I’ve taken more than a few standardized tests in my life, but today I wanted to talk about the big ones: college entrance exams. I took both the ACT and the SAT multiple times, and I wanted to share my experiences with you. I’m releasing my first ebook later this month (yay!) about how to score highly on the ACT and some of my best strategies for success, so expect more ACT-related posts in the upcoming weeks leading up to the release.
The first college entrance exam I ever took was the ACT, which I took for the first time when I was in tenth grade. I don’t remember a ton about it (to be honest, I think my mind has done me the favor of mostly blocking it from my memory), but I do remember that I was nervous. Since I’ve been homeschooled all my life, I haven’t had to take as many standardized tests as public schoolers do, and I had never taken one in a group setting. I remember it being a bit longer than I was expecting, and needing to go to the bathroom towards the end. I didn’t take the optional writing section.
Two weeks later, I checked online and found out I had made a 30, which is in the top 4% of test takers. I had made a perfect 36 in English and a 34 in reading, which are my stronger suits. In science, I did slightly worse with a 29, but it was my math score that really bummed me out. I had barely scored over the benchmark with a 24. At the time I took the test, I was looking at some Ivy League colleges, and I knew a 30 wasn’t going to cut it. I took the ACT for the second time later that school year, hoping for a higher score.
I studied really hard in preparation for ACT trial #2 (I hadn’t done all that much to prepare for trial #1), and I went in feeling much better equipped to handle the test material and the time pressure. I finished all the tests early, although I still didn’t take the writing portion, and I came out feeling really good about my effort. I got a whopping improvement in my composite score of one point. Well, that doesn’t accurately represent the extent of my improvement. I only lost one point in English, dropping to a near-perfect 35, made a 36 in reading, and improved a point in math, which was probably the score that bumped my composite up to a 31. I also scored a 30 in science, which I was very proud of.
I felt pretty good about my 31 ACT score, but I decided to try my hand at the SAT anyway, thinking that maybe it was better suited to my skill sets in reading, writing, and grammar. In my area, students don’t take the SAT unless they’re at the top of their class, headed to some of the top universities in the country. There’s an ACT testing center in the town where I live, but I had to drive an hour to the high school where they administer the SAT. I was really scared. I had taken several of the older SAT tests that they don’t administer anymore, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The SAT is a really long test, much longer than the ACT. I don’t even remember what I scored on it, since there was a mistake in the test and three sections couldn’t be scored. It was about average, I think – lower than the equivalent of my ACT score. I was disappointed. In my junior year, I took it again, hoping to do better. I had taken more practice tests and was set to make a 2300. I knew what to expect. But, out of nowhere, during the last two sections of the test, I had a panic attack and had to leave the room. When I came back, I had missed all of both of the last two sections. My overall score really suffered, and I decided the SAT just wasn’t for me.
Toward the end of 11th grade, I decided to retake the ACT, this time with the writing section. It was a breeze after the grueling SATs, and I made a 31 again, without much change in the section scores. I did somewhat better than average on the writing section, and I was pleased overall. I decided I was done taking college entrance tests.
To sum up, I am proud of my ACT score. Even though it never got as high as I would have liked, it’s still in the top 4%. My biggest regret is how badly both of the SATs I took turned out, each through no fault of my own. I think if I had been able to have an uneventful test session, I would have scored higher. Tests can be really stressful, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to prepare and study. Because of my experiences, and to help other test-takers suffering through the ACT, I wrote a new ebook which will be coming out on Amazon later this month. Look for my announcement post!