Fall is time for you to test the waters of standardized testing. Many of you have just taken the PSAT and/or Pre-ACT at school. I hope you treated this as an opportunity and not something to dread. It has given you your first “feel” of the standardized testing that may influence your college admission options. You may come away with a preference between the SAT and ACT formats; one test may feel easier than the other. Compare the scores you receive on each. If your school does not offer the chance to take both testing formats, ask your guidance counselor if he or she would consider administering the other test to interested students.
Use your PSAT/Pre-ACT performance to help you choose whether to take the SAT or ACT as your official standardized exam. The PSAT and Pre-ACT score reports will also help you determine the areas in which you’ll need to improve for the SAT and ACT.
The end of your first quarter of school is also a good time to think about the courses you are taking and, if any are subjects you excel in, whether you should take that SAT Subject Test in May or June of your sophomore year, while the material is still fresh in your mind. If you take any Honors or AP classes during your sophomore year, for example, then you’ll want to take the Subject Tests in those areas right away.
Should you decide to take a Subject Test at the end of your sophomore year, be sure to prepare for it. In addition to your in-school studies in each subject, you should definitely order a dedicated commercial prep book for each SAT subject you will test in and work through each book. Our students have reported good results from using Barrons, The Princeton Review, Peterson’s and other commercial ‘cram’ books. Read user reviews to decide which prep book is best for you. Each prep book includes several full practice tests.
Beginning to think about standardized testing during your sophomore year will reduce your stress levels during junior year, when “it really matters!”