Focus on School Grades or the SAT/ACT?

We are constantly faced with choices and trade-offs. Interact on social media or study?  Watch TV or go to the gym?  Leave a note that you accidentally scratched someone’s car or drive away?  Whether we choose to follow the right course or not, we usually know the productive, healthy, and ethical answer to most choices and trade-offs.

But, what about the choice to study more for the SAT/ACT or for a school test the next day?  What should we choose?  Here is some context:

  • On average, colleges consider high school grades and SAT/ACT scores as equal in importance to admissions (some colleges, of course, put a premium on grades, but others do so on standardized test scores).
  • Most students will be evaluated on 126 weeks of high school grades in the college admissions process (freshmen, sophomore, junior, and the first half of senior year).
  • On average, students in our surrounding area’s demographic spend around 6,250 hours in school and on homework over those 126 weeks (average school day is 6.7 hours with 16 hours of homework per week).
  • Thus, in importance to colleges, 6,250 hours of school = an SAT or ACT score (which probably seems wildly unfair, maybe it is, but read this for a deeper understanding of the role of the SAT and ACT).

So, if the SAT and ACT are of equal importance to literally thousands of hours of studying, then what is more important: Studying more for a test the next day?  Or studying for the SAT or ACT?

Unequivocally, it is more important to study for the school test the next day.

Students can take the SAT and ACT many times.  When else in life do you get multiple do-overs?  Students cannot turn back time on tests for school, so, if a choice must be made, students should always choose school grades.

But, prioritizing grades also needs to come with the understanding that those thousands of hours spent on them will be much less effective unless they are paired with equal or better SAT or ACT scores.  Students must make time to study for their standardized tests so that they can demonstrate their potential to colleges, their mastery of foundational knowledge necessary for higher education, and their cumulative achievement and retention of the topics they learned in school.

Significantly improving on the SAT or ACT is a marathon, not a sprint.  Set your expectations.  Pace yourself.  You will succeed.  And your hard work in school and on the SAT/ACT will be worth it.

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