Category Archives: Test Taking Tips

02 Feb 2018

The PQRST Method of Studying

The PQRST Method of Studying

 This is a method of reading a textbook so that the information you read really does enter your long term memory. It is based on work by Thomas and H. A. Robinson, Spache and Berg and R. P .Robinson. Its sometimes cryptically known as SQ3R.

So what can it do?

The method has been shown to improve a readers understanding, and his/her ability to recall information. In other words, the reader is more likely to learn, and to learn more, of the material he/she is reading. If you use this method, reading won’t be a waste of your time.

How does it work?

In this method you follow five steps – Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite and Test (PQRST). The middle three steps apply to every section within a chapter whilst the first and last steps apply to the chapter itself. You may find that many textbooks are compiled in a way which makes this method easy to apply, using an introductory passage, and questions at the end.

The diagram below illustrates the method:

  1. PREVIEW an assignment by scanning it.  Read the chapter outline at the beginning of the chapter.  Pay attention to the headings of the sections and subsections.  Read the summary.  The point is to get an idea of the main topics and sections of the chapter.
  2. QUESTION As you read through each section, start by asking yourself “what am I supposed to learn in this section”. This helps to get your brain in to sync with the topic being discussed.
  3. READ. Next, actually read that section. Do it carefully, think about the meaning and relate this to other things you know about this and similar topics. Do some underlining or highlighting of key words. Don’t overdo it! If you want to take notes, read the whole section first, and then summarize it later.
  4. SELF-RECITATION requires that you try to remember the main points of each section and that you say them out loud (if possible) to yourself. Check back against the text, and note the things you missed out. Ensure that you didn’t miss them because you haven’t learnt them. Only then go on to the next section and Question again.
  5. TEST yourself after you have finished the entire chapter.  How many of the main ideas from the chapter can you remember? Think about the relevance of what you learnt and how it all fits together. Reread any chapter summaries. Even though you have only just read the chapter, now is the best time to test yourself.

 

01 Feb 2018

How to study more effectively

  • Hate to study?
  • Can’t concentrate for more than 15-20 minutes?
  • Manage to make average grades from what you retain in class and with the little studying you manage to do?
  • Tired of being average.

Studying is not the same as learning.  Here are some strategies to help you study effectively:

  1. Know your purpose. Scan the content to identify the most important concepts you need to know to achieve the top grade. Make a list of items to memorize. Quantify – only by being objective will you increase your productivity.

All goals should be “SMART”

  • S pecific (not something vague)
  • M easurable
  • A chievable
  • R ecorded (written down)
  • T imed (have a time limit)
  1. Limit studying time. Study for specific periods of time or to learn and master a specific concepts or problem set. Either way, be sure you study for 100% of the time you commit to – no smartphones, no internet, no TV, no distractions.
  2. Multiple Sources. Sometimes its not enough to know ‘just enough’. You might not completely understand a topic/concept or you may understand some of it but not enough.

To solve this dilemma, read/view/talk to multiple sources. Remember: one author may explain something better than another. Its vital to refer to different sources to strengthen your understanding.

Select the best sources. If there are high-yield versions of textbooks, pre-made notes optimized for retention, mnemonics collections, essential problem sets (and solutions), use them.

