Green Test Prep Summer Scheduling Guide and Calendar
The summer is, in many ways, the ideal time to study for the SAT and ACT. You have a flexible schedule, few other time commitments, and fewer overall stresses on your brain. Best yet: most students can get 8+ hours of sleep a night during the summer, which happens to be one of the most essential (and overlooked) ingredients in excellent test prep performance.
In my experience, 100 hours is the “sweet spot” for significant score improvements. Most students who can invest 100+ hours in their prep (including their practice test time) will improve by roughly ~200 points on the SAT and ~5 points on the ACT – improvements that allow them to apply to colleges entire tiers above their initial targets.
Practice tests take roughly 4 hours each to complete, and because my program recommends that you take 6 practice tests, you’ll accumulate 24 hours of experience through this process alone.
If you study from mid-June through the end of August, you’ll have ~76 days to study. That means that if you can invest an hour a day in your studies from the start of the summer through the end, you’ll end up with 100+ hours of experience.
This is far from a “summer school” experience. Study for 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the afternoon, and sit for one test every other weekend, and the rest of the summer is yours!
Best yet: because my program is online, portable, and doesn’t require any specific sort of daily scheduling, you can follow this program when you’re at home, when you’re traveling, when you’re at camp, etc. You can follow a thorough, effective SAT and ACT prep program without disrupting your summer fun at all. Not a bad deal, eh?
With all this in mind, let’s get into the finer details: how should you use Green Test Prep (and your summer) to prepare effectively, when should you study, how long should you study for, what should you study, what should you skip, where should you study, and when are you ready to take the real thing?
Step One: Check the Table of Contents
From within both the SAT and ACT systems, you’ll find a “table of contents” file under the “My Documents” section on the left of your account. If you want to plan ahead for maximum effect, I highly recommend printing this out for reference or taking a moment to reference it before you begin your studies.
You’ll notice that the lessons in your Table of Contents are described as “TESTS,” “study skills,” or by particular test-specific sections (math, reading, etc.).
A few guidelines will help you to get the most from your studies:
- EVERY student should complete EVERY “Study Skills” lesson. These lessons will help you to set goals, set a test date, enhance your cognitive function and memory, and much more. The lessons within this category will have a positive effect on every section – from math to science to reading – and skipping these lessons may cause serious logistical issues down the road.
- TESTS need to be taken in one stretch, ideally on weekend mornings after a full night’s sleep. While it’s possible to take a practice test in the afternoon, it’s not recommended. You want to replicate the actual experience of taking the SAT/ACT, which will be administered in the morning in a single stretch. For best results, plan and schedule your tests accordingly. Also note that you’ll need your official testing booklet with you if you want to take a diagnostic test properly.
- The lessons themselves are not the main time commitment of the program – the assignments are. Each lesson (for instance, 8D) is meant to teach you a key strategy, tactic, or material lesson to help you improve its respective section. However, reading these lessons is not the key to your progress – practicing these lessons is how you improve! Even if you’re strong in a particular subject, I recommend taking the time to look at the lessons I’ve created for it – they’re quick, efficient, and will give you new insights you might not discover on your own. At the same time, realize that the program’s core benefits come from the assignments in each set, not from the numbered lessons. Plan your time accordingly.
- The “days” of the program, 45 in all, should be thought of as “sets.” You do not need to complete a single set of work in a single day. You can spread the work out from a single set over multiple days, and you can work on the latter half of one set and the beginning half of another on the same day. The only sets that need to be thought of as “special” are the sets pertaining to your TESTS. Your TEST days should be kept separate – don’t work on other assignments before your tests, and don’t work on extra assignments after your tests Mark one day per test day. The rest of your days can be spread out or condensed as you please.
- If you already have extremely high scores in a particular section, you can feel free to skip the lessons and assignments pertaining to that section. If you have above a 760 on SAT math, above a 380 on SAT writing+language or reading, or a 34+ on any section of the ACT, you don’t necessarily need to spend much (if any) time on lessons for that particular section. Your time is always best spent on your worst sections , because these are your greatest opportunities for improvement. It’s much easier to raise a 600 to a 700 than it is to raise a 780 to an 800, so spend your time focusing mostly on the sections in which you’re scoring lowest. Furthermore, once you hit a certain point, higher scores won’t mean much to colleges. Admissions officers will see a student with a 1560 and a 1600 on the SAT in exactly the same way (once scores hit a certain level, all that matters are the other elements of your application).
