Why You Have Nothing to Fear from College Entrance Exams
It’s understandable to feel butterflies in the tummy at the thought of taking Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). It's alright to feel nervous in anticipation of any examination! A good college education remains an essential edge in today’s economy --- and indeed, it’s nerve-wracking to think that your whole future can be decided by a few hours of answering a questionnaire!
But regardless of how intimidating these assessments can be, the best way to go about them is to ensure an accurate understanding of how they work. There’s no best-kept secret to Scholastic Aptitude Tests; crafting, testing and refining them is a science that even non-psychometricians and non- learning experts can understand. If you can demystify how these tests work, you’ll feel better able to navigate them.
For starters, it’s important to distinguish among aptitude tests (where SATs belong), intelligence tests (e.g., standardized IQ tests), and achievement tests. Intelligence tests refer to test that measures a person’s potential for learning --- that is, how a person will tend to do in future work. When you take an IQ test, for example, you’re trying to find out whether or not you have a good chance of grasping X number of concepts within X amount of time well.
Thus, IQ tests require minimal review of previously studied material. A good night’s sleep, a full meal, and a comfortable chair are perhaps the only things you need when taking an intelligence test.
Achievement tests, on the other hand, measure actual learning --- or learning from the past. When your school teacher gives you an exam at the end of the school year to gauge how much attention you’ve been paying the last ten months, then you’re taking an achievement test. Achievement tests require review and practice of specific material, and can’t be aced just by being yourself.
Scholastic Aptitude Tests are a mixture of both intelligence test and achievement tests. On the one hand, it is designed to measure your potential to do well in a particular field. The United States College Board SATs, for example, measure potentials both on language and mathematics by having questions that require innate skills like reading comprehension and quantitative analysis. But SATs also measure actual learning, as SATs follow the national standard of what a graduating high school student must know. Math problems, for example, tend to have questions within math fields included in the standard high school math curriculum, such as Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Basic Statistics. If you didn’t pay attention to your subjects in class, you'd have a harder time navigating your SATs.
It implies then that to perform well on these kinds of assessment; you must practice necessary skills in languages and math, as well as review what you’ve taken up in class. If your school tend to perform poorly on a specific subject by national standards, then you might need to go for some remedial classes or self-initiated review. Practicing answering question formats typical in SATs can also help.
While knowing all these makes taking the SATs scarier, it should be a source of comfort. Understanding how these tests work tells you how you can best prepare for them. SATs measures both actual and potential learning is a hopeful thing. It means that even if you have a history of scoring low on IQ tests and achievement tests, you won’t necessarily score low on your SATs.
You’re probably thinking: it’s unfair that one’s worth to a college or university is being measured by a score on a short quiz!
To some extent, you would be right, and SATs does have its share of critics. But it’s also important to note that most educational governing bodies do not consider SAT scores as the sole criterion to be used when selecting which applicant to reject. Even testing professionals will advise against it, as many variables can cause a low SAT score that has little to do with a students’ intelligence or potential. Thus, even the United States College Board recommends the conduct of interviews, personal essays, review of high school grades and even coordination with the students’ high school to get a better picture of the incoming college freshman.
That being said, Scholastic Aptitude Tests remain a significant element to you getting accepted in a college or university. So do take your Scholastic Aptitude Tests seriously!
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