Tag Archives | tests

7 Study Hacks for Getting a Perfect Score on the Exam

Image from pexels.com

Image from pexels.com

If you have a big test coming up, there is a strong chance that you are pulling all-nighters, eating unhealthy study snacks, and feeling completely anxious. You may even be found running all across campus searching for study groups or cramming all of the information you learned in class into your head. Most likely you are overwhelmed with other assignments like homework and projects.

Taking a test always promotes anxiety in students. It is completely normal to feel the pressure during a time like this. You want to do well in order to progress to the career of your dreams. However, you do not have to be one of few that crumbles under the pressure. Here are 7 proven ways to get the perfect score on any exam. Are you ready? Here it goes:

1. Power Off
The biggest mistake many students make is keeping their electronic devices on while studying. This is highly ineffective. Every time your ringtone goes off or you receive a text message, you will be distracted. For this reason, it is important that you shut off all devices — and yes that means your phone, tablet, television, and laptop. Make sure to turn everything off so that you can get the concentration that is needed to study effectively. You may be tempted to check your social media feeds or watch a YouTube video after, however studies have shown that these stimuli only keep the brain awake, therefore leading to sleepy mornings. Tell your friends that you are studying. Any great messages, Facebook status updates, or Instagram pictures can wait for another time.

2. Eat Right
The days leading up to your exam could easily cause you to slip into bad ways. The stress of studying provokes emotional eating in some while it also serves as a distraction. If you find yourself practicing any of those habits, it is essential that you replace the donuts and pizza for water, fruits, and vegetables. By now you may be thinking “Ugh, who eats that?” but these foods actually do more than just gross you out. Water replenishes you and keeps your body hydrated. According to studies, this will not only cool you down, but will also promote excellent cognitive function and physical energy. In addition to this, fruits like apples and blueberries have been found to have toxin reducing agents that maintain your memory levels. So instead of grabbing that energy drink and extra cup of coffee, try good old fashioned fruits and veggies. They never disappoint.

3. Create Mental Associations
If you are studying a complex subject that includes large amounts of abbreviated terms, try breaking the letters down into acronyms. Connect the bridge between what you know and what you learn. Place fun catchy names on difficult phrases. If you find that an important term is not relatable, get creative and think of something. For example, if you are studying the word ‘blanco’ in Spanish, think of the color of a blank sheet of paper. This method is highly effective and wins every time. Try this for any and every subject.

4. Try Whiteboards
Everyone learns differently from others. While some individuals thrive in lecture class settings, others may do better academically in museums. There are numerous learning styles that allow each person to learn effectively. For those who are visual, whiteboards are an excellent tool to use. Instead of staring at textbooks filled with words, get an erasable marker and draw the words that you are studying. For example, if you are studying math, you may find it easier if you drew figures. If you are studying a complex piece of literature, try writing out the different names and terms that call for attention. You can even get creative and use different colored markers. This is excellent for those who think in pictures.

5. Laugh!
You might find this tip quite silly but it proves effective for the most stressed students. Sure we know that exams are serious and that your future is on the line. However, you should never allow tests to cause burn out. In fact, it is proven that laughter releases built-up tension. There are so many high emotions that revolve around midterms and finals. Consider how you can find balance in the midst of a stressful test period. Most of all, relax. You will do great.

Taking an exam does not have to have you stressed to the max. Consider studying the right way by powering off, nourishing your body the right way, creating mental associations with difficult terms, using whiteboards to boost memory, and do not forget to laugh. Before you pick up that donut, try these tried and true methods the next time you have an exam.

This article was contributed by guest author Sophia Clark.

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Online Test Prep Resources

Image by Miss Lolita, Flickr

Image by Miss Lolita, Flickr

We recently came across a few free online test prep resource we’d like to share. Share your favourites in the comments below and we’ll keep this post updated with all the best resources for exam prep!