  1. Feynman technique. This Mental Model, named after Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize Winning Physicist, designed as a technique assist with learning new concepts as if you were explaining them to a complete beginner. His technique includes drawing diagrams, schematics and notes on a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Cultivate daily habits. The best approach to successful studying is to train daily for a relatively short amount of time. 30 min of difficult math problems every day is much more effective than 3 weekly sessions of 2 hours each.
  3. If you’re going to take notes, do it right. Note taking is associated with better retention rates than just reading or reviewing pre-existing notes.
  4. Don’t cram for tests. If you are going to do well in a test then you need to be relaxed. In the days before a test you should do nothing more stressful than a couple of hours gently reviewing your notes to assure yourself you know your stuff.
  5. Make a study guide. As the student puts together a study guide, he also is putting small chunks of information systematically into his brain.  An auditory or kinesthetic learner can talk out loud as he creates his study guide.
  6. Put together a study groupFor older students, it is a good idea to study the information with others.  It gives students the opportunity to make sure each student understands the material and has studied in a comprehensive manner.  Students can quiz each other on information and create outlines for possible essay questions.
  7. Use flashcards. If you need to memorize things, you need tools. Create your own or use one of the apps available
  8. Practice and test yourself. The best way to learn is to use the knowledge you are trying to acquire. You’ll figure out your weak spots in your understanding of complex concepts. There are resources online to test any kind of subject.
  9. Planning can reduce stress and anxiety. Set your goals, plan your studying techniques and stick to the plan.
  10. Cultivate the right mindset. Essential qualities of all productive students include: Diligence, Discipline, Direction and Durability.

Do exactly what you have to do daily, no matter what.

Think positively!  Try to imagine yourself getting an A+ on the exam.  Imagine getting questions you know the answers to, expressing yourself clearly and concisely, and feeling good about yourself and your performance.  Think about how good you will feel inside when the test is over and all your preparation has paid off.

 

 

 

 

12 Jan 2018

How Do YOU Learn?

 

Most of us can learn anything we put our minds to.  However, we have a preferred way of learning. Get to know your learning style and study in the ways you learn best.

Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning while others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed.

There are Seven Learning Styles

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.

Strategies to use, depending on your preferred learning style:

Visual Learners

  • Use graphics to reinforce learning­­, films, slides, illustrations, and diagrams.
  • Color coding to organize notes and possessions.
  • Write out directions.
  • Use flow charts and diagrams for note taking.
  • Visualizing spelling of words of facts to be memorized.

 

Auditory Learners

  • Use tapes for reading and for class and lecture notes.
  • Learn by interviewing or by participating in discussions.
  • Have test questions or directions read aloud or put on tape.

 

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Experimental learning (making models, doing lab work, and role playing).
  • Take frequent breaks in study periods.
  • Trace letters and words to learn spelling and remember facts.
  • Use computer to reinforce learning through sense of touch.
  • Memorize or drill while walking or exercising.

Express abilities through dance, drama, or gymnastic

02 Jan 2018

Stress… What it is and how to make it work for you

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Any one preparing for the standardized college admissions test knows that this definition is a perfect description of the feelings and emotions created by these tests.  But did you know that stress that is managed could actually be a good thing?

A 1979 London research study recognized that stress could be beneficial. Yes, you read that correctly – beneficial! The benefits of stress can be found in two main ways; First, stress can actually enhance performance and, secondly, stress from challenges, not threats, invite physiological responses that improves thinking by making the heart beat faster, adrenaline surge, the brain sharper and the body release a different mix of stress hormones which aid in learning.

You can rethink stress by understanding that it is a normal response when we care about what’s at stake.

Since stress is unavoidable, working out how to harness it may be wiser than trying to eliminate it.

Embarking on a mindful approach to the test prep process might sound hokey, or perhaps like a way of complicating a process that is pretty straightforward: study the material, take practice tests, get results. But being mindful is a practical and subtle way of managing stress – AND it puts YOU in control.

So… How can you be “mindful”

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. There’s a little voice in your head that’s talking to you constantly. 
What is it saying? How do the thoughts make you feel?
  2. Take a breath. When you become aware of a thought (any thought, positive or negative) take a breath. Let your thoughts come and go without analyzing them. Be aware of what happens to the feelings caused by stress?

Let your breath serve as a cue for you to be fully present in this moment. On the next exhalation imagine any tension in your body flowing out through the soles of your feet into the air. Let your tension go on the exhalation and on the inhalation breathe in relaxation.

