In addition to grades, the other numerical factor widely used by college admissions offices is the student’s performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
The SAT is given by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private company, and nearly all students applying to college take it. The SAT tests general aptitude for college work. Many students also take related “achievement” tests which test specialized knowledge in certain major academic subjects such as math, foreign languages, and history.
Test Preparation Courses. Because entrance into the best American colleges and graduate schools is so competitive, specialized courses exist to prepare students to perform well on the SAT test. These courses are particularly useful for foreign students. The ETS claims that students cannot really study for the SAT since it is an aptitude test. This is simply not true; students can improve their scores dramatically by learning intelligent approaches to taking the test (which include certain pitfalls and traps to avoid). In addition to the preparation courses, which tend to be expensive, certain publishers sell self-study books designed to help you prepare for the test.
As with anything you arrange to have sent to a college, make sure to prepare for and take the SAT with plenty of time to spare before the college’s deadline. The ETS will send your results to whichever colleges you specify (as long as you fill their forms out properly). The test is given a number of times a year. A good preparation course will get you set with all the information you need to know so you can be relaxed when you actually sit for the test.
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