Here are our testing guidelines:
- Pick one test – ACT or SAT
- Choose a test date that’s convenient for you
- Prepare for the test – on your own, with a tutor, or take a class
- Plan to earn a score that accurately reflects your ability
- Plan to take the test just once
There’s lots of debate among college faculty(who influence admissions policies), admissions representatives, test prep companies, and the testing companies themselves, as to which test is better, easier, more predictable, the SAT or the ACT. Actually the two tests are very highly correlated. And all colleges will accept scores from either one. So it doesn’t really matter which one you take. Except for one issue: If you’re likely to apply to colleges that require additional test results, scores from SAT Subject tests called SAT IIs, you might want to review the guidelines of those colleges. Because some colleges will waive the SAT II requirements if you submit an ACT score but require that you take the SAT IIs if you submit SAT scores. Just something to think about.
Keep in mind, the purpose of the tests is to predict whether an applicant has the academic background to be successful at a given college. Historically, the SAT was developed to help the Ivy League colleges know which Midwestern bumpkins they should allow to attend! Previously, they had admitted students (boys) based on the recommendations of the headmasters of the eastern preparatory school they attended. If you didn’t attend one of those schools, you couldn’t be recommended. The SAT was developed as a way to identify talent more broadly. That’s a good thing, right?
Many students fear taking these tests, thinking that if they don’t do well enough on the test, they won’t get into a given college. Let’s think about that.
If indeed the test results are correlated with student success, that is, if the test results can predict when a student has the academic background to succeed at the college, then maybe it means that if you don’t get a certain score, it’s likely you won’t be successful at that school. Knowing that is a good thing – you don’t want to go to a college, and pay money to attend a school where you have very little chance of success.
With that thinking, the students needn’t fear the ACT/SAT. Instead, here are some ways to use your test results to your own advantage.
The goal of a college search is to find the set of colleges where you’ll thrive and succeed. Knowing your score compared to the students who are admitted gives you valuable information. Colleges where your score is in the top range of the admitted student’s scores are likely colleges where you’ll be one of the smarter kids there. Colleges where your score is in the bottom range of the admitted student’s scores are likely colleges where you’ll struggle and have to work very hard. There’s nothing wrong with working hard. You just need to know where you stand.
If you want to be at the top of the class, get involved in lots of activities and have a vibrant social life and go to all the athletic and cultural events your college has to offer, maybe you should focus on colleges where you’ll be in the top group. If you’re the kind of person who is best motivated when surrounded by people who do well even if you need to do a little chasing to catch up with them, then maybe it’s more appropriate for you to focus on colleges where your scores are in bottom range of the colleges you select.
We recommend you set your intention to take the test just once, but there are instances when even we recommend you give it a another try. How can you decide whether or not to take the test the second or third time? Here are some good reasons to retake.
- Did you prepare thoroughly the first time or is there more you can do to learn how to take the test?
- Can you explain why you might not have done your best?
- Do you need an extra point or two to qualify for a scholarship or a bigger scholarship at one or more of the colleges you’ll likely attend? Check out the Net Price Calculator at your colleges to find out if a higher ACT/SAT score might make a difference in your scholarship award. You’ll need to have your list of colleges in order to figure this out.
College Connectors has some advice on creating your college list. Contact us @ 612-331-4567. We help lots of students every year.