  1. Guided Imagery. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of the imagination and all of the senses – what we feel, see, hear, taste, and smell – to create a relaxing scene. Guided imagery can be used to visualize positive outcomes, especially in stressful situations. For instance, if a student is anxious about an upcoming test, she imagines going through it in a calm and relaxed manner beforehand. This is called a mental rehearsal.
  2. Positive Affirmations. Positive statements can help students feel less stressed and more in control of their emotions. Examples of positive affirmations are:
    • I feel calm
    • I am confident
    • I can do well
    • Let go of (anxiety, fear, tension, etc)
  3. Question your thoughts. If your thoughts are of self-doubt or self-criticism, replace the latter part of the “What if” proposition with a positive quality that relates to the specific situation or preceding thought. Ask yourself:
  • What if I’m good enough?
  • What if I’m smart enough?
  • What if I have what it takes?
  • What if I succeed?
  1. Be willing to see the situation differently. There are objective facts about the college admissions process. There are tests (the SAT and ACT) for which you can prepare. College admissions officers will consider your test scores when evaluating your application. How you relate
to these objective facts is up to you. When you feel stressed out, anxious, or scared, tell yourself “I am willing to see this situation differently.” Keep an open mind, and stay willing to be positive and relaxed.

Test prep is a process, but when you bring your whole self to the experience, amazing things can happen.

 

 

02 Nov 2017

SAT vs. ACT

confused-student-clip-art-699083

Don’t know whether to take the SAT or ACT?

We’ve been there before. High schoolers across America (and the globe) face this question every year.

An impressive score on either test goes a long way towards helping students get into the schools they want to attend. So, how do you know which test is better for you?

Sadly, there are no obvious answers. The best way to figure out the ACT vs. SAT conundrum is to take a practice test for both. If there is one you feel more comfortable with, then that’s the test you should take.

That being said, a quick comparison between the SAT and ACT, below, might help you understand the major differences between the two. There is also a quick nine question ACT vs. SAT quiz that will – through over-generalization and not very much data – tell you which standardized test is probably better suited to your strengths.

But before gleaning too much from the comparison and quiz, remember that there’s no substitute for taking a practice version of both tests! Happy reading.

  SAT ACT
What do these tests feel like? A logic and reasoning test A more objective, clear-cut test
How do these tests align with my skills? The SAT is often (not always) better suited for English/History types The ACT is often (not always) better suited for Math/Science types
What about math? Need to know Math up until Algebra II Need to know Math up until Trigonometry
Science? No Science on the SAT Yes Science on the ACT
Big Picture? The SAT requires more analytical thinking and logical reasoning The ACT asks more straight-forward questions and requires straight-forward answers
Where are these tests accepted? Everywhere Everywhere
Is there an essay? Yes, and it’s currently required. *After May 2016, it will be optional. Yes, but it’s optional
Is one better than the other? Should I take both? No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both.   

Still not sure which test to take? Maybe this quick, nine question quiz will help.

 http://snack.to/q7c9a1d4

18 Dec 2012

Don’t Let Winter Break Break Your Study Habits!

With holidays and winter break approaching, this is always an exciting time of year. However, it can also be incredibly stressful for students wrapping up finals and those juniors and seniors preparing for either standardized tests or college applications. And, if you make the mistake of enjoying the break a little too much, winter break can be very detrimental on your long-term goal of getting into your dream college. So, with that in mind, we thought we’d give you some advice on managing your study and college application time over the break so that your break does not cause a headache when you return to normalcy!
First off, keep in mind that you have winter break for a reason beyond being able to enjoy holidays and visit with your family. Your body and mind need some occasional repose to help you recover from the rigors of your life. That is, you need to relax a little so that you come back to school ready to recommit and focus for the rest of the year. Winter break is great for relaxation, so make sure to do plenty of that.

