More than a million students will take the Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) and ACT this year. Unfortunately, many of them will not be prepared. Information released last week in The SAT® Report on College and Career Readiness: 2012 showed that only 43 percent of students from this year’s graduating class met the benchmark scores (1550 and above) for college readiness. The results were even lower for those taking the ACT, with only 25 percent meeting standards in all four sections (English, math, reading and science). Since these exams are used by admissions officers (in conjunction with other measures) to determine how a student may perform academically at college, it’s important for students to put forth their best effort when taking the SAT and/or ACT. Jennifer Karan, executive director for the SAT program, points out that one contributing factor for being successful on the SAT is the completion of core classes. ‘Forty-nine percent of students in the class of 2012 who reported completing a core curriculum met the SAT Benchmark, compared to only 30 percent of those who did not complete core course work,’ wrote Ms. Karan in a recent review of this year’s report. ‘Not surprisingly, the mean SAT score for students who completed a core curriculum was, on average, 144 points higher.’ Although taking rigorous courses will improve the likelihood of a student successfully completing his/her college entrance exams, there are some additional steps students can take to help prepare for the exams and increase their chances of success.
1. Have a Positive Attitude
It’s important for students to believe in their abilities and feel confident when taking the exams. If students feel overwhelmed or anxious about the test, it may be a good idea for them to meet with a guidance counselor or a teacher to discuss any concerns they may have about taking the exam. A trusted educator may be able to provide reassurance or offer additional resources to help students better prepare for the exams. A positive attitude (and belief in one’s self) can go a long way.
2. Use Available Resources
Practice. Practice. Practice. One of the best ways for students to improve their scores is to utilize the plethora of free and low cost resources online, at school and in their community. Some of the available test prep and review tools include:
> Online Practice Tests and Questions (Kaplan, College Board, ACT and Varsity Tutors)
> Review Guides (CliffsNotes, SAT Study Guide, ACT Practice Questions)
> Local Library (many branches carry exam review guides and test prep handbooks)
> Tutor Assistance (Sylvan Learning Centers, Huntington)
Students should also check with their guidance counselor to see if there are any free tutoring sessions offered by their school or within their district.
3. Be Prepared on Test Day
To help keep stress levels to a minimum, students should consider the following steps to ensure their test day goes smoothly:
> Gather everything you need the night before the exam (#2 pencils, calculator, photo I.D., admission ticket, etc.)
> Get plenty of sleep (don’t spend the night cramming for the exam!)
> Eat a healthy breakfast (brain food!)
> Dress comfortably (use layers, as temperatures can fluctuate at exam sites)
Underclassmen can get a jump-start on their college entrance exam preparations by taking the PSAT (as early as freshman year) and/or the ACT Plan (sophomore year). The results from these exams can help students predict their scores for the SAT and ACT, as well as identify areas that may need more work. Students who take advantage of these preliminary exams, as well as utilizing the suggested steps for preparation, may find they are more confident in their abilities and less stressed about the exams, which may lead to higher scores.