Preparing for Standardized Tests

Posted by M. Buckley on 3/11/2017 10:47:00 AM


No matter where you want to apply, you’ll likely have to submit test scores for at least one standardized test, such as the SAT and ACT. With thousands of applicants from around the world, standardized tests offer an imperfect way to assess academic ability. Always keep in mind that these tests don’t determine how ‘smart’ you are, just how good you are at taking that particular test, and — as with anything — you’ll get better the more you study. The requirements for standardized tests depend on the school.


If you’re choosing between taking a prep class or using a book, go book every time as it increases the amount of time you spend actually solving problems. It’s a lot like weightlifting. Sure, you can pay for a fitness coach, but only the number of reps you do will make you put on muscle. Make sure to practice taking timed tests – limited time is one of the hardest parts about the SAT and ACT. That said, if you are stuck on a concept or need a more structured study routine, an SAT tutor or regular SAT study course could help boost your score.

It is recommend to  use a preparation book written by the makers of the test because those books most accurately reflect the questions and format of the actual tests.

If purchasing prep books presents a financial challenge, go to a local bookstore or school/public library, and use the preparation books there. Many schools and local libraries have a college prep bookshelf so take advantage of them. You can always ask to borrow books from friends or classmates. You could even create a study pool for the standardized test of your choice. There are tons of online resources for standardized tests as well. Khan Academy and YouTube are two excellent resources for standardized test preparation.

When you do practice problems or take practice tests, the focus should be on trying to improve. No one needs to know your practice scores, and you aren’t trying to impress anyone. If you are unsure about a question and guess correctly, don’t just forget about it! After each practice test you take, go back and review any questions that you guessed on, got wrong, or had any doubts about. The more you reflect on your practice tests, the more you can identify your weaknesses and do better next time. For example, if you go over your math sections for the ACT/SAT, you might notice that you need to work on geometry more. Focusing your efforts on where you have room to improve will help you achieve the best possible scores.