That being said, however, there is such a thing as too much relaxation, and your brain can ossify from disuse. You don’t want your brain to forget everything you’ve learned thus far, as that would mean you’d have to re-learn everything in January, effectively costing you two months of prep time. So, take a few days off from strenuous work, but make sure to plan on being sedulous later in the break. If you’re a junior preparing for the SAT or ACT, keep working on small things on a daily basis—look through vocabulary cards every night, do some difficult reading—then, later in the week, sit down and do a full-length practice exam. Take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to go to school so that you actually have a four-hour chunk of time totally free to study. (It sounds less than ideal, we know, but it has to be done at some point, so you may as well do it when you don’t have anything else on your plate!) If you’re a high school senior, you know that college applications are due right after 2013 begins, so spend some time polishing off those essays (if they’re not already done) and filling out more applications. You have time to focus on yourself and your goals, so take advantage of that opportunity.

And if you’re traveling somewhere, keep in mind that long car rides or flights are excellent opportunities to get work done. They are not ideal study environments, admittedly, but they do have one major advantage over your own house: They are free of tempting distractions such as television and the internet.

The important thing is to be productive over the break any way that you can. Enjoy yourself, too, though!

Glossary
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia
Tutors

Detrimental: tending to cause harm
Repose: a state of rest or tranquility
Ossify: harden
Sedulous: hard-working

16 Oct 2012

SAT Grammar: Learn parallelism to perfect your score… part 1!

February inspired me to write a tutorial on fixing dangling modifiers in the SAT Writing section. In honor of October, I want to address the problem of parallelism.

SAT Writing loves to test your knowledge of parallelism. The section loves it so much, in fact, that it tests parallelism in three different forms! For SAT Writing, you need to know how to use parallelism when writing lists, making comparisons, and when using word pairs (e.g., “not only… but also…”). In this blog entry, I will focus on the rules of parallelism for writing lists. I will address the others in blog entries to come.

List parallelism questions come up most often in the Error Identification portion of the Writing test. However, you may run into them in the Improving Sentences portion too.

What is parallelism? Parallelism is a grammatical principle invoked to maintain balance within a sentence. In grammar, parallelism basically means that similar words, phrases, and clauses must take the same form. Confused? Let’s move on to an example…

I like reading, sleeping and to make art.

This is a pretty friendly sentence: it’s direct and tells us a little bit about what the author likes! Only trouble is that the items in this list aren’t in parallel form. Corrected:

I like reading, sleeping and making art.

Or:

I like to read, to sleep and to make art.

Either correction to this sentence is great. It does not matter if we present our hobbies as a series of verbs that end in “ing” (gerunds), or as a list of “to + verbs” (infinitives). All that matters is that we pick one form at the beginning, and stick with it throughout the list.

For the sake of practice, let’s look at a few more examples of good/bad parallelism. After that, we’ll go through a hard-level question from a real SAT.

Bad Parallelism!
Before the SAT, you should eat a healthy breakfast, sleep adequately, and don’t forget your admission ticket!

Good Parallelism!
Before the SAT, you should eat a healthy breakfast, get adequate sleep, and remember your admission ticket!

Bad Parallelism:
As soon as Katrina gets home, she studies biology, bakes cookies, and then she will play basketball.

Good Parallelism!
As soon as Katrina gets home, she studies biology, bakes cookies, and plays basketball.

Bad Parallelism!
The knight was charming, brave, and he had a great body!

Good Parallelism!
The knight was charming, brave, and physically fit!

Bad Parallelism!
Indian summer, Armageddon and being affected by climate change are all possible explanations for this unseasonably warm weather.

Good Parallelism!
Indian summer, Armageddon, and climate change are all possible explanations for this unseasonably warm weather.


Ok, I think you get the idea…

 

Let’s conclude by solving this hard-level question from a real SAT:


All species of sea turtles are endangered because of overharvesting of adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habitats.
 
(A)   of overharvesting of adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habitats
(B)   of the adults being overharvested, their eggs disturbed, and destroying nesting habitats
(C)   the overharvesting of adults, disturbance of their eggs, and destruction of nesting habits
(D)   the adults are overharvested, their eggs are disturbed, and their nesting habits are destroyed
(E)    being overharvested as adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habits

Even though this is a hard-level question, we should immediately recognize that it’s testing our knowledge of parallel structure. Why? Because the underlined portion is a list, of course.

