Confession: I hate standardized testing. This started in elementary school, when classes were put on hold for a week so all of us could take part in Education Records Bureau (ERB) testing. This hatred for filling out bubbles and using #2 pencils was magnified when I got to high school and spent way too many Saturday mornings in a stuffy classroom taking the SAT and ACT. I know that testing can be a stressful part of the college application process, so I'm here to try and relieve some of that anxiety. I can’t make these tests disappear, but I can give you some tips!
1. Be Smart About The Test You Choose.
My number one piece of advice for juniors is to try both the ACT and the SAT. Whether you try some practice questions online (the SAT recently partnered with Khan Academy to increase the amount of free test prep available for students), use a book from your school, or even sit for the test itself, I think you will find that one feels much better than the other. Personally, trying both exams was a crucial turning point in my college application process. In high school, I took the SAT seven (yep, you read that right) times and my scores managed to go down each time. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that isn’t supposed to happen. Then, on a whim, I tried out the ACT exam and got the score I wanted on the first try. Something about the SAT questions was not working with the way I think (no offense, CollegeBoard), while I found the ACT questions much more straightforward and easier to understand. The bottom line is that Tufts has no preference over which exam you send us, so send along scores from the test in which you feel most confident.
2. Research Testing Policies at Each School.
Once you have a rough draft of your college list (check out this post for more advice on that!), look at their testing policies. Some schools superscore, some do not. Some schools need the SAT subject tests, some do not. Some schools require the writing section of the SAT, some do not. You get the picture. There is no reason for you to be taking unnecessary standardized testing if it is not required for any of your potential colleges. If you want to find out more information about the testing policy at Tufts, visit this page.
3. Study in a Way That Suits You.
Figure out a way of studying that works best for you. Whether you dedicate a big chunk of time once a week, or shorter bursts of energy more often, it is all about finding what works for you. Because I had/have test anxiety, it was useful for me to make standardized testing a part of my everyday life. While studying for the GRE (basically the SAT, but for graduate school), I would practice questions on my commute to work and learn vocab while “working out” (more like sitting on a stationary bike and pretending that the resistance was cranked up super high to make up for my slow speed). By making these questions a part of my everyday routine, I was not as shocked when I saw the questions during the actual exam.
4. You Aren't Your Scores.
Lastly—and this is the most important—do NOT let these tests define you as a student, or as a person. Trying to ace these exams is not worth sacrificing your sanity. Tufts believes in a holistic admissions process, meaning these tests are never going to make or break your application. Instead, they are a piece of a very large puzzle that the admissions officers are trying to piece together. Don't give one piece more power, or stress, than it deserves.