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It’s never too early to start thinking about college entrance exams. Whether it is the SAT, ACT or another aptitude test, doing your best is vitally important to your admission to the college of your dreams. Not everyone is great at standardized tests, but there are ways to be prepared so that you can elevate your test scores and improve your chances for college admission. Here are a few tips from those in the know.

How Hard Are College Entrance Exams?

If you have gotten passing grades in your courses during your first three years of high school, you should not have a problem passing the SAT or the ACT. Of course, you want to do better than just passing. You should shoot for the highest possible score, and to achieve that, you’ll need some practice. For additional practice and a shot at improved scores, you may want to take the PSAT. You can take it during your sophomore or junior year. A high score on the PSAT during your junior year can qualify you for a National Merit scholarship.

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What Is on an Entrance Exam?

The SAT tests reading and writing, math, and three dimensions of essay writing. Students can also take optional subject tests in English, foreign languages, math, history, and science. The ACT tests English, math, reading, and science.

How Can I Pass an Entrance Exam?

Preparation is key. The better you know the material, the more relaxed you will be on test day. There are in-person prep courses that can do the job as well as print and online materials you can access. These are a matter of choice to fit your learning style and your budget.

During the test, don’t get bogged down. Skip questions you’re unsure about and come back to them later if you have time. Both the SAT and the ACT score only on the number of correct answers; there is no penalty for a wrong guess, so guessing is a good idea if you can.

How Can I Avoid Anxiety on the Day of the Test?

While good preparation is the best long-term strategy, cut down on test day anxiety with a few simple tactics. The night before the test, lay out your clothes, pack a healthy snack and some water, and be sure of the route to the testing center. Then get a good night’s sleep.

A note about clothing: Dress in layers. You may encounter temperature problems that become distracting during the test.

On test day, wear a watch, but not a smartwatch, because that may not be allowed in the testing center. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. Use visualization exercises and deep breathing to calm yourself. Use the front cover of the testing booklet to make notes to yourself.

If you keep these techniques in mind, you won’t need to learn to cast any spells to score well on the test, and there won’t be any howlers arriving in your mail.