Twitter for Test Prep

Much to your likely surprise, this isn’t a “here are the top 50 education leaders to follow” post. Neither will I be recommending the top 25 SAT and ACT prep accounts to follow on Twitter. Nor will I be sending you to the best 100 websites for ACT and SAT test prep. So what on earth is this post about? Consistent excellence.

As I spell out in my ACT and SAT prep book, consistent excellence should be your goal in test prep. Consistent excellence is hard to maintain with just tips and tricks, which is why my book details some simple ways to build the essential background knowledge you’ll need on test day.

I’ve written in more extended form about how an interdisciplinary range of study provides you with a distinct advantage on standardized tests. Instead of finding yourself lost as you read about everything from the intelligence of dinosaurs to the merits of a Mars rover and every oddball subject in between, feed your interdisciplinary curiosity to boost your test-taking skills.

Strange as it sounds, you can use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media to improve your ACT and SAT scores. How? These platforms can feed your background knowledge and thus your test-taking skills. The trick is this: follow people (in the non-creeper sense of “following”) who aren’t your typical sort of friends or who don’t share your habitual interests.

There’s a rather irritating platitude that accords just well enough with everyday experience that it bears repeating here to offer you some context: “LinkedIn is for the people you know, Facebook is for the people you used to know, Twitter is for the people you’d like to know.” While I’ve been annoyed by this platitude since the second time I saw it (probably on Twitter), it does tell us something about how to use social media to improve background knowledge: follow and engage people who do things you don’t know much about.

I should note that I’m not suggesting that you have to get quite so weird as the NFL’s Von Miller, although his widespread interests are precisely the sort of thing I’m suggesting you would benefit from. I have several of my ACT and SAT students who also play tennis read through David Foster Wallace’s String Theory to help them improve their vocabulary and dexterity with the stylings of a literary virtuoso. They’re nerding out with something they already enjoy (tennis) but also boosting their reading skills by reading a world-class writer explore a world they know well. Notice that in the case of my tennis players, I’ve taken something they’re already interested in and simply added a deeper level to it. Sometimes, when you explore something you know well in greater depth, that further exploration will expose you to other, related ideas that you hadn’t encountered before.

Returning to the idea of Twitter for test prep, though, here are some of the “random finds” from the Twitterverse who could help you improve your scores:

Thanks to Stephen Wright, who is now a designer for Disney Television Animation, I found myself reading a fascinating Scientific American post about drawing and scientists. As a non-drawer, aside from when I’m wireframing mobile apps, I’m still unpacking my own feelings about that post. Nevertheless, my own understanding of both drawing and science has deepened in certain ways (background knowledge, baby!). [Update: sad news–Wright’s taking a Twitter break at present.]

Nautilus introduced me to one of my now-favorite authors, Stephen Booth, whose pet literary theory has since been the subject of psychology research. For those in doubt about how this random little intrigue could be useful to anyone ever, the ACT has used a newer exploration of Booth’s theory as a Natural Science passage in the Reading section. That is, almost identical ideas with a little psychology thrown in. Of course, I only read Nautilus’s article because who could resist clicking on a title like “Shakespeare’s Genius is Nonsense”? Oh, and the SAT has two science passages in its Reading section, so psychology applies to it as well, even if the SAT isn’t yet cool enough to use Booth for one of its Reading section’s authors.

(Frankly, Stephen Booth’s writings have changed how I read and evaluate literature. Nautilus has also introduced me to some other fascinating scientific discussions [including some I find myself disagreeing with and thus investigating further]. All of this is to say that interdisciplinary studies have more value than mere generation of higher test scores. Those matter, of course, but interdisciplinary pursuits frequently offer benefits beyond a one-time utility.)

If you’d like to encounter the über nerd of American standard written English (i.e. what the ACT and SAT purport to test), follow Bryan A. Garner of Garner’s Modern English Usage. I can’t promise you that he’ll help you to a perfect ACT English or SAT Writing and Language score, but he’ll certainly introduce you to some language odds and ends.

I also follow Elon Musk, because Tesla.

You could, of course, follow my professional feed

Now you might have noticed that I haven’t said a thing about Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or any other social media channel. I haven’t even referenced Arts & Letters Daily, which more or less rocks my socks off every other week (seriously, today I got to read about clickbait: “Enter clickbait, the scourge of the internet,” the rest of which you should read right now to improve your test scores [okay, it may have influenced my writing a tad. But seriously, do read it in the near future because you know you read Buzzfeed…]). To build consistent excellence, you’ll have to navigate your own interdisciplinary studies in social media.

Given all of the above examples, though, I think you’ll have a pretty good idea of how to put social media to use for your own ACT and SAT prep. Just remember to read most of the articles all the way through: reading the opening sentence and getting the gist of an article you’ve found online isn’t quite going to do it. Twitter for test prepand your parents thought that social media was just rotting your brain. Oh well, keep feeding your curiosity!