Preparing for College Tests

By Randi St. Denis

“You can’t prepare for the SAT.”  Educational Testing Service, the company that writes the SAT, has worked hard to convince people that they cannot improve their scores by studying for the test. But half a million students disagree and say that you can substantially improve your scores on college tests by using the popular study aids that are available. So how important is it to prepare for college tests?

If you child will be going to college, there is a tremendous financial benefit for high SAT test scores. Students with very high scores receive the most scholarship offers. You can easily achieve this by using a high quality SAT workbook as an additional textbook in your homeschool. Begin in eighth or ninth grade and your student will know the material very well by the end of twelfth. She won’t be worried about taking the test because it will be so familiar. And she will encounter exactly the same types of questions she studied for five years. She will get a great verbal and math education too!

Below are brief descriptions of the SAT and other popular exams.


High school sophomores and juniors take this as a practice test for the SAT.  They will compete for scholarships because at test time, their name will be placed on Student Search Service. Published by Educational Testing Service.

Time, Content and Scores:

Test is 130 minutes. It is made up of multiple choice including either student response math problems. It tests verbal, math and writing scores. Scores range from 20-80. If you add a 0 to your totals, this will suggest your score on the SAT. Example: If you score 79 on the Math part of the PSAT, they you might score 790 on the math part of the SAT.

2. SAT

The SAT 1 is usually taken by juniors and seniors and written by ETS.

Time, Content and Scores:

This test is generally given 7 times a year, usually on a Saturday. Some places give it a couple of times a week. During this test, you may also enroll in Student Search Service. Scores range from 200-800 for each of two sections, verbal and math. You can use a calculator. The questions are multiple choice, except for the 10 student produced response math questions. Test time is 3 hours. Female students score about 40 points lower than male students on the SAT, although females tend to earn higher grades than males, both in high school and college.

3. College Boards Achievement Test (CBAT was renamed to the SAT II’s)

These are subject tests which give you advanced placement (AP) credit. If you pass these tests, you may receive credit for introductory classes. You have to negotiate with the school. You can save a lot of time and money by earning credits for subject material that you already know.

4. CLEP Exams by subject

By taking these tests, you can earn college credits and save on tuition for subject material you already know. Usually, CLEP exams are required to be taken during the first semesters of college.

5. General Educational Development Test (GED)

This test was established after World War II to help returning soldiers. It is administered by a private corporation in Washington, DC.

Time, Content and Scores:

Five small tests given in one day or a series of days. Each test scores from 20-75. You have to average 45 with no individual score below 35. You have to get approximately 1/2 of the questions right to pass. I believe a passing grade on this test is somewhere between the 6th and 7th grade level.

Parts of the GED test are:  Social Studies, Science, Literature and Arts, Mathematics (Arithmetic 50%, Algebra 30%, Geometry 20%, Writing – a 200 word essay).

This is a pass or fail test. Although they will report each score to you, everyone will get the same diploma whether you score a 45 or an 80. There is no score reported after the initial reporting. It is reported as a certificate or diploma.

You may not have to take the GED test. Some colleges will accept you provisionally as a non-matriculating student. After you complete 24 college credits, you can apply to your state GED for a College Credit application. They will look at your college transcript and send you a GED certificate.

Randi St. Denis is an educator, popular homeschool speaker, and a seasoned homeschooling mom. Randi works as a consultant to public, private, and homeschool families; providing teaching expertise and assistance for all types of children. You can visit her website at
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[Note from the Editor: We will report on the ACT, AP, and COMPASS tests in the next issue.]

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