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Big Plans This SATurday? It’s Time to ACT

1600. 36. To some, these numbers are just numbers, and nothing more. But to millions of high school students, these numbers represent an almost unattainable dream — a perfect score. The SAT and the ACT are an important part of college applications today, and the average score keeps climbing. As it grows, so does the […]

1600.

36.

To some, these numbers are just numbers, and nothing more. But to millions of high school students, these numbers represent an almost unattainable dream — a perfect score.

The SAT and the ACT are an important part of college applications today, and the average score keeps climbing. As it grows, so does the competition, causing students and their parents to spend increasing time and money in pursuit of a exceptional score.

Despite the countless hours and dollars spent on preparation, students still worry that there are elements of these tests they still may be unable to comprehend.

“It had a little bit of calculus and pre-calculus, but I was only in Algebra II when I took [the SAT] so I didn’t know some of the concepts,” Bella Arriaga (‘18) explained.

The feeling of realization when you discover you have no idea what’s on a test is something that most can agree is horrible — it’s akin to discovering you’ve jumped out of a plane without a parachute. Luckily, students have various resources they can utilize to prepare for college readiness tests to act as such a safety net.

Be warned: it’s not fun.

“I would do Khan Academy,” Bella groaned. “It was something like five weeks in a row, every Sunday for at least five hours.”

Khan Academy, for those who do not know, is a program that offers free SAT prep. It is run by CollegeBoard, who runs the SAT as well as the AP program. It is an excellent resource for students who cannot afford books, tutoring, or the prep classes that CB offers. (This article is not sponsored by Khan Academy.)

Nicole Melikian (‘18) used these prep classes to prepare in addition to the online practice tests. However, she had a less than favorable opinion on them.

“They help a lot of people, but they didn’t help me at all. I learned more when I could make the mistakes and see the answers by myself,” she said.

“The practice tests were the most effective,” Bella agreed.

Preparation can start months before, right up until the day before the test.

“The day before the test, I spent a good half of the day practicing for it,” said Nicole.

“The day before the test, I didn’t do anything. I just went to bed early,” Bella laughed.

These two poured their blood, sweat, and tears into these tests, but not everyone can say the same. In fact, not even everybody took them.

“I didn’t take the SAT or ACT,” said Samantha Noe (‘18). “I’m going to community college, so I didn’t need to.”

This has taken some pressure off of Samantha during her last years of high school. Conversely, most juniors and seniors can border on obsession while trying to get the elusive 1600.

“It adds a layer of competition,” remarked Sarah Littlejohn (‘19), who is only beginning the grueling college application process.

Despite the merit of a good score, a bad test score often does not reflect the test-taker’s intelligence or work ethic. To put it simply, many people are bad at taking tests, or crack under pressure. Unfortunately, on a college application, a bad test score has to be balanced by stellar grades or personal essays, and vice versa.

“It can make or break you, depending on how good you are at tests,” said Samantha.

“[The tests] make it harder to get into college, when it shouldn’t be,” added Sarah. “It makes it more stressful.”

This stress can be debilitating as your test date approaches, but keep your eye on the prize. Bella and Nicole shared their tried-and-true tips to help.

“Practice, practice, and practice,” Nicole advised.

Bella agreed. “Start early. The day you register for a test is the day you should start studying. And take it more than once.”

With this advice in mind, go forth, my friends, and prosper. And remember: if at first you don’t succeed, you can always try again.

 

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