What if I told you that you could become a virtuoso piano player in just one hour a week?
Would you believe me if I promised you could play college basketball if you only work at it in the spare moments between more pressing commitments?
How about fluency in a foreign language without ever having to practice?
I hope, for your sake, that you find these claims dubious at best and, more likely, delusional. Clearly, nobody achieves greatness in any challenging endeavor with minimal effort or practice.
Yet, every day, I encounter students, parents, and even other educators who imagine that amazing test scores can be earned with just one hour of instruction a week, whenever they can fit it in, without ever taking a practice test. For most students, this simply will not suffice. Sure, some high schoolers may ace the SAT without any prep, but these are usually the students who have been working relentlessly at earning superior grades in the toughest classes over their entire academic careers. Everyone else needs to hustle for it.
Do not suspend common sense when planning for the big tests in your life. No teacher or coach would accept an hour a week every once in a while. Bobby Knight, a coach known to every college basketball fan, certainly didn’t accept such meager effort. Instead, he preached the power of the will to prepare to win:
The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win. Everyone wants to win but not everyone wants to prepare to win. Preparing to win is where the determination that you will win is made. Once the game or test or project is underway, it is too late to prepare to win. The actual game, test or project is just the end of a long process of getting ready, in which the outcome was really determined. So if you want to win, you must want to prepare to win. Once you prepare to win, winning is almost anti climatic.
Exceptional performance requires sustained effort and deliberate practice. Snake oil and empty guarantees won’t help on test day. Accept the work if you want the results. The sooner you make preparation a priority, the sooner you can actually make a difference in your test scores.