This is a guest post by our friends at MyGuru in Chicago!

For generations, high school juniors and seniors have had to navigate the SAT en route to higher education. The SAT has always been difficult, even in the best of times. And that’s by design. But 2020 has taken the standard difficulty of the SAT to a new level. In addition to all the same scholastic rigor the SAT has demanded for decades, students today also have to navigate a world beset by a deadly pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed millions of people worldwide, and has profoundly disrupted life for virtually everyone. Much of the economy has slowed or shut down entirely. The educational system has been turned on its head. A great deal of formal schooling has moved online or to an online & in-person hybrid model. Some students & families have had the privilege of adapting with relative ease, but many others have had a much more difficult time. 

The educational setbacks experienced by this generation of students are yet to be determined, but experts agree they are sure to be significant. Many students are leaving school earlier, or at least opting to pause their education indefinitely. This includes skipping the SAT, or failing to adequately prepare for it. Relatedly, first-year enrollment at colleges & universities is down by at least 16%. 

But if you’re reading this, then you’re not powerless to become a statistic. You don’t have to let the pandemic limit your SAT performance, let alone the rest of your educational path and career. Read on for some tips on how you can adjust your study plan so COVID-19 and the SAT can’t conspire to leave you behind.  


Start Planning for Test Day

As with every other facet of life, the SAT is operating differently in 2020 than in pre-COVID times. Even if you’ve taken a standardized test administered by the College Board before, your testing procedure is sure to be radically different. The last thing you want is to overlook some necessary detail and be denied the chance to even take the exam. 

You can find all the necessary information about test-day procedures on the College Board’s website. That also includes a schedule with available test days. We advise signing up for a test day as soon as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take the soonest available exam. But whenever you plan to take it, sign up sooner rather than later. This keeps anything from going wrong at the last minute. Also, having the deadline in your mind will help motivate you to stick to a study plan.  


Take an Official Practice Test

Taking an official practice test—that is, an actual SAT administered in some previous year—is the only surefire way to accurately gauge your performance as you start your test prep. And pinpointing where you stand—where you’re strong and where you have room to grow—is the key to designing a successful test prep regimen. 

We strongly advise you to simulate test-day conditions as closely as possible. This includes creating a quiet and distraction-free environment in which to take the test. Most importantly, you should adhere strictly to the time limits. The point of the practice test isn’t really to score highly, but to assess where your current test performance stands in relation to your desired score. 


Design a Study Plan

The results of your practice test should give you an idea of the areas where you need the most improvement. Use this information—as well as the timeline separating you from test day—to design the road map you’ll follow to your desired score. Work out how many hours you can devote to your test prep and plan to devote those hours proportionately to the areas you’re targeting for improvement. 

If designing a study plan seems difficult for you to do on your own, considering meeting with an SAT tutor or coach. Any experienced coach should be able to use the results of your official practice test to help you come up with a provisional study plan, even if you don’t keep meeting with that tutor. 


Find the Routine that Works for You

You probably found it hard enough to set and meet goals even when you had to work around the structure of the normal school week. If you’ve moved to online learning, you might find that the lack of structure makes it hard to achieve anything. If that’s the case for you, try looking at the structurelessness as an opportunity to really find out what works for you. If you take an experimental approach, pay close attention, and keep diligent track of your progress, you can learn a lot of empowering things about yourself. 

Maybe you find that studying is easier for you at night than in the morning, or maybe the reverse. Maybe you need to exercise before you are able to sit down and balance an equation. Or maybe you need a big meal before you’re able to memorize vocab words. Everybody has their own learning style, and gaining insight into yours will help you live more effectively. That includes optimizing your SAT prep. 


Use the Internet Wisely

Most students are probably weary of e-learning by this point. Unfortunately, many students are experiencing significant setbacks in academic attainment. And yet, the SAT is as challenging and rigorous as ever. 

Instead of letting e-learning be the cause of your setbacks, let it be the instrument of your progress. There is an unprecedented amount of free, quality education in the world. While no form of recorded content will fully replicate the benefits of live instruction, you can use free internet resources to create a customized study plan. Available resources include digital practice tests and question banks, vocabulary flashcards, as well as instructive videos and slideshows for every conceivable kind of SAT problem. 


Partner with Someone Else

One of the most powerful things you can do to boost your test prep is to work one-on-one with an expert coach. The availability of one-on-one coaching hasn’t shrunk at all in the wake of the pandemic. More coaches than ever are offering remote instruction. And you’re likely to find that remote instruction works much better one-on-one than in a classroom format. 

If one-on-one coaching is inaccessible to you, you can still connect with other people over the internet. There are many digital forums where students prepping for the SAT meet to discuss SAT problems and test-related issues. Sometimes the purpose of the bonding is less formal instruction than moral support. 

Of course, you can also connect with people you already know in real life. You can help hold each other accountable with your test prep. You can also arrange to study together on Facetime or some other video chat app. Any challenge is more easily faced alongside a friend. And while this may not come up explicitly on the SAT, if the pandemic has taught us all one lesson, it’s that humans can and must care for one another. 

Be patient with yourself as you navigate your SAT journey through these tumultuous times. If you take the above tips into account, you’ll be well on your way to successfully conquering this exam. 


About the Author

This article was written by MyGuru’s SAT tutoring team. Myguru is a boutique tutoring company based out of Chicago. They have continued to provide quality, customized, 1-1 and small group online instruction throughout the pandemic using various online resources and official College Board materials. They’re available to help you create a study plan and stick to it in order to be successful on test day.

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