JUNIORS, there’s so much talk about standardized testing and you may be feeling overwhelmed. The recent changes to the ACT and the pending changes to the SAT may be adding to your confusion. The following tips will help you manage your testing strategy:
- TALK WITH YOUR GUIDANCE COUNCELOR. He or she can help you get a better understanding of the tests and how they differ.
- 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 implemented in March 2016.
- PLAN YOUR TEST 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 next year. 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. 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 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.
- 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 at your grades, your curriculum, your participation in extracurriculars, and what you express about yourself in your essay.