How to Survive Bad SAT or ACT Scores

This week I’m sharing SAT and ACT test prep strategies. You’ll find the links to all of them at the bottom of this post. Here goes my latest test prep tips:

Strategy No. 6: Apply to SAT-Optional Schools

If your teenager bombs on the SAT or the ACT test, don’t despair.  Plenty of schools don’t care if your child gets a bad SAT or ACT score. In fact, there are more than 830 schools which don’t mandate SAT or ACT scores as part of their college admission process.

The number of schools making the SAT and ACT optional continues to grow as critics question the usefulness and fairness of these standardized tests. Among the test-optional schools are about a third of the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges, including Middlebury College, Smith College, Bates College, Mount Holyoke College and Pitzer College.

You can find the list of all the test-optional schools at

SAT Strategy 7: Be skeptical about published SAT scores.

At nearly all test-optional  schools, the published SAT and ACT scores will be inflated. I wrote about this standardized test phenomenon for The New York Times.

With rare exceptions, colleges only calculate the SAT or ACT test scores of high school students who submitted them. And, no surprise, the teenagers who send in their scores tend to fare well on the SAT or ACT. Those who perform poorly typically keep their scores secret which obviously inflates the published averages.

So if your child’s SAT or ACT scores are lower than the published ones at a particular college, it could be that the school has artificially inflated them through its test-optional policy. Consequently, your child could be a fine candidate for a college even if his or her scores seem too low.

Ask a school if its published SAT or ACT averages reflect the scores of all its freshmen class.

Strategy No. 1: Improving Your SAT or ACT Scores: Take a Sample Test

Strategy No. 2: Should You Take the SAT or ACT Test?

Strategy No. 3: Can Guessing Boost Your SAT or ACT Scores?

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow me on Twitter.

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