Varsity Learning Tools
A free resource with over 75,000 professionally written problems and thousands of distinct practice tests across 150 subjects. Subjects include history, math, foreign languages, and science for all experience levels, as well as practice tests and problems for the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, ISEE, and SSAT.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy’s goal is to provide free resources for students of all ages. They have the typical math and science prep, but also include resources for subjects like art history. They have partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

Exam Masters
Exam Masters provides tutoring and test prep resources for high school students in math and science. They also offer tutoring for the SAT, ACT, SSAT, and LNAT. Free resources include practice tests and subject notes.

Gold Standard MCAT Prep
Gold Standard MCAT Prep is what it sounds like – an MCAT practice test provider. Providing MCAT test preparation tools for over 25 years, they have a number of options for test preparation courses, including free practice tests and helpful information & tips on their blog. 

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Excel on Standardized Tests with These 5 Tips

Image by Alberto G, Flickr

Image by Alberto G, Flickr

Standardized testing plays a major role in every stage of education, and in some cases, standardized testing can make or break you. You need to score well on standardized tests to get into college and grad school, and after that, you need to score well on standardized tests to enter the workforce.  In many states, high stakes tests begin as early as the 5th grade, and they bring with them a lot of pressure. There are a few things that you can do before the big test to help calm your nerves before getting your brain focused on the task:

Repetition

There is a wealth of testing practice available that can help you prepare for any high stakes tests, including tutoring agencies, online practice tests, and personal tutors.  Utilizing one of these programs will get you the repetition and practice you need for the big day. Just like anything in life, practice makes perfect, and if you want to perfect that score, you need consistent practice.

Read

Reading to education is like weightlifting to football. The more you read, the stronger your brain becomes. High stakes standardized tests require complex thinking, and the brain needs to be exercised in order to carry out that task. Reading will give the brain the exercise it needs to think through challenging questions.

Pay Attention to Vocabulary

A strong vocabulary is crucial to passing high stakes test. Be it the need for domain specific vocabulary, jargon related to a field, or simply vocabulary to sound intelligent, you need to pay close attention to the words that those around you use.  One way to do this is to listen to the words used in pop culture or in the media.  News reports are chockfull of great words that act as grace notes — the exact right word.  Begin to ask yourself, “What connotation did the word carry to make it the right word?”  You will begin to see the nuances in language, and it will help you tremendously when it comes to taking those high stakes standardized tests.

Practice Reading Questions Carefully

One thing that many people struggle with when it comes to standardized tests is question reading.  Many people begin to read the question and then skim through the rest assuming they know what the question was asking.  If you catch yourself doing this, keep this in mind:  Test takers know you do this, so they write questions to catch people who do this.  Take your time, read the question fully, and then answer the question.  If you know you are a person who skims and then responds, practice reading test questions so that you can train your brain to slow down.

Pace Yourself

Do not spend too much time stressing over one question. Time is valuable when it comes to high stakes standardized tests, so if you have to move on, do so.  If you spend too much time stressing over one answer, you could run out of time and miss questions you could have easily answered.  Move on and come back.

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5 Skills to Become an Excellent Student

Image by Svein Halvor Halvorsen, Flickr

Image by Svein Halvor Halvorsen, Flickr

There may be more than five skills you need to become an excellent student, but the fact is that if you have not nailed the following 5 study skills, you will likely never become one. These skills can form the wall that blocks you from getting better, or the springboard that launches you into success.

1. Smart reading

You need to learn how to read quickly and how to skim read. Luckily, by using the Internet you have already become a proficient skim reader. When you use Google, you may open several tabs at once. You cannot honestly claim you have read every single page from top to bottom before clicking off it. What you tend to do is skim the page very quickly to get the main idea, and then decide whether to click off or remain and use the page. That is a form of skim reading and it comes in very handy when you are researching.

Learning how to read quickly is not as difficult as it sounds. The hardest part is convincing yourself that you can understand text if it is read faster. If you run your finger across each word as you read, you will notice that you read at a certain rate. If you speed up the rate at which your finger moves across the sentences, then you have increased your reading speed. If you still find it difficult to read the text at a faster rate, try speed-reading tools such as Spreeder or Readspeeder.

