Taking the ACT or SAT at the right time is one step toward earning your goal score. But how can you know when you are ready to sit for your college entrance exam of choice? Here are three signs that you are prepared to test.
You Consistently Score Above Your Target on Practice Exams
If you have attained or surpassed your target score on two or more full-length practice tests, you are likely ready for the real exam. Reaching your target score once may be a matter of sheer luck — for instance, if you guessed on a sizable number of questions. But if you have been able to repeat or even improve a favorable test result, chances are that it is ability rather than luck at play.
Another point to bear in mind is how long ago you took your top-scoring practice exams. If you completed them recently — within the last few weeks, for instance — then you are likely in the clear.
[Learn how to decide when to take the SAT or ACT.]
However, if you earned those high scores months ago and have since discontinued your prep, you may have forgotten some content or gotten “out of the groove” in the meantime. If you have recently taken at least two full-length practice tests and have earned desirable scores, you can assume you will do just as well on a real ACT or SAT relatively soon.
You Can Adequately Explain Many of Your Weakest Concepts to Another Person
Maybe you have heard this famous quote by Aristotle: “Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.” As implied by the quote, doing an activity is said to be easier in some ways than teaching someone else how to do it. The reason is that you must truly grasp a concept yourself before you can find an effective way to verbalize it to another person.
If you have not yet tried to explain your ACT or SAT weaknesses to someone else, now is the time to test yourself. Think about which areas you have struggled with the most. If you are not sure, consult your past score reports to remind yourself of what they have been.
Next, give a short mock lesson to someone, ideally a parent or some other adult who is unfamiliar with the exam content and thus needs it broken down into the simplest terms possible. After your minilesson, see if this person can explain the concept back to you in their own words or, better yet, correctly answer a related ACT or SAT question. If so, you can safely conclude that you have done the job well and have overcome your ACT or SAT weaknesses.
You Have Mastered Test Content and the Relevant Test-Taking Strategies
Understanding the concepts that appear on the ACT or SAT is half the battle. Are you comfortable with most of this content? Comfortable means that you know how to approach the question type, even if you do not get it right every single time.
The other half of the battle involves test-taking strategies that will help you save time and energy and avoid falling into traps. After all, the ACT and SAT are marathon tests that both last about three hours, and the answer choices are designed to trick you rather than assist you.
If a freshman getting ready to take the PSAT asked you what test-taking strategies to use, what would you recommend? Would you be able to summarize a handful of techniques that, in your experience, have proven effective? If so, you may be ready to sit for the next ACT or SAT.
If not, it may be better to hold off. Students who are weaker in test content knowledge should inIvestigate options for prep courses or private instruction. Those who struggle with other issues like testing anxiety could seek professional counseling or practice relaxation techniques.
Your practice exam scores can also prove useful here, as a lower-than-expected score often indicates that a student is ill-prepared in terms of either test-taking skills or content knowledge. Be sure to take note of this sign as you review your results.
Note that rescheduling incurs a fee. The College Board charges a $30 change fee for moving an SAT test date. It costs $35 to change an ACT test date. However, the change fee proves to be a small price when delaying results in a score increase.
If you can confidently agree with the three statements above, consider registering for an upcoming ACT or SAT. There may be no better time.
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