Tips to Prepare for Standardized Tests: SAT, ACT, and GRE

by | Oct 7, 2022 | Admissions

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Many universities in the U.S require international students to submit scores for standardized tests as part of their application process.

The two most common standardized tests for undergraduates are the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT). On the other hand, the most commonly required tests for graduates are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

If you’re applying to graduate law programs, you might be required to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), while medical school might require you to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

These tests provide a fair and impartial way for universities to compare students from different backgrounds and gauge their academic potential. Having a high score in these tests goes a long way in gaining admission, especially in competitive programs.

In addition, high scores in standardized tests come in handy when applying for scholarships. 

As an African student who intends to study in the U.S, it’s important to familiarize yourself with common standardized tests and start preparing yourself in advance.

Here are some general tips to help you in preparing for standardized tests:

Find Out which Standardized Tests You Need to Take

Before getting started, find out exactly which tests you’ll need to take or your university application. This information is usually available on university websites. 

Establish the universities and specific programs you’d like to apply to and check out their requirements.

Do they require the SAT or ACT?

For graduate school, do you need the GRE?

Which scores should you aim for?

Some programs might place emphasis on specific subjects. Having this information will help you as you book and prepare for standardized tests. Once you’ve established which test is required, take time to learn how the exam is structured and scored.

Take Prep Classes or Hire a Tutor

The best way to familiarize yourself with any standardized test is by taking prep classes and tests or hiring a personal tutor. Practicing with classes, online practice tests, and being coached by a tutor leads to improvement. Test prep programs also equip students with test-taking strategies, which can help you raise your score.

According to Forbes, “Students who used test prep classes were able to increase their GMAT scores by 93.7 points. Those who used tutors reported a 90.2 increase in their final score. However, test takers who got the biggest boost were those who used both a class and a tutor. They averaged increases of 100 points on the GMAT test.”

In addition, test prep courses and tutors can help you gauge your likely score. This can help you in deciding which colleges and universities and programs to apply to.

However, test prep classes can be quite expensive. Personal sessions can cost upward of $200 an hour, while group sessions can cost as much as $100 per session. Such extra costs might not be in your budget as an aspiring international student.

If you are unable to comfortably afford test prep courses and tutors, you can still sufficiently prepare for the tests on your own.

Study Adequately Before Taking the Test

Before taking a standardized test, make time to study. Create a study plan, paying more attention to areas that you’re not strong—taking a prep test can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Ideally, you should have at least one month of studying before you take a standardized test for university application. Creating a study calendar will make the daunting task more manageable and keep you accountable.

Make your study calendar realistic—you should still have time to attend to your regular daily activities and responsibilities. Adequate planning and study, you will increase your chances of having a high score on a standardized test for college application.

Rest Before the Day of the Test

Before the day of the test—don’t panic. If you’ve taken adequate time to study, it’s time to enjoy some much-earned rest. Make sure to eat well and go to bed early. Good sleep (at least 7 hours) will keep your memory sharp.

Don’t forget to organize all your supplies in advance. You don’t want to be running around looking for a pen or your ID card just before your test. The more you do to have a well-rested body and mind on the day of the test, the better.

 

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