- It’s best to follow all the LESSONS and SETS in order. However, the time that you spend on your independent DRILLS should be allocated to your weakest areas. For instance, if you have a 23 in reading and a 32 in math, and you’re asked to “complete three 10-minute sets of new problems,” I’d recommend allocating at least two of those sets to reading and only one to math. Use your judgment, and pay attention to where you’re progressing quickly, and where you need the most work. For instance, if you’re finding ACT science particularly frustrating, feel free to spend all your non-lesson drill work on ACT science until you feel that you’ve cleared up whatever is holding you back, then move onward.
Above all else, remember the golden rule of this program:
This process is about YOU. It’s about YOUR progress, YOUR strengths, YOUR weaknesses, and YOUR scores. If you feel that you need to spend more time on one section than another, do so! If you feel that a particular strategy is more challenging for you than the one you were already using, and you don’t see any progress in utilizing the new strategy, then experiment with both until you see which one gets the best results for YOU! So long as you put in the work, study consistently, and pay attention to where you’re progressing (and where you need more work), you’re going to shine!
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the program and set up an ideal summer schedule!
Your Study Calendar: The Perfect Plan for Summer
The following study calendar assumes an 11-week study window for the summer. Because the program is flexible, there’s no need to panic if your break is shorter or longer than 11 weeks; just push some of this work into your spring / fall academic calendar (if you have less than 11 weeks). If you have more time, the last portion of this guide will teach you how to extend your prep indefinitely so that you can keep improving your scores!
Immediately: Read the included guide on the New SAT vs. the ACT:
Make sure that you pick the test that’s right for you! Take the time to complete the at-home analysis so that you’re investing your time in the best exam for your particular style.
Secure all of the necessary texts recommended so that you have the appropriate study materials.
Read all of the lessons through 2B – these will set you up to take your first diagnostic.
Take your first TEST on its own day, after a proper night’s sleep, with a good meal in your stomach. Follow all the proper guidelines on taking the test correctly.
On the next day, devote the day solely to analyzing and grading the test and digesting all of your errors. This will set you up for the rest of the week.
Aim to get through Set 4 by the end of your first week. You now have a graded practice test, a set of difficult practice problems, and a foundation for the key sections.
Spend any extra time reviewing and re-solving any of the problems that gave you trouble on your practice test (the ones that you put on flashcards and marked in your initial exam). Focus on these problems extensively during week one.
Main goal: get through all the lessons and assignments through Set 8.
Spread these lessons and assignments throughout your week.
Feel free to skip ahead, look at the lessons, and look at the assignments given, then put slots in your daily calendar.
The key here is to make sure that you plan ahead and make specific times for EACH assignment.
You do not want to cram – it’s much better to do one assignment, take a break, and complete another later in the day.
If you find that you have extra time, devote it to additional practice sections of your worst subject, and to reviewing flashcards that you’ve already made.
Main goal: get through all the lessons and assignments through Set 12.
Read “Week Two” for scheduling recommendations.
Depending on your strengths and weaknesses pertaining to the subjects covered in Sets 9-12, these assignments could take you more or less time.
This week, it’s very important to record how long the different lessons and assignments are taking you. This will be essential for future planning. Certain assignments may take anywhere from 5 minutes to 75 minutes to complete, and you should feel free to split them up so that they fit into your schedule.
Again, be sure to plan ahead and slot each lesson and assignment into a specific time and day when you know you’ll be able to complete it.
Also, you’ll ideally “put lessons to use” immediately after you read them. Try pairing a lesson on math with a practice math section for maximized retention and understanding.
Main goal: to finish Sets 13, 14, and 15, and to take your second TEST at the end of the week.
Your second practice test will be the most important thing to plan. Be sure you have a full morning to devote to it, and make sure you get a proper night’s rest beforehand.
Look ahead and schedule Sets 13 and 14 into daily time slots. Be sure you allocate enough time to complete all the lessons and assignments throughout the week.
Set 15 involves a thorough re-analysis of your first test, and can take a significant amount of time if you had some trouble on your first test. This means that Set 15 should ideally be given two days for completion.
Set 16 is your second practice test. End the week with this test, and be sure to grade it and enter your scores into the Score Tracker so that you’re ready for the next week!
Main Goals: To analyze your second test and work all the way through Set 20.
Set 17 is all about analyzing your second test. This can take up to two days – it’s the same process as you completed with the first test, and can take some time, so plan accordingly!
These next sets will also introduce you to the essay. When you’re unfamiliar with the essay, these sets can take a significant amount of time, and involve planning and writing a number of practice essays.
