Sitting hunched over a desk and bubbling in an answer sheet for hours at a time doesn’t bring out the best in most students, but it can be especially overwhelming if you are a student with a learning disability and/or ADHD. While there is no magic formula to help you get a perfect score, the following tips can help you earn the highest score possible.
- Prepare with your accommodations in mind
This post discusses the revised process of applying for accommodations through the College Board. The ACT has its own process, which students must apply for separately. It’s important to start these processes early, not only to give time to submit additional documentation, if needed, but also so you can incorporate your accommodations into your preparation. For example, during practice tests, allow for the time you’ll receive (usually 150% with extended time), not the standard time. On the other hand, if your accommodations are not approved, it’s extra important to practice under test conditions so you get used to what that feels like.
- Consider which test is best for you
Both the SAT and ACT are accepted by virtually every college. Besides having a different test format, the ACT administers accommodations differently than the SAT. Most notably, students with extended time on the SAT have to wait for the extended time to finish before moving on to the next section. Students taking the ACT are given a block of time that’s 150% of the standard for the entire test and can divide their time between sections as they choose. During breaks, SAT test-takers with extended breaks stay for a fixed time, while the ACT allows a student to end their break early if they wish. For students with 200% extended time or longer, the SAT allows students to take the test over two days at their school, while the ACT permits students to take one section per day over four or five days.
Because approval for accommodations on one test does not transfer to the other, it’s important to decide on the test early, apply for accommodations early, and prepare early.
- Start early
Do you notice a theme? This is good advice for any test taker, but it’s especially important if you have a learning disability and/or ADHD. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your school work during the year, consider preparing over the summer, possibly before junior year. Allow time to take the official test two or three times if you need to.
- Master the content first, strategies second
While test strategies can be helpful, it’s most important to possess the reading comprehension, math, grammar, and writing skills required on the test. This will help you in school and college as well as with test preparation. You may have missed some important concepts during class that a private tutor can help you remediate.
- During preparation, find the methods that works best for you . . .
Most students, especially those with a learning disability, learn best using multiple modalities. For example, online videos, many of them free, can help reinforce math concepts. Format your study plan to fit your needs. If you struggle with focus, several 20-30 minute study sessions, plus a quick review before going to bed, will be more effective than trying to cram everything into one day per week.
- . . . but also practice with the actual test format
Unfortunately, as much as you might benefit from math videos and twenty minute sessions, when you sit down to take the test you’ll be using a number two pencil and sitting for hours, just like everyone else. So it’s important to get your mind and body adjusted to the process by taking practice tests under simulated test conditions.
- Work to improve your strengths as well as your weaknesses
While your focus should be on your weaker areas, don’t abandon your highest-scoring section. Improving your highest score can make your application stand out and help make up for your lower-scoring sections.
- Remember that your test score is just a test score
You are looking for the college that is the best fit for you, and that school will consider everything that’s wonderful about you, not just one number. So do your best to relax and have confidence in yourself when you sit down to the take the test.
That said, standardized tests continue to be important to the college admissions process, and a good score can only help your application. L.A. Tutors can help you make an individualized study plan, find you the right resources, and provide instruction to fit your needs that will help you achieve the highest score possible.