Blog
September 29th, 2020

Test-Optional Is Not Test-Blind

 

2020 has been a rough year for many, and if you are a high school junior, you have yet another challenge to face: deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT when so many colleges have adopted a test-optional admissions policy. So what’s the difference between test-optional and test-blind? And what does it mean for you?

In a nutshell, test-blind means a school won’t accept standardized test scores. At all. If you send them, they won’t look at them.

Test-optional means that standardized test scores are not required for an application, but they are welcomed and valued in the competitive process of college admissions.

So should a college-bound junior sign up for the SAT or ACT or not? In a word: YES.

 

5 reasons to try an SAT or ACT in 2020-2021

  1. Test-optional colleges will look at SAT and ACtT scores. All other things being equal in an application, a higher test score might earn the acceptance letter. Furthermore, test score submission rates at prominent test-optional schools indicate that the majority of applicants still submit their scores.

 

  1. If you are planning on applying to more affordable state schools, guess what? A lot of families are making the same financially prudent choice during these uncertain times. Having a solid SAT or ACT score can help a student distinguish themselves in the crowded admission process.

 

  1. Many schools require standardized test scores for out-of-state students and athletes. In addition, merit aid, scholarship applications, and honors programs may still require a standardized test score.

 

  1. Extracurricular activities and the grading system took a big hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After-school activities, sports, summer internships, and volunteer opportunities were canceled. Many schools adopted a pass/fail grading system, and a “pass” just isn’t as impressive as an “A.” It isn’t fair. (In fact, it stinks.) But students in the Class of 2022 need every available opportunity to distinguish themselves in the admission process, and the SAT and ACT offer that opportunity.

Finally…

  1. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Take the test. If the score is great, send it. If it isn’t, apply test-optional! A 2020 win/win scenario…for once.

Test Preps remains devoted to our small-group, socially distanced SAT/ACT preparation programs. Our sessions begin 5-6 weeks before the test and our tutors would love to help you get a leg up on the college competition.

So get ready. Get set. Prepare for possibilities! Contact Test Preps to talk about a plan that fits your remote or hybrid school schedule and join us on Sunday evenings for a small group SAT or ACT Course. Private tutoring options also available.

 

March 19th, 2020

Summer 2020 SAT/ACT enrichment for motivated students!

I have been asked by so many parents what their teen can do NOW to utilize some of their extra time. All students can review content areas that are tested on every SAT and ACT.  Below are some ideas they can get started on right away. Be aware that if you are ordering texts online, some companies are experiencing longer than usual delivery times.

  • Grammar

    I would love to suggest an excellent workbook that can be purchased on Amazon (or any online store with better pricing or faster shipping options): The Complete Guide to ACT English or The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, both written by Erica Meltzer. Even 15 minutes a day of grammar review and practice can make an impact on the ACT English or SAT Writing & Language sections. Grammar isn’t hard, but most kids haven’t studied or practiced grammar regularly since middle school. We always tell our students that improving grammar is one of the easiest ways to increase an SAT/ACT score.

    Here are links to our SAT and ACT Grammar Review Guides using the Meltzer texts listed above:

  • SAT Grammar Guide 2020
  • ACT English Guide 2020

Additionally, TheCriticalReader.com offers an excellent FREE ebook that covers all the grammar that needs to be reviewed for the SAT and ACT and many other great resources!

 

  • ACT Math

McGraw Hill has two great workbooks. For strong math students, we recommend 500 Questions to Know by Test Day: ACT Math Use daily (15 minutes) to practice questions and review math content from previous years. It is extremely important to read the answer explanations at the end of the chapter for questions missed and then redo that question to learn from mistakes. Students who struggle with Math can review content areas (like Geometry) with Top 50 Math Skills for a Top Score: ACT Math. Use the “Look Inside” option on Amazon to check out the Table of Contents. This book is straightforward and can be broken into manageable chunks over the next two months.