According to the principle of parallelism, each item in this list must take the same form. In the first and third items (“overharvesting of adults” and “destruction of nesting habitats“), the verb comes before the noun. However, in the second item (“their eggs being disturbed“) the noun comes before the verb. Ugh! This list is one ugly mishmosh of un-parallel parts!

To fix this sentence, look for the answer choice that presents each item of the list in parallel form. When you have selected your answer, hit the link below to see if you’re correct!

Answer and Explanation

09 Oct 2012

Five Ways to De-stress after the SAT

High school seniors: How did this Saturday’s administration of the SAT go?

Wait! Don’t answer that!

Why?

…Because now that the test is over, you should be focused on de-stressing. After all, scores won’t be released for another three weeks! Why get all worked up evaluating your test-performance when you don’t even know your grade?

Yes. I thought you would agree with me. That’s why I wrote this blog entry on five ways to de-stress after the SAT. With these strategies, you can decompress and remain relaxed while you wait for your scores.

1.)
Let go of your mistakes

Pencils down!  Turn in the test. Take a deep breath and… Crap! I just remembered the meaning of that vocab word! And it was the answer! Or: Shoot! I should have used the Pythagorean Theorem to solve that math problem I left blank!

An especially crappy aspect of the SAT is that we tend to realize our mistakes once the test is over—and obsess about them endlessly. While reflecting on your test experience is important, it is NOT useful to consume yourself with questions missed. This is because fixating on questions bombed without also acknowledging those we aced can lead us to think we failed the test. In reality, we probably did just fine.

If you truly believe you BOMBED the test (as in, you didn’t answer the questions, got a vomit-inducing migraine, or wrote your essay on Fifty Shades of Gray) you can cancel your scores. Once you decide to do this, however, there is no going back. You must accept this decision without regret, and then start prepping for the next SAT.

2.)
Grab lunch with friends

The only fun part of the SAT is eating lunch when it’s over. Once dismissed from the test-site, head to the diner with a few of your friends to eat and laugh off post-SAT stress.

3.)
Exercise or Meditate

Exercise is a fantastic way to let go of stress built up during the exam. Not only does exercise trigger the brain to produce endorphins (natural, mood-enhancing hormones) but exercise also requires you to focus on your body’s movements in the present moment—that is, away from the SAT. Finally, exercise is literally exhausting. After a good workout, you’ll simply feel too tired to worry about how you scored on the SAT.

Meditation is also an excellent way to dispense with stress accrued through the day. My last blog entry focused on the benefits of meditation for students. Without restating the whole thing here, I will say that meditation teaches us to accept and let go of frustrations and mistakes. Like exercise, meditation also commands deep, unwavering focus. If you are having trouble enacting de-stressing technique #1, meditation should help you let go of your mistakes and tolerate uncertainty about your scores.

4.)
Spend some time with the television  

Months of test-prep on top of regular school work, socializing, and extracurricular activities means you probably missed out on a lot of TV. Celebrate the fact that the SAT is done by watching a movie/TV or by doing another completely passive (but thoroughly relaxing) activity.

Even if you’re planning to test again, allow yourself a couple of study-free days to enjoy some free time and bathe in the television’s soft blue glow.

5.)
Remind yourself that all will be fine—even if you bombed the SAT.

As much as the SAT matters… it really doesn’t matter.

Solid SAT scores are a vital part of your application to college, but it’s important to remember that admissions officials also consider your grades, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and personal statement. In other words, the SAT is not the be-all and end-all that determines your fate.

Even if lower-than-desired SAT scores keep you from admission to your top-choice school, you may find yourself at a college better suited to your interests, current academic skillset, and style of learning. In this case, lower-than-desired SAT scores would actually have benefited your personal, social, and academic growth.

The SAT means working hard to do your best on a grueling test, and then putting the experience behind you. Now that the test is over, you should rejoice! No matter your score, you should feel proud of yourself; you have just completed a necessary step on the pathway to college.

