The Standardized Testing Facts Every Main Line Student Should Know

With tests like the ACT and SAT on the horizon, high school students across the western suburbs would do well to remember these facts.

1. The SAT and ACT are weighted by colleges equally.

Perhaps the most egregious myth about standardized tests is that the SAT is the superior test for college admission.

2. The SAT’s math section isn’t really that hard.

What makes it seem so difficult? It’s the fact that the material is presented in weirdly worded questions and ways students have never seen before.

3. Students don’t need to know that much about science for the ACT’s science section.

It’s simply testing a student’s ability to analyze charts, graphs and tables that happen to have scientific words in them. Replace all the key terms with more familiar things (butterflies, bunnies, rainbows), and students suddenly have a much different outlook.

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Standardized testing isn’t as scary as students may think. Adobe Stock / clsdesign

4. Vocabulary flash cards are a poor investment of time and energy.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with learning 300 new words. But if the sole purpose of studying flash cards is to bolster an SAT critical reading score, students and parents are on the wrong track. Focus on the reading passages.

5. The ACT is all about time, and the SAT is all about approach.

If you give students limitless time to complete both tests, SAT scores won’t increase much—but their ACTs will likely skyrocket. Why? Because the ACT is more content-based.

6. “SAT” doesn’t stand for anything.

It used to stand for “scholastic aptitude test,” but they couldn’t prove it measured scholastic aptitude or intelligence. Now, it’s simply called the SAT reasoning test. Much to everyone’s chagrin, however, neither the SAT nor the ACT truly tests a student’s ability to achieve in the classroom or in life.

7. Prepping the summer before junior year isn’t as intense or crazy as your teen thinks it is.

Kids may lash out at this suggestion, but it comes down to time management. The generally accepted notion is that students should wait until the second half of junior year to take the tests. But that seems silly when you consider everything else that’s going on: finals, AP tests, after-school activities, end-of-year projects, prom. Why throw in test prep on top of that?

8. Not all colleges look at the SAT writing section.

This may seem ridiculous, but many schools still only evaluate the SAT out of 1600, focusing exclusively on the critical reading and math. It’s not a secret—colleges are open about it. Be sure to call the admissions office to learn the policies.

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Related: Your Guide to Colleges and Schools Around the Main Line

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