 

  • SAT Math

We recommend Barron’s SAT Math Workbook (7th ed.) by Lawrence S. Leff.  Even completing 1 lesson every day will help students review math content from previous years and practice SAT math questions. The same strategy applies that was listed for ACT Math – read the answer explanations for questions missed and then redo that question to learn from mistakes. This book is also straightforward and can even be used to target a specific area like Geometry, for example.

 

  • SAT Prep

    An excellent online option is Khan Academy, a College Board partner offering thousands of practice questions, videos, lessons, and hints to review content on all sections of the SAT. AND IT’S FREE! Check out their Resource Page for helpful information.

 

Feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions.

Melissa Cook

 

September 5th, 2019

Top Five SAT/ACT Questions Parents Ask Me…

Are you the parent of a high school sophomore or junior? Are you starting to think about college? One important component for most schools is the SAT and ACT score, and you aren’t alone if you have questions. I receive constant calls from parents asking:

  1. Which is better, the SAT or the ACT?

Since 2008, all U.S. colleges accept both tests! As a parent who survived getting three kids into college, my goal is to minimize the amount of time spent prepping. I always suggest students try both practice tests, and see which test is a better fit. Test Preps offers courses for both the SAT and the ACT, but most busy high school students don’t have time in their schedules to prepare for both. Let’s target the best test for your child, and maybe they can avoid taking one test entirely.

  1. When should my high school student take the test?

For many students, a great time to take either test is the fall of junior year. Every student is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to test prep. That said, it’s often a good idea to get started sooner rather than later. Do your test prep before school and extra-curricular schedules get too intense and leave plenty of time for a re-take. Most kids need that second chance after they’ve experienced their first official SAT or ACT.

  1. What results can we expect from taking a Test Preps course?

Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee results. It would be awesome if we could! Testing results depend on how much work is put into learning test-taking tactics and PRACTICING them under timed conditions. We only see your teen for one-and-a-half to two hours a week. The effort they put in on the other six days is what will impact their scores the most. After taking a Test Preps course, students feel more confident and know what to expect from the test. That alone makes a big difference!

  1. I’ve signed up for a test. When should I start prepping?

Time your test prep so that it leads up to the date your teen will take the test. You don’t want him or her to forget any precious test-taking tactics and strategies. Most students begin six to eight weeks before the test. There is no cramming for an SAT or ACT. Plan ahead!

  1. What’s a “good” score?

A “good” score depends on your teen and his or her college aspirations. Sometimes kids prepare for the tests simply because they want to get into a college. Others strive to attain a certain score goal in order to get into an honors program or win merit scholarships. A “good” score is whatever helps your child succeed.

 

Does preparing for the SAT and/or ACT sound intimidating? It isn’t, I promise. Most projects seem difficult until you break the work down into manageable chunks, and that is exactly what we help students do at Test Preps.

Do you have other questions for me? If you haven’t already done so, check out our website at TestPrepsBuffalo.com and then call me today at 716-574-7349. Let’s talk about YOUR child and our upcoming sessions.

Melissa Cook 
Owner/Director of Test Preps

 

April 23rd, 2019

College athletics and the SAT/ACT: Get ready!

“I’m a top athlete… I don’t need to be concerned about my ACT/SAT score, right?”

While being a competitive athlete in a DI or DII collegiate sport can help you with college admissions, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the SAT or ACT. The NCAA (which governs college sports) has academic Eligibility Standards and dictates what SAT or ACT score you will need (based on your GPA) in order to play for a college. The lower your high school GPA, the higher your test scores need to be.

For example, if you are looking to play at the DI level but you are a middle “C” student with a GPA of 2.50, you would need your total SAT score to be 900 (out of 1600). If you are barely a “B” student with a 3.0, you need a 720 total combined score. ACT scores are comparable. 

