SAT / ACT Testing and Prep

How many adults can remember their exact SAT or ACT score?

One experience that has always gone along with college applications has been SAT or ACT testing. I remember taking them in high school and knowing it was just part of the process. Then years later I became a college admissions counselor and once again, I knew test scores were just a part of the process. Back then, as counselors we would get a manila folder with a big sticker on the front with basic student information. Inside were pages and pages worth of information making up their full application including an essay, their activities, recommendations, transcripts, senior schedules, and an ACT or SAT score. For some reason, the first thing we saw as counselors on the front sticker of the folder was name, high school, GPA, and test score. This test score set the stage for the rest of the application that was about to be reviewed.

Fast forward to the year 2020 when a pandemic hit our world, and colleges started to change some of their policies. The shift to test-optional (meaning you could decide to send ACT/SAT scores or not) meant there was now an extra piece of the admissions puzzle. Every college admissions office, counselor, student, and parent was adapting to what test-optional meant together. Many colleges have yet to decide if they will continue to be test-optional in the coming years or if they will return to their typical process that we all knew before.

For students in high school preparing for these tests, I highly recommend making a goal for your score based on your own future plans. The scores required for admission to Duke versus Auburn are different. Scores required for the University of Florida versus Florida Atlantic University are different. So if your dream is to attend a certain school, know their averages and strive to be competitive with that. Maybe your goals are less based on a particular college and more so on a scholarship opportunity like the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship program. I wish someone had told me in high school that just because my friend got a 1400 SAT score, it does not mean that I need to do the same to be given opportunities that are right for me.

Luckily, there are many ways to prepare for SAT and ACT tests that can help students meet their potential.

At Lakeland Christian School, we practice for standardized testing starting in the 9th grade. We give students the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, Pre-ACT, and PSAT/NMSQT before they ever take an official ACT or SAT. All of these tests are designed to give students a baseline. These tests will predict what a student would score on an ACT or SAT without any preparation.

My favorite tool is for students to connect their College Board accounts to Khan Academy, which offers free personalized SAT practice. Khan Academy will analyze your previous scores and give you topics to efficiently study based on questions you previously missed. While they are still available, students no longer have to buy the overwhelming and expensive books with hundreds of practice questions.

LCS students also sometimes choose to go to tutoring centers like Huntington Learning Center and Sylvan Learning for one on one test preparation. Tutoring centers can be costly, but can be well worth the expense if the student is motivated to do it and put in the work.

Our guidance office also hears of private tutors that can work with students on test prep. I usually recommend to start with the free options and then investigate the other opportunities if you feel you need extra accountability and in person explanations. Each student’s experience with ACT and SAT testing will be different. Some will take one and not need a specific score and some will take multiple until the last minute to maximize all opportunities.

Work hard to open every door possible for you, but know it is part of the plan when doors close. Remember that while this is an important test, your God-given abilities will help you follow the path that is correct for you.