By Amanda Hancock
When the ACT and the SAT roll around, it can seem like four years of club meetings, volunteering, school functions and exams all boil down to a few digits in an envelope. No matter how sharp your number two pencils are, these are tests that require much more than wishful thinking.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, the ACT and SAT really matter a lot for scholarships and other things like that,” says Tom Pabin, president of Class 101, a national college finance and planning company. “These scores have a lot weight for colleges.”
A few points higher or lower could mean the difference between getting into an underwhelming safety school and that dream school you’ve had in mind all along. A good score could also land you thousands of dollars in scholarships.
As daunting as the ACT or SAT may seem, have no fear, pre-collegiettes! HC is here to make your scores college-ready.
1. Set a goal
Before you even think about memorizing flash cards and conquering problem sets, think about your ideal score. A few steps you should take:
1. Make a list of your top college choices and research what range your score needs to be in for you to receive that magical acceptance letter. This will give you a solid idea of what kind of score to aim for and how much time to devote to studying.
2. Consult this chart of the average scores for incoming freshmen from a huge list of colleges to get a general idea. Sometimes, setting a goal gives you the perfect motivation to improve your score and really focus on studying.
3. To gauge your progress, you can also visit StatFuse, which is basically a superhero site for college planning. It has a fantastic tool that allows you to calculate your current chances of getting into a specific college by plugging in your ACT or SAT scores, GPA and extracurricular activities. Just fill out all your information and instantly see your collegiate possibilities!
2. Memorize math formulas
Just reading the title of this step may make you cringe, but knowing formulas really is crucial for the math section—particularly if you’ve been taking higher-level classes and haven’t had to use the simpler formulas in school in a while.
“You might’ve learned it in eighth grade, so when it comes up on the test you know it, but you don’t remember how to do it,” says Pabin.
Check out StudyPoints, a site with a clear chart comparing the SAT and ACT’s math sections and how to prepare for them. Another easy online tool is this quizlet (a virtual set of flashcards) on ACT math formulas.