The bar for a decent SAT/ACT score for an athlete isn’t all that tough. But keep in mind that if a coach is choosing between two great baseball players and one is close to the line of being academically ineligible, the coach is much wiser in giving his limited roster spots to the player who won’t end up on academic probation in their first or second semester of college. And no one wants to be sitting on the sidelines while their teams moves towards success, so why put yourself on the bench?

Therefore, it is important to put honest effort into your SAT/ACT preparation. Additional practice and retaking may give you an advantage when initially meeting with coaches and later applying to colleges. Just as you wouldn’t show up for a game unprepared or without your gear, don’t show up for the SAT or ACT cold and unfamiliar with the test.

Playing sports in college can be an amazing experience so make sure your SAT/ACT scores help you stand out to coaches in a positive way. Reassure coaches that you are recruitable and will be immediately academically eligible with a strong ACT/SAT score!  For more information about how Test Preps can help you achieve an SAT or ACT score needed for college sports, contact us today!

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash
August 16th, 2018

Superscoring: What you need to Know!

Is your teen currently preparing for the SAT or ACT and wondering how all their scores will be looked at by colleges? They are not alone! One question we are often asked by both parents and students is about superscoring.

Superscoring is the process in which colleges will only consider a student’s highest section scores from each SAT or ACT test they’ve taken.

Let’s illustrate superscoring with this example: On Jennifer’s first SAT, she scores 650 on the critical reading section and 550 on the math section. On her second SAT, she scores 610 on reading and 590 on math. A college that superscores will only look at Jennifer’s two highest section scores from both test dates, which would be her 650 reading score and 590 math score.  Although her composite score for both sittings was 1200, her superscore is now a 1240. As you can see, superscoring can benefit students who have taken the SAT or ACT several times, as only their highest section scores will be considered in the admissions process.

Superscoring can also offer an advantage for test preparation in terms of targeting more time and attention on a specific area of weakness. In Jennifer’s case, she may decide to focus her studying for the second SAT mostly on her weaker section (math), since she already scored well on her reading section the first time around.

Keep in mind that only some colleges utilize superscoring and colleges have very different test score policies. Check their website or call admissions directly for clarification. You can also google a list of colleges who superscore the SAT or ACT. Most colleges only consider a student’s highest score from a single test date and some elite colleges even require all test scores from all dates. The good news is that each year, more and more schools are becoming “test-flexible” and are embracing superscoring. Therefore, it is important for students to fully understand the test score policy at each college to which they are applying and prepare accordingly.

Got questions?

We have answers! Contact us today at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349.

 Sources:

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/sat-act-superscore

https://blog.ivywise.com/blog-0/bid/123416/College-Admissions-Score-Choice-Test-Optional

July 9th, 2018

Summer Reading Can Improve Your Test Scores

Summer reading – just these 2 words alone can cause feelings of enormous dread for many students! Though you may shudder at the thought of reading during your time off, it may surprise you to learn that summer reading can have many benefits for improving your SAT and/or ACT score.

If you’ve been preparing at all for the SAT or ACT, you know firsthand that both tests place an emphasis on evidence-based reading comprehension. Active reading – the type of reading required to read a book – requires you to interpret a great depth of information in order to understand the story. Making a habit of reading during the summertime will help you improve your test performance, as you’ll enhance your reading comprehension skills and expand your vocabulary. The practice of reading dense language within the context of a story will get you in the mode of reading for information, a required skill for the critical reading sections of the SAT and ACT.

Reading will also help you prepare for the English and Essay portions of your test, as it reinforces proper grammatical usage and spelling. By seeing the way in which sentences are structured, you’ll become accustomed to correct writing practices and learn how to easily identify grammatical errors. Most importantly, understanding how to write clearly and concisely will help you effectively answer the test’s essay prompt and formulate an articulate response that conveys a compelling and engaging message to the reader.

Lastly, if reading books isn’t your thing, consider reading at least two or three magazine or newspaper articles per day. If you don’t have those in your home, search on Twitter for a topic that interests and then find an article that challenges your reading ability. An added bonus is you’ll learn something new and expand your horizons, setting you up for greater success in college.

