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The SAT is a Marathon

The pistol fires, and you begin. Your pace is steady, and while the end is not in sight, you know that you’ll make it. After all, you’ve practiced this distance for the past four months. You begin to sweat; you focus your breathing. Street after street, the feeling of accomplishment rises. All that hard work has led to this moment, which now you relish: crossing the finish line. Victory.

Training for a long-distance marathon is surprisingly similar to preparing for the SAT. That doesn’t mean you should practice running five kilometer circuits in your hometown with the hopes of getting a perfect score. Instead, you should view the SAT as a test that requires a specific kind of practice. And just like marathons, you can’t expect to do well on the SAT unless you’ve maintained your preparation.

How exactly are marathons and the SAT similar?

Both require that you set a goal before the official date.

The marathon runner and the SAT test-taker both must set goals. For the marathon runner, she may want to complete the race under a certain time or simply get through the entire course, or she may have her eyes set on placing among the top finishers. Whatever the case, the assumption is not simply that she runs a marathon with the express purpose of getting first place.

The same holds true for the SAT test-taker. Obviously, a perfect score on the test or any one section is most ideal, but if the test-taker isn’t realistic with himself, he’ll set an improbable goal and only frustrate himself during practice and once the results come out.

For someone who has never run in her adult life, the marathon runner probably shouldn’t plan on getting among the top finishers. Similarly, if the test-taker hasn’t read a book outside of Sparknotes since 8th grade, then he shouldn’t expect to do the best on the Critical Reading.

Managing expectations and goals is important for the test, because it gives your preparation a sense of purpose that otherwise might be lost if you vaguely aim for perfection. Measure your strengths and time commitment accurately.

Both require that you gradually build yourself up to peak performance.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The best marathon runners (and even the casual ones) don’t plop down on the course and run the whole distance. They spend hours training, taking themselves from point A to point B both literally and physically and mentally. They build endurance, adding time and distance to each practice run until they are confident that they can finish in their ideal state, at their ideal time.

Your ideal SAT score won’t be from your first practice test. Your first test will be lower than what you hope to get on the official exam. That’s okay. The SAT is a specific testing context, and while some skills do transfer to the test, there are many others that do not, so learning the test becomes like the practice that a marathon runner must complete. In Writing, you address holes in your grammar knowledge first, going concept by concept into the depths of pronouns and verbs, before moving on to punctuation and finally paragraph questions. You are systematic, surgical.

Only by taking your practice one step at a time can you expect to get the results you want. Of course, long preparation is the most ideal. Many students simply cram a few weeks before taking the test. These methods can still apply, but you have to pinpoint areas that have the largest weakness or the quickest solutions.

Both require that you consistently practice.

The time investment never changes; you can’t expect great results if you absentmindedly complete a few practice runs here and there. If SAT is the thing you do at midnight after everything else, or if it’s your weekend homework, then it won’t yield to your will. You have to continuously practice--every day, if possible--to maintain your endurance, to keep yourself mentally and even physically fit for the test. Students make this mistake most; they treat the SAT as a boogeyman that needs slaying only when they’ve clicked the lamp off at midnight. But it’s omnipresent, requiring more than casual attention. A marathon is no different; the race’s date looms, and each day that’s not spent training is another that means more hardship and frustration in the future.

Don’t gasp for air. Train yourself right.

Study. Take the test seriously.

The August SAT is upon us, and these next two weeks will be crucial for maintaining scores from summer preparation and even improving scores for people who have yet to start studying. And beyond August, the October, November, and December tests remain. If you need more help structuring your time and studies, or if you need more specific help filling the gaps, then let us at B2A help you make the most of your training. The SAT is like a marathon, and while the road to the finish line can be tough, it doesn’t have to so bad that you hit a wall. We’ll help you make the push towards your ideal score, helping you with everyone up until the final stretch.


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