What I'm about to say is a tiny bit blasphemous coming from someone in the test prep industry. SAT courses can be a giant waste of your brain power. The format of "big test prep" classes just isn't conducive to learning. These courses try to cram a ton of material into a very short amount of class time. I've been an instructor, and it's pretty typical to combine a little reading, writing and 'rithmetic in each session (which I always guessed was to force kids who really want to prep in math to show up every day, but that's a topic for another time). While their bodies may be there, and they may be diligently paying attention, their poor brains are fried by the end of class. Why? Because human brains just can't process too much new information at once. We need time to process new stuff, which means that math review at the beginning of class has been overwritten by the reading at the end. And until now, there didn't seem to be any way to get around this problem with our wiring.
Bear with me if this next statement seems far-fetched. Scientists have been able to impede our brains from overwriting recently learned information by attaching electrodes to people's heads! It's true.
This is pretty amazing stuff. Essentially, scientists used magnets to stimulate specific parts of the brain associated with learning. Subjects' memories for an earlier task were better twelve hours after receiving treatment, compared to their memories for the same tasks prior to the painless treatment. Of course, there's no evidence yet that retention is better over the long term, and the study needs to be expanded and replicated, but is this cool or what? Classrooms of the future may be full of electrode helmets. OK, maybe not, but it's fun to think about.
So given that none of us are going to be stimulating our brains with magnets any time soon, what can students do now to help their memories? First, use breaks during class to review the information just covered. I know your first instinct is to grab your phone and text about how boring class is, but don't give in to the urge. Using those few minutes to let the stuff you just learned sink in will help you remember it later. Second, when you're doing your course homework and reviewing your notes, stick to one topic per session, and keep your sessions short. Finally, consider using a tutor instead of signing up for class so you can work at your own pace.