Source:  http://www.eliteprep.com/blog/2017/1/28/one-habit-to-help-you-raise-your-sat-reading-writing-scores
April 18th, 2018

How to Navigate the ACT Essay

With so much emphasis on the multiple-choice portion of the ACT, many students are quick to dismiss the test’s essay requirement and think they can simply wing it. However, the ACT essay is unlike most of the essays you’ll write in your English class. With only 40 minutes on the clock, you’ll need to have a strategy in mind for writing a clear and comprehensive essay that addresses all elements of the prompt.

Here’s a breakdown for how to effectively navigate the ACT essay:

Make your case. The ACT essay prompt requires that you take a stance regarding three perspectives outlined in front of you. You’ll be expected to analyze all three perspectives; state and define your own perspective about the issue; and explain the relationship between your perspective and the insights provided. You can choose an existing prompt to support either fully or partially – or offer an entirely different perspective to make your case. As you state your case, you should support your ideas with logic and reasoning by providing specific and detailed examples.

Be organized. It’s important that you organize your ACT essay in a structured and coherent format. Typically, an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion are needed for a comprehensive essay that fully addresses the prompt and allows you to convey your message. At the beginning of your body paragraphs, it’s best to use transitional phrases so your ideas flow naturally and make sense. Throughout the body of the essay, you’ll also want to incorporate examples that support your opinion and add value to your perspective.

Proofread if time allows. When you’re writing on the clock, sometimes proofreading can seem like the last priority. However, glaring errors can take away from the quality of your essay and leave the reader struggling to decipher what you’re trying to say, potentially having a detrimental effect on your grade. Taking even just five minutes (if time allows) to read through your essay and correct any spelling or grammatical errors can be the difference between an average essay and an exceptional one.

Our test prep experts can help you prepare for the ACT! Learn more about Test Preps’ ACT small group and tutoring options and get in touch with Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

January 18th, 2018

Planning Ahead: SAT and ACT Registration Tips

While preparing to take the SAT or ACT is undoubtedly a lot of work, sometimes the registration process itself can be stressful. Your ability to plan ahead and closely follow instructions is critical for ensuring that you register for your test correctly and efficiently.

Once you begin preparation, it’s time to register for the test. Here are three helpful test registration tips:

Register early and be aware of registration deadlines. It’s important that you educate yourself about upcoming test dates as soon as possible. Once you create an online account at collegeboard.org (SAT) or actstudent.org (ACT), you can easily register for your test and print your admission ticket. Most experts recommend registering for your test at least 5 weeks before your preferred test date. Be aware that there are stringent registration deadlines!  For example, if you’re one to three weeks late to register, you’ll be charged with a hefty late fee.

Complete photo submission requirements. For test security, you must upload a recent photo of yourself when you register online for your test. It makes sense to do this during the initial registration process even though you are given the option to do this later. If your photo is not submitted at least a week prior to the test, your registration may be canceled. In addition to fulfilling photo submission requirements, you must bring a separate valid photo ID to your testing site on test day. You will not be allowed to test without a printed admission ticket that has your photo on it and a valid photo ID!

Determine if you’re going to take the writing portion. The SAT and ACT writing section (commonly known as the “essay”) is optional and costs extra but definitely should be considered. The requirements and prompts for the SAT and ACT essays are different, so it’s best to prepare accordingly for the test you’re planning to take. Some colleges require writing scores, while others do not. If you haven’t finalized your college list yet, it’s in your best interest to take the writing portion, at least once, so you do not limit your options.

When it comes to signing up for your test, timing and attention to detail is critical. Being proactive about your registration with the tips above can significantly alleviate stress leading up to your official test date.

Do you need support preparing for the SAT or ACT? Test Preps can help! To learn more about our services, contact Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

 

Sources:
https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/act-registration-tips 
https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html
https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test/essay
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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January 10th, 2018

SAT or ACT: Which One Is Better For You?


