In a previous blog we discussed why college admission policies such as test-optional are unlikely to affect whether or not you need to take a standardized test. Unless you fall in a very specific population, you need to take it. Let’s talk about why standardized tests are this important, and why roughly 3.8M students took the test last year.
One reason for colleges requiring standardized tests boils down to seeking an objective evidence of a student’s academic preparedness. Of course, the school’s GPA is a piece of evidence. The GPA most accurately helps pinpoint where the student stands in comparison to his/her peers within the same school. However, there are many variations between schools, which makes it hard to compare GPA across schools. Examples of variations are:
Academic rigor -- whether courses are easy/hard at a given school
Grading policy -- whether the school inflates grades
Atmosphere -- how conducive is the environment to academics at a particular school
Teacher quality at a particular school
In other words, Patrick may have scored an A in his English class in Bucklin, KS, but that may only be equivalent to Nicole scoring a C in Boston, MA. Net-net, relying solely on GPA can result in inaccurate results for colleges, thus requiring another piece of objective evidence. Standardized tests i.e. SAT or ACT accomplish this. These tests are national (if not international) and are completely objective, unbiased towards factors such as geography, school, teachers etc.
Another reason standardized tests are important is that they can help determine a student’s aptitude in addition to testing for learning. The College Board, for example, states this about the SAT, “It measures: what you learn in high school [and] what you need to succeed in college.” Which college wouldn’t want an indication to help predict a student’s performance at their college?
Now that we have established that you, most likely, need to take the ACT or SAT, some pointers on next steps:
Choose one test: taking both is a waste of time and effort, and frankly unnecessary. We are not aware of any college requiring both tests. How do you choose which test to take? Try out diagnostic tests of both flavors and compare your scores. SAT scores on a scale of 1600 and the ACT scores on a scale of 36, but there are concordance tables that help you compare the two.
Prepare for the test: practice does improve scores. So preparing for the test is a good idea. You can do-it-yourself through official resources, free resources, and test prep books; or attend a coaching class; or both. Whatever strategy you choose, do not take the test until you are prepared.
Repeat: You are allowed to take the test more than once. So feel free to repeat.
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