Preparation and procrastination before next week’s ACT

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For most students, junior year marks the transition from high school to beginning to prepare for college. For students taking a four-year route, this means maintaining their grades, researching college options, visiting campuses, and–unfortunately–taking ACT and SAT.

It’s kind of nerve-wracking, knowing that your whole college life depends on the one test”

— junior Thalia Carter

Both tests usually require a not-insignificant fee: the SAT costs $47.50 or $64.50 with the essay section, and the ACT costs either $46.00 or $62.50. Luckily for Northwest students, the state of North Carolina will pay for a free ACT with Writing administration for juniors on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The free test, however, has done little to alleviate stress.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking, knowing that your whole college life depends on the one test,” junior Thalia Carter said.

Fortunately, there are ways–both free and paid–to improve one’s performance on standardized tests.

Even College Board itself–the company behind the SAT–has acknowledged that free coaching can boost scores.

20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points,” the company stated in a press release. (The SAT is scored on a 1600-point scale.)

The company went on to say that some students had seen an even larger increase.

“Out of nearly 250,000 test takers studied, more than 16,000 gained 200 points or more between the (PSAT) and SAT,” the press release stated.

Despite these free and effective offerings, the degree to which students take advantage of them varies.

“I haven’t prepared whatsoever (for the ACT),” junior Jason Ellington said. “I’ve made plans around (the test), but that has nothing to do with actually preparing for it.”

Other students have been more proactive.

“I’ve looked at tips for how to take it well, from the College Board’s website,” junior Bailey Rooks said.

There are, of course, paid test preparation services, some of which are offered right here at Northwest. Like last year, the PTSO is again offering a 6-week, $225 course to help students prepare for both the ACT and SAT.

No matter how they choose to prepare for the ACT next week–if at all–students are not afraid to offer their opinion about standardized testing in general.

“I think (standardized testing is) a necessary evil,” Rooks said. “None of us really like it, but I understand the point of it. It sucks to take (standardized tests), but it has to be done.”