DeLoggio Achievement Program

Selection of and Preparation for College and Professional Programs

Standardized Tests

You may need an entrance exam for high school, especially at certain elite schools, and for magnet schools and public school systems in the United States. But no matter what country you live in and in what country you wish to go to school, you'll almost certainly need to prove your ability on one or more tests.


Students tend to ask questions about all of these tests as if they were different in some way. In fact, they fall into a few basic categories. [I assume that we are speaking only of tests in the English language.]

  • Some tests, like the ACT or the SAT 2 measure knowledge – material already learned as fact and formula. This ability can be part of the verbal skills measured: vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure can be treated as academic subjects that were taught in high school English classes.
  • Some tests measure the ability to combine pieces of knowledge into a more complex format than was used in the classroom; the geometry figures on math sections of the SAT were typically of this sort.
  • The more advanced tests measure your ability to go beyond what was taught in the classroom, to think and write about new material, based on general principles you've already learned; or to diagnose and solve problems based on general theories of reasoning.

Because these three basic types of test measurement – that which has already been learned, that which requires inferences from previously learned subjects, versus that which can be reasoned from general principles – will be divided here into two sections: the LSAT, and other standardized tests.

The main reason for this division is that the LSAT is the only standardized test that relies almost entirely on reasoning and does not require any particular set of background knowledge. Specific information tested, grading scales, and the amount of time per section have changed over the years, and I don't pretend to know what a 570 on the MCAT means; the last time I help someone take that test, there were three sections of 15 points each. I'm sure that Stanley Kaplan, who was in the test business for at least 30 years before I ever saw the LSAT, might be as conversant in every single kind of standardized test, but I cannot and do not claim any such ability.

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LSAT prep


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