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November 13th, 2017

Test Prep 101: Evaluating Your Test Preparation Options

So, you’ve signed up for the next SAT or ACT. That’s a great first step! But how are you going to prepare for test day? With many options available, it can be difficult to decide how to use your limited study time most effectively. One important step is to determine the best method of test preparation for your personal learning style.

As you consider your study plans, here are three test prep options to consider:

  1. Small Group Classes: Group sessions are a great option for most students because they cover all the essentials including test format, types of questions, and timing, while teaching specific strategies for each test section. With Test Preps’ SAT/ACT courses, students are placed in small groups by ability, so the pacing of the class can be adjusted to meet the needs of the group’s learning level. Every class reinforces the test strategies taught, utilizing guided practice and interactive drills to cover each section of the test. Homework is assigned weekly and then checked at the following class because targeted practice and self-assessment are critical pieces of the process.  Small groups foster a “we’re all in this together” mentality and encourage peer collaboration and engagement. Most importantly, ability-based small groups create a dynamic setting in which students feel comfortable asking questions or for help with a problem.
  2. Private Tutoring: For students who struggle with staying focused or simply don’t want to ask questions in a group setting, private tutoring can be an excellent option. One-on-one tutoring sessions allow students to have specific content areas addressed and receive immediate feedback to capitalize on testing strengths and address weaker areas. This option is especially valuable for students with learning challenges, or those who cannot attend a scheduled course. Additionally, private tutoring can be beneficial for students who, after completing a course, need further tutoring in one specific testing section.There are other advantages to working privately with a tutor. Some students greatly benefit from the accountability of meeting with a tutor who ensures they complete the required work each week and helps the student assess where mistakes are being made. Extra work in content areas can also be addressed, as needed. Private tutoring is a helpful option for students with busy sports schedules who require a flexible study schedule on a week-to-week basis.
  3. Self-study: Studying on your own requires a significant amount of diligence and self-motivation! This may be a good option for students who are inclined to use online testing tools and take timed practice tests on their own. However, it is a less than ideal option for procrastinators. To make self-study effective, students must be committed to a weekly study routine, dedicating a set amount of time each week to completing sections. Self-assessment is key! Students must be proactive in determining where they are making mistakes and focus on improving their weak areas. In general, most students find that other test prep methods, like small group classes or private tutoring, hold them more accountable to their study schedule.

It’s important to figure out which SAT/ACT preparation method works for you, well in advance of your official test day. You’ll want to consider how you prefer to learn and study, as well as which program fits best within your busy school and activity schedule. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s critical that you take your test preparation seriously and put in the time and effort required to perform your best

Here in Buffalo, NY, Test Preps offers many options to accommodate all types of learners. Want to learn more about our programs? Get in touch with Test Preps’ owner, Melissa Cook, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

September 19th, 2017

Looking For Scholarship Money? High Test Scores Can Help!

Almost every parent or student going through the college admissions process is interested in scholarships. The reality is that earning scholarships is a competitive process – even if you’re a straight A student. When it comes to scholarships awarded by colleges, as well as public and private institutions, applicants must possess a strong academic record and high standardized test scores to be considered. So, what does this mean exactly? It means that the better you perform on your SAT or ACT, the more scholarship money you can potentially receive.

Here are three of the top reasons why achieving high SAT or ACT test scores can make you more competitive in the scholarship applicant pool:

 

  1. You’ll be eligible for “automatic” merit scholarships. There are some colleges that automatically award merit scholarships based strictly on numerical criteria, including SAT or ACT scores, and qualifiers like GPA or class rank. With automatic merit scholarships, you do not have to submit any extra application information. However, some colleges require that you apply for admission by a certain deadline to be guaranteed a scholarship. To get an idea of how much merit aid you may be awarded at a given school, you’ll want to check out each college’s net price calculator. Net price calculators allow students to enter their GPA and test scores for an estimate of how much scholarship money they may receive if admitted to the college. Every college website is required to have a net price calculator, so it’s helpful to take advantage of inputting your information as you apply to schools. Check out this list by U.S. News & World Report to access links to the net price calculators of about 300 top national colleges and universities.

