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Spring Standardized Testing: Advice for Sophomores and Juniors

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For many high school students, spring semester means standardized test season. Like it or not, these tests are a factor for college admissions at most schools — even if they’re test optional. While a perfect score alone won’t get you into your dream college, it is important to do well on these tests to have the greatest chance of admission.

With the digital SAT rolling out to U.S. students in March 2024, it’s crucial for current sophomores and juniors to know what to expect and how to prepare.

IvyWise offers comprehensive tutoring and test-prep for college bound students. Here are a few tips and tricks for students to implement before, during, and after the test.

Before the Test

Preparation is critical. After all, we wouldn’t expect a student to sit for any other test without studying beforehand, would we? Students can increase scores dramatically on both the ACT and SAT with dedicated preparation. Therefore, it’s crucial for parents and students to know what’s necessary to prepare.

Prepare for the Right Test

The SAT and ACT are very different, and it’s important to take the exam that best fits your abilities. Taking a diagnostic practice test for both the SAT and ACT before beginning test prep is a good way to determine which test is a better fit.

Utilize Test-Prep Resources

Some of the best test-prep guides and resources come straight from those who develop the actual exams. College Board’s Digital SAT Practice and Preparation offers practice tests and other resources to get you ready for test day. Free ACT Test Prep is a good go-to for practice tests, practice subject test questions, and test-taking strategies.

TIP: Follow both the College Board and ACT on social media for tips and practice questions.

For on-the-go test prep, check out Magoosh. You can install apps for the ACT and SAT on your Android or Apple devices.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

When it comes to standardized tests, practice makes (almost) perfect. Taking multiple practice tests under timed conditions will help you become accustomed to the time restraints and practice your reading and question-answering strategies. Practice tests can also help you identify gaps in your content knowledge so you know what sections to spend more time preparing for.

TIP: At IvyWise, we recommend our students take at least four practice tests before sitting for the actual exam.

During the Test

Knowing how to take the SAT or ACT can be just as important as mastering the content within the exam. Learning and implementing test-taking strategies can help you better answer questions and utilize your time efficiently.

Utilize Process of Elimination

One of the most effective test-taking strategies is process of elimination. Many times, students will come across a question for which they do not know the answer right away. Instead of looking for the right answer, the key is to look for the wrong answers and consider the probability of getting an answer right once options are eliminated. There is no penalty for guessing on either test, so you have nothing to lose!

Pay Attention to the Format

Students need to know the format of the test as much as the content, so it’s important to be familiar with the sections and how they might progress. For example, the digital SAT has two sections: reading and writing, and math. Each section is divided into two modules. Your performance on the first module will determine the difficulty level of the questions on the second module.

The ACT contains four subject tests: English, math, reading, and science. You can take an optional writing test, though this does not impact your composite score. Unlike the SAT, the ACT is not adaptive — the difficulty of the questions will not adjust to your performance.

TIP: Students working on the reading section of the SAT or ACT should, instead of reading the whole passage and then the questions that pertain to it, work backwards by reading the questions first and use those to guide them to selectively read only the pertinent sections of the passage.

After the Test

Congratulations! Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are mentally exhausting. Allow yourself time to relax so you can recharge for the school week ahead. Waiting for scores can be stressful — don’t let your focus on schoolwork slip in the meantime!

Once your score report comes in, you can assess whether your scores are where you want them to be and make a plan of action to take the test again if they’re not within your goal score range. Most students increase their scores the second time they sit for the test, so don’t get discouraged! Continue to work on the sections that you find most challenging, and consider test prep with a professional tutor if you’re not making progress.

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