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SAT or ACT: Preparing for Standardized Tests

Cristina Shaffer, Online editor

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High school students have lots of responsibilities, from the coursework, extracurricular activities, and perhaps the most stressful: standardized testing. High school juniors and seniors spend hours of time pouring over questions and some fork our hundreds of dollars in tutoring and prep classes, all for fours hours of filling in bubbles and a number. Many argue that too much emphasis is placed on these tests in the college admissions process.

Students have the option of two tests, the SAT, offered by CollegeBoard, or the ACT. The tests are supposed to measure a student’s ability in math, reading, writing, critical thinking and analysis. These tests are meant to measure a student’s success in college.

Bellarmine college counselor, Cameron Irving, recommends that juniors take both the SAT and ACT in the spring of their junior year. Students should always take the “optional” essay component, as it is better to be safe than sorry come college application time in the fall. After receiving their scores, students should use a comparison chart to compare their scores. Whichever test they scored higher on, they should prepare for that test over the summer. Tests are offered on a monthly basis, on Saturday mornings, in high schools across the country. Students should sign up at lease a month in advance for these tests and expect to receive their scores about a month later. Students are responsible for sending (and paying to) their scores to the colleges they are applying to.
Preparation for these tests can seem and feel like a daunting task.

Irving advises students to take advantage of free resources, like Khan Academy. However some students take advantage of tutoring or classes: “The school suggests test prep through Brown reading program, Sylvan, Club Z, and tutors like Mimi Beck.” But no advice is better than that from those who have first hand experience. High achieving seniors share their tips and words of wisdom. Kane Vu offers his advice: “I studied by doing practice problems and using review books. Don’t stress out too much, but keep in mind that these tests are important.” Dario Titus said, “Taking the tests twice is good and can be helpful, but don’t sacrifice sleep for studying. On test day, eat a good breakfast, remember to bring your calculator, and, most importantly, relax!” Sarah Chow says “Make sure to not go in to the test cold, be familiar with the test and timing before you take it.”

Liesl Bogaard says “If I were to do it over again, I would have studied more for certain sections and I wouldn’t have taken seven tests.”
Other students don’t have such positive recollections. When asked for her thoughts on theses tests Kate Owens said, “I have nothing nice to say about them.” Kellie Hall laments, “I think these tests are stupid and never show how smart I am. They are not an accurate reflection of my grades and academic ability.” Keegan Line says “Standardized tests are just God’s way of judging how good of a person you are.”

Some students may have certain skills sets that play directly into success on one of the two tests. Students who favor math and science skills and tend to maintain a faster testing pace and have taken higher levels of math and science. The style and questions of the SAT tend to favor students who excel in the language arts, more specifically reading comprehension and grammar. The SAT allows more time per question, while the ACT is much faster paced. Both tests have essay sections that are similar.
Overall, the tests are very similar in nature, and studying for either one will increase your score. These tests are meant to be equalizers in the college application process, a way of evening the playing field.

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SAT or ACT: Preparing for Standardized Tests