Alexis Avila of Prepped & Polished, LLC talks about how test preparation is very much like training for a marathon.

When you train for a marathon, you don’t want to, in week one, go out of the gates and run a 20-miler. Okay? You’re going to collapse. It’s not going to work well. Similarly, when you train for a standardized test, you don’t want to dive right into rigorous preparation right away. You have to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Get familiar with the test format and the types of questions you’re going to find on the test. Once you figure out the road map, you can start studying harder and crank up those miles.

Don’t cram

Any marathon runner will tell you that if you run a 20-plus-miler the week of the actual marathon, you’re going to heighten your chance of injury. Similarly, you don’t want to cram for the SAT a few days before the big test. Cramming for the SAT could hurt your concentration and injure you mentally on test day. If you spread out your SAT studying over a series of months and get some ample rest, you’ll put yourself in the best position to ace the exam.

Set your pace

It’s the big day, and if you want to run a marathon, you have to run a smart race. That means on race day, you have to hydrate well and run at a relaxed and comfortable pace. Now, on test day, you don’t want to rush through the test and make a bunch of careless mistakes. That could hurt your score. Nor do you want to spend significant time on one problem. What you want to do is move quickly but carefully through the easy problems at the beginning, and then you want to slow down when you encounter the medium and difficult problems. Now, if you get stuck on any given problem, you’re going to circle that problem and go back to it if you have time. Like a marathon, on a standardized test, you’ll score the best if you pace yourself wisely from start to finish.

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