How to Find Balance when Taking an Exam

Taking an exam soon? Here are tips on how to find the right balance to prepare for the exam. 

By: Isabel Sipkema, Biology and Educational Studies at Rhodes College ‘22

 Appropriate Planning

  1. What score are you trying to get? Have a general idea of what score bracket you are trying to range in, as this will be important in guiding your preparation for the exam. This will ensure that you are able to balance your prep for the exam as well as managing all the other things you need to do
  2. How much will you need to study to get that score? Once you have figured out what your goal score bracket is, figure out how much time you think you will need to put into studying and preparing in order to make that happen. Be reasonable with this: don’t plan for less study time than you reasonably think you will need to do well.
  3. SAT and ACT Study Improvement Rates: On average, plan for about 10 hours of studying for every 50 points that you want to improve on the SAT (out of 1600) and 1 point on the ACT (out of 32).


Write a Study Schedule

  1. Think about the other things you need to do until your test day. Write out an accurate schedule of all the things you need to spend time on until your test day. Once you have done this, add in your plan for when you are going to study. Add in times during the day that you are busy with other things and times that you plan to block off to study. Make sure this is reasonable and don’t expect to study for longer than you can handle without breaks, so plan these into your schedule.
  2. Create a small study buffer. You can expect that it will be hard to follow this schedule exactly as things may change in your schedule or unexpected things may come up. Keeping this in mind, add in a little more time for studying than you think you will need to your schedule to ensure that you put in enough time while also giving yourself the time that you need to do all the other things on your schedule.
  3. Be flexible with your plan. This connects to the last point about creating a study buffer, as it is very important to ensure you don’t plan to study on exact days when you might have to focus your time and energy on other things then instead. Therefore, plan a small cushion of extra hours to study to ensure that this doesn’t affect your ability to get the score that you want.


Staying on Track with your Preparation

  1. Once again, make sure your plan is reasonable. Don’t put too much on your schedule in a short amount of time or a lot of studying on very few days if you don’t think you can handle this. Your preparation and study time needs to be productive and focused for you to be able to try to get the score that you want on your test.  
  2. Change it if needed. Once again, things can come up that you didn’t expect. Plan for this in your schedule by giving yourself a buffer that will allow you to move things around on your schedule if you need to. Having a flexible schedule that works for you will make you a lot more likely to follow it because it’ll fit into your day-to-day life well. Additionally, if you feel like your schedule isn’t helping you, change it to something that will. At the end of the day, the schedule is there for you.
  3. Share your study plan with people that will hold you to it. Share your plan with your parents, siblings or friends if you think that they will be able to motivate you to stick. To it. Share it with someone you trust and who will be there to motivate you to study even when you don’t want to. This will make you more likely to follow your schedule.


Creating a Good Balance Between Studying and Other Things

  1. Give yourself days that you don’t prepare for the exam if possible. Give yourself some hours or days in which you aren’t doing any test prep and spend this time doing something that you enjoy. Add this into your schedule too. This will ensure that you don’t overwork yourself and are able to have a good balance.
  2. Set small goals to motivate yourself with each study session. By creating small daily or hourly goals for studying, you are more likely to be motivated to make that goal. Have a small reward waiting at the end of each of these goals, such as a snack or a study break, which will also convince you to follow your plan and to stay focused while studying.
  3. Make sure to do things you enjoy. Don’t make a plan that doesn’t allow time for breaks or doing the things that you enjoy. This is very important, as it will motivate you to make the most of your study sessions so that you will have time to also have time for the things that you enjoy. Add this to your schedule, as mentioned above, so that you look forward to it.


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