Top Five Reasons to Stop Stressing About the SAT and ACT

Last Updated Apr 5, 2009 5:22 PM EDT

Is your teenager going a little nuts about the SAT or ACT? Are you? Here's why your family can relax (a little):

1) The SAT and ACT tests are shrinking in importance. The number of colleges and universities which no longer require SAT or ACT scores to gain admission has skyrocketed past 800.

You'll find the latest list of SAT-optional schools at FairTest.org. SAT-optional schools include 28 of the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges.

2) A student can now erase bad SAT scores. Up until this month, kids who bombed on the SAT couldn't hide their scores. That's because the College Board, which administers the dreaded SAT, had stubbornly insisted that all scores, even embarrassing one, must be sent to colleges and universities.

But the College Board changed its mind beginning with the March SAT test date. From now on, the College Board is letting students decide which scores to send. So let's say your child got a combined score of 1500 (Reading 500, Math 550 and Writing 450) on the 2400 scale during the March SAT test, a composite which happens to be about the national average. If your test taker tries again on the June SAT date, or on some other day, and gets a better overall score, she can direct the College Board to send only the better composite result.

Obviously, teenagers would direct the College Board on which scores to send after receiving their results.

3) The ACT has always let students pick and choose which composite scores to send.
4) Most schools will automatically mix and match scores for students. The College Board's new policy won't help if your teenager would like, for example, to withhold a math score or critical reading score. It's all or nothing. But school admission offices will often pick the best section scores from multiple tests when calculating an overall SAT score. So let's say a teenager got a 550 in the math section and 590 in reading the first time around. And the second time he got a better math score of 580, but the reading score slipped to 550. Most schools would calculate the total math/reading score as 1170.

5) There are tons of free ACT and SAT practice test resources. My absolute favorite free test prep site is Number2.com.

Parents are going to love Number2.com's big brother feature: The website will send you a weekly progress report on how your teenager is progressing (or not) and how much time he or she is devoting to the test preparation.

You can learn more about SAT and ACT-optional schools by reading The College Solution.

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