Preparing for Admission Tests

Planning and Focus Can Boost Your Scores

High school courses and grading standards vary across the country. Earning a B at your school could be the equivalent of getting an A or a C elsewhere. With more than 30,000 high schools sending students to colleges in the United States, admission officers need some way to compare students from very different educational backgrounds. That’s where standardized college admission tests, such as the SAT®, are helpful.Many colleges use SAT scores to help them make admission decisions. Unlike some of the other components of your application, the SAT allows you to demonstrate your skills on a level playing field.With many colleges counting on SAT scores to provide a way to fairly compare students, it’s important to have a plan for doing your best on these exams. Here are some steps to consider.

Tips to Prepare You for Exams

You can do several things to ensure a successful testing experience.

  • Know what to expect in advance. You’ll be more confident if you know what types of questions are on the test. If you’re familiar with the different sections and the instructions for each part, you can save valuable time during the exam.
  • Complete practice exams. If you’re planning to take the SAT, trying the official full practice test is a great way to get ready. It has an automatic countdown timer, so you can see if you’re moving through the test at the necessary pace. You can also try a couple of sample sections in mathematics, reading and writing.
  • Look at your patterns and timing. As you score your practice work, pay attention to the kinds of questions that give you trouble and focus your preparation accordingly. How was your timing on the full practice test? If you finished early and got easy questions wrong, in the future , slow down and read questions more thoroughly. If you didn’t finish, learn how to move more quickly through the test. Get test-taking tips and approaches for the SAT readingmathematics and writing sections. You can also getpractice tips for the SAT Subject Tests™.
  • Make a testing plan. Part of your testing strategy is deciding how many times to take a particular exam. It usually makes sense to take a test such as the SAT twice. Scores typically go up on a second try because you’ve become more familiar with the test and have had time to practice in any areas that needed improvement. Create an SAT Study Plan to help you prepare. After you’ve gotten your scores from the full practice test, or an actual test, use SAT Skills Insight™. This free tool helps you understand the skills you need to improve your scores, by showing you what skills are needed for each score range.

Tips for Test Day

Taking some small but crucial steps shortly before an exam can help you arrive relaxed and alert — and ready to perform your best.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the exam. Set out your Admission Ticket, identification, acceptable calculator, No. 2 pencils and fresh erasers before bed. Get up early enough to eat a good breakfast.
  • Know where your test center is located. Make sure you print out and review directions. Arrive at the test center early. Leave extra time to get there in case you encounter unexpected delays.
  • Bring a snack. You can’t do your best if you’re distracted by a growling stomach.
  • Relax. Just do your best and try not to worry.

Remember that admission tests are only part of the application picture. Challenging courses, good grades (especially in rigorous courses such as honors and AP®), commitment to extracurricular activities and to your community, teacher recommendations, and strong admission essays all contribute to creating a portrait of who you are and what you can do.

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