Winter break—that favorite time of every student’s year—is coming soon. Most high school students want to just relax and catch up on much needed sleep. But students can also use it to get a leg up on college testing. For juniors it’s a great time to get prep out of the way before the busy spring semester. For sophomores, it’s an opportunity to begin researching the college process and figuring out what lies ahead.
Below are our tips for maximizing your winter break.
1. Decide ACT or SAT
If you are a junior—or even a sophomore—and haven’t yet decided which test is best for you, winter break is the perfect time. The most effective way to pick a test is to complete a full-length diagnostic of each exam. Each diagnostic will take about 4 hours. With school out of the way, it’s much easier to find two days to take the tests.
Taking a diagnostic of both tests will reveal which one you score higher on (you might be surprised!) and which one feels more comfortable for you. Even though 8 hours seems like a lot, putting the time in now will save you weeks of wasted time if you prepare for the wrong exam.
ArborBridge offers free practice SAT and ACT exams to help students jumpstart preparation for the official tests. Click here to get your free practice test.
2. Complete a Tutoring Bootcamp
The first half of tutoring is always an intense time: meeting with your tutor, learning new strategies, and familiarizing yourself with the test. Winter break is a great opportunity to start strong. With no schoolwork or classes, you can meet more often with a tutor, do more practice problems, and do them at a time of the day that works best for your learning style.
One option is a tutoring bootcamp during winter break. A boot camp is a short-term, intense period of tutoring sessions and practice tests. Some students do a bootcamp to jumpstart their tutoring process during break and then maintain their improvement by meeting less often when school is back in session. Other students like to do all of their prep in a bootcamp during the winter break, especially if they plan to take the SAT/ACT in January or February.
3. Study Vocabulary
Even if you aren’t ready to start tutoring yet, winter break is a great time to start learning vocabulary. This is especially important for the SAT because it tests a lot of vocabulary. Commit 30–60 minutes every day to learn the most common words that appear on the SAT. Use flashcards, vocabulary books, or online tutorials such as Membean or Quizlet to get started.
4. Plan Spring Semester
For juniors, the coming spring semester will be one of the most intense of your academic career. You will have to manage the SAT or ACT, Subject Tests, AP exams, the beginning of the college admissions process, and your first college visits, all while juggling your usual school responsibilities. Knowing what lies ahead is key.
Take an afternoon during winter break to map out what’s happening from January through June. On your calendar, first plot out any tests you are definitely registered for. Be sure to include final exams at your school. Next, write down the other tests you are considering and when they are scheduled for. Check to see if there are any conflicts. Lots of testing happens on the same weeks in May and early June. Make sure you don’t plan to take too many tests at the same time. Planning out the semester now will save you lots of anxiety and stress in the coming months.
5. Register for Exams
If you know which exams you want to take, now’s the time to register. Seats fill up fast, so you can never register too early.
If you plan to take the SAT in January or the ACT in February it is especially important to register now because the registration deadlines for these tests happen over winter break:
SAT Test Date 1/24: Registration Deadline 12/29
ACT Test Date 2/7: Registration Deadline 1/9
Whatever you plan to do over winter break, don’t waste it! It’s one of the best times to get started and will help you avoid stress later in the year.