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Standardized Testing

Whether you’re applying to college, law school or any other graduate program, you will have to partake in standardized testing. To reduce test anxiety, familiarize yourself with the type of standardized test you will be taking. This will boost your confidence and result in a higher score. Take a look at these brief descriptions of the types of standardized tests required for different levels of post-secondary education.

Undergraduate Admission

The three letters that high school juniors and seniors loathe are SAT and/or ACT. Test scores from one of these two standardized tests are required for college applications.

Both tests claim to gauge a student’s preparedness for college and likelihood to succeed in higher education, but they are designed and scored differently. The SAT is split in three sections, reading, writing and math. Each section is worth 800 points, totaling to a perfect score of 2400. The ACT is split into Reading, Math, English and Science each scored separately each out of 36. There is also an option take ACT with Writing, with an additional writing section that is scored out of 12. Test preference depends on the region you reside, and the region of a college. The Northeast and Western region prefer the SAT, and the Midwest and Southern region prefer the ACT. Now, most colleges accept scores from both tests, and score conversion calculations are available if necessary.

Some colleges and universities are “test-optional,” meaning students do not have to submit test scores to apply for admission. However, many of these schools still require SAT or ACT scores for university scholarships, and most outside scholarship providers require standardized test scores. Therefore, it is wise to take the SAT or ACT, and take it seriously, if you want to get into your dream school and win scholarships.

Graduate Admission

There are more standardized tests required for admission into graduate programs. The common test for professional studies is the Graduate Records Examination, or GRE. Other tests are career specific, such as the LSAT which is needed for admission into a law program.

The GRE is the general test required for admission to most graduate programs. The GRE is scored similarly to the undergraduate tests. Some programs rely on the GRE more than others and there are a few programs that do not require the GRE. Programs that do not require GRE scores will rely on transcripts, portfolios, professional statements, and letters of recommendation. Your area of study will also dictate which portion of the GRE is most important. For example, English programs will focus on verbal proficiency while Engineering programs will focus heavily on mathematical proficiency. LSAT scores are much more standardized. Graduate law programs weight heavily on LSAT scores and GPA rather than portfolios and reference letters. LSAT is the most important portion of law school applications. That score will directly affect a students’ ability to pursue a career in law.

Preparation Pays

Regardless of the test, preparation pays. Each test has a unique format, and understand that format is vital to success. Familiarizing yourself with the nature of the test, testing environment and scoring procedures will boost your score. The best way to prepare is by using free practice tests and sample questions available online. On the upper left, we have tips and study guides to prepare for each standardized test.

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Last Reviewed: January 2020