Information changes over time and updates to standardized tests are bound to be necessary. The College Board made some formatting changes to the SAT in 2016 to update the test in a way that reflects more modern and projected future requirements in college and work life.
This update included a change to the scoring of the overall exam. The old SAT was scored on a scale from 600 to 2400 but the new one is only 400 to 1600. Although the overall scale of the exam is smaller, there are also subscores and cross-test scores available which allow for a broader insight into the students’ understanding and knowledge.
The overall score (which falls on the 400 to 1600 scale) comes from the evidence-based reading and writing which will be scored on a scale from 200 to 800 and the math section which is also scored somewhere between 200 to 800. Those two scores are added to come up with the student’s overall score.
There are several subscores included with the SAT assessment report that break down knowledge in various areas within the main category of the tests. These subscores range from one to 15 points and include Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis.
To provide further insight to teachers and schools of a student’s overall knowledge and understanding, the newly revised SAT assessment report contain cross-test scores which are essentially integrated information within the two basic SAT sections. The two cross-section scores are analysis in history/social studies which is pulled from questions in the reading and writing test and analysis in science which is pulled from the math test.
The only other section in the revised SAT is the optional essay which is scored separately. The essay is judged on three different criteria: reading, analysis and writing. Each of these areas receives somewhere between two to eight points and all three scores are added to come up with the student’s overall essay score. This score is not included in the overall SAT score.
The standardized test is a major milestone every student must conquer at some point in their education, more than likely they’ll take more than one in their lifetime. With several different tests, there are many factors that going into the preparation processes and one of the first questions you make ask is “how much will it cost me?”
There is no one answer since fees vary by test in a range between about $90 to more than $300. A general breakdown can be seen here, broken down between two different levels of exams:
High Schoolers Testing for Undergraduate School
For students in high school, there are many tests you may take. The first step would be to identify the requirements at your goal schools. Of course having several different applications will help give you a greater chance of getting in somewhere, but you also must take into account the extra cost associated with sending exam reports to each school.
The two common standardized tests for high schoolers, the SAT and ACT, start at $46 each. Each exam offers the base test with a writing portion for approximately $60 which is the more common option as many colleges prefer to see the writing section.
Some other exams that some high school students might need to take, especially if English is not their first language, could be the IELTS or TOEFL. These exams will help universities determine your grasp of the English language and could be great supplements to the SAT and ACT for acceptance consideration. Pricing for each varies somewhat between testing centers but the TOEFL is usually around $200 while the IELTS is usually a little higher at around $225. Again, each testing center will be slightly different so your exam might cost more or less.
College Graduates Testing For Graduate or Professional Advancement
Anyone looking to further their education beyond undergraduate school will more than likely need to take even more standardized tests. Unfortunately for test-takers, these exams are even more costly than the SAT and ACT.
The GRE is the cheapest of these advanced exams as it generally costs around $195, slightly better than the GMAT which is closer to $250. These exams are generally used for admission to graduate school or MBA programs and often you can choose either one as a lot of schools accept either.
If you’re going into a more specialized field like medical or law, there are other exams you’ll need to take. The LSAT is used for admission to law schools and although the registration for the exam itself starts at only $180, there is a larger associated fee with the LSAT since most laws schools will require you to subscribe to the LAW School Data Assembly Service which starts at $121.
For the medical folks, the PCAT or MCAT might be in your future. The PCAT starts at $210 while registering for the MCAT comes in at a whopping $305.
Additional Fees and Considerations
There are many added fees to consider when your taking these exams including a fee for each individual subject test, different registration fees, change-date fees, waitlist fees and a cost to have the report sent to your desired school or organization (most of the tests will send 1-4 free reports depending on the exam so the fees are for additional schools).
One thing to keep in mind though is that there are fee waivers for many of these exams, especially those for high school students. While the tests are set in place to determine a student’s knowledge and ability to handle a higher curriculum and more difficult work-load, universities and testing services want to provide the opportunity for advancement for all eligible and deserving students, even those from low-income families. So if you feel like you as an individual or as a family qualify as low-income, looking into these fee waivers can help you focus on the test at hand instead of trying to raise the money to fund the exam.
