Countless studies have been dedicated to the practice of note-taking, and experts agree: taking notes and reviewing them frequently helps students transfer new information from their short-term memories to their long-term memories. And while students instinctively take notes in biology class and during their history lectures, they often show up to our ACT classes without a pen or pencil! I wish we could wave a magic wand and grant you all perfect scores, but it doesn’t work that way—we will give you the information you need to succeed, but you have to work to retain that information.
For this reason, we often recommend to our students that they create their own ACT or SAT Study Bible where they can take notes about every topic presented in class or in their self-study books (like the ACT and SAT Reading Bible). To begin, take a blank notebook or composition book and divide it into sections: Math, Reading, and Writing for the SAT and Math, Reading, English, and Science for the ACT. Be sure to leave a few pages in the front or back for general test information, such as Guessing and Test Format. Then, in each section, label the pages according to the content area covered in class or in the the self-study books. For example, in the Math section, you might label the pages from Geometry as “Lines and Angles,” “Basic Triangles,” “Right Triangles,” “Special Triangles,” “Quadrilaterals,” “Circles,” etc. On each page, record relevant formulas, relationships, notes, mnemonics, or other information that you learn while studying. As you continue your preparation, add relevant information or sample problems that prove difficult. Consider an example from a math page of a student’s SAT Study Bible:
Reading can be similarly categorized into pages like “Reading Comp Trap: Opposite Answers” and “Sentence Completion Question Type: Contrast Sentences.” Your Writing section will dedicate a page to each type of possible error: “Subject Verb Agreement,” “Pronoun Choice,” “Misplaced Modifiers,” etc. For the ACT Science Section, you can create a page for each type of passage and another page for similar types of questions. The more difficult a concept is for you, the more often you must return to that page during your studies.
By recording and compartmentalizing all of this information, you not only reinforce the content basics, but you keep the information separate and avoid mistakes. An ACT or SAT Study Bible will prevent you from confusing Math formulas or muddling Reading and Writing concepts. Additionally, you are creating an invaluable resource that you can refer back to and amend as needed based on your performance and growing knowledge base.
Photo: “Notebooks,” courtesty of Kristin Nador