As a student in high school who is considering applying to the US, you’re going to hear a ton of buzz around standardized tests like the SAT or ACT and its only natural to have several questions and concerns about their role in the university admissions process.
In this article, we'll try to provide some clarity and insight into what these tests actually are, and why they are important to college admissions officers.
But first, what are standardized tests anyways?
These are tests that are administered and scored in a consistent, standardized manner throughout the year.
They are designed to measure a student's knowledge and skills in specific areas, such as math, reading, science, and writing.
So, why are standardized tests an important part of the college admissions process? The main reason is that they provide a common measure of student achievement that can be compared across different schools and even countries.
Furthermore, they provide an objective measure of a student's academic abilities.
Grades can be subjective, and some schools may have grade inflation or deflation, making it difficult to compare students from different places, and from different curriculums.
Standardized tests help to level the playing field by providing a consistent measure of academic achievement and potential.
That being said, it's important to understand that standardized tests are an incredibly important factor, they are just one part of the admissions process.
Universities also consider several other factors such as grades, extracurricular activities, the common application and supplementary essays, and letters of recommendation.
Now that we know why you even need to bother with the SATs or ACTs in the first place, let's address some of the concerns that you or your parents may have about them.
A major concern is that you may not test well either because of factors like test anxiety, lack of preparation, or a learning disability. It's important to understand that several universities take these factors into account when considering a student's application.
For example, some universities allow students to submit test-optional applications, which means they do not have to submit standardized test scores.
Several others, like the UC schools, are test-blind and will not consider your SAT scores at all.
Another concern is that standardized tests may not accurately reflect a student's potential or abilities.
It's true that standardized tests are not perfect, and in recent years there has been criticisms of their validity and reliability.
However, it's important to not get too hung up on your test scores - although the SATs are an important part of your application, admissions officers are going to consider all the other factors we mentioned above.
So, what can you do to prepare for your tests, and put your best foot forward?
Here are some tips:
- Start early. It's never too early to start preparing for standardized tests. Engage with your Math and English courses at school, and read widely!
- Now that the SAT has moved to a digital format, make sure that you’re familiar with test taking on your laptop or computer as compared to the more traditional paper and pencil version.
- Practice, practice, practice. There are many resources available to help students prepare for standardized tests, and IvyPrep can help you with diagnostic tests, resources, and tutoring.
- Test anxiety is real, and affects almost all students around the world. To help yourself mitigate the effects of test anxiety, make sure to take full length tests regularly to familiarize yourself with different question types, the timing of each section, and practice calming techniques like deep breathing and visualization.
- Keep a broader perspective. Remember that standardized tests are just one part of the admissions process. Work hard on preparing, but don't lose sight of the broader context including your grades and extracurricular commitments.
So in conclusion, standardized tests, for better or worse, play an important role in your university admissions process.
While they certainly aren’t perfect, they provide a common measure of student achievement that can be compared across different schools and regions.
As someone approaching your own admissions journey, you can tackle your tests head on by starting early, taking a methodical approach to learning, and practicing until it's routine for you!