Connect Standardized Test Skills to Your Application for College Admissions Success

It can be tempting to think that your ACT or SAT testing skills exist in a vacuum. But contrary to popular belief, most of the skills acquired from your college admissions test prep hold crossover value.

Fortunately for high schoolers, one particularly relevant application for these skills is the college application process. Consider these four skills that should be developed during standardized test prep and that can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college:

— Analytical reading

— Use of evidence

— Working under pressure

— Concise and clear writing

Analytical Reading

Both the ACT and SAT reading sections assess students’ abilities to read accurately and analytically. Students must scan multiple passages about distinct topics, noting main ideas, making observations and — ideally — anticipating what questions will follow.

[READ: 3 Benefits of Standardized Testing Beyond College Admissions.]

Students should read their college applications with an equally critical eye, paying special attention to key words like “not” and “except” in directions or disclaimers, as well as any other nuances in instructions and essay prompts. Your college application could be disqualified if you fail to follow instructions, so — just like on the ACT or SAT — do not skip over any text on your college applications.

This year, one of the personal statement prompts for the Common Application is: “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”

Notice the way this question is posed. It does not ask “if” you were affected by or learned from an obstacle you faced. Rather, it assumes these things to be true, so your response should be written from that angle.

Use of Evidence

Questions on the reading and optional writing sections of the ACT and SAT involve the use of evidence. For instance, there are SAT reading questions that ask you to select textual evidence, as in line numbers for specific passage sections, that provide support for your answer to the previous question. Similarly, on the SAT essay, test-takers are expected to include references that illustrate which rhetorical devices the author uses to make an argument.

[READ: Choose Between SAT Essay and ACT Writing.]

Use of evidence is a skill that comes into play in the creation of your college application resume and your personal statement.

On the objective section of your resume, ensure you include specific reasons why you are suited to your intended career path, and make sure the items you include under each header — such as volunteer work and athletics — are accurately categorized. And for each claim you make on your personal statement — for example, “Fishing taught me to be patient” — be sure to include a strong supporting example.

Working Under Pressure

Anyone who has practiced for a standardized college admissions test knows how nerve-wracking the time constraints of these assessments can be. Students must move quickly through both exams to finish them on time, so time management on the ACT and the SAT is just as important as content mastery.

[READ: 3 Ways to Strengthen Your ACT, SAT Time Management Skills.]

If you have procrastinated with your college applications, now more than ever you must learn to work effectively under time constraints. But do not look at this as a bad thing; consider it a personal challenge. In college and beyond, you will sometimes have to work under tight and changing deadlines, so it is best to get used to that feeling now. Just remember that quality and speed can be accomplished simultaneously with dedicated effort.

Concise and Clear Writing

All the writing and grammar rules you learned for the ACT English portion or the SAT Writing and Language section will serve you well on open-ended college application questions. For instance, you should always use proper punctuation to separate your ideas, and remember that the occasional semicolon or colon — if used correctly — can make a great impression.

In addition, be especially careful with homophones such as “than” and “then” that automated spellcheck may miss and whose misuse could raise some eyebrows among admissions counselors. On your resume, ensure that all your line items have parallel structure; avoid varying sentence structure between bullet points. Finally, reduce wordiness and redundancies so you do not exceed the word count limit for short-answer and essay questions.

You learned a lot from test prep — probably more than you realize — so put those skills to good use on your college applications.

More from U.S. News

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College Admissions Process Mistakes Students Make

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