Cicero North Syracuse High School Counseling
Standardized Test Preparation
Most high school students who are contemplating formal education beyond high school should participate in a program of standardized testing (SAT/ACT). Such testing is required by most colleges and universities as a factor for consideration in the admissions process. Also, students will find that the test results may give them some valuable information to use as they consider which institutions should warrant their consideration and perhaps their eventual application. If a student is unsure of his/her immediate plans following high school, he or she is still encouraged to participate in a standardized testing program. The results of such tests remain on file with the student’s records.
College entrance tests are designed to measure a student’s ability to do college level work. By having a standardized set of test scores for every student applying to a college or university, the admissions professional are able to compare students from different states, schools, and academic backgrounds.
It is rare for any college to base its admission decisions solely on the results of the SAT or ACT scores. Decisions are made based on all the information available to a college including the high school transcript, teacher and counselor recommendations, personal statement, resume, interviews, and test scores. At each college, the weighing of these factors varies, but the strength of the high school record is almost always the most important single factor for consideration for admission.
SAT I Reasoning Tests -The SAT I is a test used by many colleges for entrance purposes. It is a test designed to measure reading, writing and language, and math skills and knowledge developed over many years, both in and out of school. You will receive one total score on a scale ranging from 400 to 1600 that is the sum of two sections: the evidence based reading and writing section and the math section. The three scores for the optional SAT Essay will be reported separately on 2-8 scale and will NOT be factored into the total score. Registration booklets and test preparation materials are available in the high school counseling offices and online. Registration deadlines are approximately five weeks prior to each test administration. Students may register by mail, by phone, or online at http://www.collegeboard.org/.
SAT II: Subject Tests – About one third of colleges and universities require two to three subject tests. Each test is one hour in length and is designed to measure a student’s knowledge of a specific subject. Tests are given in a number of subjects including: Literature, Math, Biology E/M, Chemistry, Physics, Foreign Language, History and more. Scores are used by admissions professionals to help them evaluate a student’s accomplishment and promise in a particular academic subject area. Some colleges use the scores for placement purposes. The student, when in the college search process, should be aware of subject test requirements. The student is encouraged to sit for the SAT II tests at the end of a one-year course (e.g. Biology, Chemistry, US History) or when a student is finishing a continuous subject matter (e.g., French, Spanish, English Composition). Students are encouraged to consult their counselor with questions about the subject tests. The student may take up to three tests at each test administration date.
Students cannot take both the SAT I and SAT II on the same date. However, they can take more than one SAT II on the same day as they are only an hour long.
PSAT: Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test – The PSAT is taken in October of the Junior year. Registration is done through the Counseling office approximately two weeks prior to the test date. The PSAT offers students the opportunity to participate in a standardized testing situation that is less stressful for the student; the PSAT scores are not reported to colleges and universities. The PSAT scores are used as qualifiers for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Test results are given as a verbal score, a math score, a writing score, and a National Merit Selection Index.
ACT: The American College Testing Program – The ACT is accepted for entrance and/or placement purposes by many colleges and universities. It consists of a series of tests in the following areas: English, Math, Reading Context, Science Reasoning, and Writing. The tests are designed to provide an overall estimate of a student’s ability to succeed academically at the college level. Each test deals more with the use of skills than with specific subject matter. Students should take the ACT once, not over and over. The ideal time to take it is in Spring of your junior year. Deadlines for registration are posted and are readily available in the counseling office. Students may register online at www.act.org.
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language – For the student whose primary language is not English, the TOEFL offers a way to be competitive in the college application process without being penalized for a deficiency of English vocabulary.
A suggested schedule for standardized testing is as follows:
PSAT taken in October of Junior year
SAT I taken in either May, June, or August of Junior year for the first time; students may sit for the exam again in August, Oct, Nov, or Dec of their Senior year
SAT II taken in June of Junior year; the student may repeat or take additional subject tests in Nov or Dec of their Senior year
ACT taken in April, May, or June of Junior year for the first time; students may sit for the exam again in Sept, Oct, or Dec of their Senior year
For more specific information about standardized testing, students are encouraged to talk with their counselor.
The College Board Online: www.collegeboard.org -- This site is excellent for students, parents, counselors, and other educators. Included is the latest news from the College Board, SAT Question of the day, a brand new Scholarship Search, Advice on Test Preparation, College Applications Online, and a College Search. Students can register for tests online, request score reports, and much more. This online resource is well organized and is a must for understanding and preparing for the SAT I/II.
ACT Home Page: www.act.org - This is a terrific site for students, parents, counselors, and other educators to learn more about the ACT Assessment and other programs/services. Register for the ACT online, visit frequently asked questions to learn more about the Act and how to prepare, utilize the College Connector to search for colleges, apply online, and estimate financial need. Test dates and registration deadlines as well as other useful information characterize this site.
www.Freerice.com - vocabulary quiz that also feeds the hungry. John Breen, the creator of this site had two lofty goals, help end world hunger and prepare his son for the SAT's. The solution was simple, he created this website, a non-profit online vocabulary quiz that gives 20 grains of rice to someone in need for each word defined correctly. The rice is paid for by the site's advertisers and distributed by the United Nations World Food Program. The more words you get right, the more you can help people who potentially die from starvation.
Other things students should do to prepare for the SAT/ACT:
Before Test Day
Make sure you have two No. 2 pencils and a soft eraser. A No. 2 pencil is required to answer the essay and the multiple-choice questions. Mechanical pencils are not allowed. Pens are not allowed.
Have your SAT Admission Ticket and acceptable photo ID ready. You will need your Admission Ticket and photo ID for admission to the test center.
Prepare snacks to bring with you. Although food or beverages cannot be opened in the test room, you may stow them under your chair or desk and consume them outside the test room during breaks. A healthy snack will go a long way in keeping you alert during the entire test.
Be well-rested and ready to go. Get a good night's sleep the night before the test and eat a good breakfast that morning.
Check to see if your test center is open. Visit www.collegeboard.com on Friday for a list of test center closings. On Saturday morning, if there is bad weather in your area, tune into your local media (like you do for school closing announcements) to make sure that your test center has not been affected.
Plan ahead to arrive at the test center on time. Unless otherwise noted on your Admission Ticket, arrive at the test center no later than 7:45 a.m. Testing should start at approximately 8 a.m.
On Test Day
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the test center. Consider traffic, weather conditions, flat tires, and anything else that could slow you down.
Be sure to test at the center indicated on your Admission Ticket. Even if you're scheduled to test at a center that was not your first choice, you are only guaranteed admission to the test center listed on your Admission Ticket. Seating is very limited at other test centers.
Use breaks to eat or drink any snacks you have brought with you. You will have several breaks during the test. Use them to relax and eat a snack, so you can stay focused.
Make sure you use a No. 2 pencil. You must fill in the entire circle darkly and completely. If you change your response, erase it as completely as possible. It is very important that you follow these instructions when filling out your answer sheet.
Pace yourself during the test. Remember, each question counts the same. If you find yourself spending too much time on one question, move on to the next question.