Sitting for the ACT or SAT is a task that is usually associated with one’s junior or senior year of high school. But even as a high school freshman, there are steps you can take to slowly prepare yourself for these important standardized tests in the years to come.
Students in their first year of high school should aim to complete the following test prep goals:
— Decide which relevant classes you will take next year
— Speak with upperclassmen to learn about the testing experience
— Find out how standardized test scores are used by colleges and universities
1. Decide which relevant classes you will take next year
Your high school guidance counselor will be an invaluable resource over the next three years. He or she can help you ensure that you achieve steady academic progress. Your guidance counselor can also assist you during the course enrollment process. It is therefore a wise idea to get to know the guidance counselor assigned to you and to inquire about the information he or she can share with you.
For example, a portion of your ACT and SAT preparation is actually conducted inside the classroom. You will first encounter nearly all the math skills required for the ACT or SAT in your high school math classes. Similarly, it is largely in your high school English classes where you sharpen the reading and writing skills needed to excel on these two standardized tests.
For these reasons, you should meet with your guidance counselor to determine which sophomore year courses will align with your test prep needs. Math classes with a focus on algebra, data analysis, geometry and trigonometry are all beneficial. English classes that involve rhetorical analysis and argumentative writing are also directly relevant to test prep.
By the end of your freshman year, you should have already enrolled in the courses that you and your guidance counselor identify as personally conducive to success on the ACT or SAT.
2. Speak with upperclassmen to learn about the testing experience
Though you always have the option of learning about the ACT or SAT from books and videos, you are now surrounded by many students who have first-hand experience with these assessments. Take advantage of your immersion in a student body that can tell you about the same exams you will have to sit for one day.
Understandably, you may not feel comfortable approaching an upperclassman you do not know to ask questions about the testing process. You can instead wait to meet upperclassmen in a natural way, such as through sports, clubs and honor societies.
Once you develop trust with an upperclassman, he or she will probably be glad to talk to you about what it was like to take the ACT or SAT. An advantage of speaking directly with someone who has recently taken the test is that you are likely to get candid advice that you might not find elsewhere.
There is just one crucial point to remember when you ask about another student’s testing experience: you must keep an open mind and be willing to form your own opinions. What one student finds discouraging you might have no trouble with, and vice versa. Experience is relative to an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
3. Find out how standardized test scores are used by colleges and universities
Knowing how to train for a standardized test is a central aim of exam preparation. But students should also be aware of why they must undertake all of this test prep in the first place. Understanding the ways in which colleges interpret and utilize exam scores can make you a more informed and motivated test-taker.
Standardized test scores are principally used by institutions of higher education to determine your “college readiness.” This phrase refers to the degree to which a student is prepared for the subject matter and rigor of college-level classes.
If a college determines you have met its standard for college readiness and offers you admission, your test scores will be utilized to make other important decisions. Earning a particularly impressive score can make you eligible for academic scholarships and entrance into honors programs, for instance. However, it is also important to note that the ACT and SAT are just one part of your application, and that some schools place little importance on them.
It is not too soon for high school freshmen to start getting ready for standardized tests taken in junior or senior year. Take the above steps by the end of your freshman year, and you will already be moving in the right direction.
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