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Standardized Testing: A How-To

How to prepare forStandardized testing. Two words that you will be all too familiar with by the time you are a junior in high school. The journey that is preparing for these exams begins your freshman year, and continues through the fall of your senior year. Standardized tests are an inescapable necessity, so it is best to begin preparing for them with lots of time to spare. 

The best way to start preparing for these exams is to learn what each one entails. The SAT® is an exam that is usually taken on a Saturday at a national testing center. These centers vary by state, but many include local high schools and universities. The ACT®, on the other hand, is usually required to be taken at your high school in the spring of your junior year. You may retake both exams at local testing centers, but it is important to know that there are typically testing fees associated with this. For this reason, it is best to be as prepared as possible before your first exam.

So how should you go about preparing for these exams? Well, the first step is to take the PSAT exam. The PSAT is a–you guessed it–practice SAT exam. This exam will show you what topics and question types you need to improve on before you take the real SAT. And the best part? The score does not appear on any record, so there is no reason to be afraid of taking it. I recommend taking the PSAT in the fall of your freshman and sophomore years, because it is a way to see if what you have been working on has improved your score. And like I said before, it is a risk-free way to figure out if your studying techniques are working! Once you have your PSAT scores back, you will know where to start.

One of the best ways to start is to come up with a score goal. Maybe you are happy with your score from the PSAT, and you just want to work to maintain that score on the real exam. Or maybe you want to raise your score by 500 points. Whatever the case is, setting a goal is really important! This gives you the motivation to study, and allows others to help you reach your goal by adjusting study techniques to your needs. There are a few ways to go about preparing for these exams. One way is to purchase the official SAT and ACT test books. These books include many practice exercises and tips, as well as several full-length tests. By using these books, you can make sure that you won’t run into any surprises on the test day. Another way is to take a prep class. These classes can be online or in person, and can really help you to reach your goal. I took an SAT prep class through Sylvan Learning, and my score improved by 300 points! The best part about this class was that it made me sit down and study for two hours per week. And I had access to instant help whenever I got stuck! I highly recommend taking a class if you are someone with a busy schedule, because it makes you schedule in study time.

I took the SAT in 2013. Now, coming in March 2016 there will be many changes made to the exam. For example, there will no longer be a penalty for guessing. In addition, SAT is now partnering with Khan Academy to provide students with unique test prep online. You can learn more about their partnership here. The ACT is remaining the same, with a score range between 1 and 36 and no penalty for guessing. I highly recommend taking the ACT Plus Writing exam, as some colleges and universities will not accept the regular ACT exam.

My biggest tip for you on these exams is making sure you make the time to study. Standardized tests are not all that a college considers for admission, but having good scores can give you a competitive advantage. Below are links to where you can find more information about the exams (and register for them). Good luck! 🙂

The new SAT


Khan Academy

Sylvan Learning



©2015 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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