The following is an excerpt from the Standardized Tests chapter of our Best Book.
There are two types of tests you can take during and after high school – the SAT and the ACT. Neither of these tests will guarantee you admission in to an Ivy League college, but poor scores could seriously hurt your chances of acceptance.
How important is the SAT for admission?
Many students want to know just how important is the SAT for admission into an Ivy League college. I took both the SAT and ACT, though I did not report the ACT results to the colleges to which I applied. As I mentioned earlier, your actual score on the SAT may not play a big part in your acceptance to college (you may get in even without a perfect score), unless it is very bad.
I wanted to do well, so I took some prep classes. This would be a good thing for high school students to consider as well.
How to study for the SAT
Here are some tips on how to study for the SAT. Check with your local community college as they may offer prep classes. My classes were twice weekly and they drilled us with a lot of sample questions. They can teach you tricks to understanding the way questions are asked, and how to answer.
You might also find it useful to purchase test prep books. These books contain many samples with the same type and design of questions as the real tests. This practice will make you more comfortable with the tests, knowing what to expect.
The SAT IIs
The SAT II tests are very specific subject tests, like science, history, etc. You really need to know your stuff in order to get good marks on these tests. For most college admissions, you are required to take at least two of the SAT IIs. Take the ones which correlate to the area of study you will be doing in college, or a subject you excelled in during high school. It is easiest, and you will probably get your best mark if you take a specific test right after you complete the appropriate class.
The SAT I tests are graded on an 800-point scale, with three sections, for an overall point score of 2400. These tests, on math, reading and writing take 1/4 of a point off for every question wrong, and add a point for correct answers. No matter what you do, you cannot score lower than 200 points. The SAT IIs are also graded on the 800-point scale. The tests are scored on a curve, so your final score is relative to that of all other test takers in that session.
The ACT is more subject-specific and include sciences, your ability to read charts, etc. With this test you can guess at answers and not be penalized for wrong answers. The ACT is scored out of 36 points.