The educational system is always under debate and one of the hottest topics could be the standardized tests. With many parents disputing the idea of “standardizing” knowledge and education when all children are so different, there are many benefits to the standardized tests that keep them relevant and a basic requirement for college.
Some of the many benefits includes the objective way to measure students fairly across the board, the proven track records around the world, and tool to push students and teachers to reach a certain level.
Computerized system leaves no room for gray areas. In some educational situations, subjective opinions come into play and can be considered unfair or arguable. With a black and white standardized test there is no gray area. Questions are right or wrong and graded by a computer (aside from any essay portions which are graded separately and dealt with in a different manner). This creates clear guidelines for everyone to follow and adhere to.
Fair across the board
Speaking of clarity and objectivity, the computer-grading system also allows for another enormous benefit. The standardized tests are non-discriminatory as they are a one-size-fits-all deal. So no matter what the test-takers’ background or what part of the city they live in, these tests are mandatory for everyone and consist of the same materials. When looking at things like college acceptance, it is critical to have this neutral option to measure prospective applicants from very diverse backgrounds fairly across the board.
Proven track record for success
Despite the many arguments that surface regarding the standardized testing system, these exams have a proven track record nationally as well as around the world. A lot of countries like China who excel academically have standardized tests implemented in their school systems.
Sets an academic standard
Perhaps the reason countries with standardized tests have successful academic programs and school systems is because they set a standard. These exams lay out expectations for students to reach and create a guideline for teachers to instruct with. For the areas with these particular exams, they can simply look at the material being covered and teach to that. So, with the standardized test you can mold the desired curriculum of your area schools.
Provides key information
Along the same lines, the school systems can use test scores to locate areas where improvement might be needed. Certain schools might be lacking in one area while other schools are excelling in another. School administrators and teachers can take this information and address any issues accordingly and help the students learn the knowledge they need for future success.
Test formats prepare high schoolers for college
One final benefit and another way these standardized tests particularly prepare students for future success is the formatting and challenging nature of the exam itself. Preparing for and taking the advanced exams prepares students for the next level, particularly when looking at high school students taking exams to get into college where they will be constantly tested on an advanced level.
Although many people disagree with the use of standardized tests as the desire to be creative and unique surfaces more and more, the exams have many benefits that are proven and can’t be argued. Instead of stifling creativity, these tests are designed to give schools the best way to prepare students for future success.
College preparation can be a stressful time for high schoolers and one of the first big hurdles they must face is the dreaded standardized test. To optimize your potential as you prepare to take the test, you’ll have to decide which exam to go with, the SAT or ACT. The first question you might ask is which one is easier. Unfortunately, the answer to that isn’t a simple one word answer.
Because the exams are designed to test similar areas, you are going to face similar challenges in each test. More importantly, the differences you will see are going to be more suited to one personality over another. So instead of simply asking which test is easier, the better question to ask is which one is easier for you specifically. Here are 10 factors to consider as you make this decision:
Factor 1: How Much Should Math Impact Your Overall Score?
It seems there are two types of people, those whose excel in math and those who don’t. Most people can tell you if math is their strong suit or not. This will be key in deciding which exam to take because it can drastically impact your overall percentile.
The ACT measures your math score equally with the other three sections. So it equals one quarter of your composite score. On the SAT, however, the math section equals half of the composite score as it is measured as only one of two separate sections in your overall composite score. Therefore, a lower math score might not necessarily bring your percentile down too far in the ACT if your score high on all the other sections. But a lower math score on the SAT will have a very large impact on where you rank.
Factor 2: Do You Need a Calculator?
While all of the math questions on the SAT and ACT are designed to be solvable without a calculator, they are certainly meant to challenge you, and both allow the use of a calculator if you need one. However, the SAT does contain a no-calculator sub-section within the math portion. For 55 minutes, you’ll be allowed to use a calculator to answer 38 questions, then you’ll have 25 minutes to answer 20 questions without a calculator. The ACT doesn’t have a portion like this and you’re allowed to use a calculator throughout the whole math portion.
Factor 3: Are You More Comfortable With Trig or Data Analysis Type Questions?
