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College competition and the quest for higher test scores

The pressure is on. To compete in today’s global economy, which includes international students attending North American colleges in record numbers, U.S. teenagers must obtain collegiate degrees now more than ever.

According to the latest research of the U.S. Department of Education, college enrollment grew 16 percent between 1985 and 1995. Between 1995 and 2005, enrollment increased at a faster rate (23 percent), from 14.3 million to 17.5 million. The number of graduating high school seniors is expected to peak in 2011, with 67 percent trying to gain admission to an institution of higher learning.

What does this mean for students with college aspirations? Acing the college entrance exam is critical. Our growing global economy has made it necessary for more students to attend college in order to obtain good paying jobs. New tools, such as the common application, encourage students to apply to more schools which increases the competition, making it more difficult for students to gain acceptance into the top institutions.

More students and parents today are learning what top colleges have known for years: Systematically preparing for the SAT/ACT gives students more confidence, and more confidence can lead to higher SAT/ACT scores. New college admissions rules now allow students to take the SAT/ACT as many times as they like, but educators suggest taking the tests no more than three times.

The following tips will help students properly prepare for their college entrance exams — 10 steps to reduce the stress and ace the test:

• Studying for the SAT/ACT takes weeks, even months, of review.

• Trust yourself. Never leave an easy question blank.

• Read the questions and answers critically.

• Easy questions have easy answers.

• Stop and check. Every few questions, ensure the question number on the answer sheet corresponds with the booklet.

• Save time. Make sure you have enough time to answer as many questions as possible in order to rack up as many points as possible.

• Focus on what the question is really asking. If you don’t fully understand the question, finding the correct answer is going to be tough.

• Rushing only hurts you. Keep track of the time remaining for each section.

• Eliminate answers. If you can eliminate at least two incorrect answers, make an educated guess.

• End each section by reviewing.

It’s never too early – or too late – to begin preparing for college and lifelong economic success.

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