Just Starting Out: Test Prep Advice

Your test is looming on the horizon, and you need to prepare. Whatever you do, do something! Almost anyone can bring up his or her scores, but it takes work.

Managing stress

Standardized testing has become one of the most stressful parts of the college admission process. The stakes seem higher than ever, and the complexities more confusing. At the most selective colleges, in some cases, low test scores are used to exclude, rather than include, students. That is because at these institutions, enough strong applicants apply that the schools have the luxury of asking for almost everything from almost everyone.

However you choose to prepare, don't worry too much. It's not good for your health, and it won't help your performance. In fact, it could negatively impact your schoolwork, family life, and involvement in the things that really matter. Do add regular reading and writing to your life, beginning as early in high school as possible. This is good for your brain, and will help you in all your other coursework.

One factor of many

At most colleges, test scores are just one factor in students' files, where scores generally "fit" what is already evident in course selection, grades, recommendations, and other evidence of performance and readiness for college. Also keep in mind that test scores will be evaluated in the context of other factors, such as student background, learning disabilities or attention disorders, or significant family or personal obstacles.

As you explore colleges, look for schools that fit you well, and carefully research their testing requirements. You can use colleges' reported test scores, particularly the middle-fifty-percent range, as one indicator of your admission fit at different places. Then keep up your class work during junior and senior years. Persistence can make the most difference in the long run.

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