Practice Tests help evaluate subject matter proficiency, hone test-taking strategies and overcome exam day blues

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Practice makes perfect. Invariably, all the athletes practice their skills, review their performance, re-strategist and practice again till they reach near perfection. College test preparation is no different.

The general evaluation tests like SAT, ACT, PERT, HSPT, etc. assess the cumulative knowledge gained over 12-14 years of (K-12) school life. These third-party administered tests try to cut bias that is usually associated with in-house exams, normalize grade-level proficiency, thus provide a level playing field for all the applicants. Regular schools are not equipped to prepare the students to take these tests that are designed to evaluate the subject matter proficiency in a ridiculously limited time. Needless to say, that there is no magic bullet that one can swallow to ace these tests. But there is a time-tested way to champion these tests, that is practice.

There are countless avenues to take practice tests. However, all of them may not provide full service. Some tests will give you the answer keys, which though helpful, may not give a complete picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, you are bound to do well in the standardized tests if you take proctored practice tests with institutions that provide a detailed report, customized feedback, and solutions to do better in the official tests.

For those who decide to take the practice tests in the privacy of their home, below are a few suggestions that may help to get better results. Many of these tips apply to official test day as well.

Enlist family support: Discuss your test-taking plans with your family and enlist their support. Specifically request them to reduce television, loud music, lawn mowers, or any other avoidable distractions. Having your room is ideal. For those who share living space hang a sign - “test taking in progress, do not disturb.”

Have six to eight hours of sleep: Most of these standardized tests are administered at 8:00 AM on a Saturday. As the exam date approaches, you might be tempted far that last minute cramming. Since there is no magic bullet solution to tackle these standardized tests, there is nothing to cram for these exams as well. Instead, you would benefit from; therefore, the day before the exam stay away from any screen time and go to bed early. Plan to sleep for seven to eight hours, get up soon the next day refreshed and ready for the exam. Discuss your test-taking plans with your family and enlist their support. Specifically request them to reduce television, loud music, lawn mowers, or any other avoidable distractions. Having your room is ideal. For those who share living space hang a sign - “test taking in progress, do not disturb.”


Have a healthy breakfast before the test: Several of the standardized tests are three hours long, and they start early morning. Therefore, on the exam day, take a healthy, filling breakfast, bring along a bottle of water and pre-packed snacks to quell hunger pangs. You can be considerate to your fellow test takers by choosing meals that are not messy and will not disturb the fellow test takers. For example, avoid taking to the testing hall: chips that produce cracking sound, foods that contain nuts that may be allergic to other test takers, strong-smelling food such as salmon, etc.

No bio breaks: Several of the standardized tests are three hours long, with no bio breaks and they start early morning. East test administration sets their own policies that regulate bio breaks, special needs etc. The local test center managers have little leeway for any deviations. However, it is prudent to check with your specific test center their policies. Any bio break will be within your test time, and you will lose precious time. Request for special exemptions from the test administrators for any conditions that warrants deviations from the norm.


Put away your phone:

Do not take any electronic devices to the test center: To the official testing center, you may not bring any electronics including smartphones, smartwatches, computers, headphones, or any other countless number of electronic devices. Accidentally, if you bring any of them to the testing center, you must leave the min a locker or outside the test hall unguarded. So, be smart. Leave your them at home, car or with your parents and do not to take any prohibited items to the testing hall. During the practice test, switch off (not in airplane or vibration mode) and keep away all your electronic distractions.

Time keeping:

Many students feel overwhelmed by the time pressure on the actual exam. The standardized tests have individually timed multiple sections that extend up to three hours.

Time gained in one section cannot be rolled over to the next part. Other than the identification documents, you may not be allowed to bring along any papers to the testing hall. The test center will regularly alert you the time. However, it is wise to bring a barebone analog clock to the testing hall. Therefore, as soon as you are given, write down the section timings on the test booklet. Below is the sample timing sheet for an SAT test. If you are comfortable, this simple note will help you keep track of time. So be prudent in watching and keeping pace on each section.


                                           Start Time           End Time             Duration

Section 1                              08:00 AM             09:05 AM             65 min

Section 2                              09:05 AM             09:40 AM             35 min

Section 3                              09:40 AM             10:05 AM             25 min

Section 4                              10:05 AM             11:00 AM             55 min  

Essay (optional)                    11:00 AM             11:50 AM             50 min

Pencils and erasers: Bring several sharpened HP pencils and a manual sharpener, and a smudge-free eraser. You do not want hunting for pens or to sharpen them during testing. These are all avoidable distractions. It is annoying, distracting and wastes time.

Officially permitted calculators: Not all calculators are created equal. The test administration had specified a list of models that may be allowed to be used in the test center. Review the list and take only the officially permitted brand and model. Use them just for permitted sections of the test. Your entire tests may be invalidated if you inadvertently use the calculator in non-calculator part.

Take the test in one sitting: Many of the standardized tests are three hours long and come in multiple sections. There are no big breaks, and they start early morning. It is too difficult to be focused on the exam for such a long time. With the multiple distinctly timed sections, taking a break looks enticing. But, do yourself a favor. Take this practice test seriously, complete it in a single sitting and do not make any breaks in between. In retrospect, you will find these three hours are worth the time. So, use this practice test to build up endurance.


Review the answers: However daunting it may look, with proper practice, you might find time to review some of the sections. The practice tests give you an opportunity to discuss the results and identify the weak points. Even with the practice tests, often you may need expert assistance to determine your strength and weaknesses. At FPLA we offer a time-tested test preparation program. With the practice tests, we have tools to prepare a detailed analysis report, which in turn will help review the concepts that you were not clear about.

Once you have reviewed and clarified your doubts, retake the practice test. You do not want to repeat the same mistakes. Remember, retaking the test without any strategic review will yield the same result. Therefore, there is no point repeating the practice test without a thorough investigation and addressing the weak points. 

You can also take a look at the Tips to help your child learn to like reading.

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