Guide to Awesome Test Prep: Study Based on Your Strengths and Weaknesses

To get awesome test scores, you need to study smarter. That means spending less time on stuff you already know and focusing on your weaknesses instead.
Crystal Nikish's avatar by Crystal Nikish, PrepMe Student Advisor. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in English and a minor in Education Theory and Policy. Her favorite food is chocolate.

Now that you've decided which test to take and how to study, it's time to figure out what to study. Many group tutoring classes will teach everyone everything there is to learn on the big tests, but that's an inefficient way to study. To make the most of your time, you should study based on your strengths and weaknesses. That means that you skip the sections you've already mastered and instead, work harder on the areas that you don't know as well. Here's how to do it:

Take a Diagnostic Test

It's important to take a diagnostic test at the beginning of your study plan. A diagnostic test will tell you what you're good at and what you need some help with. It's important to note that this is not the same as a practice test. This test will be untimed and not scored like an official practice test. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't guess. That will only make your results more inaccurate.

Discover Your Skill Profile

When you score your diagnostic test, make sure to put each question into a skill category, such as: Math (area of a triangle) or Science (interpreting graphs). Keeping track of these categories will make it easier to decide what to study and for how long. Make sure to label this skill profile as your starting point. You'll want to do the same thing when you take your first official practice test later on.

Focus on Your Weak Areas

Once you discover your weak areas, make sure that your study plan is specific enough to mention which lessons you need to go over for every study session. Try to work through one area at a time until you feel comfortable enough with it to move on. This will allow you to focus your learning until each weakness becomes a strength.

Review Your Strong Areas

Take most of your time to focus on your weak areas, but don't forget to review your strong areas right before your test date. This will help with small details that you may have forgotten, like specific equations or grammar rules. Doing some practice drills on skills you've already mastered will also help you with your time management, so that you can spend more time on the types of questions you're less familiar with.

If you're practicing on your own, or out of a prep book, all of this diagnosing and planning might be a little intimidating. But the good news is that a lot of the work can be done for you automatically! The PrepMe course starts with an online diagnostic test that will help you discover your skill profile and is constantly updated so that you don't have to worry about what to study next. You can take the diagnostic test and check out your personalized skill reports for five full days here. Once you discover your strengths and weaknesses, you'll be ready to move on to Step 4: Create a Study Schedule.

filed under Test Prep, Guide to Awesome Test Prep
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