figure out what a college entrance exam is about is by asking people who have taken it before. Not only will they tell you their frustrations about the exam; they will also tell you which parts of the exam are difficult or if there is something in particular that you will need to focus on.
Some online articles can also have some revealing information on a particular college entrance exam. These are not very reliable, though. Most likely, they will talk about their self-doubt and reflections about the exam and less about what it actually covers. These are helpful in giving you some motivation, however, so you can take them as you might.
Lastly, of course, the college itself also provides information on what the exam will cover. These are definitely reliable in a wide regard. Note, though, that this is also limited. Colleges will not tell you how difficult their exams are, only that they are comprehensive. They also cannot beat other people in talking about personal experiences with the exam.
In short, try to look for these sources of information:
- Online sources: articles and opinion pieces that talk about a person’s experience in taking the exam.
- Family, friends, other people: those who you are connected with and who took the college entrance exams themselves.
- College info: the very college that gives the exam itself.
Remember to combine all of your research together to cover both the coverage and the experience and to prepare yourself the best way possible.
Study, study, study!
Just like any other exam, the best way to prepare for the college entrance exam is to study for it. With how much you have researched before on the coverage, you should be able to boil down what you have to study.
The question now is how you study. Here, there are two main methods of studying that are each very effective.
What better way to focus on a particular college entrance exam is there than to take classes that, well, focus on that particular exam?
Review classes have a very systematic, step-by-step process in teaching potential applicants about the exams. They are highly specialized in teaching you what you need to learn and recall to best prepare yourself.
Their primary means of instruction is traditional teaching, covering most, if not all, of the subjects that need focusing on in the exam. Just like traditional education, review classes put you together with other aspiring college applicants as you all learn—or relearn—from the lessons. A benefit from this is that you can work with other people to improve your learning even further.
The only difficulty with review classes is the scheduling. Review classes are held on a specific time schedule which may work for some people but not for everyone. Other times, some people find themselves too late to apply for a review class, or perhaps that the review class has gone too far along its course that the student has to do a lot of catching up.
A simple way to solve this is to prepare as soon as you can. Inquire about review classes as soon as you can so that you will be right on time.
No one really knows more about what you are missing than yourself.
Review classes can get you far, and the testaments of other people who took the exam definitely could bring some help. In the end, however, it is all in your hands.
A great advantage that self-studying has over attending review classes is that you can do it at your own schedule. No need to follow a schedule to your inconvenience.
The biggest difficulty with this, however, is that you really have to put in a lot of effort, discipline, and commitment. With so much freedom in your hands to study, you could ironically use so little of it to actually prepare.
Even more difficult is that you are limited to the resources that you have. Review classes provide the materials and the syllabus; you will have to rely on your own workings to come up with those items.
It is highly advised, therefore, to do self-study along with review classes for best effect.
Doing nothing does something? Indeed, it does. Learning how to relax even before college will help you prepare for the stress in college that is in store for you.
Going back, this probably sounds very counterproductive. When someone thinks of “doing all it takes to get what they want,” what usually come up are images of a hardened person, spilling blood, sweat, and tears as he studies hard under a lamp. That does speak a lot of what hard work is about, but it is not all of what hard work is about.
Say that you work for 24 hours straight for an exam. Does that mean maximum productivity? Your mind and body will slowly get tired. Your concentration will decrease and your thoughts and ideas, which were flowing like a faucet before, can now barely let out a leak. Overall, your performance worsens, and it will show in your results. Now, how is that for counterproductive?
Hard work does not always mean working yourself to exhaustion. It also means giving yourself the time to cool off, to let off some steam like a machine. Even machines cannot work all the time, as they break down from too much heat. In fact, machines that are consistently pushed to work end up having a much shorter lifespan. If machines need rest, what more do human beings?
So do not feel bad for taking an hour or two off your studies on Netflix or your favorite video game. You need to rest as much as you need to work.
One more thing to consider: allot a full day of rest right before the test day itself. That is right—zero work before the battle. All of the studying that you put into the test got you filled with heat and tension. As mentioned before, these can break you down and take away a lot of your ability to perform well. If you want true, maximum performance on taking the college entrance exam, let yourself unwind with a marathon of your favorite Netflix show on the day before the exam.
But most of all is that you have to relax throughout the entire preparation. It is understandable to feel pressured:
- “This is my dream college! But it is so hard to get into…”
- “I need to get into college because I want to be rich!”
- “If I do not pass the college entrance exam, I might have a hard time in the future.”
These thoughts, among many others, can really be nerve-wracking for a lot of people. While it makes sense that studying hard can give some assurance, in the long run it can do the exact opposite. The best solution is to give yourself a break. Free your mind from those doubts, and you will be in a state that working all the time cannot get you in.
Plan out your preparation
Now that you know what you need to prepare, it is time to actually prepare.
The key here is balance. It is essential to know how much time that you have to put in each day to study for a college entrance exam. As important as it is, it is definitely not the only thing that you have on your hands. For high school students, there are still the current requirements they have at school. Other people may also have their own commitments aside from the exam.
Given what has been discussed, however, it is difficult to figure out how to balance everything, the college entrance exam included. For easier distinction, these are the two main types of items to organize:
- Exam: all things related to preparing for the college entrance exam—review classes, studying, etc.
- Non-exam: everything else outside of the preparation.
Very anticlimactic names? Maybe so. You can name each category to your liking.
You will have to set your schedule around these two categories. How you do so is all up to what you prioritize. Of course, it does not make to prepare for the exam by not reserving any time for it.
At the same time, you should not focus only on the exam. If nothing else matters than the exam, by all means study a lot of the exam. Do not dedicate all of your time it, however. It is fantastic if you are determined to ace the exam. But as said before, it is vital to always reserve ample time for rest. A great balance of both will yield the best results and help you overcome this part of the college admissions stress, netting you a pass with flying colors on that college entrance exam that got you riled up all this time.
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