Write an essay where you tell us what test preparation practices work best for you and why.

2020 Mometrix College Scholarships Contest
Sierra Vollmar
Progress and Preparation

Progress is part of human nature. We need to grow, to learn, and to create. It’s why we are excited to continue learning, and it’s why we ask children what they want to do for the world when they grow up. However, progress isn’t just something that happens to us. We have to choose to progress. One of the most progressive men in America once said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” - Martin Luther King Jr. Choosing progress requires preparation. People that act passively in their own lives do not progress. In this essay, I’d like to share why appreciation for preparation is essential, why I need to understand the material I take tests on, and how I go about understanding any material I need to.

An appreciation for preparation comes first. This may sound basic, but without understanding that preparation is important we procrastinate. In a way, coming to understand the importance of preparation is humbling. It leads me to admit that I don’t have the capacity of knowledge to walk into a classroom and ace a test without the work behind me. If I did that I would fail most of my tests. The weight of failure is draining to anyone’s love for education. In other words, if I continuously failed tests from a lack of preparation I wouldn’t have the optimist for pursuing an education that I do. This affects not only my next grade but my life.

Understanding the material that I take tests on is also extremely important. There’s a difference between knowing how to answer the questions on a test and understanding something. The main difference is that understanding something will result in more consistent correct answers to test questions. I can attest to this in my quarterly math exams. Math has always been my worst subject. It takes me the longest to understand, but I still get A’s on all of my quarterly exams and end of year assessments. The reason is, I use flashcards with different math laws, take practice tests, and review the lessons again to understand the material. As a result, I’m altogether better at math than I used to be when I would just copy the steps shown in the lesson to solve problems rather than understanding the reasoning behind why those steps were necessary. So, understanding material doesn't just result in a decent test grade but also helps you become better at the subject so you don’t have to spend hours before every test studying.

There are smaller tasks that help me in my goal of understanding the material. My favorites are, saying a problem out-loud and saying my thoughts out loud while solving it. This helps me stay focused on the problem because I will less likely have off-topic thoughts knowing I would have to say them out loud if I did. It also helps me remember the correct steps to solving a problem because I hear them and retain them more effectively than if I had let them only exist as thoughts in my head. That works for math and science, but as far as any tests I have to take in any subjects relating to literature, I need a different approach. Even after I’ve read a book, I like to be more clear about the order of events. Often I will make a “plot triangle” for books I have read. It’s set up so that the beginning is at the left angle of the triangle, the rising action is on the hypotenuse of the triangle, the climax is at the tip, the events that make up the falling action are down the adjacent angle, and the conclusion is at the end. Any interesting facts and characters I put inside the triangle. As for history, I keep a large timeline where I write down the names of historical figures when they lived, famous events, art, and even important books published, along the timeline to go back and reference. Organizing events this way helps me keep them clear in my head when I go to take a test.

It’s important to acknowledge that college is not just a means to an end as many treat it. It is an entire season of life itself. Four years may not seem like much time, but these past three years in high school have felt like a whole chapter of my life. Just the same as my high school years weren’t solely to get me into college, college is important beyond just getting me into an occupation in the field of my study. Having another opportunity to grasp at progress in my education is more exciting now than ever before to me. I don’t intend to miss this opportunity by failing to study. I intend to take my preparation practices and use them throughout my life.

Sierra from Texas
High School Senior
Homeschooled / Classical Conversations