Now that your teen is ready to take the SAT or ACT exams, I wonder… do your palms get sweaty and does your heart start to race like they did back in high school?
You’re not alone – many parents’ anxiety levels start to climb when their kids are faced with these exams. There’s a heckuva lot riding on them!
But knowledge is power, right? Understanding more about the tests helps to reduce some of that dread.
So, grab a seat and read on. I’ll provide some insight into what many professionals in college admissions know, but many parents don’t, when it comes to taking these college entrance exams.
Prepare for just one of the tests – either the SAT or the ACT.
Your teen can submit score reports for either the SAT or the ACT (or both) to any college nationwide for admissions. They’re accepted by all of them.*
Given that it doesn’t matter which test’s scores get sent, your teen should know which exam, the SAT or ACT, that she performs best on. That’s the test that she should prepare for and register to take. That obviously starts her off with a higher score on the test, but it also is probably the test that she’s most confident and comfortable with – two elements that will help to increase her score faster and further than she’d be able to on the opposite exam.
So, how do you figure out which one is the more dominant exam for your teen? Have her take an SAT and an ACT practice exam, and compare scores.
You can access free practice exams and instructions for comparing scores by downloading them here: ACT & SAT Practice Exams and Instructions.
Don’t enter college names on the registration form.
There is an area on the registration form to enter the names of colleges where your teen would like her score reports sent for free. Unless your family truly cannot afford $12 to send reports to colleges later on, I highly recommend keeping this area blank. Your teen should review how she performed on her exam before releasing that information to the schools she hopes to attend.
One year I had several students show up to test day with the flu, and all of them got much lower scores than expected on the test. Two of those students entered college names in that section of the registration form, and unfortunately, there was no stopping those reports from getting in front of admissions officers’ eyes.
Another tip: Test registration can take a tedious 40 minutes to complete. Tell your teen not to fill out the optional stuff. Not only does it cut down dramatically on the time needed to register, but testing companies don’t need all of the information they’re asking for about our teens.
Take either the SAT or ACT at least twice.
Whichever test your teen opts to take, make sure she’s taking it twice.
Many colleges super score the exams for admissions, which means they’ll take the highest section scores on the exam to create the highest possible overall score. If your high schooler only takes the test once, there’s no other test to pull from to make that higher score happen.
Remember that not all colleges superscore the SAT and ACT exams. To find out for sure schools use scores for admissions, contact the admissions offices directly. Some consider only the highest total test scores, for example. You can do some initial research with the College Board’s SAT Score-Use Practices by Participating Institution document, too, but best connect with the colleges individually to be sure.
*Some schools don’t require an exam at all. Check out www.fairtest.org for a list of test-optional colleges.
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