College Entrance Exams

How to make GREAT Scores on College Entrance Exams

There are two main College Entrance Exams.

The SAT, most often taken on the east and west coast states, is more about logical thinking and vocabulary.

The ACT, most often taken in the center section of the country, is more closely related to high school classes.

Which test should you take?

For most students, it doesn’t matter. Most colleges and universities will now accept either test. Most students who do well on one test also do well on the other. In a many states now, all graduating students are required to take the ACT.

Do I really NEED to do a lot of preparation?

Note: Do NOT click to LOOK INSIDE the book cover below. It won’t work on this page.

As I mentioned on an earlier page, I started preparing for the SAT in seventh grade. I believe that it was this One of many SAT practice books.preparation that helped me win an important scholarship.  I enjoyed studying vocabulary and doing the practice tests. Before you decide when and how to prepare, ask yourself these questions.

1. Is there any chance that I will want to go to a highly selective college or university, one that is very hard to get into?

2. Do I need or want to get really good scholarships?

3. Am I eager or at least willing to spend many years, many hours a week, preparing for these tests?

4. Do I live in a state where I am required to take the ACT?  Ask your school counselor.

If you answered yes to these questions, you should probably do as much preparation as possible. It isn’t wasted time. You will be learning vocabulary that will make reading easier for the rest of your life. You might also develop thinking skills that will help you in college and in your career.

The book pictured on the right is only one of many excellent practice books for the SAT. You might begin with practice books in the library and try several before deciding to buy one.

How should students prepare for these exams?

First, I would suggest that you prepare for both exams. You might discover a college you really life that requires the exam you hadn’t prepared for. Secondly, both types of preparation will help you in many ways including making better grades. In recent years, there have been more and more students taking both tests. If you have higher scores on one test, you can submit only those to colleges and scholarships.

To Prepare for both exams, you should

1. Improve your vocabulary

2. Read challenging books, perhaps once a month. This will help you develop stronger reading skills. You can also try the reading strategies described on this website.

3. Take as much math as possible and review your skills so that when you take these tests you will feel confident in basic math, Algebras 1 and 2, Geometry, and if possible Trigonometry and Calculus. Taking more math will improve your chances of being accepted in a college. It will also help you do well in college math classes and math related classes.

4. Improve your writing skills. You will write an essay for the SAT and should also do the optional essay for the ACT.

5. Study all grammar rules and do practice exercises.

6. It would be smart to take both the PLAN (a preliminary test for the ACT) and
the PSAT (preliminary SAT and the only way to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship – or to be classified as a Commended Scholar – helpful in college and scholarship applications.

7. It would also be smart to do at least 5-10 practice tests for both the ACT and SAT. If, after this, you really prefer one rather than the other… then concentrate on the one that feels most comfortable for you.

Preparation for the ACT should include

1. Take good notes in your science and math classes and continue to review the material in later years. You could summarize the most important information or skills each week. At the end of each class, condense this to 3-5 pages of notes for the course. Reviewing this monthly should help you remember what you learned.

2. Take the ACT practice tests online or from books.

Because the ACT is more closely related to your classwork, it shouldn’t require as much preparation.

Preparation for the SAT should include

Take many practice tests over several years if possible.

1.  Taking three or four practice tests will help you know what kind of questions to expect.

2. Take practice tests one of more times a month for several years – along with enough time to read and understand the answers and how you should have arrived at those answers.

At first this will seem like an awful lot of work. You will be convinced that the questions are too difficult for you. You will have problems understanding how they arrived at their answers.

Slowly, the tests will seem easier and the problems like solving puzzles. You might end up like I did, really enjoying the experience. Learning to think logically can be fun and it is certainly useful.

Be sure to sign up for the PLAN and PSAT early. Dates may change from year to year. Your school counselor should know the dates, locations, and how to register. You can also find information on the Internet. At this time, the PSAT must be taken your junior year in October to be considered for the National Merit Scholarships and recognition. There are several possible dates for the PLAN.

You should then sign up for the SAT and/or ACT in the Spring of your junior year. If you do poorly, it will then be possible to take the test again – after more preparation – early in your senior year… just in time to get scores to colleges and for scholarship applications.

What if I make horrible scores in both exams?

Do not despair.

Check with your school counselor or check it out on the Internet. There are colleges that do not require either test. They believe your grades are a better indication of how you will do in college. It is true. Your grades show how hard you work and the quality of your study habits, skills and strategies.

You might want to read ACT or SAT

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