Preparing for College and Graduate School Standardized Tests

SAT. ACT. GRE. MCAT.

There’s so many different standardized tests that schools use as one of the indicators as to whether a student is going to be successful in their program of interest.

For most four-year schools, the SAT and/or ACT are required for admission and most graduate schools require the GRE, or MCAT if you are applying for medical school.

Some students find that these tests aren’t a good gauge of academic capabilities. It’s a valid argument… There are plenty of students who get test anxiety but have the cognitive ability to perform well in college classes.

Even with changes coming to these standardized tests, the reality is that students who want to go straight from high school to a four-year college are going to have to take at least one of them.

And that’s why I’m here!

I’m going to share some of my favorite resources for preparing for college entrance exams so that you can have the best possible chance of getting a higher score and landing a spot at the college of your dreams.

Preparing for College and Graduate School Standardized Tests | Study tips and strategies for students who want to rock their entrance exams and get into their dream program. Includes educational resources and tips from a student who has been through it. Click through to read the tips!

*Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, meaning that I will be compensated (at no extra charge to you) should you decide to purchase something from one of the links. I only include products and services that I fully support and recommend.*

Use Free Test-Specific Resources

Forget having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for test prep tutoring.

Some of the best resources are available for free on the web and will give you plenty of practice to ensure that you perform well on the exam(s). Here’s a short list of the ones I would recommend looking at:

I highly advise you to take at least a few of the practice tests that are offered on these sites. This will give you a good idea of what the test is going to look like – always a good thing to know before you have to take the real thing.

Use Test-Specific Study Guides

The Princeton Review GRE Test Prep Guide is the one I would recommend if you plan on taking the GRE anytime soon. The guide is really thorough at helping you decipher exactly how you should go through the various questions.

Although these guides aren’t great at teaching you the material itself (although it never hurts to have a solid review before test day), my main reason for recommending this tool is because it teaches you how to test effectively during a standardized test.

Not only will you get pointers for how to eliminate answers, but you’ll also be able exposed to literally every part of the test. Definitely worth the $15-$20!

P.S. You can get these types of guides for literally any of the standardized tests.

My Personal Tips for College Standardized Test Success

I’ll be honest… I didn’t do much studying for these tests outside of some of the resources I mentioned above.

Why?

Because I knew that focusing on the classes I was taking was going to help me be more successful.

What I mean by this is that I really took the time to understand the material. I remember going to my math class during lunch every day for extra help because I wasn’t grasping some of the concepts. I knew that a study book wouldn’t teach me math the why that I needed to be taught, so I went to a source that I knew would be most helpful in getting the material across to me – My teacher.

So that brings me to point number one:

1. Utilize the Resources You Have at Your School

If you’re struggling with a subject, go to your teacher for extra help and guidance. Have them walk you through some of the problems that you’ve seen on standardized test practice exams. Ask them to refresh your memory on concepts that might seem a little fuzzy.

By exposing yourself to even a little extra direction, you can easily up your score because you’ll feel more comfortable working through the problems.

Another great resource is the school library.

I know that this might not be your favorite spot, but it’s jam-packed with books, computers, and other tools that could help you study more efficiently.

Preparing for College and Graduate School Standardized Tests | Study tips and strategies for students who want to rock their entrance exams and get into their dream program. Includes educational resources and tips from a student who has been through it. Click through to read the tips!

2. Read at Least 30 Minutes Every Day to Help Your Vocabulary

The new SAT that is coming out in 2016 is supposed to have more relevant vocabulary, meaning that you won’t have to stress as much about crazy words if you plan on taking that standardized test to get into college.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you can just overlook this section because I know you’ll still be faced with some challenging words.

To help you prepare for that section of the test, you’ll want to read at least 30 minutes every day. While you go through your book or reading material, make note of any words that you can’t give a solid definition for.

When you come across one of those words, pause your reading and look up the word in a dictionary so that you understand what it means.

By doing this, you’ll improve your vocabulary and be able to better understand the individual parts of each word and what they mean.

3. Sharpen Your Writing Skills

Essays are still included on several of the standardized tests that colleges and grad schools use for admissions eligibility, so it’s really important that you practice your writing on a regular basis.

It has become almost too easy to use slang terms and shortened phrases to get our point across, but essays with that language will only hinder your test scores.

From this point on, you should be writing your papers and assignments with a different level of depth.

What I mean by that is you should be pushing your boundaries a bit, digging for deeper ideas, using resources, and substantiating your arguments in a more convincing manner.

I know that the GRE is going to heavily weigh your critical thinking and analytical skills, so make sure you know how to uncover meanings and bring new thoughts to life that are both compelling and logical.

In my experience, your writing can only get better with practice.

So, if you’re in an English class or other intensive writing class, use the feedback you get from your teachers to hone your writing skills. If you got good feedback, ask your teacher if there are any additional things you could have done to make your paper even better.

Another thing you’ll want to master is the art of organizing your essays.

Make sure that everything flows together and makes logical sense. If it helps, make a quick outline to guide you as you write your paper. Write down basic ideas of what you want to talk about and then rearrange them if you need to.

With writing, practice really does make perfect, so make sure you spend some time with this!

Use Free Online Courses to Freshen Up on Subjects

This one is especially valuable for anyone who is taking the MCAT. With the new test including psychology and sociology, your brain may feel as if it has no extra space to hold in information without kicking out those important terms you learned in organic chemistry and biology.

To help you grasp each subject, you may want to consider listening to some free online courses as a refresher in the weeks leading up to the test.

Courera is a site that allows you to search for free college courses that are available online to anyone. Schools like the University of Michigan, Duke University, and many more have offerings here, so definitely utilize this platform as you prepare for your standardized test(s)!

Standardized Tests are Not the End-All Be-All

If you spent a lot of time preparing for your tests and you still aren’t happy with your scores, then don’t feel hopeless.

You have the option to retake the test if you want, or you could always write a personal statement, request an interview (if the school offers it), or include other documentation that would demonstrate your ability to be successful in the program you’re applying for.

College and grad schools know that standardized tests don’t always show the whole picture, and that’s why you need to prove that you are deserving of a spot.

Remember, at the end of the day this is a just a test. You know what you’re capable of… So start believing that you can do this! If you can do that, you’ve won half the battle. 🙂

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