Standardized Testing + Junior Year: Everything You Need To Know (2023)

Standardized Testing + Junior Year: Everything You Need To Know (1)

In this article, admissions expert Finn covers standardized testing as well as test prep strategies. For more help with building a college admissions strategy and guidance on the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Like much of the college admissions process, standardized testing can be confusing and hard to navigate. Is the SAT or ACT better? What is the College Board? Are SAT Subject Tests still happening? If you’re in your Junior year of high school, it’s a perfect time to start thinking about the world of standardized testing. Here at, we’ve taken a test or two and have some helpful tips to get you started on your testing journey!

Standardized Testing Overview

For Juniors, there are a few key tests that you will need to think about. These tests are the SAT, the ACT, the SAT Subject tests, the AP Exams, and the IB Exams, as well as the TOEFL if English is your second language.


The SAT (formerly “Scholastic Assessment Test”) is the most famous of the standardized tests. It is a 3 hour long test, with 400 being the lowest score and 1600 being the highest. It consists of four main sections: the Reading Test, the Writing and Language Test, the Math Test – Calculator, and the Math Test – No Calculator. Though the number of questions varies per portion, the Reading/Writing and the Math sections each equal 800 points, totaling 1600. Like many other College tests and processes, the SAT is owned and managed by the College Board.


The ACT, short for American College Testing, is an alternative assessment test serving a similar purpose as the SAT. Unlike the SAT, the ACT focuses on English, Math, Reading, and Science, the latter being one of major differences from the SAT. The ACT is graded on a scale from 1 to 36. Additionally, the average time per question on the ACT is between 30 seconds and one minute depending on the section. On the SAT, however, students have an average of 1 minute and 10 seconds per question – more time than any section of the ACT.

Choosing between SAT and ACT

When choosing between the SAT and the ACT, it’s important to consider both the timing and the subjects. The SAT gives students more time to think, but the questions may take more time than the ACT questions. Unlike the SAT, the ACT also has a science section, not to mention some slight differences in the types of math covered.

Without having encountered either test, however, it’s difficult to know which will suit you better—some students take both. At, we recommend that you do a practice run of both tests before deciding which to take.

Test-optional admissions

Recently, there has been a movement towards test-optional admissions. Certain colleges no longer require SAT or ACT scores for admission. With the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many schools have adopted some version of such a policy, including MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. Policies like these are exciting for many—for some, they can make it seem easier to get into college. However, they also make the qualitative aspects of your application that much more important.

The SAT Subject Tests and Essays are going away

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the College Board has announced that they will no longer offer the SAT Subject Tests or SAT with Essay after June of 2021. Previously, students could take SAT Subject Tests, which were multiple-choice tests focusing on a single subject. Likewise, students could take an additional essay after their SAT which was then graded and included in their score.

Luckily, you will not need to worry about such things, since these tests will no longer be expected. The college application process is demanding, and the College Board recognizes that, stating, “As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them. We’re making some changes to reduce demands on students.”

AP Exams

AP exams, or Advanced Placement exams, are tests which typically come at the end of an academic year. They go hand-in-hand with Advanced Placement classes, although students do not need to have taken an AP class in order to take an AP test and vice versa (although certain schools may require them). That being said, we would recommend that students take an AP course in conjunction with an AP exam—self-studying for AP Exams can be quite difficult. These tests vary depending on the subject, so be sure to check the official guidelines to figure out what your test will look like.

IB Exams

Similar to AP exams, there are class-based exams known as IB (International Baccalaureate) Exams, which also cover specific topics. IB Exams are taken as part of a diploma program at a student’s high school. Check with your guidance counselor to figure out if you can participate in an IB program and what that may look like. In the admissions process, selecting a rigorous course load is just as important as your GPA, so consider taking AP and IB classes if your school offers them.

When to take the SAT or ACT

The SAT and ACT tests take place on certain standardized testing days. You can find more info on the dates for testing here: SAT [Also includes links to register for tests] and ACT [Registration link].

We recommend that students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year and take it one to two more times before applying to college, depending on your score. If you are satisfied with your score, congratulations! You don’t need to take the SAT or ACT anymore!

You can look up the average scores for your dream schools to get an idea of what score you might be satisfied with—keep in mind, though, that there is often much deviation from that listed average. Although important, you are more than your SAT or ACT score, so it’s never productive to obsess over it at the end of the day.

If you are not satisfied with your SAT or ACT score, we recommend studying more (see below) and then retaking the test when you think you’re ready. Hopefully, at this point, you’ll see some kind of improvement. If you see a big improvement from score one to score two but still aren’t satisfied, take the test a third time!