 

  1. You’ll be a competitive candidate for many private scholarships. There are thousands of private scholarships available to students through various companies, employers and organizations. And, with endless scholarship opportunities available online, it’s never been more important for students to make sure their academic credentials stand out. Though private scholarships are based on many factors, a high SAT or ACT score can increase your odds of being considered – simply because your test scores will outshine those of many other candidates vying for the same opportunities.

 

  1. You’ll enhance your admissions profile for program-specific scholarships. In addition to becoming eligible for colleges’ standard merit scholarships, an impressive score will open doors to many other scholarship opportunities. For example, most colleges require students to meet a specified testing threshold to earn scholarships pertaining to certain academic programs (i.e., a STEM scholarship). Or, if you are hoping to earn a scholarship through admittance to a college’s honors program, a high test score will be favorable in your admission to the program.

As you can see, performing well on your SAT or ACT is important not just for admission, but for your wallet. Taking test preparation seriously will help you get into the college of your dreams AND earn you free money to attend it. It’s a win-win!

Is scholarship money a priority for you? Achieving a high SAT or ACT score requires dedication to the test prep process. Enroll in one of Test Preps’ programs today by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

June 27th, 2017

What You Should Know About Test Optional Colleges

 

 

Though standardized testing has been considered a critical component of the college admissions process for years, you may not be aware that “test optional” colleges do indeed exist. For a few different reasons, many colleges throughout the U.S. have opted to drop the SAT or ACT requirement as criteria for admission. This 2015 New York Times article on “The Test-Optional Surge” discusses some of the many reasons colleges are taking the test optional route. Here are answers to three common questions regarding test optional policies:

 

  1. How do I benefit from a test optional policy?

Students who perform very well academically, but who score below average on the SAT or ACT, tend to benefit the most from a test optional policy. Though most colleges take a holistic view of each student, test optional schools look more heavily at applicants’ grades, essays and extracurricular activities in making admissions decisions. Therefore, a student with a strong academic record who is simply not a good test-taker may find test optional colleges most appealing.

  1. Should I still submit my SAT or ACT score to a test optional school?

The whole point of pursuing a test optional college is to avoid the submission of a low test score. However, there are certain factors to consider before deciding against a test score submission. Many test-optional schools still require the submission of SAT or ACT scores for certain circumstances, such as qualifying for merit scholarships or playing a sport at the Division 1 or Division 2 level. Always check with admissions officers about the individual policies of their respective institutions.

  1. Can I just avoid taking the SAT or ACT?

If you are strongly considering test optional schools, it may be tempting to completely forgo taking standardized tests all together. However, it’s best to take a practice SAT or ACT at least once. This will give you an idea as to what test you’re best suited for, as well as your test-taking abilities. Once you get a sense of your test scores, you’ll be able to plan accordingly and decide if you should only apply to test optional schools.

Even though test optional schools can be a great option for some students, taking the SAT or ACT will provide the most flexibility as you explore and visit many different colleges. Remember – no matter how you perform on a standardized test, there is a college option for every student.

For more information and a complete list of test optional colleges, be sure to visit www.fairtest.org.

Do you want to learn more about the role of standardized testing in the college admissions process? Contact Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349 to have all your questions answered.

May 30th, 2017

Is SAT or ACT Prep Part of Your Summer Agenda?

 

Summer may be around the corner – but, like it or not, standardized testing doesn’t take a break! This year, for the first time ever, College Board is offering a summer SAT on August 26th.  Next summer, ACT also announced a July 14, 2018 test option. It’s best to make your testing arrangements ahead of time, and because schedules are often less hectic in the summer – many students find it easier to buckle down on their study plans during July and August.

If you’re a rising junior and would like to start the testing process early, this summer you’ll want to take SAT and ACT practice tests to determine which test you prefer. Or, if you’re heading into your senior year, you can take advantage of the summer to prepare for some final testing opportunities offered in the fall.

