Remember, that while there is so much talk about testing, your standardized test scores are only one piece of your college application. Admissions officers will be interested in your grades, your test scores if submitted, your curriculum, your participation in extracurriculars and what you express about yourself in your essays. If you do plan to submit standardized test scores with your applications, now is the time to create your testing plan.
Follow these step to create your personalized test plan, including a schedule for prep and tests which will allow you to be better prepared with less stress:
FIRST: Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor. Learn about the different tests and understand how they differ and and which tests you should be considering.
SECOND: Take a practice SAT and ACT to determine which test is best for you. Kaplan Test Prep offers free SAT and ACT online events and tests to help you compare. The Princeton Review also offers free SAT and ACT online tests.
THIRD: Create a schedule. If you can take either the ACT or SAT in junior year, you’ll have more time to focus on applications and financial aid when you’re a senior. Look at SAT and ACT test dates for the entire year and choose dates that allow you enough time to prepare. Should you want to improve your scores you will have the option to take additional tests during senior year. Take into consideration any AP or IB exams as well as your course finals when planning your schedule.
FOURTH: Ask your parents and guidance counselor for input. Choose test dates that don’t conflict with any of your own personal obligations and talk to your parents to clear the test dates you are considering with the family calendar as well.
FIFTH: Register for tests as soon as possible to ensure your spot at the location of your choice. Keep a master calendar of the tests, test dates and locations that you register for and store your registration tickets in a place you’ll remember on test morning.
SIXTH: Find test prep resources. Search for ones that will work best with your learning style and also your budget. There are many free resources available. Test prep books are available on public library shelves and you can also purchases them online and in your local bookstore. Use these resources to take practice exams. Take as many timed practice tests as possible to get comfortable with the test and develop a good sense of how to pace yourself. In addition, there are many online prep programs as well as classes in your local area. Ask your guidance counselor, and also friends and relatives who have done this before, for recommendations.
SEVENTH: Keep track of your scores. Once you have your results, record all your test scores on a master calendar like the one included in The College Bound Organizer. From this list you’ll choose your top scores, even if those scores are from different test dates, to submit with your applications.
The list of colleges and universities that don’t require the ACT or SAT in their admissions process has expanded significantly in the last few years. According to FairTest, the percentage of schools not requiring standardized test scores has risen from about 45% before the pandemic to 78% now. Whether you decide in advance to opt out of standardized test taking or you’re not happy with your scores, test optional schools may be a good choice for you.