Gateways to opportunities
Standardized tests are gateways to opportunities. Colleges use them to admit or reject students — and scores influence decisions about scholarships, grants, and financial aid.
College graduates wanting to continue their education take standardized tests to qualify for graduate or professional programs. It’s a real alphabet stew: APs, IBs, LSATs, MCATs, DATs, GMATs, GREs. Standardized tests qualify candidates for licensing and certification in professions.
Starting to practice
For several years, some middle school students have been invited to take SATs and ACTs. It isn’t a bad idea as it gives students much-needed practice. If your child doesn’t get invited, make sure your teen takes at least one test each year beginning freshman year.
Succeeding with these tests is important:
- Most colleges require either SATs or ACTs, or even SAT IIs.
- Scores are becoming more important than grades to colleges.
- High-scoring students may also be offered more money to attend college.
For a student to tell a college admissions counselor, “I’m not good at standardized tests,” won’t work for failing to meet the college’s standard. A college of quality will deny admission and reply, “Why didn’t you do something about that?”
Carelessness and nervousness are often cited as reasons for low scores. But the real reasons are lack of preparation and unfamiliarity with the tests. Both cause nervousness and carelessness. Both can be corrected with practice.
Ways to practice
Take advantage of prep tools: practice sessions at school, prep workbooks or software — even prep services.
Students should —
- Take sample tests.
- Identify incorrect answers with the answer key provided.
- Analyze specific weaknesses revealed by the answer key.
- Consult teachers about troublesome questions in specific subjects.
Prep services can coach students and help discover roots of problems. If you go that route, do your homework. Ask your guidance counselor for the names of families who have used services. Get their comments before you sign on.
Even students who do well on tests will improve their scores with practice. Research shows practicing improves results. Being prepared makes all the difference.