The Last Chance For That Standardized Test: Here’s What To Do
As you enter your senior year of high school and start assessing your academic profile for college applications, you may find yourself in one of two predicaments. Either you have yet to take the SAT and ACT, tests which are required for most college applications, or your score is not as high as you’d like it to be.
In either case, there is still time to do something about it. During the fall semester of your senior year, there will generally be one or two test dates that allow you to send your scores to colleges before the deadline. Mind you, this is not true for all college applications, especially those with earlier deadlines like the Early Decision/Early Action applications.
As that last-chance test date approaches, you may start to feel the pressure to do well along with the stress of juggling senior year classes, extracurriculars, and the rest of your college applications. This stressful situation sometimes makes students psych themselves out and not do well on that last exam.
If you find yourself in the situation where you have one last chance to take a standardized test and get your goal score, we at CollegeVine want to make sure that you are prepared and have a clear head on the day of the exam. Read on for some helpful tips on how you should approach your last chance standardized test and how you can optimize your score.
How to Emotionally Approach Your Final Standardized Test Day
By the time you get to your senior year, you ought to have an idea of how to study for a test. The SAT and ACT are different from the tests you may have taken before, so if you’re looking for some study tips, check out our previous blog posts on the subject:
However, part of the test preparation battle involves keeping yourself emotionally relaxed while you’re studying and especially on the test day itself. You are far more likely to get a good score if you have a clear head and are focused. Here are some things you should make sure to do as you approach your last standardized test:
- Don’t Stress Yourself out Before Test Day: People tend to absorb more information when they are relaxed and genuinely engaged in the material. If you’re constantly thinking about how much is riding on this one test, you won’t be able to study effectively and are less likely to do well on the exam. To keep yourself from getting worked up while you’re preparing, try taking breaks periodically while you’re studying, closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths if you feel yourself getting anxious, and studying well before the exam date so that you can reassure yourself that you have plenty of time to study and do well. You can also try writing down all of your fears about the test beforehand and talking them out with your parents or friends to help them seem less scary. For more tips on how to deal with stress, see 6 Techniques for Dealing With Stress in High School.
- Don’t Panic on Test Day: Even if you study well for the test, you may not do well if you psych yourself out in the testing room, start doubting yourself, and second guess your answers. If you feel yourself panicking and letting the stress get to you in the testing room, put the pencil down and close your eyes. Take a few moments, take a few deep breaths, slow your heartbeat, refocus, and get back to the exam.
- Make Sure You Study: Some students may feel like they’ve learned everything they need to know for the SAT and ACT by senior year and thus don’t need to study as hard. While you may have learned many of the mathematical and grammatical concepts that will be tested, that doesn’t mean you remember it all, especially after a long summer vacation. You still need to review the material to refresh your brain and make sure you have mastered what you already know. Also, the SAT (and to a lesser extent the ACT) is not really knowledge-based so much as it tests specific skills. You need to spend time going through practice questions to understand what kind of questions appear on the test and what techniques you should use to approach them.
- Remember that Standardized Tests Aren’t The Be-All End-All for Your College Applications: Yes, admissions committees look at your standardized test scores and weigh that when considering you for admission. However, they also look at other factors like your essays, your grades, your extracurriculars, etc. Therefore, if this last exam doesn’t go well, you won’t necessarily be denied admission to all the colleges you apply to. There’s less pressure to do well on this exam than you might think.
How to Perfect Your Skills Before Test Day
When you enter your senior year, you have probably already learned most of the grammar, vocabulary, and mathematical concepts that will be tested on the SAT and ACT, but you won’t have reviewed it for some time. Since you won’t be in school for very long before test day, here are some quick ways to refresh your brain for that last standard test:
- Study apps: CollegeBoard, Khan Academy, and other academic service companies have put together helpful study apps that are designed for quick and easy studying, even while you’re on-the-go. These apps include practice questions, detailed answer explanations, a quick review of concepts, and more for a very low price. To learn about some of these apps, see The Best Apps to Organize Your College Planning.
- Practice Problems: Sometimes the fastest way to jog your memory about a concept isn’t to read a long chapter in a textbook about it, but to simply try a few practice problems and get the hang of it again. Eventually, your memory will kick in and you’ll become more comfortable with the concept and be more likely to remember it on test day. Some ways to find practice problems that are formatted like the questions on the actual test are review books and the study apps mentioned above.
- Look Through Old Notes: By this point, you probably have covered all the mathematical concepts and most of the vocab that are going to be tested during your classes. If you’re stuck, look through your old notes and worksheets to remember how you learned these concepts. This is sometimes more helpful than reading a study guide from Kaplan or Princeton Review because they don’t know how you were taught or what explanations make sense to you.
While you’re reviewing, it’s good to have a goal score in mind. If you’re unsure of what score you should aim for, try to find out what score range the students who were accepted to the universities you are applying to were in. You can use that score range to gauge how much you need to study and improve your score.
Also, make sure you send your standardized test scores to colleges before the application deadlines. Most colleges will specify on their applications when they need to know your standardized test scores by and which test administration will be your last opportunity to send scores. Try not to send in your scores without knowing what they are unless you absolutely have to. If you don’t get your scores in by the deadline, you risk a delay in consideration of your application or not being considered altogether.
For more advice on how to prepare for your standardized tests, see our previous blog posts:
Interested in getting expert help in every part of the application process? Check out CollegeVine’s College Application Guidance Program. We’ll pair you with your own personal admissions specialist that will guide you through a comprehensive step-by-step process that will help you craft applications that give you the best chance of getting accepted. We can help you find the right schools to apply to based on your profile, craft perfect college essays, and prepare extensively for your interviews.