2. Writing

Upgrading your writing skills cannot only happen when completing essays to fulfill your homework tasks. You should explore additional ways to practise your writing as often as possible. Start writing anything you want – a blog or diary, a postcard, a letter, tips, a poem or even a novel. As soon as you start practising, you will feel the language flow, and in a very short time you will see how easy it has become for you to do your college writing tasks.

Get as much information from genuine academic resources or writers’ blogs as you can. Nowadays the Internet has made it possible to gain quick access to any resource you want; you need just to search for truly correct and helpful websites. Try some educational resources like Guide to Grammar and Writing by the Capital Community College Foundation, or Essaymama’s Essay Writing Guide with its own style and approach. If choosing among writers’ blogs, you can visit Positive Writer, Writer’s Digest or find any other helpful blog on your own.

3. Test preparation

It sounds like cheating, but the best way to prepare for a test is to practise at home. Most subjects and disciplines have test questions on the Internet that you can practise with. The aim is not to memorize the questions with the hope that they will appear on your test. The aim is to practise your exam technique and to learn what areas you are weak in. You can use the BrainCog resource, for example, to create online tests, exams or quizzes.

Set a time limit for home testing so you can find out how much time you need for different kinds of tasks, and how stressed you get when have limited time on testing.

4. Time management

Time management is a skill you learn through habit. The trouble is that to create a habit you have to do something repetitively for a long time. This is going to take discipline.

For each essay you write, start it with a brief plan on what you are going to do. This may be a rough draft of coming events, such as how many days you have before your deadline, how many days you have free to write, and roughly what you intend to do on those days.

Separate your plan into sections for things such as research, testing, writing and proofreading. Always create your own deadline for completion that is a few days before the actual deadline date. This gives you a little wiggle room if you are late in finishing your essay.

Now that you have your plan for coming events, you can start making your actual essay plan. Start with a structure that suits your type of essay, and add in notes about what resources you will use to research, how many words per section, and roughly how long each section should take.

Keep coming back to both your plans and adjust them as you go. For example, you may budget two days of research with roughly 6 hours of research in each. However, you may discover you need 4 days of research with 6 hours in each. Updating your plan as you go will ensure you still have a clear and “planned” date for completion.

Doing all of this may seem like adding extra work, but what you are doing is getting into the “habit” of managing your time. It forces you to become aware of how much time you are spending on your study and how much time you have left. Even more important is that you get to see how far ahead or behind you are. If you are days behind, you’ll know to start earlier in the future.

Follow this routine and you will become a better planner in general, which will help you manage your time more easily.

5. Learning Instead of Memorizing

Work towards learning concepts over memorizing textbooks. There is little you can learn in most cases from memorizing textbooks, but if you work to understand the principles and concepts of a subject, you give yourself an understanding and true learning as a result. In order to work on this skill, you will probably need to memorize at first to train your brain. Once you start relating the concepts to your own life, you will begin to understand (instead of memorize) the main valuable issues.

The New MCAT

Image by Amy, Flickr

Image by Amy, Flickr

To keep up with the rapidly advancing field of medicine, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is receiving a major content overhaul in 2015. With so many changes, here’s what you need to know about the new MCAT.

The Basics

The MCAT remains a computerized exam with strictly multiple choice questions. However, the new MCAT will be significantly longer than the older version; the new test runs approximately seven and a half hours compared to the five and half hour length of the old exam. Optional ten minute breaks are offered after each section of the exam and a thirty minute lunch break is available at the midway point.

The cost to take the MCAT is also increasing $25 USD to the new standard fee of $300 USD. There will be financial aid available though, as those who qualify for the MCAT’s Fee Assistance Program will only be charged $115 USD to register. Furthermore, the MCAT will not be administered as often as it was in previous years. In 2015, the MCAT will only be administered 14 times beginning in April and ending in September. This does not mean there will be fewer seats available to take the exam. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is expanding their network so as to offer the same number of seats, but with fewer dates. Note that the last chance to take the old MCAT is in January 2015, as registration for the new MCAT opens in the next month.

