Put to the Test: Preparing for the SAT/ACT
You come across an unfamiliar word in your history book and actually look it up. You find yourself talking in analogies. While watching "Lost," you wonder how to figure out the length of your television screen if you knew the height. You're hoarding no. 2 pencils.
It must be time for the SAT or ACT.
It's Not as Bad as You Think
Standardized tests can be intimidating. And all the hype about test scores doesn't help. By the time you finish talking to your friends and reading about the tests, it may feel like those little ovals will determine your future.
True-test scores are important. But they're not nearly as important as many students think. Different colleges use test scores differently, but no colleges make admission decisions based solely on test scores. In fact, your academic record—the courses you've taken and the grades you've received—is looked at much more closely than your test scores.
"The transcript is the number one indicator of a student's potential for success at Alfred, with all other credentials used to support this," says Mary E. Lindner, assistant director of admission at Alfred University (NY). "I would rather go to bat for a student who is a hard worker and has done well in high school, but scored lower than we would like on the SAT, than a student who has done just what he had to do in high school and scores better on the SATs."
A Proven Way to Boost Your Score!
There's no way to get around it—the best ways to prepare for the SAT or ACT are to study hard and read as much as you can.
The testing companies themselves agree. "The best preparation is to take challenging courses in high school," says Kristin Crouse from ACT. "That prepares students best for college, and that's what the ACT measures."
Reading is another great way to prepare. No, you don't have to plow through Moby Dick (though that wouldn't hurt!). Choose books, magazines, and newspapers that you enjoy—everything from Harry Potter to the New York Times can strengthen your reading comprehension and vocabulary.
Practicing writing is also important in your preparation. Whether you're writing a research paper for history or working on your own short stories, it's a great way to get ready for these tests.
Unfortunately, there is no quick way to make up for taking easy classes and avoiding the library. But you can make the commitment now to read for at least 15 minutes a day. By the time the next testing date comes up, you'll feel more prepared.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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