Write an essay where you tell us what test preparation practices work best for you and why.
My favorite uncommon strategy for learning is to use an application called Anki (apps.ankiweb.net). Normally when we remember something, we're able to remember it for twice as long as before. The resulting strategy is called Spaced Repetition: make a flashcard (for example) on something, test yourself on it in one day. If you remember it the first day, test yourself on it in 2 days; if you don't remember it, start over. Continue for 4, 8, 16, 32 days, on a roughly doubling interval. Anki is an app that takes Spaced Repetition to a new level. For example, I have a thousand digital flashcards in Anki, and I spend only 2 minutes a day to review everything I've put into the app. The beautiful thing is that because we can remember things for longer and longer intervals, we don't have to review them as often—to remember a single card for 10 years should only take about 4 minutes of review over those years. Anki can be used not just for facts, but for common mistakes you keep making in your practice, for practice problems you want to remember, and for really…anything. It's what you make of it. Personally I use it to remember everything from birthdays to notes on books.
Another underemphasized learning strategy is to focus on recall-based practice. One such method is to challenge yourself to explain the entire concept on a sheet of paper as if you were teaching a 5-year old. I firmly believe that if you cannot explain something to someone else, you have not yet learned the concept. Teaching others—even pretending to teach others—is a great strategy to learn. There have been studies that show that students told to learn with the intent of teaching others went on to learn better. Overall, when tested in a lab, recall-based practice vanquishes review-based practice—ex: rereading one’s notes or textbook. It's even been shown that engaging in recall-based practice, even if you feel as if you "don't know everything yet" can still be more effective than review-based practice.
Christopher from New Jersey
High School Senior
Verona High School. Attending Carnegie Mellon in the fall.