For many years, standardized testing has been a significant part of the United States college admissions process. Every year, students aim to get the highest scores possible to increase their likelihood of getting that acceptance letter from Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). If you are unaware of what the standardized testing process consists of or how to prepare for it, do not worry. We are here to tell you what standardized tests are, what they are utilized for, and offer some tips on how you can prepare for them.
What Are Standardized Tests?
Standardized tests are exams given to students to test their generic skills and knowledge in subjects like mathematics, reading, science, and writing. Each round of testing is universal across the board. This means that every student who takes it on a specific date takes the same version of the exam, with the same questions and answer choices. These exams follow this format to make the grading scale even across the board. The scores can then be used to measure academic readiness amongst every student applying to universities. Furthermore, you must know that these exams are timed and follow very strict testing procedures. Again, this is done to eliminate any external factors that might interfere with the scores’ credibility. The most popular exams taken by high school students are the ACT and SAT. You may be wondering what these exams mean and how they differ, and we are here to explain that too.
The ACT Exam
The ACT is designed as a multiple-choice timed exam. The specific areas tested include English, Math, Reading, Science, and the optional Writing section. This exam is taken in the same order, and you are not allowed to move on to a different section until the current one is completely finished and sealed. A test proctor guides you step by step and will help you on the day of the exam. The time allocated to each section varies by subject, but for the most part, you are given about 40 minutes to complete each subject. This leaves you on a strict time crunch for every question, but it is definitely doable if you are ready and prepared for it. Once the exam is completed, and your scantron is filled, the test is collected and shipped off to get graded. Most exam scores will return after a couple of weeks have passed. The ACT is scored on a 1 to 36 point scale. The higher your score is, the better and more attractive it looks on your resume or college application. There are a specific number of dates for taking the ACT exam; therefore, we recommend that you start taking a look and planning ahead.
The SAT Exam
The SAT is very similar to the ACT. It is also designed as a multiple choice and pen and paper exam. The areas that this specific exam features include Math, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and an optional essay. Because fewer subjects are being tested, some sections like Math and Reading last over 60 minutes each. An additional aspect that is different for the SAT is the grading scale. The SAT is scored on a 400 to 1600 point scale. And similar to before, the higher your score is, the better. Like in any other standardized exam, it is possible to get a perfect score, so definitely shoot for the stars when taking these exams.
How to Prepare for the ACT and SAT
By now, you are probably wondering how to prepare for all of these exams and all of their subjects. The first tip that we have for you is to try and familiarize yourself with the exam content, order, and practice as much as possible. It is essential that you do not go into the exam feeling lost or not knowing what you are about to take. Second, do as many practice problems and exams as possible. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the tested skills and even allow you to gain some speed. There are many ACT and SAT resources, exam books, and files that you can find to help you gain access to these practice problems and exams. Third, practice reviewing exam questions with other students or instructors so that they can help you understand a concept better or share any tips that they may have themselves. Fourth, get a headstart taking these exams. We highly recommend that you not wait until the fall semester of senior year in high school to take the ACT or SAT for the first time. Your scores may not be ready in time for college application deadlines, or you may not be happy with your scores. Remember, you can take these tests multiple times, so take advantage of that. And lastly, be confident and calm on the day of the exam. Do not feel nervous or scared to complete the exam. If you have followed our tips, then you should be ready to tackle the exam.