Posts Tagged ‘ standardized testing ’

Understanding the PSAT

By Amanda Bertsch


PSAT results were delivered this past week. Are you still wondering what they mean? What exactly is a good score? And why does the PSAT matter anyway? Denobis’s Study Spot breaks it all down.

The largest number on the score report is the total score, which is the sum of two scores: reading and writing combined and math. These scores range from 160 to 760, so the total is out of 1520. This section of the score report also gives a nationally representative percentile for each of the scores so you can compare your score to the average. For instance, if your percentile for math is a 67%, that means that you scored better than 67% of people in your grade that took the PSAT this year.

This section also shows a red-to-yellow-to-green bar for each score. This gives you a general idea of how prepared you are. If you’re in the green, College Board believes your performance shows that you are on track to be college-ready; yellow means you’re approaching readiness, and red means you need to improve significantly to get on track.

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Acing the ACT

By Amanda Bertsch


That perfect 36 may be more attainable than you think. Here’s ten tips to help you ace the ACT.

  1. Start early: Say you signed up for the ACT in four months. It’s still not too early to start studying! The Barron’s book is very good, but you can also look up online help or check out other books.
  2. Understand the test: The ACT is different from the SAT in a number of ways. For instance, the ACT (and the new SAT) does not take off points for wrong answers, so you should always guess if you don’t know an answer. Read through the ACT website ( and make sure you understand the format before test day.
  3. Know your weaknesses: Do you always score lower in math? Is writing your weakest point? Know what the hardest section for you will be, and study that more.
  4. Practice makes perfect: If you’ve never taken the ACT before or you’re not used to taking standardized tests, it might be wise to practice taking the ACT. Pick a Saturday morning and have someone print out a practice test for you. Try to simulate testing conditions as accurately as possible—do all the timings and breaks exactly as the test directs.
  5. Squeeze in timed practice: Sometimes it’s not possible to set aside an entire morning to do a full practice test. Do shorter sets of problems, but be careful to time yourself. For instance, the full math test has 60 questions in 60 minutes, so allow yourself 10 minutes for 10 questions.
  6. Practice essays: If you’re taking the ACT with writing, you should know that writing is usually one of the lowest scores for every student. Counter this by looking up past year’s ACT prompts and doing the 40-minute writing time. Then give your essays to teachers, parents, or to critique.
  7. Don’t be scared of science: The science section on the ACT seems intimidating. What order do the steps of meiosis go in again? However, as the ACT site emphasizes again and again, you do not need any prior knowledge of science to ace the science section. This section tests scientific thinking, not scientific knowledge. Prepare yourself by looking at graphs and articles on sites such as
  8. Test smart: You’ve heard all the clichés: sleep well the night before, eat a hearty breakfast, etc. This advice is so popular because it works! Try for more rest during that entire week so you’re not groggy on test day, and be sure to eat something filling that won’t upset your stomach on that morning.
  9. Know if the ACT is for you: Generally, the ACT is considered to be easier than the SAT because it has no wrong-answer penalty and the questions have simpler phrasing. However, there are also plenty of people who do better on the SAT. If you dislike science or aren’t good at concentrating on one subject for long periods of time, consider looking at the SAT instead.
  10. Relax: Colleges understand that one test on one day does not define your high school career. Even if you feel like you didn’t get the score you wanted, you can always retake it later. Relax on test day and you’ll perform better without the added stress of worrying about test scores.

Good luck!