Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

The myths surrounding standardized testing

A+student+stresses+over+standardized+tests
Natalie Hosto
A student stresses over standardized tests

The rustle of papers and the tap tap tap of the pencils on desks are the only sounds on a Saturday morning at KHS. The students slump in their chairs as they methodically fill in the bubbles on their scantron, the words and numbers appearing more like ancient symbols than concrete concepts. In their haste they leave bubbles blank for fear of being penalized, mix up addition with subtraction, and they couldn’t recall basic concepts: a consequence from neglecting to study. ‘It doesn’t matter anyway,’ they think as they leave the testing room. ‘I’m not going to earn a scholarship.’ These are just some of the many misconceptions surrounding the ACT and SAT, and every year thousands of students fall for their traps. If you want to succeed on these tests, do not fall victim to these myths.

Myth 1: Colleges care which test you take

I have heard many Kirkwood students say “I’m taking the ACT because Mizzou favors it more.” However, this could not be further from the truth. According to the Princeton Review both tests are equally weighted in scale and colleges do not prefer one over the other. This opens up many opportunities, as it allows students the choice between taking the paper-pencil ACT or the digital SAT without any complications.

Myth 2: It is better to leave a question blank if you don’t know it

While this may have been a sound statement eight years ago, it certainly isn’t now. You may have heard from an older sibling that you shouldn’t guess on the SAT because there is a penalty for guessing. This practice, however, was repealed in 2016 because it discouraged students from trying their best. Neither test has a guessing penalty, but that doesn’t mean you should guess randomly either. If you don’t know the answer to a question, make an educated guess. However, if you are about to run out of time on a section and you still have several questions left, it’s best to choose a single letter for every answer — such as all A’s or all B’s — to increase your chances of achieving a higher score.

Myth 3: It is impossible to prepare for standardized tests

No, the ACT and SAT are not IQ tests, and they are not a measure of how smart you are. They are a measure of how well you can take a standardized test. With the way the questions are worded, it may seem like you are being tested for Mensa. In reality, they are built to evaluate your skill level on specific topics. Studying for the ACT and SAT is all about recognizing the strategies and common themes in each section. For example, the English section will always test students on concepts like FANBOYS, the placement of a semicolon vs. a colon, and the difference between who vs. whom. If you know what to look for in each section – and you study the material – you will definitely succeed on test day.

countdown to the April ACT
Good Luck!
countdown to the May SAT
Good Luck!

Myth 4: My test score is impossible to raise

If you were dissatisfied with your score from a previous test, don’t lose hope. You may feel defeated at the moment, but there are plenty of ways to get better results. For sophomores taking the tests next year, Kirkwood offers a free ACT prep course that prepares you for the infamous exam. If you would rather go the digital route, Khan Academy offers a free SAT course that tracks your skill progress, complete with beginner, proficient, and advanced levels for all subjects so you can practice with questions that are tailored to your expertise. 

Myth 5: “Test-Optional” means that colleges don’t care about my standardized test score 

I saved the worst offender for last. In the age of test-optional admissions, many students simply opt out of taking either test due to the false belief that it will not be helpful to their application. For the vast majority of people, however, this is a terrible idea. Studies have shown that standardized test scores are a better indicator of how well you will do in college than your GPA, so submitting them gives colleges confirmation that you are committed to academics. These tests also open up many scholarship opportunities. For example, a 28 on the ACT (1300-1320 on the SAT) can solidly land you $5000 in Mizzou tuition, provided your GPA is high enough. The bottom line is that colleges are definitely looking for standardized test scores to boost your resume.  

If you are still feeling overwhelmed, just remember that you are so much more than your test score. Your standardized test score does not define you as a person, and there are plenty of opportunities to show that to colleges throughout high school. Joining a sport, playing an instrument, and your hobbies all help you stand out. You’ve got this and good luck!

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About the Contributors
Avery Haden, news writer
She/Her Hobbies and Interests: reading, writing, running, hiking Favorite song: In My Mind by Lyn LapidIn Favorite Quote: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Natalie Hosto, artist
She/Her Hobbies and Interests: drawing Favorite movie: Good Morning, Vietnam Favorite Quote: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain
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