The Ultimate College Application Workbook

Are You Stressed About Your Child's College Applications?

If so, now's the time to learn how to:

  • Understand What Admissions Committees Want
  • Help Your Child Highlight Their Strengths
  • Figure Out the True Costs Before Applying

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The SAT is the most popular college admissions test, and over three million high school students took the test in 2010.

The SAT (which originally stood for “Scholastic Aptitude Test” and later “Scholastic Assessment Test” to now meaning merely “SAT”) actually originated in the 1920s by the Army to test all recruits for intelligence. In 1933, an assistant dean at Harvard discovered this test and decided to use it to test the intelligence of students who wished to attend Harvard. Beginning in 1942, the SAT became one of the central college admissions measures.

The test has changed somewhat over the years, but it still maintains similar features to the intelligence test designed 80 years ago. In addition to the standard SAT, now called the SAT Reasoning Test, there are several specific SAT Subject Tests. These days, the College Board states that the SAT Reasoning Test measures academic preparation and that it determines the likelihood of college success and graduation.

An entire test prep industry has emerged, claiming that students can be taught how to increase their scores. According to Eduventures Inc., a Boston research and consulting firm, Americans spent $2.5 billion in 2009 for test preparation services.

A study released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, however, suggests that SAT prep courses provide only modest increases in scores.

In particular, the report demonstrated that SAT preparation tends to only increase SAT scores by about 30 points.

While it is possible to study for the test to increase your score by a few points, the best way to get solid SAT score is to be a good student in general. Studies show that students who read a lot usually do better on vocabulary tests like those on the SAT. Additionally, students who write a lot tend to become better writers. It is also important to take challenging courses and to think critically. These activities can certainly help boost your SAT score.

If you have a low SAT score right now, you have a few different options to deal with it.

First, you can retake it. If you do choose this route, however, is a good idea to take a few practice tests before you take the actual exam. You can order practice tests from the College Board or Amazon. The best way to prepare is to take an entire practice exam and then grade it. Pay careful attention to which answers you missed. You should try to brush up on those skills before taking another test. If you do choose to retake the test for a higher score, carefully look at the deadlines to determine that your prospective colleges will receive your scores in time.

The second way to deal with a low SAT score is to ask one of your letter writers to emphasize your strong academic ability in the classroom. This will show the admissions committees that you are in fact a good student in spite of a low score.

The third thing to do if you have a low SAT score is to reconsider some of the colleges to which you wish to apply. You may want to look into schools that have lower midrange SAT scores or that don’t require the SAT at all.

Question: What is your best advice for preparing for the SAT?

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