It’s one thing to read about doing a triathlon or to watch one on TV; it’s another to dive into the water, hop on the bike seat, and hit the pavement. The same is true of college test prep for exams such as the SAT or ACT—without self-direction, personalized goals, and active practice, you’re not going to reach your target score.

When I was a principal, students were on their own when it came to preparing for one of the most influential exams of their life. Most schools in the U.S. aren’t required to offer college test prep courses, so students working hard to get accepted into their dream schools sometimes have to scramble to prepare for these exams on their own at the last minute.

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It’s no surprise that they often end up falling short of their goal. With the right mindset and a personalized, active approach, students can prepare for an exam like they’re preparing for an Ironman triathlon.

About the Author:

Philip Bates is a former principal and now director of college prep content for UWorld, an online college prep resource for high-stakes exams.