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We know that grit is an essential ingredient in finding success in any area of life, but what exactly is it? Grit is one of those qualities that is hard to precisely define. Grit is the ability to work with passion and perseverance, day in day out, for months or years at a time, towards a long-term goal. As Dr. Angela Duckworth, who pioneered the study of grit, said, “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

What is Being Gritty?

There is no fool-proof, one liner that unlocks the secret to becoming gritty, but there are a series of small adjustments we can make in our daily lives to see some long term, gritty results.

You need three things to cultivate grit:

  • Passion
  • Practice
  • Hope

Chances are you aren’t passionate about taking standardized tests, but I bet there are other long-term goals that you are passionate about. Maybe it’s becoming a doctor or an astronaut, maybe it’s becoming the next great computer scientist, etc. Whatever your long-term goals are, be sure to keep them in mind when test studying feels tedious.

Once you have established your goal, the next two steps are somewhat self-explanatory. Practice is a necessary component of success in any facet of life, the ACT is no exception. The principal is simple: the more time you spend deliberately developing your test taking skills, the more improvement you will see. Once practice becomes a part of your routine, all you need is hope! This is easier said than done (like most advice) but it’s critical to maintain hope and faith in the idea that you are improving with every rep, even when that improvement isn’t immediately apparent.

Failure is an essential step in finding success, so even if you don’t see the results you want, have hope and have faith in yourself and your ability to overcome any setbacks or plateaus. That’s all it takes to be a grittier person!

Some simple steps
  • Clearly identify your long-term goal score.Write it on a sticky note, on your phone, on a notepad, wherever it is convenient and easy to refer to. Keep this goal visible at your study space. This number should feel optimistic, it should feel like achieving that score is a challenge.
  • Identify the areas in which you can improve the most.Everyone can improve their punctuation skills, reading comprehension, and algebra speed, but beyond that, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. As you work through your first couple tests, ID the types of questions you’re missing the most and spend your study time focusing on those problem areas.
  • Review and understand your mistakes.When you are grading practice sections, do not simply mark the wrong answers wrong and move on, understand why you chose the answer you chose, go back, and understand why the correct answer is correct. Over time, you will start to recognize the traps you tend to fall into and will learn to avoid them in the future.
  • Always try to push the limits of your comfort zone.Great, you are a pro at exponential functions… but how’s your trigonometry? Go into each study session with a clearly defined area you want to work on that day. Challenging yourself to learn one new topic per day can be a great way to structure a study schedule.
  • Study. Every. Day.Okay, maybe every day is asking a lot. But you know what I mean. Studying for the test needs to become second nature in order to maximize your score. Studying should not feel like a chore; it should be an integral part of your routine. It should be a habit.