Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

College Bound: A quick guide to standardized tests

Posted October 10, 2013

If you’re the parent of a high school student, chances are you’ve been bombarded with information about standardized testing.

With the myriad of resources available for test prep, parents are often overwhelmed and confused about when to start or even if they need to start. While testing does play a large part in the college application process, it is important to remember that the MOST important factor is your student’s performance in their coursework.

With that being said, the following can be used as a guide through the test prep process.

As a freshman, there is really no need to begin worrying about test prep. During a student’s sophomore year, most schools will administer the PLAN and the PSAT during the month of October. The PLAN is an indicator of how the student will do on the ACT, and the PSAT correlates to the SAT. Use these scores to determine whether or not your child appears to be a strong or weak test taker.

For students looking at highly selective colleges, they may want to consider taking an SAT or ACT at the end of their sophomore year or the beginning of their junior year. This will allow you to get an idea of what colleges they may or may not be a fit for. In the fall of junior year, the PSAT is again given. This test is used to identify students eligible for the National Merit Scholar Competition. For students in the North Carolina ublic schools, they will be required to take the ACT in March of their junior year.

Students should have taken both the SAT and the ACT before the end of their junior year. While it is tempting to take multiple tests, colleges frown upon this practice.

For students who don’t have a strong or desired score by the end of their junior year, they will have the opportunity to take the ACT again in September and the SAT in October of their senior year. One should be careful about waiting for senior year, as many early action schools, including UNC-Chapel Hill, require that testing be complete by those early fall dates.

Christine M. Hall, Ed.D., is owner of CMH College Consulting in Cary. Hall, who has children of her own, offers advice on the college application and decision process here on Go Ask Mom from time to time. See some of her earlier posts in the box above.


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