For optimal testing results, you must make testing preparation a priority – even when it’s more appealing to go to the beach with friends. Keep these 3 preparation tips in mind:

Stick to a strict study schedule. Summer vacation can undoubtedly be distracting for many students, which is why it’s critical to maintain a strict weekly study schedule. Whether your study preparation method is self-study, small group classes or private tutoring sessions, it’s critical that you’re vigilant about reviewing content and completing practice tests under timed conditions each week. This will help to ensure that you’re covering all necessary test prep material.

Know all your deadlines. Making yourself aware of all test dates is important not just for preparation purposes, but to ensure that you meet all registration deadlines. Additionally, rising seniors must keep track of all college application deadlines. You’ll want to take the SAT or ACT early enough so that your scores will arrive before final college application deadlines. You can check the official SAT and ACT websites for approximate score release dates.

Check for scheduling conflicts. Before spontaneously signing up for a test, be sure to check your upcoming school and activity calendar(s) first to make sure there are no potential conflicts on or around your test date. For example, if there are hockey tryouts during the time of the September ACT, you may want to consider choosing another test date in which you will feel more focused and prepared. And, once you do register for your test, be sure to avoid scheduling any big commitments during the couple weeks leading up to your test date.

Using the summer to plan for an upcoming SAT or ACT will be one of the most valuable uses of your time during the college admissions process. If you balance your schedule properly, summertime test prep can be very effective.

Make sure you’re fully informed about the 2017-2018 SAT test dates and ACT test dates and learn how Test Preps, based in Buffalo, NY, can help with your testing preparation!

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June 2nd, 2015

Thorough Test Prep Tends To Your Body & Mind

As the SAT/ACT 2014-2015 testing season hurtles towards completion, time to take stock of your preparation. Attended every session of prep class? Check. Practice tests diligently completed? Check. But much more should be done to ensure you get the best possible score on test day. You need to attend to your body and mind by sleeping well, keeping hydrated and eating healthy. Each is supported by copious research and each will improve your score.

We all know teenagers are chronically sleep deprived. They go to bed late, get up early for school, and binge sleep on weekends. Not a healthy pattern, especially heading into a SAT or ACT. One site on sleep puts it bluntly, Well-rested brains do a bunch of tasks better than sleepy brains.  In tests of response time to stimuli, agility, ability to remember new material and to perform things like mental arithmetic, the superiority of the rested brain has been shown again and again.”1 Don’t believe the research? Every year we have students sign up for SATs and ACTs not realizing their prom is the night before. Regardless of how they practiced, their scores range from abominable to abysmal. A week or two before the test, shift your sleeping patterns. Go to bed at a more reasonable hour and wake up at least ninety minutes before the scheduled time of the test. You’ll find your mental abilities sharpest right when it counts, when the proctor says “Go!”

Though the exhortation to drink eight glasses of water a day turned out to be baseless, keeping hydrated is important. When I went to high school in Western New York in the 1980s, carrying a water bottle around the halls was unheard of. Research in the 1990s changed this, and now water bottles are ubiquitous sights in classrooms. Why? Adequate hydration has been proven to help us better handle stress and “a drop of just 2% in body water causes short term memory problems and significant difficulties with concentration.”2 Make a habit of bringing a water bottle to school, drink water the morning of the test and bring a bottle of water to the test so you can hydrate on breaks.

And speaking of morning, do not skip breakfast. It’s almost cliché to say that breakfast is the most important mCulture-Eats-Strategy-For-Breakfasteal of the day, but research has shown this to be true many times over. The statistics are eye opening. Students who eat breakfast regularly perform better academically, have increased attendance and less often visit the nurse’s office. Students who eat breakfast regularly also, on average, score more than 17% higher on math tests and are 20% more likely to graduate. 3 Common sense tells us that eating healthier foods leads to better physical and mental health. Eat better in the weeks leading up to the test and do not skip breakfast. Since you’re already getting up earlier, you’re sure to have the time.

Practice tests and tactics should only make up on part of your prep. Sleep, hydrate and eat well to make sure you’re at you very best on test day. Better yet, make them life-long habits.

