Most students know they will spend at least some of their time studying for a college entrance exam. While most colleges still require you to take either the ACT or the SAT, some schools are becoming SAT-optional in their admissions processes.
Why the change? Some many believe entrance exams do not really judge how well a student will perform in college.
Where do the Problems Lie?
Standardized testing has probably always been a part of your student life. However, college entrance exams are now being called into question. Do entrance exams test ability, or do they really just measure test-taking skills?
Gender bias can permeate many aspects of life, but college entrance exams are now being held suspect for gender discrimination. The SAT is designed to predict applicant’s first year grades in college, but studies have revealed something very interesting about the test. Even though female high school students and female college students usually outperform male high school students and male college students (grade-wise), female students score poorly on exams when compared to their male peers.
Linda Steinberg and Howard Wainer, researchers from the Education Testing Service, found that boys typically score about 33 points higher on the SAT math section than the average female students did, even though these students received the same grades in the same college math classes.
As the ACT gains popularity as an alternative to the SAT, so does speculation about this exam as well. A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research casts doubt on the ability of the ACT to predict how well a student will do in college. The study found that only two of the four sections (math and English) were found to accurately predict a student’s outcome on college. The reading portion and the science portion were found to be inadequate in predicting a student’s success in college (science found to be mainly testing how one can interpret a graph rather than assessing understanding in chemistry.)
What to Do About it
College entrance exams will never be perfect since there are so many variables when it comes to individual people (it’s a good thing colleges consider other aspects of a student when applying to school). Unless you are a very influential government official in the Department of Education, there is not much to be done about the exam itself. There are, however, quite a few things you can do to prepare yourself for entrance exams, despite their flaws.
Simply understanding the test can help improve your chances greatly. Know how long the test will be, how it is structured and what types of questions will be asked. This could easily make the difference between a pleasant test experience and a not-so-pleasant one.
Once you understand the test, the next step is to study to the test. Memorizing vocabulary and formulas will not help because each test is different from the next ( for example, studying vocabulary will not help much for the ACT because the ACT is not vocabulary intensive, whereas the SAT is.)
This is why you must study to the test. This means you must take the time to find out which types of questions will be asked and what areas you need to focus on. While it may seem like a tedious task during its duration, the ability to adapt to a certain style of learning and studying could help you later on in life. Having flexibility in learning could be a huge advantage when you have your own job and must learn to carry out a specific task the way your boss wants you to.
In a world where perfection is all but nonexistent, one can hardly expect college entrance exams to be flawless. It is easier, and more beneficial, to adapt to the exam and study to the test, taking advantage of whatever test-taking tips you can find.