March 29, 2013

The SAT, ACT, and College Admissions

Standardized tests, specifically the SAT, are almost a rite of passage for high school students. Everyone seems to have a story about how they stayed up so many hours studying for the exam. There are several things to keep in mind throughout the college admissions process (and remember this is a process, not just one date).

1. Real practice problems and tests are your best friend.

The following books are published by the organizations that make each test, so they are the best source of practice questions:

The Official SAT Study Guide

The Real ACT Prep Guide

There is certainly something to be said for the tricks given by prep courses. They generally give solid advice, but their advice is not the only reason students in prep courses do better. The real reason is that in those courses, students are forced to do several practice tests and practice problems. You don’t need to spend a thousand dollars to have someone make a homework outline for you. All you need is some of your own time and a planner of some kind. Set goals for yourself and accomplish them. Do one section of the test every night for a couple of months. It only takes a half hour of your time and will raise your score significantly.

2. 2. Do not be afraid to take the SAT and ACT multiple times.

You are allowed to take these tests many times, and there is absolutely no reason other than getting a perfect score that you shouldn’t take them more than once. The vast majority of students perform far better each additional time they take the test. Colleges primarily consider your highest score from each section, make sure you have more than one score to choose from.

3. Consider the ACT.

Over the years, the legitimacy of the SAT has been questioned time and time again. Even with the recent overhaul of the SAT, most colleges realize the test is mostly meaningless. It is largely just inertia that keeps the SAT alive. Most colleges allow you to submit either the ACT or the SAT. The more options you have, the better the chances that you can portray yourself in the best light.

4. Most importantly, this test does not decide your life, so don’t be too stressed.

It may seem like a big deal now, but these standardized tests are truthfully nothing to worry about in the larger scheme of things. Within a few years, your score will be nothing but a trivial pursuit question amongst your friends and no one else. It has a relatively small impact on what college you attend compared to your GPA and has almost no relation to your future career. Not a single job interview will include your SAT score.

1 comment:

  1. Keep in mind there are about 820 colleges in the U.S. that are test optional - You can find a complete listing at