The Test

The new MCAT aims to test students’ skills in four different areas: knowledge of scientific concepts and principles, scientific reasoning and problem solving, reasoning about the design and execution of research, and data-based and statistical reasoning. It does this across four sections.

The first section students will encounter is called the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. Students will have 95 minutes to deal with 59 questions that cover areas such as the governing principles of chemical interaction and reaction, plus the physical principles that are used to understand the processes of living organisms.

Next up is section two: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. It runs 90 minutes and contains 53 questions. This is the non-science section of the MCAT, as it challenges students’ ability to comprehend and critically analyze texts related to the humanities and social sciences.

The last two sections on the MCAT are both 95 minutes and consist of 59 questions each. The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section tests the concepts of biomolecules and their contribution to cell structure and function, the assemblies of molecules, cells and organs, as well as the structure and functions of the main organ systems.

Finally, the all new Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour section looks at the psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that influence human behavior and the well-being of individuals.

Scoring

The old scoring scales for the MCAT are being done away with. The 2015 MCAT will use a totally new scoring scale that is designed to emphasize scores in the middle of the scale instead of the top one-third. This is because research conducted by the AAMC has shown that students who score in the middle of scale and are admitted to medical school typically find success.

Thus, each section will now be scored on a scale from 118 to 132 with a middle point of 125. The scale for a student’s total score is the sum of each section scale, hence a range from 472 to 528 with a center point of 500. Compared to the old MCAT, the new version will provide a more precise estimation of students’ skills due to the increased number of questions they will face. Institutions will now be able to compare the individual strengths and weaknesses of their applicants more accurately.

Sources:

https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/mcat2015/faqs/

https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/mcat2015/admins/382772/naahp-mcat2015.html

https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/mcat2015/administration/

What’s on the 2015 MCAT?

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What is the LSAT?

Image by TMAB2003, Flickr

Image by TMAB2003, Flickr

The LSAT has been one of the major hurdles to all law school applicants since its inception in 1948. Each year over one hundred thousand students test their skills against the latest exam the Law School Admission Council has created. So what exactly is the LSAT?

The Basics

To begin with, the Law School Admission Test is a standardized and now computerized exam that is administered strictly in English. The LSAT tests an applicant’s reasoning, analytical and critical thinking skills. Therefore, the exam does not require any specialized knowledge in the field of law or any other field for that matter. All questions are accessible to the level of the general public. The LSAT is administered four times per year in the months of February, June, September, and December. Note that a student may not take the LSAT more than three times in any two year period. Compared to other graduate program entrance exams, LSAT registration costs a reasonable $165 in Canada and $170 in the United States. There can be other fees, such as those associated with changing the date or location of your exam once it has been booked. Lastly, the LSAT runs around four hours in length, which includes one ten to fifteen minute break.

The Test

The format of the LSAT is broken into six sections that take thirty-five minutes each. Presented in no particular order, the LSAT’s first five sections use the format of multiple choice questions and these sections can be one of three types: Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Analytical Reasoning (or Logic Games). There are always two Logical Reasoning sections, one Reading Comprehension section, and one Analytical Reasoning section. The leftover section can be any one of the three types.

It is important to note that one of these five sections is not scored. This is because it is an experimental section that the developers of the test use to try out new questions. Unfortunately, students are not told which section will go unscored.

Both Logical Reasoning sections consist of approximately 25 questions, each of which has been based on a very short argumentative text, such as a letter to the editor. Common topics for these questions include economics, business, health, and the environment.

In the Reading Comprehension section, students will face approximately 25-28 questions based on four different prompts. Three of these prompts will be single short passages (~450 words) and one will be a Comparative Reading prompt which presents two short passages (~450 words combined) that are related. Topics for this section are often drawn from the natural and social sciences, as well as the humanities.

