There are two standardized tests that are accepted by almost every university: the SAT and the ACT. Choosing which of these two tests is right for your skills and study habits can increase your likelihood of scoring high enough for the top universities as well as make the standardized testing process much less stressful. Test prep can help you decide which test is best for you.
Even though there are test optional colleges available (and the debate continues on whether or not they are truly test optional) the standardized tests are still the golden key that colleges use to measure academic capability in college.
Here are five reasons why you should take test prep seriously:
- The majority of students do not prepare for standardized tests.
- Higher test scores mean more merit aid.
- A high score on the PSAT alone can mean a full ride scholarship.
- Preparing for the test reduces stress.
- Doing practice tests help you get used to time constraints and complete the actual test on time. Colleges use these test scores to compare you with other students.
Juniors and seniors in high school are looking toward the fall and standardized testing. For seniors, it's the last chance to get their best score before the college applications are submitted. For juniors, the fall test can be a good indicator of areas that need improvement and require more preparation. Taking advantage of the summer to prepare for these tests is just smart academic sense.
The following are 10 summer test prep study tips to help prepare for standardized tests in the fall:
- Read. All test experts will tell you that reading is one of the best and easiest ways to prepare for the standardized tests. Reading for entertainment is helpful, but reading for content and purpose will help with the reading part of the standardized tests.
- Utilize self-paced study. Use the Official SAT Study Guide and study at your own pace. Use the free online prep as well. Set a schedule to study, however, and stick with it.
- Take a practice test. Practice tests help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Set aside time to complete them just like you would on test day. It helps to familiarize you with time constraints and focus on the test itself without distractions.
- Sign up for a test prep course. There are a variety of courses available throughout the summer, both in person and online. Online test prep courses offer students flexible accessibility to test prep solutions that cater to each individual.
- Hire a private tutor. Many students need the one-on-one instruction that a private tutor can give. Tutors can help you evaluate academic strengths and give you personalized academic tutoring which will help with the standardized tests. Before you hire one, however, do the research.
- Sign up for the SAT question of the day. This is just another way to familiarize yourself with the test and practice one question each day. Sometimes smaller doses of studying help break it up and can be easier to remember.
- Boost your vocabulary. Use flash cards, post words on the refrigerator, and talk about them with the family at dinner. Crossword puzzles also help increase your vocabulary.
- Write. Practice writing essays by journaling or blogging. Since most of communication today is done by texting or IM speak, it's good to write using correct grammar, syntax and complete sentences.
- Study with a friend. The buddy system helps you stay accountable.
- Review math skills. The math part of the standardized test requires knowledge of basic math concepts and formulas. Test prep books provide an index of the math skills required and the practice tests give your student an idea of the type of math questions you will need to become familiar with.
Whichever test you decide to take, there is no better way to prepare than taking practice tests. Take as many practice tests as you possibly can. This not only familiarizes you with the types of questions you will see on the test, but also prepares you for working under time limits. On both tests, the time constraints are difficult. Taking practice tests helps you to get faster at doing problems, so that you can finish more of the problems when you take the actual test. It may be wise to take practice tests of both the SAT and the ACT to see which one you do better on. Taking a real version of both of the tests is also not a bad idea.
Test prep doesn't need to be torturous. In small doses you will retain what you learn and won't be cramming the last few weeks before the test. Summer is the perfect time to spread the study out.