With so much information out there about the SAT and ACT, it can be difficult to know which test to take. Both tests have evolved over the last few years, leaving parents and students with many questions. The reality is that there is no “better” test. When it comes to college testing, students should identify the best test option for his or her individual abilities.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

Time constraints vary on the SAT and ACT. Of course both tests are timed, but the SAT allows for more time per question on all sections of the exam. Although this doesn’t make the SAT any easier than the ACT, it may be a better fit for a student who typically doesn’t perform well under tight time constraints. If time management is an issue, the SAT could be a winner. A student’s ability to handle time constraints can be assessed by their performance on the PSAT and practice ACT tests, before they start test preparation.

The SAT math sections are based on Common Core math. When the SAT was revamped in 2016, the man at the helm of College Board was David Coleman, aka the “Architect of Common Core”.  Here in Western New York, many school districts struggled with the transition from Regents Math to Common Core. In comparison, questions on the ACT math section can be solved using more traditional math methods.

One of the two SAT math sections has a “no-calculator” policy, which accounts for 1/3 of the total SAT math score. For students who prefer using a calculator to solve every step of a math problem, the SAT may be challenging. While it’s possible to improve a score on the “no-calculator” section, some students prefer the ACT, which allows calculator usage for all the problems. Depending on a student’s proficiency in solving math equations under pressure, this factor may play a role in a student’s test choice.

The ACT includes a Science section while the SAT embeds science questions throughout the test. We tell our students that the ACT Science is more like a reading section that happens to be about Science, with tables, charts, graphs and some paragraphs.  Questions can be answered by reading and interpreting information; no recalling facts from Biology class required!

ALL colleges across the country accept both the SAT and ACT. Therefore, choosing the option that matches individual testing skills and aptitude is key. Busy teens can then focus their time and energy on one test, not both. Keep in mind that for both the SAT and the ACT, repetition and timed practice are crucial components of effective preparation.

Still not sure about the SAT versus the ACT? Test Preps can help students compare their scores and skill set in order to make an informed decision. Get all your testing questions answered by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or by calling (716) 574-7349.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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December 17th, 2017

Start the Test Prep process during holiday break!

With the holiday break being a time for fun and festivities, test preparation is often the last thing on students’ minds. However, using some of this valuable time off to take practice tests and plan ahead can be instrumental in helping juniors achieve successful SAT and ACT outcomes in the spring.

If you’re a high school student, here are two good reasons why you should start the test preparation process during holiday break:

No school conflicts – The burden of test preparation when you have homework, AP exams, mid-terms, sport/musical practices and class projects can be overwhelming. Your mind and schedule are most free during the weeks when you have no school-related commitments and can simply focus on your testing. During the holiday break, pick a day to take a practice test for both the SAT and ACT so you can determine which test you prefer. Dedicating a full day to this will give you the opportunity to take a practice test at home in its entirety with minimal distractions. You’ll then have the time you need to review your initial scores and determine which test is best for you.

Time to create your test prep plan – Once you pick a test, you’ll want to formulate a test prep plan that aligns with your learning abilities and school schedule. Use the holiday break to research your test preparation options, such as small group classes or tutoring sessions. If you’re a junior, you’ll likely want to register for a test prep service (like Test Preps!) that will prepare you for an early spring SAT or ACT. Many students and parents find that having a test prep plan in place before January hits is a significant time-saver and stress-reducer!

While you can certainly get the test prep process underway, it’s important to have fun over the holidays and take a break from the craziness of school work and activities. Once you take a couple practice tests and establish a test prep plan, it’s best to give yourself some time off from everything! Taking at least a few days to simply relax and rejuvenate will give you the mental break you need to put your test preparation into full force in January.

Are you ready to get the test prep process started over break? Not sure if the SAT or ACT is right for you? Contact us and learn how Test Preps can help! You can reach Melissa Cook via email at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call (716) 574-7349. Happy Holidays!

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