How students should prepare for college entrance exams

MacKenzie Stewart, News & Opinion Editor

The April SAT has just passed and depending on the results, some students might be happy with their scores or others might frantically start to prepare for the next chance to take the SAT or ACT. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for these standardized tests and what resources are available to you to help you succeed.

There are many resources that can help students prepare, and these can be very expensive, or they can be free.

Tutoring places, such as Huntington Learning Center and C2 Education, provide customized tutoring services to prepare for either the SAT or ACT exams, but these centers can be costly.

However, there are ways students can take advantage of free opportunities at these tutoring centers, too. C2 Education has hosted free practice SAT and ACT tests in the past, and tutors will go over the tests with you for free.

Practice tests can be very beneficial in helping students practice their timing on the exams.

“[The hardest part of the test is] probably trying to manage while knowing that you don’t have unlimited time,” said Ryann Ray, senior, who got a 34 on the ACT.

It is also important to focus on either the SAT or the ACT and decide which one works best for you.

“What I would encourage any student [to do] is to look at both the SAT and ACT, determine which test is better, and we actually have quizzes you can take on our college planning guide that will help you see which one is the better test for you,” Andrea Rusk, college counselor, said. “You can take both in the actual setting. That’s the best determinate,… and one test is absolutely 100 percent the better test for you; that is the one you’ll focus on.”

For sophomores looking ahead, there are also free prep sessions through the school’s Literacy Center and Math Lab, which offer before and after school sessions.

For juniors, there are printed past SAT exams in the Literacy Center, with the answers, for students to take home.

“We do about twelve to fifteen sessions of SAT prep, ranging from the reading section to the writing and language section to the essay section, and then we work with the Math Lab as well, and they do their own math sections,” Anna Grig, Literacy Center specialist, said.

The Literacy Center teachers are also available at any time to help students go over troublesome SAT questions.

“We sit with students one-on-one and go over questions that they are frustrated with or don’t understand why they got that wrong, so we kind of sit and talk about and think about more strategies that they can use ,” Grig said.

Outside of school, try looking at resources offered at local libraries like Fremont Public Library or Ela Area Public Library. Both the school and public libraries have SAT and ACT books to check out from which to study.

Online, YouTube for both the ACT and the SAT and Khan Academy for the SAT have instructional videos. Khan Academy also allows students to link their PSAT scores to their Khan Academy account for more personalized learning. Students can also log in to their Naviance accounts for SAT practice questions.

“Look at all of the free online prep,” Rusk said. “Khan Academy does a great job; ACT Academy does a great job. Those are all free… there’s no reason not to start with that, and I would say do that prep before the very first test you take.”

It is also important to look online at the schools you are interested in attending to see what their standardized test requirements are. Some schools will superscore, which allows you to submit your best scores from each section of the exams from multiple attempts, while others won’t. Some don’t require test scores at all, and some want SAT Subject Tests. Essays are also not required by the majority of schools.

Rusk stressed a crucial step to take in verifying what colleges require for applications is to check their websites for the most up-to-date and accurate information. Many lists are online that show the requirements of schools, but the school’s website is the most credible place to check.

In the end, the most important action to take before sitting for the SAT or ACT is to prep, even if you simply review the structure of the exam.

“Don’t take it cold,” Rusk said. “Some schools, especially the more selective ones, will require you to send all scores. You don’t want to end up with an extremely low score just sitting there.”