In the last type of section, Analytical Reasoning, students are faced with four sets of five to seven questions. These questions are based on four brief texts (~120 words) that describe a scenario and certain rules that apply to it.

The sixth and final section of the LSAT is a Writing Exercise. Students are presented with a prompt in which someone is making a decision between two choices of action. Each choice is governed by two criteria and students must write a concise essay arguing in favour of one choice or the other. This section of the LSAT is also not scored, but it is still evaluated by law schools as a sample of a student’s writing ability.

Scoring

LSAT scores are equalized onto a scale that ranges from 120 to 180 and uses single-digit intervals. The average LSAT score is 150, with 58 questions being answered correctly. It should be mentioned that all questions are weighted equally and that there are no deductions for incorrect answers.

So what score should you be aiming for? In Canada, average LSAT scores for applicants range from the low 160s to the high 160s, while in the United States average scores for the country’s best law programs are in the high 160s to the low 170s.

Ultimately, the LSAT is just another way for law schools to judge the academic merit of applicants and predict their success in the first year of law school.

Other Sources

Video – About the LSAT

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What You Need to Know About the GMAT

Image by Ian Lamont, Flickr

Image by Ian Lamont, Flickr

Since 1954, graduate business programs around the world have been using the GMAT to guide their hand in the admissions process. From its humble beginnings, this standardized exam is now in use by over 5,400 programs and taken by more than 200,000 persons annually. So what exactly is the GMAT?

The Basics

The GMAT, short for Graduate Management Admission Test, does not require advanced English vocabulary or a knowledge of math beyond the grade 10 level in order to complete it. It is only delivered in English, and since 1997, it is only administered on computers. The exam runs approximately four hours in length, which includes two optional eight minute breaks. The GMAT may be the most expensive part of your graduate program application, as registering for it costs US $250. If you wish you to improve your score and retake the exam (another $250), you must wait a minimum of 31 days before you can write the GMAT again. You may only write the exam a maximum of five times within any given twelve month period.

The Test

The GMAT requires no prior education in either business or management. Instead, the GMAT is designed to test the higher-order reasoning abilities that students will need to be successful in a Master of Business Administration program.

The exam is divided into four sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment
    In it, students are allotted 30 minutes to analyze a given argument in the form of a short essay.
  2.  

  3. Integrated Reasoning
    In June of 2012, this new second section was introduced, which challenges students’ ability to analyze data and draw reasoned conclusions. 30 minutes are allotted to students to answer 12 questions. There are four types of questions in the Integrated Reasoning section. The first question type, Multi-Source Reasoning, is more of a writing comprehension and analysis exercise, while the other three question types — Two-Part Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, and Table Analysis — are geared toward numerical analysis.
  4.  

  5. Quantitative
    This is the math section. The allotted time is boosted to 75 minutes, a period in which students will be presented with a maximum of 37 questions. The questions come in two different types: Problem Solving, and Data Sufficiency. Problem Solving questions are straight-forward quantitative questions, but Data Sufficiency questions are a little more complicated. They present a problem and two pieces of data, and the student must figure out whether neither, one, or both pieces of the given data are sufficient to solve the question. You do not actually need to find the answer to the question.
  6.  

  7. Verbal
    This section comprises of a maximum of 41 questions, to be completed in 75 minutes. There are three question types: Sentence Correction, to test your knowledge of English grammar and your ability to communicate ideas effectively, and Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking, which present you with questions based on a short written passage.

Scoring

Each section of the GMAT receives an individual score:

  • The Analytical Writing Assessment section is scored on a scale of 0-6, using intervals of 0.5
  • Integrated Reasoning uses a 1-8 scale with intervals of 1
  • Both the Quantitative and Verbal sections are scored on a scale of 0-60, also with intervals of 1

Additionally, the GMAT awards the student a total score on a scale of 200-800, based solely on the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the exam. So technically, you could bomb the first two sections and still pull off a respectable score overall – but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Average GMAT scores for admission into Canadian graduate programs in 2013 ran the gamut from as low as 540 (Lakehead University) to as high as 674 (University of Toronto Rotman School of Management). Competition is even fiercer in the United States, as the average GMAT scores for elite business schools there regularly tops 720.

