With few exceptions you’re going to have to include the score from your college board exams with your application. Whether that test is the SAT or the ACT, most colleges and universities require you to take a college entrance examination. Unlike GPA’s which may be inflated at one high school compared to another, standardized tests give college admissions officers a more objective way to evaluate applicants.Whether you like it or not your performance on these college board exams could go a long way in determining whether or not your application for admission is accepted. For decades the usefulness of these exams and exactly what they test has been the subject of heated debates. Don’t count on either the debates or the standardized college board tests to disappear any time soon.
Given that you’re going to have to take either the SAT or ACT you should definitely prepare for the exam well before you sit down and start blackening the ovals. College board preparation has become a cottage industry. You’ll have no problem finding test preparation services happy to take hundreds or even thousands of dollars with the guarantee to increase your score by triple digits. How you choose to prepare is ultimately your decision but before you waste your hard earned money on one of these test preparation services please realize that students who have prepared with only books and software available at a fraction of the cost of these services have performed very well on the college board exams.
Start your preparation well in advance. Of course the very best preparation is to study hard in school and learn as much as possible but even so you would be well advised to get and take a few sample tests to familiarize yourself with the questions and set preliminary expectations as to how well you will score.
Here is some basic advice for taking the exam.
1. Answer the easy questions first.
Hard questions aren’t worth any more points than easy ones so if you can’t figure out the answer quickly move on to the next one. Go through the exam and answer all the easy questions first then go back and try to figure out the answers to the more difficult questions. One of the worst things you could possibly do is spend too much time on a difficult question which prevents you from an answering four or five easy questions that you didn’t get to because time expired.
2. Mark your answers carefully
Double check that the number on your answer sheet corresponds with the number of the question you’re answering. It’s not good if you’re marking the answer to question 20 in the row intended for the answer to question 21.
Even if you’re not certain of the answer you should guess if you can eliminate one or more answers you know are incorrect. Educated guessing raises your score considering the fact that you get 1 point for each correct answer but only lose a quarter of a point for each incorrect answer. The ACT actually has no penalty at all for wrong answers so you should definitely at least guess the answer to every question on the ACT.
4. Watch the clock
Make sure you at least finish the exam even if that requires guessing. Better to guess than not answer at all. Watch the clock and make sure you’re on pace to finish the exam.
5. Practice makes perfect
Practice taking test exams until you feel comfortable. Score each of your test exams to find patterns of weakness that you can address before taking the exam for real.
Following the steps laid out in this article will give you the best opportunity to score well on the all important college entrance exam. Don’t wait until the last minute. Start preparing now.