The following tips will help you manage your testing strategy:
MEET WITH YOUR GUIDANCE COUNSELOR. He or she can help you get a better understanding of the tests and how they differ.
CHOOSE 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. Kaplan Test Prep offers free online events and tests to help you compare. The Princeton Review also offers free online tests.
ESTABLISH A PLAN. If you can get either the ACT or SAT and SAT Subject Tests (SAT IIs) 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. If you’re planning to take SAT IIs, take into consideration any AP or IB exams as well as your course finals when planning your schedule. This way, you can study for those exams and corresponding Subject Tests at the same time. Also keep in mind that while you can take up to three Subject Tests on any given test date, you can not register for the SAT and any Subject Test on the same date. The upcoming SAT test dates are May 4th and June 1st. So, if you’re planning to take SAT Subject Tests, choose the test date that best lines up with your AP, IB and/or final test schedule in order to free up the other test date for the SAT.
LET YOUR PARENTS AND GUIDANCE COUNSELOR HELP. 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.
SIGN UP 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.
PREPARE. 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 online and in your local bookstore. 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 1000 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.