There are many pieces of the college application that the admissions department will use to decide whether or not to admit you to their school. One of the most influential parts will be your standardized test scores.
You most likely have already heard of the SAT and the ACT. There are many rumors floating around that some schools prefer one or the other, but that is untrue. Schools will take either the ACT or the SAT and weight them evenly.
Here is some background about how the tests are scored. The SAT is scored out of 2400, with each section (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) each having a top score of 800. This is a change from the old SAT which used to be out of just 1600 and did not have a writing section. The national average is about a 500 in each section, so an average of 1500. The ACT has a top composite score of 36 which is calculated from an average in each section (English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing) each with a top score of 36. The national average composite score is a 21. It is not uncommon to find students who gain admission to the top schools with perfect scores of 2400 or 36. But, these students did not get these scores by sheer genius. These students put in just as much work into their grades as they did into studying for these tests.
It's important to become accustomed to the way each test asks their particular questions. Practice makes perfect! The College Board, which administers the SAT has a great “Question of the Day” which you can sign up to have it emailed to you every day. This is a great way to start understanding what kinds of questions they ask and how they go about finding the right answer.
The ACT also offers a “Question of the Day” but it is not emailed to you. You will need to bookmark this page and check on it every day.
A key difference between the SAT and the ACT is that the SAT penalizes you ¼ point for every question you answer incorrectly, while the ACT does not. Some students find this puts added pressure on them in the SAT, while other students don’t find it is an issue. The ACT has shorter sections, but this asks students to process information faster. Again, some students enjoy the fast pace, while some find it adds more pressure. http://www.actstudent.org/faq/actsat.html
Check out these two comprehensive test prep books easily found on Amazon or in your local library:
Collegeboard’s Official SAT Study Guide:
Barron’s ACT Study Guide:
All in all, understanding how important test scores are to your college application is the first big step. Next, by planning ahead, you can raise your score exponentially and thus, increase your odds of admission at your top choice school. Stay tuned to Testing Part II next month where we will discuss planning out an appropriate timeline for testing.
Good luck and always go forward!
Karen Fong is a college admissions expert with specialized knowledge of the collegiate rugby landscape. She is a credentialed guidance counselor backed by a team at Dunbar Educational Consultants with over 130 years of combined experience in this field. She is also a former Division I Rugby player at University of California at Davis, National U-23 Team player, currently on the USA Rugby Referee circuit, and the new academic advisor for the USA Rugby High School All-American Program. With her deep knowledge and strong ties to the collegiate rugby world, Karen is the best resource for families searching for the best fit college for their young rugby player. Various packages are available to suit every family’s needs. To schedule a consultation and discuss client options, please call Karen at (310) 497-0619 cell or email