In short, the GMAT is a key piece of your application to graduate business programs, as your score demonstrates if you are up to the institution’s standards.

Sources:

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SAT Subject Tests Guide for Canadian Students

Image by lolheyitsrichie!, Flickr

Image by lolheyitsrichie!, Flickr

Most US schools require you to write the SAT, but a few (including the highly competitive ones) require you to write two or three SAT Subject Tests as well. Be sure to review your prospective school’s application process for details. In general, subject tests are a great way to show your interest and skill in a certain subject and will help increase your chances of getting into a US college. Here is a quick rundown of SAT Subject Tests:

  • 20 different subject tests are offered, but only some are offered on specific dates. Go over Subject Test Dates to find out when you can write your Subject Test.
  • Consists entirely of multiple-choice questions.
  • Each subject test is scored on a scale of 200-800.
  • A subject test takes 1 hour to write.
  • A base fee of $24.50 is required to write a subject test and any additional tests are $13, except for Language with Listening tests which are an additional $24.
  • You can write up to three subject tests on one test date, but you cannot take a subject test and the SAT on the same day.
  • Those applying for Early Decision or Early Action are recommended to take their Subject Test by October or November of Grade 12. Regular decision applicants have until January to take their Subject Tests.
  • Some colleges determine placement based on your subject test scores and can exempt you from a class in that subject.

Similar to the SAT, subject test dates and registration information can be found on the College Board website. After registering, if you change your mind about which subject tests to take or how many you plan on writing, you can make the appropriate changes on the actual test day (except for Language with Listening tests).

SAT Subject Test Tips

  • When choosing which subject test to write, identify any you may need for your college application. For your additional subject tests, play to your strengths and choose subjects that you are confident you will score well on. If possible, take tests from very different subjects to show that you are a well-rounded student. Never take a subject test on a subject you are not confident in.
  • It’s best to write your test right after you’ve taken a course on the subject so that the content is still fresh in your head. However, languages should only be taken after having plenty of practice and study.
  • Language with Listening tests are only administered once per year on the same day.
  • Study! Just like the SAT, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort to ensure you get the best score.

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A Guide to the SATs for Canadian Students

Image by California Cthulhu (Will Hart), Flickr

Image by California Cthulhu (Will Hart), Flickr

Many Canadian students dream of going to the United States for their post-secondary education. However, the process is tough and spaces are limited. Of the 30,946 students who applied to Brown University’s Class of 2015, only 2,692 were accepted – and only 28 of them hailed from Canada (source: Brown University). Don’t fret, we’re here to help! One of the first things you should be focusing on is the SAT – one of the most important elements of the application process for most US schools. Here is a brief rundown of the test:

  • Every high school is different. A student with perfect grades in one school might only get fair grades in another. The SAT provides a way for every student to be assessed in an equal way.
  • The SAT tests your abilities in three areas: readingwriting and mathematical reasoning.
  • The test consists of several multiple-choice questions and an essay.
  • A score of 200-800 is given in each section, providing a maximum score of 2400.
  • The test takes about 4 hours to write.
  • The cost for writing the test is $51.
  • You can take the SAT as many times as you want, but most students take it twice. The College Board (in charge of running the SAT) recommends not taking it more than twice because of a lack of evidence supporting significant score gains by taking the test more than twice.
  • Most schools accept SAT scores up to December of Grade 12, however individual schools may accept scores at later dates. Review your prospective school’s application process for their requirements.
  • Recently, the College Board introduced Score Choice which gives students the option to choose which score they wish to send to their schools of interest. However, some schools still ask students to submit all of their SAT scores. Review school policies because some only take your best overall score while others will take your best score from each section.

