3 Ways to Make the Most of Standardized Tests
You may not be ecstatic about taking your college entry exams–but in order to get the job you want or attend your favorite school, it’s something you simply have to get through. So to get your mind prepared for the SAT, ACT, and other fun college preparation activities, we’ve provided three steps to turn you into a test-taking pro. Here they are:
1. Request a Fee Waiver
Don’t forget that fee waivers are available for both tests, with the SAT offering up to two general and two Subject Test waivers, and the ACT offering two tests including the writing section. Make sure to take advantage of these crucial opportunities—that’s why they exist!
Use the official SAT and ACT websites to determine when you can sign up to take your test. Plan ahead by adding your preferred test and corresponding registration dates to your calendar and by leaving ample room beforehand to study*. The next SAT Subject Test is May 3 and the next ACT Test is June 14.
Most experts agree that the two big ones—the SAT and ACT—are more about understanding how to test, not necessarily the material itself. So, reading up on how the tests work, and getting as much practice in as possible, are two ways to effectively master these exams. A number of websites offer free online study guides and practice tests to prepare. Do a little research of your own to understand more, then check out our list of online resources—including material from each test’s official website.
- SAT Practice
- ACT Test Prep
- Princeton Review (Go under “College” and choose your test at the top of the home page.)
- Khan Academy
On Wednesday, March 6, the College Board—the company that administers the SAT—announced that the test will be changing starting spring 2016. If you take the test before that date, traditional study methods and materials will suffice. But for those who plan ahead, here are a few things you should know about the new exam:
- The writing portion will be optional and will revolve around evidence over personal experience.
- Without the Writing Test, the SAT will return to a 1,600-point grading scale.
- You will no longer lose points for incorrect answers in the multiple choice section.
- Vocabulary will be less obscure and more practical—like something you’d hear in a college class or the workplace.
- A digital version of the test will be available in addition to the traditional print format.
While opinion is divided on why these changes are being made and whether this is good for American academia, most experts agree that the SAT is making positive adjustments to fulfill the needs of this generation’s students. In addition, much of the changes mirror what the ACT has been doing for a while.
— Oliver Staley (@Ostaley) March 6, 2014
*Helpful Hint: To determine how long you should study for each test, take a practice exam. Some students are fine using free services while some take paid classes, and the length of time each student needs is unique. You can also talk with an advisor, counselor, or teacher at your school to plan ahead.