If, on the other hand, you don’t see a jump in score, chances are the third sitting for the SAT or ACT will not be helpful. Taking the SAT or ACT more than 3 times between junior year and applying to college usually isn’t helpful either—the score you get after three tries is often the best score you’ll be able to achieve through self-studying.

Standardized Testing + Junior Year: Everything You Need To Know (2)

Standardized Testing Strategies

Practice, practice, practice!

The best way to study for any standardized test is to take practice tests. The one thing that consistently shows up with students who succeed on standardized tests is the number of practice tests they have taken. This trend is consistent across countries and across tests.

Some of the best resources you’ll find are Khan Academy for the SAT and Barron’s test prep books. Khan Academy partnered with the College Board to create an online platform that creates responsive practice tests that show you where you could use improvement.

If you’d prefer a pen-and-paper option, Barron’s test prep has a number of books available on the SAT and ACT as well as many AP courses. Both Khan Academy and Barron’s practice tests tend to skew slightly more difficult than the actual test, so you’ll be well prepared on the actual testing day.

Emulate the Environment

To that end, when studying for the SAT, emulate the testing environment that you’ll find yourself in on testing day. The more familiar you are with the actual settings of the test, the better you’ll perform. That means no music, no loud environments, time yourself appropriately, no eating, or getting up, etc. If you know that you will take tests in your school’s auditorium with a really loud fan (or equivalent), find something that can imitate that potential distraction. You want to be as well acclimated to the test and testing conditions as possible so that test day feels like a breeze.

Study smarter and check yourself

When completing practice tests, review your results carefully. Be sure to review both what you got wrong and what you got right. You want to know what you got wrong so that you can improve your score in the future, but it’s important to know what you did correctly once so you can recreate that success. By reviewing your correct answers, you confirm your knowledge and gain a more stable understanding of the topic at hand.

If you continue to struggle with practice tests or real tests, there are a few strategies that may help you improve your scores:

First of all, if you know what specific problems trip you up, talk to a teacher of that subject about the problem. Your teachers are likely willing to help explain the problem to you, and they might just help you bump up your score to where you need it to be.

I remember as a junior running through the halls of my school in a crazed frenzy because I didn’t know how mathematical series worked. Finally, one of the math teachers helped me out and made me feel more confident in my ability to complete the SAT accurately.

Secondly, take a Method Test Prep course in either the SAT or ACT. Method’s online courses feature 25 hours of preparation for both the SAT and the ACT, and come with audio, video, quizzes, explanations, and a vocabulary builder! By registering with, you get free access to the Method Test Prep self-guided course.

Standardized Testing: Final Thoughts

Standardized testing can be a difficult time for everyone. When I was a junior, I took the AP Language and Composition exam, and I mixed up the minute hand and the hour hand. Upon discovering that I had only 5 minutes left in my exam as opposed to the 25 I thought I had, I filled out “B” for the final 15 multiple choice questions. It was so stressful and disheartening, but in situations like those, you kind of have to laugh. And, hey, I still got into Harvard despite not knowing how to read a clock at 17 years old.

Finally, I leave you with two rather unusual tips. The first is chewing gum. Chew a certain flavor of gum when you study for a standardized test, and chew the same kind of gum when you take the actual exam. For some reason, students do better when they have an olfactory reinforcement when they go from studying to test-taking. Second, find a ritual that you can repeat before each exam. Before I took any standardized test or exam, I would eat salmon on the basis that it was “brain food.” Although the salmon itself was likely not helping me do any better on my test, I really appreciated having a testing ritual that helped me feel grounded.

This article on standardized testing was written by Finn Bamber, Harvard ‘22. If you want to get help with your college applications from Finn or other Admissions Experts, register with today.


What are the standardized exams for juniors? ›

Standardized Testing Overview. For Juniors, there are a few key tests that you will need to think about. These tests are the SAT, the ACT, the SAT Subject tests, the AP Exams, and the IB Exams, as well as the TOEFL if English is your second language.

How do you answer standardized tests? ›

9 Helpful Standardized Testing Tips
  1. Read through the full question carefully. ...
  2. Answer the Easiest Questions First. ...
  3. Answer the Question BEFORE Reading the Answers Provided. ...
  4. Eliminate the Obviously Wrong Choices. ...
  5. Consider ALL The Answer Choices Before Marking Your Final Answer. ...
  6. Carefully Read Those Passage Introductions.
Jan 17, 2023

What are some questions on standardized testing? ›

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Standardized Testing
  • Is it better to take the SAT or the ACT? ...
  • What does test-optional actually mean? ...
  • So why should I still take the ACT or SAT if most schools are remaining test-optional for 2022 and even 2023? ...
  • What are the major differences between the ACT and the SAT?
  • Length.