 

Glossary
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Accrue: to accumulate

28 Jun 2012

How to Achieve Your Goals, Part 2: Getting into a Good Routine

When I was in high school, I hated the idea of routine. It sounded so stiff, fixed, and boring. I wanted to be passionate! Friends, teachers, and parents should see me as spontaneous and creative, I thought.

As I have gotten older, however, I’ve come to realize that routines and goals are like yin and yang—they are interdependent and bring one another to fruition. Routines allow us to take control of our lives. Instead of flaking out, procrastinating, or becoming overwhelmed by banal tasks, routine followers calmly navigate their daily duties and make steady progress toward long-term goals.

On Tuesday, I explained that long-term goals must be broken down into a series of small steps. Since achieving long-term goals means prioritizing such steps, we must work them into our daily routines. In this blog entry, I will therefore outline a good daily routine for high school students that emphasizes daily progress toward long-term goals.

A Good Daily Routine for High School Students:

Before Bed:

1.) A few hours before bed, identify twomain goals for the next day. These can be large and time consuming, like writing an essay, or as simple as signing up for SAT prep. Your two main goals are the most important tasks you have for the day. Even if you get nothing else done, completing your two main goals will mean you’ve had a productive day.

2.) After you’ve identified your 2 main goals, write a longer list of things to do if you have time.

3.) Prepare for the next day by laying out your clothes, packing your lunch, and making sure everything you need for school is already in your backpack.

4.) Relax a little by reading a book before bed. Not only is this an enjoyable activity, but independent reading will also help you prepare for the SAT/ACT!

5.) Go to bed early enough to guarantee you’ll feel rested in the morning.

 

In the Morning:

1.) Wake up in plenty of time to get ready for school. Nothing throws off a productive day like rushing out of the house unclean, unkempt, and unprepared.

2.) Eat breakfast!

3.) Do a little reading or a crossword puzzle over breakfast or on your way to school. This light mental workout will have you sharp and focused just in time for school.

After School and Extracurricular Activities:

1.) Take a break, but do not let this break turn into procrastination. Taking a break is a productive activity; it refreshes your mind so you can continue attacking important tasks. A productive break lasts about 30 minutes–1 hour.

2.) Get to work on the 2 main goals you identified the night before. As these are your most important tasks for the day, you should complete them before working on anything else. Remember, procrastinating by doing less important (though still productive) tasks is still procrastinating! Starting work on these projects right away will also ensure you have enough time to do them well.

3.) Finish your homework and/or household chores. If one of your main goals was a homework assignment, you have one less thing to worry about!

4.) Take 30 minutes–1 hour every day to work on tasks you dread and tend to put off. For some students, this will turn into SAT/ACT study time. Dedicating a specific (short!) amount of time each day to working on dreaded tasks not only ensures steady progress, but it will also make these tasks feel less daunting.

5.) At some point, you’ll obviously need to eat dinner. Eat something nutritious! 

 

Before Bed (We’ve come full circle, eh?)

1.) Reflect for a bit on the day that has just passed. Did you manage your daily responsibilities and accomplish your main goals? If not, why? Did you procrastinate? Forget to do something? Or were your main goals too ambitious to complete in one day? Now is the time to think about what went wrong so you can make adjustments for tomorrow.

2.) Repeat the process. You know the drill.

 

Glossary:
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Fruition: completion; accomplishment; maturity
Banal: commonplace; everyday; mundane
Abide by: to follow

26 Jun 2012

How to Achieve Your Goals, Part 1: Planning for Long-Term Success

One day, Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, was asked by a young student, “How do you get to Mount Olympus?” Aristotle replied, “By simply ensuring that each step you take is toward Mount Olympus.”

Aristotle’s response is surprising. Usually when someone asks me for directions, I lay out a comprehensive plan. Walk straight for 5 blocks, I might say. Turn right at the church and you’ll see the mountain on your left. Instead of specifying a plan or worrying about the future, however, Aristotle instructs his student to simply concentrate on the present step. Only when this step is complete should the student concern himself with the next.

