Success in sport or mastery of skill normally does not happen just because of a person’s natural talent.  Practicing for a game, rehearsing for a play, or studying for a test are all examples of ways people try to improve their skills prior to needing them on the court, stage, or in class.  Athletes make use of coaches, actors have directors, and students can make use of a range of resources ranging from teachers, parents, students, tutors, and online resources.  

The ultimate objective is to have a person become confident in their skills, understand their assignment, and rely on experience to do their best when in the midst of competition, performing in front of an audience, or when taking a challenging test.  

Practice Makes Perfect

You have likely heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect”?  While perfection may not be possible in all situations, practice does help reduce anxiety, develop familiarity, and allow for an individual’s talent to shine through.  We all know a person who claims they never cracked a book while in high school/college and still managed to get good grades or decent SAT/ACT scores.  Just think about what amazing things they could have achieved if they applied themselves or had a plan in place.

A prime example of an academic ‘rite of passage for most college-bound students is taking a standardized test.  The two dominant tests are the SAT and ACT, with just the thought of them striking fear into the hearts of many high school students…and their parents.  Even though many colleges have made their application processes ‘test optional’, students are encouraged to demonstrate a mastery of a variety of academic concepts and skills by taking these tests. 

SAT / ACT Exam 

These are ‘standardized’ tests, which means that colleges and schools can use the results to compare scores across large numbers of students, providing an added layer of information to a student’s academic high school transcript.  Rather than spending time dissecting the content or value of the tests, it is more important to emphasize that an SAT or ACT is not something you should just walk in and take, blindly.  Take the time to become familiar with the format, content, and scoring of each test.  

Most students will experience a PSAT in their sophomore/junior year of high school, then they will come face-to-face with the full test soon after.  The PSAT provides students with the testing experience and generates a score that can be used as a baseline measure.  Many students say that these scores do not truly measure their academic ability, but it may just be that the student did not manage their time well during the test or did not understand certain strategies to help narrow possible answers.

Hire a Coach 

Just as in sports, theatre, or school, there are resources students can find to assist with preparing for the experience of standardized testing.  The most personalized and effective form of assistance is the utilization of a coach for test preparation. They can provide individuals with practice exam experiences, time management exercises, question response analysis, test registration information/deadlines, and other tools to help familiarize a student with each test.  

Additionally, online resources do exist, offering extensive collections of practice questions, but this may not be the best match for students who need some human motivation.  An aspiring tennis player will likely choose to enlist a coach to help gain skills, boost confidence, and navigate the world of tennis competitions instead of just relying on YouTube videos on how to play tennis.  It is a personal preference…

Practice, Practice, Practice 

There are many ways a person can choose to spend four hours of her time on a Saturday morning, and normally taking an ACT or SAT does not top the list of favorites.  If you are going to invest time and energy into a standardized test, make sure you understand everything about the tests so your true talents are demonstrated.  The key is to start early when seeking advice or assistance, then practice, practice, practice.