Deep breaths, deep breaths!
This test only determines what colleges you get into - which only determines your future! Ok, so maybe I am being a tad melodramatic, but sometimes it does feel like it all comes down to these four fateful Saturday morning standardized testing hours!
If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT yet, there is still time. Start preparing now so you will feel confident when it comes time to test. With a little bit of preparation, you can step up your score in no time.
1. A little bit every day goes a long way. No matter if you are a freshman, sophomore, or junior register on www.collegeboard.com to receive the “official SAT question of the day” via e-mail. Practice questions come from previous tests, only take two minutes to complete, and you will receive detailed explanations for each answer. You can also take full practice tests from this website.
2. Get “The Official SAT Study Guide” book immediately! It was a lifesaver for me because the book has 10 previous SAT exams, complete with answers and explanations for the questions. I took timed practice SATs from this book to make sure I could pace myself so I was done within the required time limit. It also helped me get a feel for the kinds of questions that are on the SAT and what answers to look out for.
3. If at first you do not succeed, try, try again. I recommend taking an official SAT as a tenth or eleventh grader so you can get your “mess-ups” and “let-downs” out of the way. There are seven testing dates during the school year, so set a “goal” score and don’t stop testing until you reach it. After a try or two, you will know how to take the test and you can choose to send only your highest scores to colleges.
4. Maybe the SAT just is not your thing. You can take the ACT test instead (www.actstudent.org) and see which of the two tests you like the best. “The SAT jumps from math to reading to writing to math. Everything is so broken up. I like the ACT because you do all of one subject-area at a time,” Clear Lake High School senior Elana Gittleman contends. “You also don’t get penalized if you get a question wrong on the ACT, whereas the SAT deducts 1/4 a point from your score for each question missed.” Some people like the structure and content of the SAT, while others such as Elana prefer that of the ACT. Decide which test is most compatible with your testing style so you can get the highest score possible. Colleges will accept either test.
5. Read, read, read. The SAT requires you to write a timed essay supporting an assertion. You will score high on the writing if you back your claim with a literary, historical, or current event example. Being knowledgeable of important events, authors, and national issues is important in writing a strong essay. Brushing up on your reading will also help you expand your vocabulary, which will help boost your score.
6. You may be required to take subject tests. If you take the standard SAT, your college may also require that you take SAT subject tests to demonstrate your aptitude in particular subject areas. Check to see if the colleges you are applying to require these subject tests and choose subject tests that reflect your best classes in school. Begin to prepare for those tests with practice tests and extra studying. Take the SAT subject test as soon as you finish the class in school. For example, if you want to take the U.S. History SAT subject test, schedule to take it at the end of the school year as you are finishing U.S. History. That way you will not have to do too much extra studying and the material will be fresh in your mind. Remember, you may want to take some subject tests as early as the end of your sophomore year. If you take the ACT, you will not be required to take specific subject tests but you may be required to take the optional essay portion of the ACT.
Relax. Yes, this is an important test, but no, it is not the be-all end-all of your high school career. If you set aside a little bit of time to prepare each week, you will protect yourself from anxiety during the test and disappointment after.