Most high school students understand the pressure placed on them to obtain high grades, leadership positions, and good test scores. These are all, undoubtedly, imperative for getting into the college of your choice. There are also thousands of articles on the internet dedicated to helping students get nearly perfect SAT and ACT scores, but the one thing I haven’t seen too many mention is what happens when students take too many tests.
Taking too many tests is common among high-achieving, college-bound high schoolers. These students (and I was one of them) slave over SAT and ACT prep, schedule their test dates for practice, and obsess over they want to take the test “for real”. Overloading on standardized tests, often times, leads to a hectic few months filled with multiple exam dates and hours of test prep on top of other obligations like hours of homework, extra-curriculars, and work/volunteering.
A lot of testing, depending on the student, can be beneficial or hindering. However, it’s all subjective. Here are some Pros and Cons to taking a lot of standardized college entrance exams!
(I’ll be speaking from personal experience in this article, although I know a lot of you will understand my standardized testing plights and successes as well.)
For those unfamiliar with this term, superscoring is when a college or university combines your highest section scores for the SAT/ACT and creates a new composite score that will be showcased on your application. Admissions offices that practice superscoring do not look at just your offical highest composite score, which may be lower than expected because of one section. This can be beneficial if you took the SAT a few times, and, for example, got an unsatisfactory score on your Math section, retook the exam, and then received an unsatisfactory score on your Reading section.
Superscoring is amazing, and it really allows for some flexibility in the crazy admissions process. Students who take a lot of exams benefit from this even more; they have more of a chance to make up their lower score in one section.
In this case, taking a lot of tests would do nothing but help you! The extra practice can help you pull really high scores, and taking a lot of tests allows you to focus in on a few specific sections that give you trouble.
We’ve been told time and time again that practice makes perfect. SAT and ACT prep websites, books, and articles are filled with the same tips: take practice tests.
They’re not wrong. Practice does, eventually, make perfect, and the more times you take the SAT and ACT, the better at them you’ll be (probably). So, while your Saturdays may be filled to the brim with test prep and the actual testing dates, you are forcing yourself to practice. It is very time consuming to take both the SAT and ACT in one month, or have all of your testing dates during one time-period (i.e. spring of your junior year, fall of senior year). However, you are getting a LOT of SAT and ACT practice.
This, paired alongside with superscoring, can lead to the high test scores most college-bound students work towards.
Potential College Credit
At some colleges, SAT and ACT scores are used as placement for math and language courses. The extra practice from taking these exams multiple times will more likely result in higher scores, and higher scores can mean placement into higher courses once you’re in college. This is invaluable, especially if the college you will be attending makes you take up to a certain level of math and/or language courses. For example, the college I attend requires that each student pass two 200-level language courses to graduate. Some students actually placed out of this requirement or skipped the 100-levels with their SAT IIs and AP exams. Taking a lot of SAT and ACT exams (especially the Subject Tests/SAT IIs) will help your chances of receiving college credit before you even reach college.
Sometimes the extra stress of having two or three SAT Subject tests and the ACT exam in one month is too much for high-schoolers to handle. This can happen, and has happened, to many people; often times it results in lower scores. It seems unrealistic to be able to prepare for the SAT and ACT (or even AP and IB exams, if you were taking them in May) in the same month, on top of homework and other obligations. That’s because it is.
If students spent their time focusing on one exam and prepping for that, their scores would likely be higher than a student who studied for multiple tests in the same amount of time.
Not only that, but if you’re stressed out and sleep deprived from prepping and taking a lot of exams, you won’t perform well at all. Period. A stable mind and a good night of sleep is crucial to optimal performance of standardized tests.
Looking Bad on Applications
It might not be such a good idea to send in 5 SAT scores, 4 ACT scores, and a whole lot of Subject Tests to admission officers. Of course, the more tests the admissions officers have, the more they can superscore, but it may send off a bad first impression.
I remember going through the application process and reading about how admission officers did not necessarily enjoy applicants with too many test scores. Send what you know will make you look best on the application, and that’s it. If a college requires two Subject Test scores and you sent in four subject tests, two of which are lower than the others, it may make you look worse. However, those with lower incomes often times can’t pick and choose which tests they want to send, because it is free to send scores if they opt to do so before they receive their score reports. The way to combat this is by taking less tests, and devoting your time to a few exams, ones you know you will score well on.
Also, if you take the SAT or ACT more than three times, it may seem as though you’re trying to cheat the “system” and receive artificially high scores. Practice on your own, and don’t schedule too many tests!