Tackle Standardized Testing

imagesJuniors, we’re sure college is on your mind and you and your parents have probably been talking about standardized tests, where to apply, college visits and how to pay for college. To lower your anxiety level, get organized and create a plan using the following tips:

  • Decide which test you’re going to take. Take a practice SAT and ACT to see which test you’re more comfortable with and where you’re going to get the best score.  The new version of the SAT will be introduced in March 2016.  Based on reviews of problem sets from the new SAT that were released in December, this new version appears to be more difficult.  Current sophomores who will be applying to college in fall 2016, will still be able to use the old version of the SAT for college admissions, but testing must be completed by January 2016.
  • Plan your testing schedule. If you can get either the ACT or SAT (and SAT Subject Tests) out of the way in Junior year, you’ll have more time to focus on applications and financial aid nest year. Although, know that you’ll have additional test dates during Senior year should you need them. Let your parents and guidance counselor help you work out a plan.  Look at the upcoming ACT and College Board test dates. Think about your commitments, 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.
  • Register for tests. Sign up 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 ticket in a place you’ll remember on test morning.
  • Get ready for the tests. Find a prep resource that will best fit with your learning style and also your budget. There are many free resources available. You can also purchases prep books in your local bookstore and online. Use these resources to take practice exams— this is the best way to get comfortable with the tests and develop your test taking strategy. In addition, there are many online prep programs as well as classes in your local area. Ask your guidance counselor for recommendations. Plan to take as many timed practice tests as possible to develop a good sense of how to pace yourself.
  • Keep track of  your scores. Once you have your results, record all your test scores on your master calendar. From this list you’ll choose your top scores, even if those scores are from different test dates, to submit with your applications.
  • Consider test-optional schools. Whether you decide in advance to opt out of standardized test taking or if you’re not happy with your scores, test optional schools may be a good choice for you.There are more than 800 colleges and universities that don’t use the ACT or SAT in their admissions process.

Remember your test scores are only one piece of your application. Admissions officers are interested in more than test scores. They’ll also be looking a your grades, your curriculum, your participation in extracurriculars, and what you express about yourself in your essay.

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