Great Question–glad you asked.
As those of you who work with us know, at CollegePrepExpress, LLC we’re not big fans of the two major college entrance exams, the SAT and the ACT. Marathon length, high stakes tests for teens are not our idea of a good time. It would be one thing if there were some redeeming quality to these exams–for example, if they were decent predictors of some desirable or meaningful life outcome–but there isn’t. SATs and ACTs won’t tell you how smart you are, how well you’ll do in college, what profession you’re well suited for, what your future net worth will be, how good a spouse or parent you’ll be, or whether you’re going to get into heaven. Nevertheless, and this is the crucial point, they still count A LOT towards college admissions, alternatively as recalcitrant gate-keeper and indomitable personal assistant, depending on your scores.
So, really, the fact that they don’t actually MEAN anything is irrelevant; what matters is that they still count, even in an era when some colleges are beginning not to require them (e.g., California State Schools, the UC family). And that raises the question, how much time should you devote to preparation, i.e., practice and study?
If you went around the country polling admissions committees officers about what counts the most for college admissions, you will find that they all share the same top few criteria:
#1: Grades and Course Levels#2: Standardized Test Scores
#3: Letters of Recommendation
#5: Application Essays & Interview (Campus or Alumni)
While there may be some variation in the specific order, Grades and Scores generally head the list.
Now let’s be super-analytical (punctiliously geeky in SAT parlance ;-)), and do a business-style assessment of how much time (our most precious resource) we should devote to studying for standardized tests. Let’s agree that our GPAs (or the sum total of all our grades) in high school count more than our tests scores. They do. But how much more–twice as much? three times? four times? five times? Let’s say we take five classes a year for four years. That makes 20 final grades on our final high school transcript. Now let’s conservatively assume that grades count FIVE TIMES more than our standardized test scores. That means, purely from the perspective of getting into college, we should invest about as much time studying for standardized tests as we spend on FOUR full-year classes (Did you catch the math? 20 ÷ 5 = 4 ;-)).
Now if you think about how much time you have to invest in any ONE CLASS, it’s a gargantuan amount time: think of 9th grade English, 10th grade math, 11th grade U.S. History–you pick one. 5 days a week in class, homework almost every night, studying for quizzes, writing papers, studying for tests, prepping for exams, doing group work, sucking up to the teacher in the hallway…. it’s a LOT of work for that one final grade. Now multiply all that time and effort by 4, and that’s how much time–again, from a purely businesslike, cost-benefit analysis–you should spend taking practice SATs and ACTs and learning the material you don’t know.
I know it’s not great news, and I don’t expect anyone to be doing cartwheels over this. Nor, frankly, have I ever worked with anyone who has actually made this kind of commitment. Those who’ve come close, however, have all consistently scored in the 700s across the board on the SAT and in the 30s across the board on the ACT. Carve out ONE HOUR A DAY–every single day–and you will write your own ticket to the college of YOUR CHOICE!
Forewarned is forearmed. You may as well go into the unnerving college admissions
process with your eyes wide open. CollegePrepExpress, LLC is here to help keep you motivated, focused, and as chill as possible. As long as you’re going to invest a whole lot of time and effort raising your scores (which ALWAYS pays off in the end), we’ll try to make your standardized test prep as fun and enjoyable as possible :-).