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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Questions about College Application Tests (ACT/SAT)

    When should I take college admissions tests (ACT/SAT)?

    Junior year is when most students take college admissions tests. They also may be taken during the senior year, prior to the application deadline of your target schools. Depending on your family's means, and even with the new format SAT, I recommend taking either the SAT or ACT (or both) in the fall of your junior year and seeing how you do. I also suggest starting to think about where you may want to apply as well and doing some research on the expectations of those colleges. 

    By doing both of these things, you will get a rough idea of the places you are aiming at and the scores you get. While, thankfully, not everything is decided by test scores, they do play a part in admissions decisions, so knowing these things ahead of time is good information.

    This also gives you a sense of what areas you might need to focus on if you feel you need to take the tests again. In Michigan, all Juniors take the SAT in early March as part of the the state testing program. By taking the test in the fall, you will have lots of time to review, work on strategy, etc.

    Another recommendation is to sign up to get the test back and an individualized score report. This way, you will have the actual test you took and the answers you gave on all the questions. This costs a little extra, but it is often worth it, especially if you think you will re-take the test.

    What if I don't do as well as I would like the first time I take a test?

    One thing not to do is to rush out and take it again without doing anything else. It can help to have someone take a look at your scores and look for patterns and trends. What you want to figure out is if you need to work on knowledge, strategies, or both. This is where individualized attention can be really valuable. For example, if you get good math grades, but got a low score, then it might be more of a strategy issue. On the other hand, if it has been a while since you took algebra, then some review might be a good idea.

    In terms of working on building skills and knowledge, the earlier you start the better. You will need time to learn the geometry, grammar, or vocabulary you will need for the tests and life beyond.

    When it comes to honing test strategies, 6-8 weeks ahead of the test is a reasonable window. You want the experience and practice to be pretty fresh and sharp in your mind. 

    In both cases, work will be involved. It can take a number of forms: group classes, individual tutoring, online classes, or on-your-own practice. Guidance of some kind can be really useful, if only to get you pointed in a good direction.

    How much do the tests matter anyway?

    This is a tricky question and depends on you, particular schools, and your goals. For some schools, they matter a lot. At other schools, test scores are not as much of a factor, and in another group, they don't matter at all. While many schools say they don't have a cut-off, if you look at the average scores of incoming classes, there is a definite pool or range you 'need' to be in for that school. A number of studies and reports suggest that Grade Point Average (including your school district & the classes you took), and Essays matter more, but the scores do still count to some degree. As I mentioned above, it depends on who you are, what your goals are, and the mix of activities, athletics, experiences, and background you bring to the process. Figuring out 'you' is probably more important in the long run anyway!