We're well into the new normal: schools are closed, extracurricular activities are on pause, and many students have more time on their hands than usual. Some high school sophomores and their families have asked ArborBridge: if I have to be out of school anyway, how can I take advantage of this time to lay a strong foundation for junior year and beyond?
While it’s still early to jump full force into ACT/SAT prep, you can use this time to get to work on the crucial skills that take the longest time to build for test prep. Some of these skills can also make the biggest difference for your long-term academic needs in the tough high school years to come.
Get test prep logistics out of the way
Take care of initial research and planning now to save yourself time next year - junior year is busy enough.
You can start by taking ACT and SAT diagnostics. Use your baseline scores to figure out which exam is your stronger test and choose which one to focus on when you start prepping. Take a look at the Fall 2020 test dates and consider how they align with your schedule.
This is also a great time to start comparing your test prep options - self-prep, small group, courses, 1-1 tutoring, or a combination - and thinking about the best fit for your learning style, resources, and goals.
Finally, you can get started researching colleges! Not only do colleges' "middle 50%" test score admissions windows provide useful information to share your prep goals, but daydreaming about the fun, learning, and freedom to come in college can be a nice way to pass the time during quarantine.
Build your deep reading skills
Reading skills often take time to develop. And often, even if we feel like we know how to read and have been doing it for years, the kind of sustained attention and analysis required for standardized tests, advanced high school classes, and college courses to come can feel like a whole new beast. The good news is that the work you do now will pay off in the long run!
- Content: You need to familiarize yourself with the contemporary science, social science, and humanities articles that make up the bulk of your academic and testing needs, in addition to expanding your comfort zone and comprehension of pre-1920 texts that can scare off even the most competent readers. Start with our Recommended Reading List or reach out to our experts for more specific lessons.
- Speed: The more you read, the faster you’ll become. You can go a step further by purposefully working on increasing your reading speed and accuracy. Use this tool to find out your baseline reading speed. To practice reading faster while maintaining comprehension, you can check out online tools like AccelaReader.
- Frequency: Aim to read regularly! We recommend 20 minutes of articles per day, and at least 1 book of literary fiction or research-based nonfiction per month.
- Advanced Skills: Annotation, anticipation, and other critical reading strategies can make reading not only more effective but more meaningful. Working on these skills now will prepare you to tackle ACT/SAT-level passages with ease when the time comes.
Dive into data analysis
Students worldwide need 21st -century data analysis skills, not only to handle standardized tests, but also for high school courses, college, and beyond. Daily COVID-19 updates in the news are real-world opportunities to practice interpreting data, understanding trends, and making inferences from charts, graphs, and tables from a variety of sources. For an approachable take on data analysis, we love journalist Mona Chalabi's artistic, appealing data visualizations.
For more practice, students can check out Khan Academy or this student resource from the New York Times.
Need more individualized advice?
The recommendations above are generalized plans. If you have specific questions or want a personalized plan, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.
ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.