That’s right. Another math-based factor to consider as you’ll realize the math section of the ACT and SAT to be a very influential portion of your score. So another factor to consider is the type of questions you’ll face in each math section. The ACT focuses on a very broad spectrum of math including more trigonometry and geometry questions as well as logarithms and graphs while the SAT is more focused on algebra with some data analysis type questions mixed in.
Although we’ve seen most of the more challenging aspects in the math section to be with the SAT, one of the biggest challenges to consider with the ACT is the fact that it doesn’t include the formulas you’ll need like the SAT does. That means you’ll need to have all of the formulas you may think you’ll need memorized beforehand.
Factor 4: How Much Time Do You Need For Each Question?
Taking a break from focusing solely on the math portion of the exams, one factor to consider for the overall test is how much time you made need to answer each question. While some test-takers are good at narrowing down multiple-choice questions pretty quickly and not second-guessing, others may like to have longer to analyze the answers more thoroughly. If you fall into the latter category, you might consider taking the SAT since it offers more time per question than the ACT in each section with the math providing the largest difference at almost 30 seconds more per question.
Factor 5: How Strong is Your Science Knowledge?
If you like science, the ACT might be right for you since it’s the only one to have a specific section designated for science. While the SAT incorporates some scientific concepts throughout the other sections like reading and math, the ACT actually has 40 questions to test a broad scientific knowledge and understanding.
Factor 6: Are Associated Reading Questions Okay?
The reading sections of the two exams are also a little different and lean toward different strong suits. SAT reading section incorporates logical reasoning skills in sets of questions that build off of each other. So after reading the sample portion and continuing into the questions, the first question might be the “why” question regarding some fact you read. Then the subsequent question would be to pinpoint the section of the reading sample that supports your previous answer. If you prefer more straightforward reading questions, the ACT may be for you.
Factor 7: Do You Prefer Your Reading Questions in Chronological Order
Although the ACT reading questions might be a little straightforward than the SAT, they do jump around more which can throw some test-takers off. In the SAT, questions following a reading passage flow in perfect chronological order based on where they are found in the reading passage. Questions on the ACT are random.
Factor 8: Would You Test Better in Grammar or Vocabulary?
Each test offers an optional writing portion, which you’ll more than likely take as many schools will want to see it. It doesn’t factor into your overall score but there are some things you should keep in mind as there are key differences between the two. The ACT writing portion focuses more on grammar and sentence structure while the SAT tends to focus more on individual writing style and vocabulary knowledge.
Factor 9: Do You Want to Increase Your Odds On Multiple Choice Questions?
While both the SAT and ACT are multiple-choice exams that don’t penalize wrong answers, there is a slight advantage to taking the SAT if you want to increase your odds on questions you might need to guess on. Most of the sections on each test contain four answers per question, but the math portion of the ACT actually has five different answers. So if you think you might be guessing a lot in the math section, the SAT will slightly increase your odds of guessing right.
Factor 10: Is There A Specific Requirement You Must Meet?
Of course all of this research and in-depth study of the differences might be pointless if you have a specific requirement to meet based on your school or state. While the majority of schools will accept either test score, there might be a specific requirement or preferred exam. Also, there are several tests that incorporate one specific test as a requirement. Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming all use the ACT. Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Michigan and New Hampshire all use the SAT. These states usually incorporate a lot of preparation throughout high school specific to that specific exam so you might be better prepared to take the test used by your state.
The ACT is a large milestone to cross and adequately preparing for it can ultimately help high schoolers get into the college of their dreams. There are many things you can do and keep in mind as you prepare to enter exam day that could positively affect your score.
Study, Study, Study
Obviously the best thing you can do in preparing for exam day is reviewing and studying the topics you’ll be tested on. These include English, Math, Science and Reading. Most of the ACT is designed to test what you should’ve learned in school, so it should be a matter of reviewing and getting as familiar with these subjects as possible.
Increase Your Mathematical Chances
The Math section of the ACT can be daunting as it tests a range of mathematical knowledge including algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Plan to go through the questions as quickly as possible and go back to recheck items you think you might’ve gotten wrong. Spending too much time overthinking a problem can be harmful to the rest of the exam, especially if you get hung up early on since the questions purposefully get harder and more in-depth as this section goes on.
