Fact: some people are better test takers than others. For some, standardized tests are no sweat, but for others, they are a literal nightmare. And unfortunately for the second group of people, standardized tests are wildly used in the college admissions process. Also sometimes unfortunately, colleges publish their average scores, giving students an area to aim for if they want to attend that institution. Even though these ranges are averages–there are people with scores below attending the school as well as people with score above–people often you them as a goal.
So what do you do if your scores just don’t quite reach the point you want them to be at?
1. Assess the Situation
Whether you should be concerned about not quite reaching the average of the school you are looking at depends on how far away from that average you are. If you are only a few points off, say a 25 on the ACT when the school’s average is 28-32, the situation is not as horrible as you may be thinking. If your scores are no where near that average, though, you may want to start considering other options. That’s not to say you should completely rule out the school, but you should also make sure you aren’t dependent–as even if you are in the range, it is no guarantee of acceptance.
2. Don’t Retake a Hundred Times, but DO Superscore
A lot of schools superscore standardized tests. This means they look at all the times you have taken the test, and use the highest score of each section across all of them to create a new composite score. So, while your highest composite may be 25, with superscoring, it could be something like 27! However, not all schools do this, so look it up before relying on this method. If you find out even with superscoring your scores aren’t quite where you want them, try to only focus on the problem section. For example, if your English score is where you want it, but your Math score is suffering, don’t work more on your English to offset the Math score, actually work to improve the Math one. Trying to improve all of the scores at once may not necessarily work if testing isn’t your strong suit, but focusing on one may be helpful. However, with all of the focus, if you can’t get the score you want, don’t beat yourself up by taking the test as many times as possible.
3. Try a Different Test
Are your scores not high enough on the ACT? Try the SAT! The two test are different, so one may be better suited for you. One isn’t necessarily easier than the other overall, but one may be easier for your specific test taking strengths.
4. Focus on Other Areas of Your Application
So your scores aren’t quite high enough, but that doesn’t mean the rest of application can’t be top notch! Take some extra time on those essays and work on perfecting you resume and improving your grades. Channel all of the energy you have been using to stress out over not having the test scores you wanted to blow away the admissions officers with every other aspect of your application. Most colleges take a holistic approach to the application process, meaning that no part of your application automatically rules you out for admissions, everything is considered.
5. Look at Schools that Don’t Require Scores
If you are still worried about your test scores not looking great, or even are considered before the test that you won’t get the score you want, consider schools that don’t require testing. There are a lot of great universities that don’t require you to submit test scores–a great solution for people who are worried about their scores reflecting badly on their application.
When you get your scores back and aren’t satisfied, it can be a huge disappointment. However, it is not the end of your college ambitions. There are always other options, whether they be different colleges or different strategies. But no matter what, don’t get discouraged!