Preparing for the SAT is a major part of applying to college, but how important is this test for admission? College-bound high-school students often ask, "What do college admissions officers look for in prospective students?'
Large schools, which receive thousands of applications, tend to look at grades, standardized test scores and extracurricular activities to choose their top applicants. Qualities like a solid academic background and leadership in extracurricular activities are viewed as strong indicators of success in college. In smaller schools, more time can be spent reviewing each application. Essays, recommendations and other subjective factors are taken into consideration and less emphasis is placed on "the numbers.'' If you plan on applying to large universities, then SAT scores will be a deciding factor in whether your application makes it past the admission committee's first "cut.''
High SAT scores can also mean:
Scholarship money from schools that would otherwise be unaffordable
Entrance to more affordable state colleges, which often require high SAT scores because of the tremendous number of applicants
Better chances for admission to highly competitive private colleges and universities
According to Dr. Raymond Huntington, founder and president of the Huntington Exam Prep Center, there are several things that students can do to prepare for the SAT:
Take a solid academic curriculum. Research has shown that students who take more rigorous classes tend to score higher on the SAT than those who take a less challenging courseload. The more courses you take that build on fundamental math and verbal skills, the better prepared you will be to take the SAT and to succeed in your college career
Read. Good reading comprehension skills are imperative to doing well on the SAT, both for the verbal section and for word problems in the math section. As any English teacher will tell you, the best way to improve your vocabulary is not to study the dictionary - but simply to read
Prepare for and take the PSAT. In addition to competing for National Merit Scholarships, taking the PSAT is good practice to become familiar with the format of the SAT and to learn to budget your time - the two most important strategies for high scores. You may also want to take the SAT more than once to try to improve your score
In the short term, there is no "quick fix'' to cram for the SAT, which is why you will want to plan your studying accordingly. However, there are many different books, tapes, computer programs, school courses and courses offered by companies that can help you to prepare. Private tutoring courses that teach study skills as well as test-taking tips and provide continuous feedback on your progress can be especially beneficial.
Remember, what you get out of your preparation is directly proportional to what you put into it. Like any other academic test, the better you study and prepare for the SAT, the better you will do. In addition, a good SAT score will increase your chances of getting into the college of your choice.