What is the hardest standardized test in the US? ›

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

Owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), GRE is among the world's most difficult exams. The exam is administered both online and in person. As a standardized test, GRE measures the overall academic readiness of students who want to attend graduate school.

What is the easiest standardized test? ›

California Achievement Test (CAT)

There are not as many tests included in the CAT, so it can be completed in less time for students to complete. It is also considered to be the easiest among the three tests and can be obtained from several online sources.

What should I do the night before a standardized test? ›

What to do the night before an exam
  1. Stick to your routine. ...
  2. Get a good night's sleep. ...
  3. Have a good meal. ...
  4. Hydrate for the next day. ...
  5. Fit in some cardio. ...
  6. Get organised. ...
  7. Don't stress yourself out.
Sep 6, 2022

How do you overcome standardized test anxiety? ›

Here are some strategies that may help reduce your test anxiety:
  1. Learn how to study efficiently. ...
  2. Study early and in similar places. ...
  3. Establish a consistent pretest routine. ...
  4. Talk to your teacher. ...
  5. Learn relaxation techniques. ...
  6. Don't forget to eat and drink. ...
  7. Get some exercise. ...
  8. Get plenty of sleep.

What is the most common answer on a standardized test? ›

In true-false tests, true (T) answers are more common than false (F): according to Poundstone's analysis, on an average, 56% answers are T and 44% F. It's not hard to see why.

How do you answer a multiple-choice if you dont know the answer? ›

Don't waste your time on a question if you don't know what the answer is. Skip the question and come back to it later. Give your brain more time to think about that question as you tackle other problems. Even if you don't know an answer, make an educated guess.

What to do if you don't know the answer in an exam? ›

As you take the test, if you don't know an answer, don't obsess over it. Instead, answer the best way you can or skip over the question and come back to it after you've answered other questions. Relax. If you're so nervous that you blank out, you might need a mini-break.

What are the 3 types of standardized tests? ›

16.2: Types of standardized tests
  • Achievement tests.
  • Diagnostic tests.
  • Aptitude tests.
  • High-stakes testing by states.
Feb 27, 2021

What are the basics of standardized testing? ›

In a standardized test, every student responds to the same questions (or questions from same question bank), under the exact same set of conditions. They are often made up of multiple-choice questions and are given on paper or (more commonly these days) on a computer.

How do you prepare for standardized tests? ›

  1. Take practice tests. ...
  2. Promote a positive attitude. ...
  3. Discuss what to do if you finish early. ...
  4. Eat well, exercise and rest. ...
  5. Plan enjoyable and relaxing activities.

Which is the No 1 toughest exam in the world? ›

Top 10 Hardest Exams in the World
  • Gaokao Exam in China.
  • IIT JEE Advanced.
  • Civil Services Exam (CSE)
  • GATE.
  • GRE.
  • Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.
  • ICAI CA Exams.
  • CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)
Feb 17, 2023

What is the 2nd toughest exam in the world? ›

Recent Update: IIT-JEE, UPSC CSE, and GATE are among the world's most difficult exams. In the ranking, the IIT JEE test is ranked first in India and second in the globe.

What state has the lowest standardized test scores? ›

Average SAT Scores by State
  • Wisconsin and Wyoming had the highest average total SAT scores, with mean scores of 1252 and 1244, respectively.
  • West Virginia and Oklahoma had the lowest average total SAT scores, with mean scores of 938 and 951, respectively.
Feb 8, 2023

Which students tend to have the lowest scores on standardized tests? ›

Year after year, Latino and African American students consistently have lower average state standardized test scores than white and Asian students. Latino and African American students also tend to have worse outcomes on other academic performance measures, such as attendance and suspension rates.

What are the two most common standardized tests in America? ›

Why Take Standardized Tests? With a rising number of students applying to both community colleges and universities, most schools are now requiring that all applicants complete standardized tests. The most popular standardized tests include assessments such as the SAT or the ACT.

What is a good score on a standardized test? ›

Looking at the bell curve you can see the mean or average is 100 like our normed standardized bell curve. As you can see, 130 and up is considered Gifted, 115-129 is High intelligence, 85-114 is considered in the average range, 70-84 is borderline, and 69 and lower is extremely low IQ.

