I took the SAT three times, the SAT Subject Tests two times, and the ACT once. I realize this is definitely NOT the norm, but hey, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Here are the details of my test-taking journey.
My quest to be the best!
I started preparing for the SAT second semester junior year, which in hindsight, is a little bit on the late side according to Testive’s Junior Year Plan. A lot of my friends had mentioned they were taking the December SAT, and I freaked out since I hadn't even started prepping yet.
I took the SAT for the first time in March of my junior year. It was terrifying. One girl got kicked out because she didn't put her pencil down when the proctor told us to. But I got through it. And on the day scores were released, I woke up at 5 a.m. to check my scores and although they were good, they weren’t great. I thought I could do better.
I spent the next few months prepping and took the SAT again in May. Believe it or not, I got the same score. My super score—the score you get when combining the best scores from each test—increased by 40 points, but it was still the same overall score. I wasn’t happy!
By the time junior year ended and summer came around, I decided to start studying for the September ACT. Makes perfect sense, right? Not really! After working at Testive for the last couple of months, I realize that it’s best to take a practice test of both the SAT and ACT, see which one feels the most comfortable, and then focus on improving your score on that test. The fact that I decided to “switch gears” was really an attempt to see if I could do better on the ACT than the SAT.
I didn't study for the ACT as intensely as I had for the SAT, but I did fine on the exam. And by fine, I mean, it still wasn't enough to satisfy me. Clearly, I was either addicted to test taking or am a perfectionist. Full disclosure. I think both might be true!
I took the SAT one last last time in October of my senior year. Finally, I was satisfied with my super score and, quite frankly, I was tired of taking all of these tests.
Slaying the subject tests
While studying for the SAT and ACT, I also decided to study for the SAT Subject Tests. I realized that when I was looking at colleges, several schools required two SAT Subject Test scores. So, I decided to take Math, since that's always been my strength, and Biology, because that seemed like the least terrible option.
The only problem was, since I was trying to juggle school, extracurricular activities, and studying for the SAT & ACT all at the same time, by the time I was supposed to take the Subject Tests, I didn’t feel ready.
I was feeling pretty good about Math, but not so much about Biology. In fact, on test day, I took Math 1 and Math 2 because I knew I paid for two tests, but just wasn’t ready to take Biology. Of course this still meant I had to take the Biology test at another time, since some schools won't accept both Math tests as two separate subject tests.
I ended up taking the Biology test in November of my senior year. But, even then, I wasn’t feeling great about how I did, so I signed up for the December test even before I got my November test scores back.
After the December test, I was done! No really! I knew college application deadlines were soon approaching and I had to put my standardized test-taking journey behind me. I had to have faith that all of my efforts would pay off and let the chips fall where they may. Hopefully, they would fall favorably toward one of the 14 colleges I decided to apply to, but that’s a blog post for another day.
What I Learned
Now that I work at Testive, if I knew then what I know now, I would have:
- Completed a practice SAT and ACT to see which test I was most comfortable with and focused on that test.
- Used Testive to prep (it was only in its infancy stages in 2012, so I went with a private tutor and the typical SAT and ACT prep books).
- Taken the SAT or ACT no more than three times. After that, there is a point of diminishing returns, meaning...the chances of you improving substantially get smaller the more times you take the test.
- Taken the Subject Tests at a time when I wasn’t studying for the SAT or ACT so I could focus on studying just for those tests and therefore wouldn’t have needed to go back a second time.
- Prepped more and stressed less. I’ve realized, through looking at the progress of our students, there is a direct correlation between good study habits, effort, and results. Although I felt like I studied hard for all of the tests, I don’t think I studied very effectively. So, when it came to test day, I was pretty stressed out.
- Standardized test scores are not everything. It’s also important to have good grades, leadership experience, work and/or volunteering experience, and participate in extracurricular activities.
Hopefully, these lessons will help you (or your child) with their standardized testing journey. The key is to prep early, prep effectively, and go into the test with confidence so you can do your best. No matter what your score, if you really want to go to college, there is a college for everybody and YOU CAN DO IT!