Most often the idea of taking college entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT is not introduced until the spring of high school junior year. The theory behind waiting until that time says that (1) the student is unprepared for the content and (2) taking the exams at an earlier age causes undue stress and anxiety for the student. However, my experience is very different.
Clearly students are not expected to perform well when taking these exams prior to Junior year. But that's the point. Tell your teen, 'Don't stress. It doesn't count'. Taking it multiple times, 'cold' (with no preparation), allows the student to get used to the format of the exam as well as the learning to ignore typical test taking distractions. For example: pencil or foot tapping noises, sneezing or coughing, rain on a tin roof. They also learn what items to bring and how to handle the broken pencil point, or calculator battery dying, in a low stress environment.
I recommend taking the ACT (or SAT) early and often. The ACT allows up to 12 times. (13 if the test was taken with Duke TIP in the 7th grade.) Begin taking it in either April or June of both 9th and 10th grade when it doesn’t count! Get used to it. When it counts, you’ll be less stressed, and less distracted. (I had my children take it as their 'end of year test' beginning with the 8th grade.) Take it again 4 to 6 times in the 11th grade. You still have 4 additional opportunities during Senior year to try for even higher scores for scholarships!
I've had parents ask if it's ok to take these exams so many times. 'Won't it look bad to have that many?' Actually, you won't be sending in ANY test scores until you have the one you want. Never commit to sending a test score prior to obtaining the test results. When filling in the bubbles on test day, the test administrator will put local college and university school codes on the white board just before the test begins. Tell your student to LEAVE IT BLANK. NEVER send a test score to a college or university without knowing what score you'll get!(It does cost a few dollars extra to send test scores after the tests are scored. But isn't it worth it?) This is just another tip to alleviate the stress your teen feels on test day.
What you think? Go to the bottom of this page and leave a comment! Have you thought about this topic before? What's your experience?