Standardized Testing Season: Juniors’ Preparation, Perspectives, and Pointers

Fatima Choudhry, Photographer

Mai-Linh Weller taking an SAT practice test (Adv.203) (Mai-Linh Weller (Adv. 203))

Taking a three-hour-long test is every student’s nightmare. High schoolers must take tests like these during their Junior year. For Northsiders, the SAT is taken in the spring of their junior year at school. However, some Juniors take the SAT, some take the ACT, and some take both. The Hoofbeat interviewed juniors Mai-Linh Weller (Adv. 203), Kelly Padilla (Adv. 200), and Nicole Beaubien (Adv. 204), about their feelings, knowledge, and worries about the standardized testing season. 


When you were a freshman or sophomore, how much did you know about the overall high school standardized testing process?

  • Mai-Linh: I didn’t know much. I’m the eldest of my two sisters so I didn’t have someone really to guide me or tell me what was coming. I knew what the SAT and ACT were, but frankly, I didn’t know much about the tests besides the fact that I would be taking them junior year.
  • Kelly: When I was a freshman, I didn’t know much about the standardized testing process. I would say that until we took the PSAT during the spring of freshman year, I felt a little more familiar with it.  
  • Nicole: I honestly didn’t know too much—I got some idea of it when I took the PSAT as a freshman, but due to the strike and coronavirus shutdown, I wasn’t really able to experience standardized testing much as a sophomore. However, I’ve taken standardized tests pretty much my whole life so I know what it’s like, plus the Northside tests prepared me well.

How are you feeling about the upcoming testing season?

Nicole Beaubien (Adv. 204)
  • Mai-Linh: I’m taking the ACT in two weeks which is nerve-racking to say the least. I have been doing my best to prepare, but my motivation has been really low these last few months. Nonetheless, standardized testing is basically in my blood at this point (with the selective enrollment exam, MAP testing, PSATs) I know the gist. I think what makes this testing season so different from the others, is the weight it holds for my future and how it’s been harder to push myself to study these last few months.
  • Kelly: I feel kind of nervous about taking the SAT this spring. I think that I will feel more confident about it as long as I prepare by studying in advance.
  • Nicole: I’m definitely nervous! I don’t really know what to expect when it comes to the SAT and ACT, since I’m not sure how much harder than the PSAT they will be. I’ve been preparing using Khan Academy and library study books when I can, which gives me reassurance.

Are you planning on taking the SAT, ACT, or both? Why?

  • Mai-Linh: I was originally just going to take the SAT (honestly I didn’t know what the ACT was), but over the summer I did my research and took a few practice tests. I noticed the ACT was more my jam, but I’m still taking the SAT because I don’t know which one I’ll do better in when I’m actually in the proper testing environment. So, I am giving them both a shot.
  • Kelly: I am planning on taking the SAT because that is the test that I am most familiar with. I don’t know much about the ACT, but I know of a few friends who are planning to take it soon.
  • Nicole: Both! I want to push myself and see how high I can score, as well as how much I’ve improved since being a freshman.

How do you feel your results from these tests will impact you in your college process?

  • Mai-Linh: With Covid I really don’t know the weight they will hold in my college application process. I don’t want to discount the tests, but at the moment I’m also focusing on other aspects of my education and life.
  • Kelly: I think that my results on the SAT might impact whether or not I get accepted into a college since some might ask for a score, but I know that because of the pandemic a lot of colleges have decided to be test optional.
  • Nicole:  I think that because of Covid, colleges are putting a lot less emphasis on test scores because they know that it’s a lot harder under these circumstances. However, I know that SAT and ACT scores have traditionally been a big part of the admissions process, which is part of why I’m so nervous to take the tests.

Please provide some words of advice for underclassmen about preparing for junior year.

Khan Academy Free SAT Prep (Fatima Choudhry)
  • Mai-Linh: Don’t overload yourself. Especially at Northside, there is this pressure to take more rigorous courses or overload yourself with work. It’s better to focus your energy on excelling at one thing than to spread yourself too thin. I would also say to try to enjoy your junior year, although it’s a lot of stress there are still so many ways you can make the best out of it. Also, start studying for the SAT/ACT early (they creep up on you)!
  • Kelly: I would recommend that underclassmen prepare for junior year by working on their time management because it is a super important skill to have.
  • Nicole: First of all—unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders, and take a deep breath. I know it’s scary but I promise that you are not alone in your fears and that you will get through this. I believe in you! I would recommend forming a study schedule, utilizing the FREE SAT prep that Khan Academy has to offer, and staying organized. It’s also super important to take care of your mental health. Study hard, but don’t let it get in the way of your sleep. Set aside some time to talk to friends, spend time with family, read a book, or whatever it is that makes you happy!