Learn to use multiple-choice questions to your advantage as you study. Use logical reasoning to deduce the answer for problems you might not be completely sure of. A final tip to prepare for the Math section is to memorize any formulas you think you might need or might be helpful.
Perfect Your English as Much as Possible
There really isn’t too much preparation or secret tricks to the English section as it’s pretty straightforward and tests knowledge you’ve already learned. Although it’s the section with the most questions, it’s usually the one test-takers get through the quickest. Being familiar with basic grammar and sentence structures will help you ace this section.
Practice Skimming for Reading and Science
Both of these sections are formatted similarly in that you’ll be given a particular passage or set of experimental data and asked a series of questions pertaining to the reading or data. So a trick to preparing yourself for these sections is to find sample questions and practice a technique where you skim over the passage and questions, then go back to read more carefully in order to locate the answers to your questions within the reading.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
One of the best tricks to get you prepared for the ACT is actually to relax and make sure you get some rest prior to exam day. Don’t try and have late-night cram sessions, especially the evening before you’re supposed to go take the test. You’ll need to enter the classroom with a clear and calm mind so get your rest and try to relax.
High school students usually take one of two approaches to the ACT: no preparation as they depend on the knowledge they’ve gained through the years, or falling into an overly stressful mode as they try to cram studying into every free second of their day and night. You don’t need to fall into either category though. Prepare yourself by getting to know what you’ll see on the ACT and taking on a structured study plan that isn’t overwhelming.
There are four primary sections on the test that will make up your overall score which are English, Math, Science and Reading. The additional Writing portion is optional but equally important to prepare for if you plan on taking it. Here is a general breakdown of what you’ll need to learn for each section:
This fast-paced section will test your basic knowledge in grammar and sentence structure. With the most questions of any section at 75, it is not the longest in time since it only allows 45 minutes. So it’s important to keep a steady pace during this portion of the exam and don’t allow yourself to get hung on difficult questions. Fortunately, this section is not designed to particularly trip you up and most students usually finish.
The structure of this section is almost like editing someone’s essay. There will be five passages with 15 follow-on questions regarding the grammar and punctuation errors found (or not found in some cases). Aside from just basic grammar and punctuation, there will also be questions to test your rhetorical skills and writing style, mostly conciseness and clarity issues.
This section is the longest as far as time goes at a whole 60 minutes to answer 60 questions. It is the only section that allows a whole minute per question, but it is also usually the most challenging section as it is designed to increase in difficulty throughout the test. So again, it’s important to not get hung up on a question you might not know, especially early on. The first half of the ACT Math Section is purposefully easier than the last half. The last several questions are extremely advanced and will take the most time.
Throughout this section, you’ll see questions about basic algebra as well as geometry and trigonometry. There are various levels and topics covered that date back to late middle school, early high school so a broad review of the mathematical skills you’ve learned will be key to succeeding on this portion. It’s also important to note that unlike the SAT, the ACT does not have a provided formula sheet so any basic formulas you’ve learned throughout the last few years should be memorized before exam day.
Another difference from the SAT is the dedicated Science Section. This is one of the ACT’s 35-minute portions and has 40 questions designed to test a student’s ability to read and analyze charts and graphs. It doesn’t necessarily test basic scientific knowledge but focuses on the ability to analyze and form basic conclusions based on information given.
The section is broken up into six segments with a scientific experiment presented and follow-on questions the test-taker must answer. These experiment passages cover some scientific fields like biology, astrology, physics and chemistry. Many of these passages and questions are challenging for students and time-constraints can be an issue.
Just like the Science Section, the Reading Section is the other 35-minute section and includes 40 questions. Also like the Science Section, this whole section includes passages and follow-on questions. However, these passages are even more time-consuming as they consist of 1000-word, college-level essays that the test-taker must read and analyze to answer the follow on questions.
There are four passages, one of each in prose fiction, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences in that order. The questions will test your ability to determine the meaning and intentions of the passage. It’s designed to make you go back and read through the passage again and find the location of the evidence so it can take time. If broken apart evenly, you have less than nine minutes to complete each section so reading and rereading can take up a lot of time.