Back in February, Marcus (an awesome tutor here at Sentia) argued for the importance of setting goals when studying for admissions tests. In this blog entry, I will give some suggestions for how to make these goals actually happen. To do this, we don’t need to create a comprehensive final plan. We merely must identify and complete a series of next steps.

 How to Achieve Your Long-Term Goals:

 1.) Define your goals.

To achieve your goals, you must first figure out what they are. Since you have stumbled across the Sentia Education blog, I’m going to assume you’re a student aiming for a college or graduate degree. A lofty goal indeed!

Once you’ve identified your ultimate, long-term goal (COLLEGE! GRAD SCHOOL!), you must make a list of sub-goals. Sub-goals are all the projects you’ll need to complete before attaining your ultimate goal. For example, most colleges require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Thus, if you’re a high school student applying to college, taking the SAT or ACT is an important sub-goal.

As you move forward with the method I describe below, you will continue to break your goals down into smaller and smaller pieces.

 2.) Force yourself to Just Get Started!

Beginning work on a big project can be daunting—especially if you’re not sure where to start or how much work you’ll need to do. In the germinal stage of any endeavor, it’s generally best to suspend such worries and focus on getting something—anything—done. This is the first step. Once you have taken the first step, you will find it easier to identify the next.

Setting a precise, limited work-time will make it easier to start work on your goal. To begin, challenge yourself to work for 30 minutes today. Stop working after 30 minutes, no matter how paltry your progress. You have made admirable headway just by forcing yourself to sit down, “break the ice,” and attack your goal. (Keep working, of course, if you’re being productive and don’t want to stop!)

When you are finished for today, schedule your next short work session. And so forth.

3.) Break your goal into a series of small tasks.

 The first step here is figuring out exactly how long you have to complete your goal. Then, you will make a list of things you know you need to do to complete this goal.

For instance, if you’re studying for the SAT, one of your first actions will be to register for the exam. Perhaps you will take it this October?

There are 15 weeks between now and the October 6 SAT. What do you need to do before then? A diligent student might write: I need to take & review practice sections; learn grammar concepts; and memorize 300 vocab words.

Continue to break down this list until you have a series of mini-goals to complete at specific times in the immediate future. Once again, our diligent student might here resolve to: learn 20 vocab words each week to memorize 300 in 15 weeks; take and review 3 practice sections each week; study grammar concepts for 1 hour each week.

 And there we have it! We have defined our next steps.

4.) Make a schedule of times to complete your mini-goals.

Once you’ve established a series of mini-goals, you will want to create a regular work-schedule to get them done. Creating a schedule for completing your mini-goals will not only cause the overall project to feel less overwhelming, but it will also force you to make this work a priority.

Treat each one of your scheduled work-sessions as a commitment you cannot break. I cannot emphasize this enough. Unless there is a serious (and I mean serious) emergency, you must honor and abide by the schedule you make.

Tip: Establishing a regular place (or—better yet—a few places) to go to work on your goal will help these sessions feel more like actual appointments. In addition, your brain will begin to associate such special spots with working on your goal, so you can get focused faster.

5.) Monitor your progress every step of the way.

 Let’s say you’re studying for the SAT. You have made a schedule whereby you take 3 practice exam sections each week. On Monday, you take a Math section, grade it, and learn you got all but 4 questions wrong. Ouch!

Sounds like it’s time to re-evaluate your work schedule and set some new mini-goals!

At this moment in time, you might set a mini-goal of getting a Sentia tutor to help you with math. You might also set a goal of re-learning concepts covered in the questions you got wrong. In either case, you are rethinking your plan to counter unexpected challenges. In other words, you less concerned with sticking to a pre-formed plan than with identifying and taking the appropriate next steps.

Glossary:
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

 Lofty: exalted in rank, dignity, or character; noble
Germinal: being in the earliest stage of development
Paltry: ridiculously small