Standardized Testing

Standardized testing is a blight on our educational system. It exists simply because of the overwhelming number of applications to undergraduate and graduate programs. When grades, personal statements, portfolios, and letters of recommendation fail to winnow, admissions committees look to a timed multiple-choice exam. They need a tiebreaker and this is the “best” the system has come up with. It’s deplorable, but I’m here to offer you advice about how to do better, not to complain about things we can’t change.

Before you start worrying about this test, make sure the schools you are looking at actually require it. Equally important, look at the average and middle 50% of scores for the accepted students. It is important to have a goal score before starting test preparation. If you already have your goal score, congratulations! Also, make sure that you ask about the relationship of those scores for admission as well as scholarships. Even a small increase can make a big difference for scholarships!

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Author Stephen Heiner is a Premier Level Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

A Timeline for High School

Roadmap To Success:

Freshman year: Pick challenging classes and look for internships and summer programs that will make you stand out.

Sophomore year: Take the PSAT for the first time.  Continue to do well in school, take as many AP classes as possible, join clubs and sports teams that interest you (don’t sign-up for everything!). Take ACT and SAT practice test sometime in Spring of sophomore year or the summer after.

Junior year: The tough one.  Take National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) in Fall, take practice ACT and SAT (if you haven’t already taken them!).  Prep for and then take an ACT or SAT. Take AP/SAT Subject Tests.  Start seriously talking about college with a college counselor.

Senior year: Fight senioritis, get the applications done in August, September, and October so that by November you can enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas and not spend it with boring and inane essay prompts.  Enjoy your second semester but don’t slack off so much that your admission is revoked (it’s happened).