What is the best time of day to take a standardized test? ›

Scientists Reveal The Best Time Of Day To Take An Exam

Every hour after 8 a.m. that an exam is taken is equivalent to 10 missed days of school, a new study finds. Does your mind feel more “fresh” in the morning? That's because early in the day, you're at the height of your cognitive abilities.

What not to do before an exam? ›

10 Things You Should Never Do A Day Before Exams
  1. 10 Things You Should Never Do A Day Before Exams. Studying a new topic or new book on the last day. Procrastinating things. ...
  2. Getting disturbed by the studying approach of another student. Not eating properly or eating unhealthy food. Being over-caffeinated.
Mar 25, 2023

What is the best day of the week to take a standardized test? ›

You're likely not fatigued from a week's worth of meetings, challenges, projects run astray, or other perils of modern office life. Tuesdays also work well because they follow Monday. Monday evenings may be the most important element in making Tuesday the best day for taking a certification exam.

How can I sharpen my mind before an exam? ›

7 tips to sharpen your mind for exams
  1. Practice mindfulness. ...
  2. Destroy the distractions. ...
  3. If you don't snooze, you lose. ...
  4. A fit body helps a fit mind. ...
  5. Treat yo'self (to something healthy, of course) ...
  6. Pretty up the place. ...
  7. Don't be too hard on yourself!
Oct 27, 2016

Does showering before an exam help? ›

It was also found that showering leads to better sleep and lower stress. These benefits are likely to improve exam performance. Additionally, there are other benefits including a productivity boost from a daily discipline like this.

How many times can you take a standardized test? ›

Knowing what to take to the SAT will help for each test taken. In fact, not only can students take the test again and again, students can also take the test as often as they want. While some other standardized college admissions tests require a waiting period, often a number of months, the SAT has no such requirement.

What are 4 ways to reduce test anxiety? ›

4 Strategies to Help Reduce Test Anxiety
  • Put the Test in Perspective. The first thing to do is to help your child put the test they are about to take in perspective. ...
  • Name the Fear. ...
  • Practice Instead of Study. ...
  • Create a Calm Down Plan for Test Anxiety.

How can I help my child with anxiety about standardized tests? ›

9 tips for helping grade-schoolers cope with test anxiety
  1. Ask what's making your child feel nervous. ...
  2. Give a sneak peek at test formats. ...
  3. Help prepare little by little. ...
  4. Find study methods that are comfortable. ...
  5. Work on some basic strategies. ...
  6. Boost your child's confidence. ...
  7. Remind your child of support that's available.

How many students have anxiety from standardized testing? ›

Test anxiety is a common occurrence in classrooms, affecting the performance of students from kindergarten through college, as well as adults who must take job- related exams. Estimates are that between 40 and 60% of students have significant test anxiety that interferes with their performing up to their capability.

Is C usually the correct answer? ›

Myth 2: C is the best guess letter and is right more often than any other letter. C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.

Why is C always the answer? ›

The idea that C is the best answer to choose when guess-answering a question on a multiple choice test rests on the premise that ACT answer choices are not truly randomized. In other words, the implication is that answer choice C is correct more often than any other answer choice.

What is the best answer choice to guess? ›

Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.

What is the most common multiple-choice question answer? ›

True or False

The “True” or “False” questions are some of the most commonly used multiple-choice questions. It includes the stem (question or statement) and two answer options – True and False.

How do you outsmart multiple-choice questions? ›

How to ace multiple choice tests
  1. Read very carefully. Take the time to carefully read each question and answer choice. ...
  2. Come up with your own answer. ...
  3. Look for common types of wrong answers. ...
  4. Eliminate answers in two rounds. ...
  5. Do not obsess over your choices. ...
  6. Manage your time. ...
  7. Answer every question.
Nov 15, 2022

What is the best strategy for guessing multiple-choice? ›

Guessing Strategies

Use the wording of the question or answer as a clue to eliminate possibilities. Choose the most precise answer. Avoid answers that seem out of context. Choose a numerical answer from the middle of the range, not from either extreme.

What should I do 5 minutes before a test? ›

Make a list of important details. Depending on the subject, make a quick list of important dates, characters, plot points, or formulae. Anything that you can take from memory will be a helpful review in five minutes.

How do you pass an exam you did not study for? ›

How to Pass an Exam Without Studying
  1. Reading and Understanding the Exam.
  2. Answering Difficult Questions on the Exam.
  3. Tackling Multiple Choice Questions.
  4. Choosing the Best Answer on True/False Sections.
  5. Improving Your Mental State for the Exam.

How do you answer exam questions quickly? ›

  1. Read through the entire exam to plan an overall strategy. ...
  2. Look at each exam question to identify key words. ...
  3. Think about what kind of writing the key word or words call for. ...
  4. Make notes to yourself of the points you want to cover in the response. ...
  5. Begin your response by echoing the question.

