Strategies for Standardized Tests

Tests are stressful. Here's how you can be smart about them.
June 20, 2016

Decisions, decisions. What color should I dye my hair? Should I wear board shorts to the beach? In-N-Out Burger or Chipotle? And should I take the SAT or the ACT, or both? Here's our advice:

  • DO take at least one test. A number of schools are going test-optional, but chances are that you have a list that includes colleges that require tests. Taking the tests allows you to see how well you do and decide on an application strategy.
  • Take a diagnostic SAT/diagnostic ACT first. Arbor Bridge and Revolution Prep are two test prep companies that offer free ACT diagnostic tests. For a free SAT diagnostic, visit Khan Academy.
  • After the diagnostics, pick a test and stick with it. If you do equally well on both, go with the ACT because it allows you the option of avoiding subject tests. (There are still a few schools that require the subject tests even if you take the ACT - if you apply to one of those schools, take your subject tests and don't worry - you have a strong ACT!) 
  • Write, write, write - take the writing portion of your preferred test. It gives you more options.

BTW, we recommend red for the hair, no on the board shorts, and In-N-Out Burger, definitely.

Alison Chisolm is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Alison's background here.

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