Students Breakdown What Standardized Testing Really Means


As Juniors and Seniors start the college admissions process, many decide to take either the College Board-sponsored Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or comparable American College Testing (ACT) to measure their academic ability. By taking one of these exams, students can continue to pave their path to the future.
The SAT and ACT are administered in high schools around the country seven times a year. Unlike tests taken in classes, these tests do not measure specific content, rather overall math and English skills that students are expected to have learned throughout high school. Students will be tested for their mastery of reading comprehension, grammar usage, algebra concepts, geometry, basic trigonometry, and data analysis. Students who take these tests will select to send their scores to various colleges to be considered for a number of academic and merit scholarships.
Even with similar goals, there are distinctions between the exams: including scoring, timing, and specific content.
The SAT is graded on a scale from 400 to 1600. The total score for the test is divided between the English and Math sections, which both have two separate parts of the test— English includes reading comprehension and writing, while Math incorporates both non-calculator and calculator sections.
The ACT is instead on a scale from 1 to 36. The composite score for the test equally averages between the four scores received on the reading, writing, and science sections. While ACT questions are reported as more straightforward than SAT questions, the ACT requires students to pace themselves quicker as it includes more questions total. The ACT has an optional essay, also scored from 1 to 36.
“I decided to take the ACT because I tend to do well in science sections, which the ACT has, but the SAT does not,” junior Samantha Frink said.
Strategies for test-taking vary; high schoolers need to find the test that best suits their abilities. As students study for their tests, they find certain approaches are best for preparing.
“I took a lot of practice tests, which I highly recommend. It is not just about taking tests back to back; it is really important to take time after each test to carefully go back through each problem you missed and identify what needs to be improved,” senior Anna Han said.
Students who do not perform as well as they would have liked are encouraged to retake the tests to see if they can beat their previous score or even try the alternate standardized exams. With both tests costing more than $55, retaking the tests may not be the best financial option for students. For both students who struggle and those who initially succeed in taking their test, many report stress.
“The main part of my stress from standardized tests is thinking that this determines my future; it makes me think that I need to do well or I won’t succeed in life, which of course is not true,” junior Frank Rhodes said. “With the amount of preparation that goes into it, it’s easy to think that it’s that important.”
It is easy to get stressed while preparing for their upcoming test since scores are a large aspect in deciding whether a student will be accepted into a college.
As Marriotts Ridge students prepare for their standardized tests, they must remember to put diligent effort into their work. Hopefully, with the right strategies, students will be able to attain a suitable score that will put them at an advantage in the college admissions process.