This optional portion allows test-takers 40 minutes to write a full essay about a provided writing prompt. Forty minutes isn’t a lot of time when you consider the thought process, preparation, writing and editing phases of completing an essay. It’s important not to get too hung up on any one phase in order to complete the smooth end product.
The prompt you must write on will be a topic familiar to most students. There will be three different perspectives regarding the topic which you must write about as you form your own clear position. In order to write a successful essay, your writing should be written clearly and concisely with evidence and displays of critical thinking skills.
As you prepare for the ACT, don’t get hung up on unnecessary details which won’t be applicable. Study what you need to and familiarize yourself with areas you feel weaker in. Practice exams can help you identify these areas so you know what to focus on. More than anything, it’s important to enter test-day with a clear mind, so sleep and focus are vital to success.
The ACT can be intimidating for high school students as they prepare to take the exam which could ultimately determine which undergraduate schools they can get into. Increasing your scores and therefore increasing your chances for the future is the goal for most test-takers. In order to optimize your score and chances, familiarizing yourself with the basics of the ACT is key. Before you go into test day, you should know exactly what subjects you’re facing, the format of the test and how your scores will be determined and interpreted.
Obviously one of the first things you should know about the ACT is what subjects you’ll be tested on so that you can study accordingly. The four basic sections of the ACT are English, Math, Reading and Science. There is also an optional writing portion that you’ll probably want to take but it doesn’t factor into the overall score, it’s scored separately.
Just as important as being familiar with what’s on the ACT, you should know the format of the exam and exactly what you’ll be facing. Prepare yourself ahead of time by going over the morning’s routine in your mind including the exam room and what time it’ll be held. Make sure you plan to show up early so you’ll be prepared mentally when you sit down and leave room for something that could potentially delay your arrival.
The actual exam is designed to be somewhat stressful and test your time-management with short windows to answer large amounts of questions. The Math section gives you 60 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions. Both Reading and Science give you 35 minutes to answer 40 challenging questions and the English section gives you only 45 minutes to answer 75 multiple-choice questions. The optional Writing portion allows 40 minutes to complete one solid essay.
Keeping these time constraints in mind, it is important to keep moving throughout the exam and not get hung up on a difficult question. That being said, the ACT does not penalize for wrong answers, so it’ll be the same whether you leave it blank or guess incorrectly. Depending on the number of choices (they range from four to five) you have a 20 to 25 percent chance of at least guessing correctly, so it is wise to go back and fill in any of the difficult questions you had to skip before time runs.
In short, the ACT is the average of your four individual section scores. Each section is scored on a scale from 1 to 36. So if you add all four of your individual scores, divide by four and round down to the nearest whole number, that is the overall score that you’ll receive and which your potential schools will look at. Of course each of your individual section scores will be available for schools to view and take into consideration.
A couple things to keep in mind about the scoring of the exam is the ability to cancel scores and retake the test at a later date. If something went wrong on this particular test day, you can cancel the score altogether. However, this isn’t common since schools generally just look at your highest ACT score and in fact give you the option to send whichever scores you want to them. If you’re going to retake the test, it is usually okay to just retake it without cancelling out your previous test scores. There are very select schools like Yale and Harvard that do require you to send all of your ACT scores so if you plan on applying to these schools and you’re afraid something went wrong, it could be in your best interest to go ahead and cancel the scores.
Overall, ACT test preparation can be daunting and preparing yourself ahead of time by researching what you’ll be facing can help alleviate some of that stress and allow you to arrive on test-day with a cool and calm mind.
You’ve heard it over and over again: preparation is key. When it comes to a life-altering exam like the SAT or GRE, which could determine the fate of your future education and subsequently, your career, this tip could not be more true. The level of preparation will make or break you when test day arrives.
There are many things to consider while preparing for an exam and that includes your study time leading up to the exam as well as preparation for the actual exam day itself. Here are some of the top things you’ll need:
Obviously the most important thing you need in preparing for an exam is to actually study. Gather all the material you think you’ll need and get to work studying as early as you can. Some of the items you might need for studying would include but are certainly not limited to:
A smartphone (if you choose to use some apps, just don’t let it be a distraction)
Pencils and pens
Notecards and post-its
Water and healthy snack food
Clock, watch or timer to keep you on track
A detailed plan
The study materials will only go so far without a detailed plan in how to use them. Write out goals and objectives for each day leading up to the exam. Make sure the plan covers every area included in the exam, this will help keep you from forgetting to study particular topics.