With that in mind, be sure to set aside larger than usual chunks of time for these Sets, as they’re best when not broken up (unlike most of the assignments within the program).
Also, these Sets involve more and longer lessons than usual. This week will be a bit strenuous, and careful planning is important if you don’t want to fall behind!
Also, be very sure to keep up your flashcard and review work during this week! While you gain mastery in the essay, you also want to keep all of your newly-gained math, grammar, and reading skills alive and healthy!
Planning some extra time this week for review of flashcards and additional “bonus” practice sections is wise.
Goals: To plan, take, grade, and analyze your third diagnostic test, and to work through Set 25.
By now, you’re familiar with the process of reviewing your old tests, planning for new ones, and then analyzing and digesting them in full.
Because your skills are improving, this process will take you less time every time that you work through it – you’ll be getting fewer problems wrong, and the process of digesting them and researching the proper process for solving them will be easier and faster.
Nevertheless, proper planning is essential. Set 23 will be devoted to your practice test, so set aside the time to take and grade it, and make sure you get a good night’s sleep beforehand.
Set 22 will also be a bit intense as it combines new lessons with the review exercise that was usually given its own day.
Set 24 will be mostly devoted to analyzing your test, so feel free to set aside one to two full days for that, and supplement this process with new practice sections of your weakest subjects and extra flashcard review if you have the time.
Set 25 is straightforward, but be sure to look ahead and plan out when you’ll complete each lesson and assignment!
Main Goal: to work all the way through Set 29 and prepare yourself for the practice test at the beginning of next week.
Set 29 will be devoted to reviewing your third practice test. You know the drill (and the time requirements)!
Depending on how long this review process is taking you, set aside one or two days to devote to analyzing and re-working your last practice test.
Sets 26, 27, and 28 are all “business as usual.” Look through the assignment sets, plan ahead, and figure out when you’ll take each lesson and work through each drill.
As per usual, if you find yourself with extra time, devote it to working through additional flashcard review and to spending some time doing timed exercises in your worst sections.
Main Goals: To take your fourth practice test, review it, analyze it, digest it, and then work all the way through Set 33.
Set 30 will be your fourth practice test. Be sure you set aside the time for it in your schedule, get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and don’t allow any conflicts to get in your way! Starting the week with your fourth practice test will give you a whole new set of challenges and opportunities moving forward.
Set 31 will be devoted to analyzing and digesting the test. Depending on how long this has taken you, set aside 1-2 full days for this process.
Sets 32 and 33 are straightforward. Read ahead, check the length of the lessons and the assignments given, and slot each into a time each day during the week so that you can complete them.
If you have extra time, be sure to work through any additional practice sections under timed conditions. Also, if you find that some of your flashcards are now easy to solve, put them in a separate pile so that you’re spending the majority of your flashcard time on the things that are still giving you trouble.
Main Goals: To finish the week out with your fifth practice test, work through Sets 34-37, and re-analyze your fourth exam.
This week will end with your fifth diagnostic test. Plan accordingly! Set aside a whole day, make sure you take it easy the night beforehand, and give yourself plenty of rest time in general. You’re getting close to finishing the program, and you want to make sure that you’re well-rested and well-fed so that your scores reflect your maximum capacity!
Set 36 will require you to re-digest your fourth practice test. This means that sufficient time for this process should be set aside – you know better than anyone how long this will take.
Sets 34 and 35 are straightforward and pertain to regular lessons and drills. Scan them and set aside the time to complete each lesson and assignment.
This week, it’s especially important that you focus all of your in-program and out-of-program practice work on timing. Don’t work on any new problems without a watch on your wrist.
Main Goals: Digest your fifth test, plan ahead for your actual test date, fine-tune your study drills, acquire your checklists, and work all the way through Set 41.
Most of this week will then be devoted to planning. Based on your scores, you’ll want to plan ahead to figure out when you will take your test during the school year, figure out whether you want to keep prepping for a longer time, make all the logistical arrangements necessary, etc.
Because there is less actual work to be done this week, you might find yourself with a lot of extra time compared to your usual workload. This is fantastic: use it to study your checklists in depth.
This week, on Set 40, you’ll be introduced to the Ultimate Checklists for each section.
Spend the time to copy them down. If you see any key lessons or processes that you forget or need refreshing, look at your Table of Contents and spend the time to re-read those lessons!
Sometimes, as you get comfortable with your test, some of the processes that you learn become automatic, and then, suddenly, you forget to do them at all!
Don’t let this happen! Use your checklists and try to go through at least a portion of a practice section in each subject with those checklists alongside you. Use each element within and be very sure to apply everything that has worked for you.
