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How to Help Students Master College Entrance Exams

The college admissions process is multifaceted and stretches out over a year or more. High school students who plan to continue their education at four-year schools typically go through the admissions process at various schools before deciding where the next step on their academic journeys will take them.

Testing is part of the college admissions process. Parents and guardians who want to give young people the best chance of being admitted to their preferred school can help students prepare accordingly. In the United States, performance on the SAT and/or the ACT has traditionally been a key consideration for college admissions departments. The college information resource CollegeVine says standardized test scores are not required in the admissions process for public Canadian universities, although some private ones will accept SAT scores. According to the Princeton Review, the SAT is created and administered by the College Board. The test consists of Math and Evidence-based Reading and Writing. Each section is scored on a 200-to-800-point scale, (a score of 1600 indicates mastery of the exam). The ACT is a similar test that also helps measure college readiness. The ACT consists of four sections: English, Reading, Math, and Science. There’s also an optional 40-minute Writing Test that some colleges may require. The maximum composite score for the ACT is 36.

Most schools do not favor one test over the other, so it’s possible students will take just one exam. However, college-bound students are increasingly taking both the SAT and ACT and only submitting the higher score to schools. This is important for families and students to recognize. Generally, students can study concurrently for both tests, and the following are some additional strategies to prepare for college admissions testing.

• Enroll in a test prep course. Students may benefit from taking test prep courses either in sophomore year of high school or early in their junior year. These courses familiarize students with the testing format and enable them to take practice exams. They also offer tips for getting through the test within the alloted time. Knowing “how” to take the test is often just as important as knowing the material on the test.

• Focus on vocabulary. Families can work together to expand students’ vocabularies. Everyone can learn new words and use them on a daily basis.

• Prioritize rest and a healthy lifestyle. This can be a stressful time in students’ lives. Parents and other caregivers can recognize this and reinforce healthy living habits that will help teens get the rest they need to stay both physically and mentally well. Try not to put extra pressure on students during this critical time. Avoid emphasizing a need to get the best test scores possible, which can lead to additional stress, burnout and resentment.

• Realize many schools are test-optional. Students who simply are not excellent test-takers may take comfort in knowing that a growing number of schools have become test-optional. Families can determine if students want to be “one-and-done” on standardized testing, or take the test a few times to improve their scores.

Families can work together to make preparing for standardized testing more successful.

Webb Weekly