What are the two most important characteristics of a standardized test? ›

The characteristics of standardised test are as follows:
  • Validity − The test has to be devised to measure what it claims to measure in order to be held as valid and usable.
  • Reliability − This refers to the consistency of scores obtainedby an individual on the same test on two different occasions.

What is the biggest test in high school? ›

SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)

How do you pass a standardized test? ›

9 Helpful Standardized Testing Tips
  1. Read through the full question carefully. ...
  2. Answer the Easiest Questions First. ...
  3. Answer the Question BEFORE Reading the Answers Provided. ...
  4. Eliminate the Obviously Wrong Choices. ...
  5. Consider ALL The Answer Choices Before Marking Your Final Answer. ...
  6. Carefully Read Those Passage Introductions.
Jan 17, 2023

What type of questions are on standardized tests? ›

A standardized test can be composed of multiple-choice questions, true-false questions, essay questions, authentic assessments, or nearly any other form of assessment.

What are the two main types of standardized tests? ›

Standardized tests, when used appropriately and for the right reasons, can adequately determine a student's present level of strengths and weaknesses and his or her aptitude for certain abilities. There are two basic types of achievement assessments: norm-referenced and criterion referenced.

What is the hardest standardized test? ›

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

Owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), GRE is among the world's most difficult exams. The exam is administered both online and in person. As a standardized test, GRE measures the overall academic readiness of students who want to attend graduate school.

What is the Standardised exam for high school juniors USA? ›

Some standardized tests taken in high school are:
  • ACT (American College Testing)
  • SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)
  • AP (Advanced Placement) exams.
  • PERT (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test)
  • PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test)
May 27, 2021

What test do juniors take in Texas? ›

All public school students in Texas, grades 3–12, take STAAR tests. What? STAAR is the state's testing program and is based on state curriculum standards in core subjects including reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Do juniors take the Staar test? ›

Regardless of enrolled grade level, students should take STAAR EOC assessments (Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology, and U.S. History) as they are completing the corresponding courses since these assessments are required for high school graduation based on TEC §39.025.

What is standardized test for high school students? ›

A standardized test is a method of assessment built on the principle of consistency: all test takers are required to answer the same questions and all answers are graded in the same, predetermined way.

What typically the best strategy to use when taking a test? ›

Test-Taking Tips
  • First, be sure you've studied properly. ...
  • Get enough sleep the night before the test. ...
  • Listen closely to any instructions. ...
  • Read the test through first. ...
  • Focus on addressing each question individually. ...
  • Relax. ...
  • Finished already?

What age is Grade 11 in America? ›

School Grade Placement
Grade 9Age 14 – 15Sept 2007 – Aug 2008
Grade 10Age 15 – 16Sept 2006 – Aug 2007
Grade 11Age 16 – 17Sept 2005 – Aug 2006
Grade 12Age 17 – 18Sept 2004 – Aug 2005
13 more rows

Do juniors have SATs? ›

Like the ACT, the SAT tests your math, English grammar, and reading comprehension skills. But when do you take the SAT? Most students take it their junior or senior year of high school — sometimes both!

What STAAR test are required for 11th grade? ›

The STAAR tests taken in 11th grade are called Exit Level STAAR. Students must pass the Exit Level STAAR in English language arts, math, science, and social studies in order to graduate. Students who do not pass the eleventh grade Exit Level STAAR have multiple chances to retake the test(s).

What test do colleges look at? ›

Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not prefer one test over the other. Neither the SAT nor the ACT is harder than the other. Different students tend to do better on one test over the other.

What happens if you fail the STAAR test but pass the class? ›

If a student fails the Reading and/or Math STAAR Tests, s/he given two additional opportunities to pass and be promoted to the next year's grade. Districts may decide to give students an alternative assessment on the third try. Students cannot be promoted to the next grade without passing the alternative assessment.

What grade is failing for STAAR? ›

The students need a minimum of 25% to 35% in order to pass the tests.

What percentage of kids fail the STAAR test? ›

Last year's STAAR results detailed significant learning loss, with roughly 37% of students failing math tests and 33% failing reading exams.

Can parents opt-out of STAAR testing in Texas? ›

If a parent submits an opt-out letter, the child can attend school and not take STAAR without missing school. However, the blank test will be marked as scored even though the child did not take the STAAR assessment.

Can you retake standardized test? ›

While one or two retakes is common, retaking the test over and over again can weaken your application, especially if your scores don't go up.


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