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Standardized Test Prep Tips

A little preparation goes far, so long as students take the time to gather a plan for their test prep strategy.

Kaitlyn Specht

September 16, 2014

Standardized Test Prep Tips
Typically beginning in junior year of high school, test preparation often becomes a source of stress for students. Some walk in the day of the test with no idea of how the test works. Others, after vain attempts at studying, receive their results with disappointment. Questions surface such as, “Should I buy that expensive test prep kit?” leaving students uneasy and confused. However, there really is no need to stress over these dreaded tests. A little preparation goes far, so long as students take the time to gather a plan.

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ACT vs. SAT – One of the main differences between the ACT and the SATis that the SAT does not include a science portion. The ACT does. Students who aren’t strong in science should not fear, however, because the science portion of the ACT deals more with interpretation of graphs, experiments, etc. No prior knowledge is really necessary, but reading and comprehension skills definitely help. PLAN – Taken in sophomore year, the PLAN test gives students a first look at the style of the ACT without outside pressure. The creators shortened the test a little, to the relief of most sophomores. Still, the pace needed to get a good grade remains the same, giving students a good idea of how quickly they will need to perform on the actual test.

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For students that would rather take the SAT, they may take the PSAT junior year instead of, or in addition to, the PLAN test.
Library Resources – For students beyond their sophomore year, a less official option for preparation is in order. The designers of the ACT created a specific test prep book used for getting in some practice. Other books are also available if the student completes the book and needs further practice.

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These books, however, cost quite a bit of money. The local library typically loans several editions of ACT and SAT preparatory books. Instead of buying them, take advantage of this free resource and rent the books from the library. As always, the library prohibits writing in the books, but use a copy machine to print off an answer sheet and grab some scrap paper to jot down ideas. Take as many of these practice tests as time allows before the actual test. Use the books especially to practice pacing. Wear a watch to bring to the test and get in the habit of looking at it. Plan a pace to keep ahead of time. For example, with 60 questions to answer in 60 minutes on the math portion of the ACT, try to get past question 30 half way through the test. Classes – If a little extra guidance is necessary, many schools offer college preparatory classes. Sophomores should sign up to take one junior year. Along with other college life skills, students learn how to prepare for the ACT, SAT, and any state-mandated testing. Juniors and seniors who already maintain a full schedule of courses during the school day may attend weekend or afternoon classes solely designed for ACT or SAT prep. While some of these classes cost money, others remain completely free. Research classes in the area for more information on their costs. Test Prep Kits – Ever received a phone call or email detailing amazing test results due to a computer program? Some test prep kits promise up to a four point score increase if the student’s high score currently marks below a 30. They may even guarantee a full refund if the increase never happens. However, there is a catch. One kit that I know of requires that the student dedicates at least 25 hours of time into the test prep kit in order to get a refund. In addition, these kits cost serious amounts of money, hundreds of dollars even. Realistically evaluate the time and money necessary to spend in order to achieve an appropriate score and consider cheaper options as a starting point. Test Day – Remember the usual routine before tests: sleep well, eat breakfast, suck on peppermints. Get comfortable and focus. All the hard work put in beforehand – practice tests, classes, and prep kits – are about to pay off.

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