Two words have the power to strike fear into the heart of every student, make palms sweat and brows crease: "standardized tests."
Together, they comprise an alphabet soup, from the SAT and ACT to the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT and TOEFL. Individually, they seem like nerve-wracking implements of torture.
Despite all the controversy they have generated, standardized tests are still a primary factor in the admissions game. Fortunately, there are a number of test preparation resources available.
1. Figure out what test to take.
2. Visit the home page of the organization that administers it.
The following links can help you in your search:
The SAT still reigns as the primary college admission test, and is required by most colleges and universities. It is administered by The College Board, a non-profit educational association. From this page, you can register for the test, check dates, apply for Advanced Placement Tests and work on a number of other college-related chores.
The ACT Assessment Test is the other primary college entrance exam. At this site you are able to register for the test and browse through sample questions and other test-related materials.
The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) are the standard exams used by graduate programs to determine admissions for prospective students.
The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is utilized by law schools for the same purpose, to help determine admissions decisions. Its medical school equivalent is the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).
Test preparation is a highly lucrative enterprise. As a result, most programs cost a considerable amount of money. With a little digging, it is possible to find helpful hints, practice questions and tests for free.
Sites that provide free GRE and GMAT sample tests and other helpful information include Petersons.com (which also provides free Testprep software for the LSAT and MCAT) and 800score.com.
A few practice SAT questions are available at the Resource Center for the SAT I. However, most programs for the SAT and ACT are only available for sale. They can cost anywhere from $30 to several hundred dollars depending on whether you select software or classroom instruction.
Trying to help your child? Visit FamilyEducation.com's Parent's Guide to Standardized Tests. The site offers basic information on standardized tests, last-minute tips ("easing pre-test jitters," etc.) and activities designed to improve test-taking skills.
In the end, it is nearly impossible to avoid standardized tests while pursuing a higher education. But with a little preparation, you can reduce the need for antacids and increase your odds of impressing the admissions deities.