You know that studying for the ACT is important, yet the excuses pile up whenever it’s time to sit down and get to work, and it’s difficult to motivate yourself to study. Often, this lack of motivation stems from internal and external factors that can be overcome once you recognize them.
If you find yourself unmotivated to study, ask yourself three questions:
“How does studying right now fit into my long-term goals?”
“Why do I not want to study right now?”
“How can I be in a better mindset tomorrow?”
We’ll go through each of these questions below:
1) Set Goals
The first step in creating any study plan is to establish some long-term goals, as a lack of motivation can come from not seeing the benefits of an activity. It’s difficult to see how studying for the ACT on a Saturday morning is beneficial when college seems distant. You probably have a lot going on – like studying for next week’s test, completing your history project, making first chair in the orchestra – and just haven’t had time to think about how studying for the ACT fits into your long-term goals and plans.
The first step in creating any study plan is to establish some long-term goals, as a lack of motivation can come from not seeing the benefits of an activity. It’s difficult to see how studying for the ACT on a Saturday morning is beneficial when college seems distant.
Take a few hours to develop some long-term goals, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from a parent or mentor. What career path are you interested in? What colleges do you have your eye on? Tangible goals give you something real to work towards, rather than just a vague goal of “going to college.” Creating these goals also helps you understand how studying for the ACT fits into your goals.
To really help yourself visualize this, create a flowchart of the path ahead. Say you’ve decided you want to become a speech pathologist – what would it take to get there?
7. Certified Speech Pathologist
But before that…
6. Graduate degree
5. Undergraduate degree
4. Admission to XYZ University
3. Apply to XYZ University
2. Gather application materials
1. Take the ACT test
Bingo. Once you have it mapped out, it’s easy to see that you have to take the ACT test to start the process of becoming a speech pathologist (or whatever your goal may be), and subsequently, the ACT is a pretty important test you should be studying for.
2) Create a Plan
Once you understand how taking the ACT fits into your goals, create an ACT-specific study plan. What are the relevant timelines you need to consider? How does your schedule align with ACT test schedules, and when are the application deadlines for your top schools?
Pull out the calendar and choose three upcoming test dates that work within your schedule and the college application cycle (as scores almost always increase from the first time a student takes the test to the second, you should probably take the test at least twice. You can take the third test to hone your score, if necessary). Ideally, you’ll take your first ACT 3 months from the time you begin studying.
Create an ACT-specific study plan. What are the relevant timelines you need to consider? How does your schedule align with ACT test schedules, and when are the application deadlines for your top schools?
Once the test dates are on the calendar, pick out some study tools. After you’ve picked out the study tools, create a realistic study plan that works with your schedule.
Tips for Picking ACT Test Prep Material
- Look for comprehensive content that is on the same level (or higher) than the test. Really learning the content that will be on the test is the best way to get your goal score. This is one of the main premises on which we developed The Olive Book ACT course. Our practice problems build your understanding of important concepts, not specific questions, so you can take on any question the test throws your way.
- Be wary of people and products that focus on testing tricks. There are a few helpful tricks to know (which we write about here on our blog and in our ACT course), but actually knowing the content, really knowing it, is the surest and the fastest path to a better score.
- Be wary of people and products who promise results in a certain number of hours. There is no magic threshold and no fixed number of hours that will get you to your score goal.
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3) Stay Motivated
We all know that setting goals can be the easiest part of this process. Mental and physical obstacles can get in the way of accomplishing well-meaning, much-desired goals. So how do you stay motivated to study and reach your goals?
Watch out for mental obstacles that keep you from studying. Do you believe the material is too hard? That there’s no way you’ll get the score you need? Whatever these mental obstacles may be, find ways to counteract them. Practice positive self-talk (this may sound silly, but it works) and remind yourself why you chose the study program you did. Ask a friend to keep you accountable to the study plan you’ve laid out.
Mental and physical obstacles can get in the way of accomplishing well-meaning, much-desired goals. Set yourself up for success mentally and physically.
Set yourself up for success physically, too. Create a designated study spot that makes it easy to get to work. Treat your scheduled study times like any other commitment, and don’t bump it for another activity unless it’s really necessary.
Remember: You’re Responsible for Your Success
You’re responsible for your success. The work you put in now is what will help you achieve your goals. But, it’s really hard to stay motivated on sheer willpower alone. Go through the necessary steps of fitting studying into your long-term goals and creating an environment to follow through. You are much more capable than you think you are, so don’t let something as silly as not studying keep you from your reaching goals!