What Today’s High School Students Should Know Apart from Freddy Krueger, few things have haunted high school students’ nightmares more than the ACT® or SAT® test. When a college entrance exam could make or break an application – and be the deciding factor between one’s dream school and safety school – it’s no shock those three little letters could strike fear in even the most prepared students. However, once COVID-19 hit, students were offered a testing time-out and a recess from the stress. Even pre-pandemic, many universities were taking the test-optional route, but because students’ learning was disrupted in ways they never imagined, other colleges quickly joined in. As of December 2021, more than 1,700 colleges and universities no longer require ACT or SAT scores for 2022 admission. The move may be temporary for some schools, such as Harvard University which is pressing pause on testing through 2026. For others, it’s a permanent change – in Illinois, for example, a state bill was recently signed making testing optional for all of its 12 public colleges and universities. Because we don’t know what admission requirements will look like in general after 2022, it leaves many students wondering – is taking the test even worth it? Why taking the ACT or SAT can still be a smart move Seventy-five percent of colleges are test-optional or test-blind this year, but that also means that 25 percent are not. Therefore, students and parents need to do their due diligence to find out the requirements for each school they plan on applying to. FairTest has a running list of test-optional schools to provide you with a starting point, but developing a plan of action with your school counselor can help ensure you’re on track to admission. Even if a school is test-optional, taking the ACT or SAT may still be recommended for several reasons: Although their main focus will be on student essays, grades, and extracurricular activities, some colleges may still consider scores if they are submitted. Test scores can be required for merit scholarships, so taking the exam will help you ensure you’re prepared for any opportunities that arise. Colleges may ask for test scores for class placement, if you live out of state, or if you’re pursuing certain majors. How to prepare for test day If you do decide to take one of the two exams, the earlier you prepare, the more confident you’ll be when you finally have the test in front of you. First-time test-takers should begin studying at least three months in advance, but for those who struggle with certain concepts, starting six months out can give you the advantage you need. Other recommendations: Decide which test to take. Almost all colleges take scores from either test (if they’re not test-blind), and both exams are equal in the level of difficulty. However, students who excel in the language arts may have better luck with the ACT, while those with strong math skills find the SAT better suits them. Taking practice tests can help you determine which test aligns with your strengths. Determine when to take your test. Both tests are offered seven times a year, and because you can take them multiple times, it’s best to schedule your first exam as early in the semester as possible. You should also base your test date on your current school load – if you’re overwhelmed with classes and sports in the fall, it might be best to wait until early spring to make sure you have time to study. Take advantage of tutorials and testing. Personalized, targeted instruction is the best way to improve your performance and measure your progress. College Readiness Tutorials for both the ACT and SAT through ALVS can help you meet your goals through individualized learning paths. Because the Tutorials actively engage students, they help you break down rigorous content, fill prerequisite gaps, and deepen your understanding of complex concepts. In addition, real-time data alerts you to learning gaps that need to be addressed. Each English, reading, or mathematics Tutorial is usually $49 each, but if you use the code: TestPrep at checkout, all three can be bundled for the price of one! – making them an affordable alternative to traditional exam prep. In a national study, the students who took advantage of the ALVS Tutorials gained 25 percentile points from pretest to posttest. Use code TestPrep and get all three ACT or SAT College Readiness Tutorials for $49. Since a significant number of colleges still require ACT and SAT scores, and others are debating on what to do after 2022, being prepared is the best way to stand apart in the college admissions competition. For more information on College Readiness Tutorials content and to start your test prep, visit the course catalog and select the Tutorials tab.