Spend your extra time cleaning up your flashcards and putting the easy ones in extra piles, re-reading old lessons that you may have forgotten, and, if you’re feeling extremely ambitious, try working through a few timed practice sections after you’ve referenced the checklists.
Main Goal: To finish the entire program and to set yourself up for testing success.
Set 43 will be devoted to re-analyzing your first practice test. For most, this is a lovely process – you get to see how much you’ve improved! However, it can also take a while, since this is usually the test on which you got the most problems wrong. Set aside at least one day, and perhaps two, for this process, depending on how long it has taken you in the past.
This week, on Set 44, you’ll be taking your final practice test and reviewing yet another one. Look ahead, set aside a day to devote to Set 44, and make sure you behave properly the day beforehand!
Most importantly, spend this week setting yourself up for your future study. You still have a few weeks until your official test date, and the lessons you’ll see this week are all about planning, creating study plans for continued success, organizing your cards, acquiring the proper materials, etc.
Use this week to create a rock-solid plan for moving forward and knocking your test out of the park.
Set 45 is all about the procedures you’ll use for the day before, night before, and day of your actual exam. You might not be using these lessons yet, but you’ll want them memorized and documented before your big day! By reading them now, you’ll know what to expect before test day, and you’ll create a flawless plan and schedule that will lead you right up to the door of the testing center. Be sure to write this information down and make a calendar reminder to reference it in advance of your official test!
Woohoo! You’ve finished the program! For many students, this is enough work to get them the scores they need to gain admission to their dream schools. If you still need higher scores (or if your scores are so high that you want to set the bar even higher and apply to even more ambitious schools), just keep reading – the next portion of this guide will show you what to do if you want to invest even more time into your prep!
The SAT and ACT aren’t offered at the beginning of the school year – usually, they’re anywhere from 2-6 weeks into the academic calendar, which means you’ll need to stay fresh and keep your skills sharp so that you maintain the highest scores possible. Use the next portion of this guide to teach you how to do just that!
Also, be sure to speak with your college counselor or advisor to make sure you’ve registered for the proper test dates (and a backup), secured extra time and accommodations (if necessary), and taken the time to plan for your SAT Subject Tests, APs, and all your other academic and application requirements.
You can use my free Game Plan to help you do just that!
By planning ahead and taking advantage of your summer, you’re putting yourself in an amazing position to gain admission to the best universities in the world. Good luck with the program, and have a fun, healthy, happy summer!
What to Do Once You’ve Completed the Program (How to Keep Prepping and Stay Fresh Between the End of the Program and Your Official Test Date / Official Test Dates)
Congratulations!l You’ve finished my entire program! By this point, you’ve studied all the key strategies necessary to get a perfect score, and you’ve collected all the material you need to learn in order to answer every possible question.
If you’re walking right into an official test date, you’re good to go. However, there are three scenarios that might come up:
- You might have a few weeks or more until your test date, and you want to stay fresh between now and when you walk into the testing center.
- You might want to raise your score by even more points to get into even more competitive schools.
- You might have just completed your official test, but want to stay fresh between now and your backup test.
If you’ve seen big gains, and you want to see even more (or just keep your skills fresh), this segment will provide you with everything you need to keep the ball rolling. Just follow the prescription here and you’ll keep getting better and better and better (or, at the very least, keep your score steady so that you don’t lose any of what you’ve gained).
Again, congrats on getting all the way through – I know it’s not always easy to put so much work into any process, and especially a process as aggravating as mastering a process you formerly found intimidating – so give yourself another pat on the back.
First things first: do you need more practice material?
By this point, you may have already exhausted all your practice tests and books. Click the link below for a full list of my recommended books. Grab whatever you need to keep studying on a consistent, light, daily basis and to keep ripping through new material when the time is right.
If you still need more books after checking this list, I suggest Amazon.com! Trust the reviews, and go from there. You’ll rarely go wrong if you go with the stuff that other students just like you have given high marks. Also, if you need more stuff for a particular section, both Barron’s and McGraw Hill make pretty reliably materials that you can use to hone your skills in those particular areas.
Next Up: Continuing to Hone Your Skills
Throughout this program, you’ve learned all the best review exercises available to improve your scores. Among them:
- Taking full-length, timed, graded exams.
- Working through full practice sections, timed and un-timed, and digesting them afterward.
- Re-analyzing old tests to cement your understanding of formerly challenging material.
- Re-analyzing old practice sections to cement your understanding of formerly challenging material.
