Standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT aren’t the only measures for getting into college, but they are important ones. In addition, they can play a big role in earning scholarships. Here are some things to consider when dealing with standardized tests:


When I was in high school, we took the ACT exactly once, and there was no preparation of any kind.

Things have changed for today’s high school students who hope to attend college. A student’s score on a standardized test has become one of the most important factors in getting into college, and earning merit-based scholarships as well.

With that in mind, here are some of the things we learned when going through this with our oldest child, Lindsey:

1. Understand the difference between the tests: Certain colleges may require a specific test to be taken. Check with the colleges where your child will be applying before you sign him or her up.

2. Plan to take the test more than once: This is especially important if you’ll be relying on a good test score for a competitive admission or academic scholarship. Each point can make a difference.

3. Look into test preparation: Some high schools offer this, and there are private options as well. A good test prep course can help you not only with the material but with test-taking strategies as well.

For instance, a student is penalized for guessing and getting an answer wrong on the SAT, but not on the ACT. This will affect how the student approaches questions when they’re unsure of the answer.


In high school, my group of friends and I spent a lot of time and energy on the SAT and ACT. We all took the tests multiple times, and tried many different strategies for raising our scores an extra one or two points. As a result, I became something of an expert on standardized test taking. Here are some of the most helpful things I’ve learned in order to boost your score:

1. Prepare correctly: Learning some basic test taking strategies for whichever test you’re taking—whether it be online, in a test prep course, or through a tutor—can improve your confidence on test day.

Don’t stress out too much about studying for standardized tests, though. You’ve probably already learned the most important facts in school, and cramming or excessive studying could actually hurt your score in the end.

2. Don’t forget the little things: The key to doing your best on standardized tests isn’t knowing all the uses of sin and cosine, it’s about having confidence in your abilities, which is much easier to do when you’re well prepared.

Get a good night’s sleep, have a full breakfast, bring plenty of pencils, and turn your cell phone completely off during the exam (or better yet, just leave it in the car): These are some of the easiest ways to make sure exam day is as relaxed as possible.

3. Relax: Don’t stress out if you don’t get the score you want right away. I was able to raise my score three points from the first time I took the ACT, which I would say was pretty average for my group of friends.

At the same time, most people have a maximum score that they can realistically achieve on the ACT or SAT, and sometimes it’s necessary to cut your losses and focus on other aspects of college admissions, such as GPA, extracurriculars, and essays.

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