INFORMATION FOR PARENTS
Welcome to the Navy’s College Test Preparation Program. The test prep program will help high school students increase ACT/SAT test scores – improving academic opportunities and ultimately careers. The Navy is committed to supporting our cadets and believes that education is the key to lifelong success.
Test Prep Survival: SAT, ACT, and PSAT/NMSQT
Standardized tests play an important role in the college admission process, and you can get through them! Read on, and prepare for test success.
First Stop: Acronym City
When it comes to standardized testing, there seems to be an acronym waiting around every corner and the SAT, ACT, and PSAT/NMSQT play starring roles.
To start out, many students take a practice PSAT/NMSQT during sophomore year, which is optional. Wondering why you would elect to take a test? The more you know about your exams, the less apt you’ll be to freak during the one that counts. As for the “real” test, you’ll take that in October of junior year. (At an “ACT school” you’ll take the PLAN during the fall of sophomore year.)
SAT vs. ACT
The choice of whether to take the SAT or ACT used to be determined by your school/region. Today, however, most schools accept both SAT and ACT scores, which means that you can decide for yourself.
Although the tests are similar, they have some key differences. On the SAT, the writing section is required, and the essay factors into your overall score. On the ACT, you can choose whether or not to take the Writing section. Another difference is the way the tests are scored. On the SAT, you’ll get a small amount deducted for every wrong answer. On the ACT, only right answers count so fill in every bubble. The SAT tests reading comprehension, math, and writing skills, but the ACT also tests science. Don’t worry too much, though you don’t need to know science facts since it really tests your ability to read and interpret scientific information.
Neither the SAT or ACT is easier or better, but by getting to know each, you can decide which suits you. If you’re still undecided about which to take, try a practice test for each. If you find one less difficult, you can shape your prep plan accordingly, and you won’t have to take both!
Once you figure out what you’re studying for, it’s time to get busy. Sadly, prep through osmosis (placing your book under your pillow) definitely doesn’t work. We know it’s disappointing! So with that out of the way, let’s move on to what you can do.
- When to start
Start getting ready at least six weeks before the test.
- How to prepare
Books and online courses introduce all the content you need to know, though you’ll need to stay motivated to work through it. Classroom courses keep you on track, but you don’t have the same flexibility when it comes to scheduling. Choose what works for you and what you’ll stick with.
- Why you should do it
Unlike prep by osmosis, it has been proven that studying for the SAT or ACT will improve your score. Enough said!
As you prepare, certain strategies can help boost your scores.
Stress is your number one enemy. Don’t cram-that will only add to it. If you’re not happy with your score, you can retake the test in the fall of your senior year.
- Play detective
Even if you’re not sure about the correct answer, you can gain points by eliminating the wrong ones. If you’re working on a problem and know that answers A and C are not correct, cross them off and guess from the remaining choices.
- Avoid variables
“N” and “X” variables can really clutter up a math question. Turn these questions into simple arithmetic problems by making up a number for the variable and then solving the problem. Next time you see an “X” in a question, plug in a 2 instead. Choose the right answer by doing the same thing with each answer choice.
The Write Stuff
While many students are less than pleased about the prospect of writing an essay, it’s definitely not the end of the world. It’s quite possible that your performance on the writing portion of either exam can work in your favor. In other words, don’t assume that you’ll bomb it. Besides, the writing section only accounts for about a ninth of your SAT score and the optional ACT essay isn’t even counted (though certain colleges require it).
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by testing, and by the college admission process in general. However, as long as you stay organized and get prepared, it’s nothing to lose sleep over!