The Key to Tests is All in the Prep

SATs, ACTs, APs and other standardized tests have a huge impact
on where students land after high school. It’s hard to believe that
tests can hold so much importance in our lives, but it’s crucial
that we spend an appropriate amount of time preparing.
By Michael Zamudio Teen Panelist

SATs, ACTs, APs and other standardized tests have a huge impact on where students land after high school. It’s hard to believe that tests can hold so much importance in our lives, but it’s crucial that we spend an appropriate amount of time preparing.

To do well, you must plan how and when you will study. Remind yourself that these tests are one of the major factors in the college-admissions process, so they must be taken seriously. You can’t just walk into the test room and expect to do your best.

Although some students are natural geniuses, most people will not do as well unless they prepare. I have found that a simple timeline does not work. Instead, I need a schedule that includes a checklist to keep me accountable. The hardest part of preparing for SATs and other tests is fitting in time to study amid the demands of your daily life, which usually includes homework, after-school jobs, sports practice and other extracurricular activities.

The key is to start early. Even though most students do not take these tests until their junior year, it is helpful to start organizing your plans during your freshman year. This will give you a head start and more time to prepare.

During your sophomore year, you should take the PSATs and spend time preparing for that test by using the booklet and practice tests available from many high schools’ college-planning offices. You may take your first AP test your sophomore year. If not then, you will your junior year, and preparation should be an ongoing effort.

Be attentive in class and do all your homework. During your junior year, you should once again take the PSAT. Although these scores will not be used for college admissions, if you score high enough you could be eligible for some merit scholarship money, so it is worth it to take the test seriously.

The summer before your sophomore year, begin researching colleges to get an idea of what score you will need on the SAT to get into the schools you want. Bookmark www. collegeboard. com. I found this Web site to be the most useful resource for college information. You can register for the SAT and all other College Board exams on this site.

Your junior year is the most important year for college admissions. You may want to consider taking a SAT-prep course or at the very least, purchase a SAT-preparation book. You’ll probably feel very stressed this year, but always remember to manage your time wisely.

I took the SAT Reasoning Test twice my junior year, but I did not take the SAT Subject Tests until my senior year. This was a mistake. You want to make sure you take the SAT Subject Tests in June of the year you complete that particular course. The University of California system requires three subject tests, so you need to plan your schedule to optimize your results.

Try your hardest to do your best your junior year; these are the scores that will give you a rough idea of what colleges are within your reach. If needed, you will have two more chances to take the SATs during your senior year to improve your score. Just remember: Preparation is the key to success on all tests!

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