- Crafting flashcards out of any and all problems that you find difficult in writing+language and math.
- Re-analyzing reading sections once you know the right answers, figuring out your weaknesses and enhancing your understanding by figuring out what wrong answers look like, why you pick them, and how to avoid them in the future.
- Going through old flashcards, re-solving them from scratch, and sorting them into “totally get it now,” “still sort of hard,” and “still really hard” piles.
- Using pomodoro timing to increase your speed across all sections of the exam.
- Crafting steroid flashcards for math and writing+language problems.
All nine are absolutely fantastic ways of upping your skill set.
Now, it’s time for you to craft a calendar to follow from now through your second test containing a healthy mix of all of the above.
Your brain operates under the principle of use it or lose it. If you’re not getting better at something, you’re getting worse at it. There is no “staying the same” when it comes to the brain game. So if you don’t keep up your practice from now through your test(s), you will start slipping. If you keep practicing, however, you’ll just be even better than you are today. Practice makes perfect, and lack of practice makes for regression.
With that in mind, it’s imperative that you keep fighting the good fight. Here’s how to do it:
Your Step-by-Step, Keep Getting Better at the SAT/ACT Plan
- Map out how many days you have before you take your SAT or ACT. Make sure you have a realistic idea of the time frame so you can plan accordingly.
- Every single day, without exception, spend AT LEAST 20 minutes working on your studies. You don’t need to spend 5 hours a day on this stuff. But remember: if you give your brain even the tiniest reason to retain information, it will. If you don’t, it’ll start tossing it in the trash immediately. You need to teach your brain that the SAT/ACT is still relevant , and you do that by reviewing even a tiny bit of information every single day. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste.
- Try working through at least 15-20 pomodoro-timed questions per day, from new practice sections, at least 4 days per week. Focus on your weakest sections, but make sure to spread the love around so that you never go too long without hitting all four.
- Keep your math and writing+language flashcards handy and continue working through your toothbrush flashcard routine. Try attacking at least 5 math and 5 writing+language cards a day, every single day, focusing on your “still really hard” piles. Every 4 or 5 days, try cycling through another 10-20 cards from your “medium hard” pile, and every two weeks, try working through 30 from your “easy now” pile to make sure that they’re still easy! As you work through your cards, you can always shift them into new piles whenever necessary.
- Twice a week, spend 20-25 minutes working through old problems in past tests and sections that you got wrong. Review your checklists beforehand so that you can view them in light of the proper procedures.
- At least once a week, go through the “flashcard purge” exercise. Keep your piles up to date and always be sure that you’re studying the highest-impact materials! Put flashcards you can solve easily in the “easy” pile so that you spend the majority of your time on the things that still give you the most difficulty – that’s how you’ll improve as quickly as possible!
- At least once a month, take another timed, graded practice test (essay included). Keep your actual, timed test-taking skills up to date so that you’re ready for the big leagues! Also, it’s essential that you know where your current scores stand – if you don’t, you won’t be sure how quickly you’re progressing, and you won’t know whether you can take the SAT or ACT even sooner than expected, or if you need to push your target test date back by a bit.
- Continue working on all of the brain-enhancing skills I’ve taught you throughout the program! If you stop keeping your morning and results journal, stop meditating, stop taking study walks, stop napping, and stop sleeping well, then you’re not going to perform at the same level.
If you mix these activities up, focusing most of your attention on your worst subjects, with at least a bit of time spent on all four to keep you fresh, you’re going to blow your test out of the water! Rather than slipping backwards, you’ll continue to improve, allowing more and more information to “settle” in your brain, and basically just becoming an SAT-taking machine.
A few final notes:
You get out of this what you put into it!
You’ve been through my entire program – you are officially at a different level. All you need to put in from now until test day is 20 minutes a day to maintain your current level, and even improve slightly (with the exception of the practice tests, which should happen every month or so). However, no one is stopping you from spending even MORE time completing these activities, and the more you do, the better you’ll get.
This program hasn’t just left you with better SAT and ACT skills – it’s left you with the ability to get better and better at EVERYTHING you want to learn! You know how to hack your memory, enhance your skills, and become comfortable and proficient with material that used to strike you as unfamiliar and scary. You don’t need a teacher anymore – you are your own teacher! And just as the best teachers are hard on you, you’ll be a better autodidact if you’re hard on yourself!
Push yourself to the limit and see what you can do!
One last time – CONGRATULATIONS! You are an absolute rockstar for finishing this program, and I’m so excited to see how you do on your SAT and ACT!!!