August 2011 E-NEWSLETTER

posted Jul 31, 2011, 4:43 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jul 31, 2011, 4:51 PM ]


    While over 800 universities now consider themselves “test optional,” the vast majority of schools still require—and heavily consider—standardized test scores as one of their admissions criteria.  There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the validity of test scores and whether or not a student’s scores accurately reflect his ability to succeed in college.  Nevertheless, it is what it is, and it behooves students to do their best on these “necessary evils” of college admissions. 

    Many students blame lower-than-expected scores on lack of aptitude or trick questions, and that may be somewhat true.  However, a large percentage of mistakes are simply due to ignorance—not of test material, per se, but of effective test taking techniques. 

    Unfortunately, a lot of students don’t practice for standardized tests.  That is a huge mistake, but many times, even students that practice make certain mistakes in their preparation.  One common error is that students practice only “the hard stuff.”  A significant percentage of questions, however, is based on “the easy stuff”—pre-algebraic math concepts and basic rules of grammar.  Students often assume they know this information, but the truth is, they have forgotten a lot of that knowledge that they knew in 9th grade.  Read the test prep book and review the information.  It tells you exactly what concepts will be covered.  If you can’t remember a concept that it mentions, refresh your memory.

    Another issue that comes to mind with regard to making mistakes on the English section of standardized tests is that our ears have adjusted to colloquialisms.  For example, it is common to hear grammatically incorrect expressions such as “these ones,” and “between you and I” as well as other expressions to which students’ ears have become accustomed in everyday conversations. Unless a student intentionally practices proper grammar in his routine speech, he may not recognize some of the “traps” on the English section of SAT and ACT.

    Finally, many students never investigate which standardized test (SAT or ACT) is more appropriate for them.  The two tests are very different, and there are ways to determine which test might be better for which student.  Because two-thirds of students do better on one test than the other, this is a concept worth exploring.  Sometimes this can be determined by comparing the student’s PLAN and PSAT scores or sometimes it can be as easy as asking the student a few questions about his learning style.  Most students take both tests once, which is generally a good idea, but if the student takes the test on which he did better a second time, it indicates the student’s perseverance and determination to succeed.  Unfortunately, too many students delay their tests until the end of their junior year or the beginning of their senior year so they don’t give themselves an opportunity to demonstrate this important characteristic.  

    When it comes to standardized testing, there are simple ways to avoid major pitfalls.  While you won’t achieve a high score unless you know the information as well as test strategies, there are simple ways to improve your scores.  All it takes is some initiative on the part of the student. For more test tips, refer to the “Tips and Advice” section of this website.  If your student is considering a school that heavily considers test scores for merit-based aid (which the majority do), you may want to consider purchasing a time block for one-on-one coaching. 

     For more information about College Advising and Planning Services or to inquire about our individual college planning services, please check out our website or call us at (505) 918-7669.