Typically, the test is administered six times a year in Canada. You can find a list of dates to write the SAT in Canada as well as register for the test on the College Board website. Register as soon as you can, not only because registration closes one month prior to the test date, but also to ensure a seat in your nearest test centre. If you have missed the deadline, you can apply for Waitlist Status and depending on whether sufficient test materials, staff and seating are available on the test day, you can take the test. If you are admitted to the test centre on test day, a waitlist fee of $45 will be charged.

SAT Tips

  • A score over 2000 is recommended to be competitive in prestigious US schools such as NYU, USC, Stanford or any of the Ivy League schools. 
  • Most students take the SAT in the spring of Grade 11 and again in the fall of Grade 12.
  • Even though you can take the test as many times as you want, taking it too many times may not send a good message to admission officers.
  • When choosing when to take the SAT, be aware of college application deadlines. You may have until December of Grade 12 to take the test but those applying for Early Decision or Early Action should write their SAT earlier.
  • Study! Some students spend months, even years, studying for the SAT. A really good score can help you stand out.
  • Some college applications also ask students to write SAT Subject Tests. Check out our article on {SAT Subject Tests} for a break down on these tests.

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Is Advanced Placement Right for You?

New-ap-photo-me-yes

According to the AP Canada website, the Advanced Placement (AP) program is a rigorous academic program which “provides opportunities for motivated and prepared students to experience college-level courses while in high school, thereby fostering critical thinking and college persistence and success.” Created by the College Board in the United States, the AP program was designed by university-level educators and experts with the intention of administering university-level curriculum and exams to high school students. Since its debut in the United States, the AP program has also been introduced to select Canadian schools over the course of the past decade.

How do I choose which APs to take?
Choose your APs based on how you would choose your regular courses. Examine your personal academic interests and strengths, or experiment with a subject you might consider pursuing in university.

Will taking an AP exam qualify for university course credit?
Be careful. Not all universities recognize AP exams for course credit. Individual university websites will often specify which AP subjects they accept (spoiler: not all of them) and may stipulate that you achieve a certain score in order to be eligible to receive course credit. However, if you fulfill the given requirements and qualify for course credit, you will save both time and money later on!

Are AP exams like university exams?
The AP exam period resembles the university exam period in its capacity to evoke a brief yet intense state of stress which is tempered only by frequent snacks and the sudden camaraderie that develops between you and your peers in the throes of your collective suffering. They are also like university exams – and most exams, perhaps – in the sense that they require hard work, but can yield rewarding results upon completion.

Be prepared for an adjustment that might be difficult, rewarding, or both.
The AP program is designed to prepare you for AP exams, which often means incorporating new exercises into your usual academic routine. For example, my AP French exam involved a speaking component, in which my verbal observations of an image depicting a certain event were recorded on tape. After years of studying French through conjugation charts, vocabulary lists, and gentle conversational exercises, the prospect of soliloquy terrified the entire class. However, we spent a great deal of class time practicing speech exercises, which ultimately improved our confidence actually speaking the language.

Are AP courses more difficult than regular high school courses? Are they as difficult as university courses?
One of the most touted values of the AP program is its exposure of students to learning material of greater depth and quantity. The workload for AP courses is generally heavier than that of regular high school courses, which might be a valuable experience to have before you careen into university and become overwhelmed by the weight of your unread readings, only to watch them build up and eventually crash down on your GPA.

Whether or not the critical depth and quantity of AP course material is equally stimulating as a university course is difficult to judge, as the difficulty of a university course can depend on many factors aside from the material itself (your personal strengths and interests, the demands and temperament of the instructor, the work assignments involved). While university course material may be more challenging in its requirement of a greater deal of critical thought for excellence, many students seem to struggle with the amount of material there is to tackle, rather than the critical depth of said material.

Regardless of the level of difficulty of the work you have in high school, one thing you can usually count on is that there will just be more of it in university. Ultimately, a big part of the academic transition to university is adjusting to the difference in workload, and the AP program might help you improve your work ethic early on.

Good luck!