Students will be taking the most important tests in their high school career sometime in the next few months. SAT and ACT scores are among the top three criteria for college admissions at the majority of schools. When students do well on these tests, it can greatly improve their college opportunities and chances for scholarships. It is much easier to improve a student’s test scores than it is to improve their GPA. These tests are coachable and when students learn the necessary strategies and gain some invaluable practice, they can increase their scores.
With this in mind, wouldn’t it make sense for high school juniors to prepare for these tests before they take them for the first time? Too often students think that test prep is something that is not necessary. They feel they can do whatever test prep they need on their own. Most, however, do not take the time or have the discipline to do enough to make a difference. Recent studies show that earlier critics now agree that test prep works and can make a difference in a student’s performance. Even the College Board and ACT, publishers of the two tests, provide test prep materials for students to purchase. Test prep has become a big business, but you can help your student prepare for these tests by finding affordable and effective courses or tutoring.
Many parents listen to college representatives who tell them that they look at each college applicant in a “holistic manner” and that test scores are not a big deal. However, research shows that more than 70% of colleges and universities consider SAT and ACT test scores a significant factor in college admissions. Too many students are rejected from colleges because of low test scores. Many lose out on merit scholarships because their test scores are not high enough.
Students often find the SAT and ACT tests intimidating. They seem very unlike anything they have studied in school. In addition, the tests are timed and the race to finish each section can be very frustrating. Students need to become familiar with the tests and gain practice on the types of questions that are asked. They must learn to work within the allotted time frame and find out which questions they should tackle or skip depending upon the section and their strengths and weaknesses. Students need to practice, review, and practice some more to gain confidence in their test-taking abilities. They also need to find ways to cope with the stress that accompanies these tests and can adversely affect their test scores.
Parents should look into their test prep options early and decide which is best for their high school junior. There are good test prep courses and tutoring available in your community that are not expensive and do not require five or six hours a week of a student’s participation. A course should have no more than twelve students and the teacher should be an experienced test prep coach, not just someone who has scored well on the tests. Students should practice on real SAT and ACT tests, not samples that are developed by a test prep company. It doesn’t make sense to practice on anything but the real test.
The SAT and ACT need to be kept in perspective. Students do not need to be in a test prep course that takes time away from their high school classes and studying or other important activities they enjoy. Each student is more than a test score. However, by not giving your student the benefit of some good test prep, you could hurt his or her college opportunities or qualifying for merit scholarships that are based on test scores.
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