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You just finished the last section of the SAT, or the ACT. You are elated at being “done,” barely listening as the proctor announces the end of the section. You get a bit impatient as the proctor walks around the room, collecting each student’s test booklet and answer sheet. You start tapping your foot as they read the final part of their manual, saying something about being quiet as you leave and warning you not to discuss any test questions with any of your friends.

You join the stream of test-takers flowing out of the building and quickly find your parents’ car, where you, like every student, face the inevitable question: “How’d it go?” They are dying to know if all of your hard work paid off – and they don’t realize they’re asking for something you just can’t give them yet.

It is impossible to know with complete certainty how well one of these exams went. Sometimes you feel confident about every section, only to be blindsided by lower numbers on score day. The opposite is true as well: sometimes the questions you weren’t sure about loom so large in your mind that they overshadow all your other successes on test day, and you’re pleasantly surprised when the scored come back.

Even I fall victim to this trap from time to time.  I have been taking the SAT and ACT exams consistently for over 10 years to keep my test taking skills sharp and my lessons current. After sitting for nearly 100 exams as a professional SAT/ACT instructor, I usually have a very good sense on test day of what my score will be. But for this most recent exam, I was dead wrong.

Like everyone else who took the June 10th ACT, I came home after the exam to that classic question from my family: “How’d it go?”  I explained that after the first section I actually began to struggle. I’d needed to skip more questions than usual, and in the science section I had skipped the entire first passage. Of course, I came back to the questions at the end of each section, just like I teach my students to do, but still; it shook my confidence. I was not expecting a score close to a perfect 36. Luckily for me, I don’t take these exams to ace them; I take them to know them inside and out. I’ve achieved plenty of perfect scores, but didn’t expect to see any this time. So I was very surprised when I checked the June ACT scores this week:

perfect ACT score

I have many students who have taken the May and June SAT exams. While May SAT scores came out recently, we are still waiting on the June ones. When students email me to share their scores, I comment on how they match up with that student’s goals, but l also point out that perhaps the June exam went even better. Sometimes my students think the June exam was much harder, and they feel resigned to whatever they achieved in May. I am positive that some of these students will be unexpectedly thrilled with their June scores. It’s a good thing they followed my earlier advice of planning on giving the exam two tries!

You simply never know how it’s going to turn out. So before test day, share this post with your parent. That way, instead of asking you how it went, they can ask you a question you can answer. Maybe something like, “Who wants ice cream?”