High school can sometimes honestly feel like you’re swimming in an endless stream of Scantron tests. Well, sorry to say it, but these tests will be regular occurrence for you throughout your four years there. This is especially true for your junior year, when you (typically) start taking a lot of standardized tests. These exams (like SATs) are a necessary evil to get into college. People constantly talk about being a good student, but standardized testing is different. You can work hard and get all As on every single exam you take in school, and then get a bad score on your standardized test… and that’s the one that people look at first. It happened to me! Don’t stress, though – if you know how to prep and take this kind of test, you can get to the point of acing it.
Some good ideas: getting a tutor, enrolling in an SAT or ACT class, or grab a book and start studying. These tests don’t just quiz you on what you’ve learned – they’re universal and used across the country, so they’ll be evaluating your ability to understand questions and come up with an answer. Getting a score you don’t like can feel super insulting, especially if you consider yourself a good student. Not to mention it can mess with your future. So, if you’re getting ready to take one, or starting to think about next year’s exams, here are some tricks you need to know. Check out these tips for acing your standardized tests:
Don't Alter Your Morning Routine If You Love It AlreadyEvery single person is going to tell you to get a full night's sleep, eat a good breakfast, and to relax before taking your test. What no one is telling you is that you don't need to change your morning routine. If a typical morning for you is something like drinking three cups of coffee, eating a donut, and only getting four hours of sleep - and that WORKS for you - don't fix what isn't broken. Changing up your routine could actually backfire. Are you used to working on a full stomach? Do you want to take a five hour test with stomach cramps? Only follow this advice if your routine keeps you attentive and on your A-game, but there's no use in switching it up what already works for you for the sake of doing what's "technically" supposed to help you.Source: iStock
Write All Over Your Test BookScribble all over that damn thing! Your scratch work won't count for or against you. Some people even come up with strategies for using their test book, like circling their answers in there, double checking, then going back to bubble in their scantron. The only parts that might count is if you have to write in your book for a writing prompt, but otherwise, use it to maximize your workspace and keep your thoughts clear. It can be easier to figure out answers when you're writing stuff down rather than jumbling them up in your head.Source: iStock
Brush Up On Your GrammarGrammar is tedious and annoying. Some people like it, but most of us haven't touched up on our grammar since we first learned it in elementary school. Unfortunately, on most standardized tests, they focus a whole section to grammar. You don't want your lack of preparation to work against you. You figure since you're in AP Lit, you're bound to know your grammar backwards and forwards, right? Surprisingly, you can be wrong. Just swallow your pride and brush up. You might regret it later.Source: iStock
Learn The Test Scoring SystemHow does each section of your test work? In some sections, skipping a question all together won't deduct points and neither will getting an answer wrong, but in other sections wrong answers can actually work against you by deducting a fraction of a point, so it may be better to skip. The rules aren't the same across the board, so figure it out so you can strategize in case you find yourself stuck on a question. In most cases, if you can eliminate at least one multiple choice answer, it's good to guess instead of skipping, but only in some sections.Source: iStock
Take A Practice TestLiterally who on earth wants to spend five hours of their weekend doing a fake prep-test that doesn't even count? I'd imagine no one, but you're seriously going to regret it if you don't. Yes, this test is long and annoying, but it's better to find out if you're messing up and how much now when it doesn't count instead of after you spend all of your test money and might not have the means or time to take it again. It's better to get your bad score option out of the way when it doesn't count instead of having it follow you around.Source: iStock
Figure Out Why Your Answers Are WrongThis is the beauty of a practice test! Here's a link to several FREE practice tests you can choose from. Afterwards, they'll tell you what you got wrong and also why you got them wrong. That way, you can see if you're constantly missing key words like "unless" that are stopping you from getting the right answer, if your comprehension is off, or if you're cracking under pressure (the latter half of your test is shoddy and the beginning is awesome). Those statistics are totally available to you and once you know, you can use it to your benefit.Source: iStock
Strategize Your Method Of ReadingIt sounds weird, but there are many ways to handle your reading portion. There are going to be passages you have to read and you honestly might want to spend more time on your questions. You can look at the questions and skim after, answer the specific, evidence based questions first, or kick it old school and read it all the way through before answering questions (but only do this if you're a fast reader with excellent comprehension). Either way, separate the general purpose questions from ones where you need evidence so you can target your reading and know what you're looking for while you're reading.Source: iStock
Always Find Support For Your AnswersIf there's no evidence to support your answers, it's probably wrong. Some multiple choice questions on these tests will actually be "what is the best evidence that supports your answer" and if your answer is "none of these, I'm just going with my gut" your answer is probably wrong. Always make sure that you have some evidence or support to back up your claims and final answers on this test because if your proof is a full-on separate question, you can see how a wrong answer can do you more harm than good because it'll effect more than one part of your test.Source: iStock
Remember This Is Also About EnduranceThis test can be up to five hours long and you might have to work through lunch! That's enough to make good test takers and even the most studious people lose steam. Now, add in the pressure of doing timed sections and the implications that the result of this test effecting where you get in to college and get ready to crack. Stay in there, this is just as much a game of endurance as it is about test taking strategy. Bring a snack, water, and breathe. You're in this for the long haul.Source: iStock
If One Test Doesn't Work For You, Look For AlternativesIf one standardized test doesn't work for you no matter what, remember that there are other options. Most people find they do better on the ACT or the SAT, so don't worry, you might have the opportunity to redeem yourself. Some colleges only take one or have multiple options! Do you even need to take the SAT II's? Check with the colleges you're applying to. Gather all your options and keep in mind that there's plenty of time for forgiveness, test retakes, and many other standardized test options that will still qualify you for college.Source: iStock
Are you going to use any of these tips? Which tests are you taking this year? Let us know in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.