A Closer Look at Standardized Tests


Nate Salkoff, Editor-in-Chief

Standardized tests are undoubtedly a pivotal part of any college application. A high score on the SAT or ACT could be the deciding factor for why colleges accept you; a high score on either of these tests reflects an aptitude for test-taking rather than knowledge of a particular subject or field of study. It additionally demonstrates a complex understanding of the strategies and methods the test makers intend for you to grasp in order to have a high score reflect this understanding. But how should one go about studying for these tests, scheduling test dates, and sending scores to potential colleges?

The process of being successful on standardized tests begins with choosing which one you want to take, if not both. This depends on your preference for the focus of a particular subject, time requirements for each test, and whether you want a rhetorical analysis essay or an argument essay. This decision should be made on your own volition through a process of learning what each test involves, the times that are allowed for each section of the tests, and which colleges you are planning on applying to (which might have specific requirements for submission of standardized test scores, and if they want an SAT or ACT score). At the end of the day, it is usually best to study for and take both to demonstrate an aptitude for taking a wider variety of tests, but it comes down to personal preference and timeframe for your college applications.

The single best way to study for either of these tests is through thorough and scheduled practice test-taking. By taking as many practice tests as possible, you will be essentially simulating what the real test will feel like, which will thereby better prepare you for the actual test day. If you want to go the extra nine yards, you should consider purchasing a widely trusted and reputable book containing practice tests that are licensed by the test-takers in order to develop a better understanding of the kinds of questions the real tests are going to ask you. This way, you’ll walk into your test with a sense of confidence and familiarity with the questions.

Developing strategies for answering certain questions depending on the section is also extremely important. These strategies might vary from person to person, but you should do whatever you can to analyze and interpret questions in the fastest, most efficient way possible to save yourself time and hopefully answer the question correctly. If you have a way to confirm your answer’s chance of being correct, which is almost always possible in the math sections of both tests, you should take leftover time to do so. It is best to answer all of the questions as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and then go back if you have time to the ones you were most unsure about to check their credibility.

Getting a tutor for the tests or studying with friends to go over test-taking strategies is also a fantastic idea. If you don’t get your ideal score at first, don’t worry! You can retake each test as many times as you want and most colleges superscore, which means they take the highest score in your entire history of taking each test. Be efficient about your timeframe and make sure to check deadlines for your preferred college’s application process to manage your time effectively and leave you enough to get your desired score. You can do it!