One of the trickiest parts of working with the ACT and SAT is not only helping students improve, but also helping their families deconstruct their preconceptions about the exams. These exams have become ubiquitous with college admissions – yet all too often, we are not approaching them in the most collegiate way!
The tests – at face value – appear to be a metric to measure what a student has learned in high school, in preparation for college. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly what they are! The ACT and SAT both test material learned at one point or another during the middle school or high school curriculum, but they test it in a way that may not be familiar. This is where a student must take their first steps toward thinking more like a college student. They must discover for themselves the distinct differences between the two tests and the tests as compared to their school work.
As mentioned before, for most students there will not be any totally new content on the exams – yet for many students, information recall is not enough to do well on these standardized tests. As both exams are different versions of psychometric exams, the manner in which a question is asked is often more important than the content associated. A student therefore must be willing to “play the test maker’s game,” learning new methods to properly take the exam. The test makers are notorious for asking questions with the words “least,” “not,” and “except” in them. Before we even get to the content piece, we must realize the question is more about a “logic game” than anything else.
It is easy to get stuck in our learning rut, and for the most part it is beneficial in our schooling systems. But in order to succeed on these exams we must realign our method of thinking to that of the test makers. This alteration will lead us toward our ultimate goals: achieving a higher score in order to earn admission to the school of our choice and to become eligible for additional scholarship money to help fund our education