By Aaron Eley & Christina Barnes
Most people do not remember their SAT or GRE experience fondly–it is definitely a test of endurance as much as it is a test of knowledge. Even though preparing and taking these tests can be very stressful, there are a lot of resources out there that you should make use of to make it easier on yourself. We’ve gathered some tips and advice on what you can do to feel better prepared for each test that we hope will be helpful to you as you get ready for this academic challenge!
The SAT (originally the Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a standardized, pencil-and-paper exam that is created and administered by the College Board, a not-for-profit organization. The test is made up of four (4) sections that focus on different academic skills; these include reading, writing/language, math, and an optional essay portion. It takes about three hours to complete the SAT (four if you choose to complete the essay), and the majority of the questions are multiple choice.
How to Get Started
To take the SAT, you must register with an approved testing center by the registration deadline. Simply decide on an available date to take the test, locate a testing center near you, and then follow the registration instructions on the College Board website*. If you are taking the SAT outside of the United States, the dates, deadlines, requirements, and costs may be different; click here to learn more about international registration. On your exam date, remember to bring your Admission Ticket, a photo ID, No. 2 pencils, a calculator, and some water/snacks for the break in between sections.
*(Side note: Remember the log in information for the College Board account you create! It will help you access your SAT score after the test.)
Preparation Is Key
When it comes to studying for the SAT, don’t be overwhelmed! There are lots of simple, accessible ways to prepare for your exam. The best practice material comes from College Board itself, as they provide retired (past) test versions and specific sample questions that you can use to understand the nature of the SAT. Another great online resource is Kahn Academy, a partner organization that has practice tests, video lessons, and a customizable study plan system. You can also look for SAT prep books online or at your local bookstore; these books are helpful for explaining the logic behind each correct answer. For some personal suggestions, here are unique tips and strategies UARK students shared with me:
“I studied a lot with vocabulary building apps on my phone. I had a bunch of words pop up on the test that I had learned on my apps!”
“The ‘Question Triage’ strategy really helped me manage my time on the SAT. After reading a question, you decide right away if it is one you can answer immediately, one you should think about and come back to, or one you should guess and move on from.”
However you choose to study for the SAT, remember to stay focused and stay positive. With a little work, anyone can be an “SAT” – a Super Awesome Test-taker!
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test designed to assess reading comprehension, math, and writing as a measure of an individual’s preparedness for graduate school. It can be incredibly daunting if you haven’t taken the SAT in a while (or at all) but if you break it into smaller sections, preparing for the GRE and acing it can be a breeze! Here are some tips that can help you feel more prepared to bring your ‘A’ game when you take the GRE.
Focus on your Weaknesses
If you don’t have much time to study for the GRE, focus on your unique strengths, weaknesses, and priorities. For example, if writing skills are an important requirement for your program, focus on improving analytical writing and verbal reasoning scores. If you believe you’re a strong writer and will impress an application committee with a writing sample, maybe spend more time focusing on math.
The Quantitative Section
The best way of studying for the quantitative sections is to utilize one of the many excellent GRE test prep books that you can purchase or, alternatively, check out from your local public library if you’re based within the U.S. Not only do these books have practice questions but there is often a breakdown of the test maker’s reasoning behind each question and tips for the best method to solve these math problems.
The Reading Comprehension Section
I also recommend buying some vocabulary flashcards to battle through the verbal sections. Nobody expects you to know everything, but if you know just a few good vocabulary items, process of elimination will be your best friend.
The Analytical Writing Section
The best way to practice for the writing section is to write! It might sound simple, but speed and typing will play huge factors in your score, so it’s important to practice writing as much as you can. Use prompts from any GRE prep material and practice answering the questions on a computer. Keep track of how much time you are taking and make sure you are leaving a bit of time at the end for proofreading!
Keep it in Perspective
Lastly, I would like the remind you that examination does not equal application. Just because you struggled to solve a geometry problem on the GRE doesn’t mean you won’t be able to run complex statistical analyses for your research. When it is time to apply what you have learned, the outcome is much more than the numeric score you received on the GRE and graduate search committees know this. I took the GRE and lived to tell the tale, so good luck and happy test taking to anyone ready to face it head on!