Your plan should not just break down study time but detail the exam day itself. Figure out exactly what time you need to leave in order to get to the exam early and give yourself plenty of buffer room in case something happens.
Make sure you’ve gone over the test requirements over and over again to familiarize yourself with the time and location so you know exactly when and where to be. If you’ve never been there, it might be worth taking a trip the day before to make sure you can find the room.
Whatever you do leading up to the big test day, organization is going to be key to being successful and maintaining your sanity. A frazzle, unorganized brain will affect your test score and can be avoided by simply gathering the required materials and setting up a detailed plan as discussed here.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a basic requirement at most law schools across the country as well other parts of the world. It measures a test-taker’s ability to be successful in law school and a subsequent career practicing law. With various parts of the exam, there are different ways in which schools use the scores and information from these pieces to make their admission decisions.
First, it’s important to note the LSAT score is only one aspect in the decision-making process. For admissions, law schools look at compilation of factors like your undergraduate GPA. Since a GPA only tells part of story as far as your potential and understanding the law schools need something more fair-across-the-board. The LSAT will measure you equally with the other applicants and give laws schools a way to measure applicants against each other.
Understanding the scoring process will help you understand the way a law school interprets these scores. Like many standardized tests, the combination of the different sections will come together to determine your overall score between 120 to 180. Your percentage could vary slightly depending on the year in which you take it as you’re scored with the other test-takers. Generally, though, the 50th percentile is a score of about 151 and a high score (within the 90th percentile) would be about 165.
Law schools measure the applicant’s score against other LSAT test-takers to identify each individual’s likelihood of being able to handle the rigorous curriculum ahead. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the organization that administers the LSAT and updates the exam as needed, has done numerous studies to prove that an applicant’s score on the LSAT is in fact a dependable indicator of their eventual performance in school. The reason the LSAT provides law schools a more dependable insight than GPA into one student’s abilities over another is because GPA can be drastically effected by a student’s chosen workload. So just because one student chose a more challenging and full set of courses than someone else but ended up with a slightly lower GPA, that might not mean they are less capable of handling law school.
On a final note, for repeat test-takers, it would be beneficial to know that during your application process, each test attempt will be sent to your prospective schools, not just your most recent or highest. Law schools generally take into account a variety of mixes when looking at numerous scores from repeat test-takers including an average of all attempts, the most recent, and/or the highest score.
If you’ve made the decision to pursue an education at law school, you may be vamping up to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as part of your application process. There are many things to do in your preparations including thorough studying. But the first thing you’ll want to do is figure out when and where you’ll be taking the exam so you can build your study plan around that schedule.
The LSAT is conducted four times a year at testing centers around the world. It’s always conducted on a Saturday with most countries offering a test the following Monday for those who observe the sabbath on Saturdays. As of right now, the exam is given in June, September, December and February.
To determine which exam is right for you, you’ll want to take a look at the requirements for your desired law school and when you want to apply. Most law schools mandate the LSAT be taken by December for consideration for admission to their fall semester. For this reason, the September exam date is the most popular as people prepare for the following year and give some buffer room in case something happens. The February exam date is the least popular as it is too late for consideration to most law schools’ fall semesters and really early for those planning to enroll in law school a year and a half later.
After deciding which month to take the LSAT, a simple search for the closest testing center will give you the requirements and specific date of the test to aid in your further preparations. For the most part, the LSAT is conducted on the same date at all the testing centers around the world with minor variations between different countries.
For anyone looking to take the exam within the next six months, the next two options for the United States are February 10th (or 3rd for the Spanish LSAT and 12th for the Monday option) and June 11th.
A final note to take into consideration in regards to the LSAT schedule is a couple more test dates to be added starting in the 2018-2019 academic year. The LSAC, the association who conducts and monitors the LSAT, announced that they will be increasing the exams from four times annually to six times annually to provide even more possibilities and options for students to further their education and pursue their dream career.