1. “Sleep and Learning.” The Relationship Between. Web. 2 June 2015.

2.Roberts, Roger. “Benefits of Adequate Hydration Are Mind Boggling.” Streetdirectory.com. 2015. Web. 2 June 2015.

3. Bakies, Karen. “The Breakfast Benefit: Why Schools Should Make Morning Meals a Priority.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 2 June 2015.

May 8th, 2015

Higher ACT/SAT Scores Can Earn You Big Bucks & Other Benefits!

We all know your ACT/SAT scores help you get into college, but your score can reward you in many other ways. A few points gained on an ACT, forty or fifty on an SAT may earn you big scholarship money and admittance to honors programs in colleges throughout the northeast and across the nation. When parents balk at the hundreds of dollars required for test prep, they may be leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

College-money-630x551Most schools grant more money for better test scores. The best part is most of these scholarships are granted automatically with no further application materials needed. A peek around Western New York offers many examples. A jump from a 21 to a 24 on the ACT (1000 to 1100 on the SAT) at D’Youville earns students $3,000 more per year. The difference between a 20 and 24 on the ACT at Niagara University? $7,000 in free money per year. And a 27 on the ACT (1210 on the SAT) at Niagara earns you $17,000 a year. Rank in the top 20% of your class? Then a 28 on the ACT will earn you $9,000-$15,000 in scholarship money per year at RIT. A 28 on the ACT at SUNY Alfred gets you a free ride including room and board. Satisfied with a 32 on the ACT? One more point and you can go to UB for free, including room & board and books. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of college possibilities, spend time visiting their websites or give them a call to learn if a few more points on the ACT or SAT may earn you big bucks.

And while we all like to be shown the money, your ACT/SAT scores can earn you lots of other under-the-radar perks. A 28 on the ACT (1260 on the SAT) can get you admitted to the All-College Honors Program at Canisius College. What are the benefits? Special living accommodations, unique field trips, research grants and internships, and individualized mentoring. At Niagara University, a 27 on the ACT can get you into their Honors Program which allows you to attend special classes, enjoy lunch with campus lecturers and visiting notables, and gets you invited to exclusive mixers. Benefits of the University Honors College at UB include special interest housing, scholarship and teaching assistant opportunities, preferential class scheduling and specialized academic advising.

Do your research! Another test, a few more points on an ACT or SAT, the cost of test prep may well be worth your time, effort and money. And when researching, keep in mind that the requirements for in-state and out-of-state students may vary. Also note that many of the above opportunities have deadlines that differ from the normal application. Your ACT/SAT scores may not just get you into college, but may help you get the most out college as well.

April 20th, 2015

Are My ACT Scores Good Enough?

Students and parents ask me this all the time. My quick answer is “It depends”. Your test scores are an important piece for getting into college and should not be underestimated. Think of the chore college admissions officers have in comparing grades from high schools all across the country or weighing the merits of one student’s participation in band versus another student’s spot on the football team. And let’s not forget that colleges are getting thousands more applications per year due to the ease of the Common Application. The test scores alone compare students from all over the country by the same yardstick and provide an easy means for admissions officers to reduce potential applicants.

ACT-AM-I-READYThe quality of your score depends on which universities you are applying to. The more selective a university, the higher the score required to be admitted. Once you’ve begun to make a list of schools you’re interested in, visit their websites or give them a call and ask what scores they require on the ACT. You can also check websites like College Simply. Just plug in your score and a list is generated of the colleges in every state for which you qualify.

Two other points to keep in mind. First, many colleges superscore the ACT, meaning if you take multiple ACTs, they will combine your top scores on each of the four ACT sections to make a “superscore”, (See Up Up and Away, Superscoring the SAT and ACT Tests, 10/9/14). Yes, you should be taking more than one ACT, especially when research shows that students score best on a second test after prep.

A final point to keep in mind is that higher ACT scores can earn you more merit scholarship money, and with no ceiling to college costs in sight, every point you earn means less debt down the road. Besides merit money, higher ACT scores can gain you admittance into honors programs with preferential scheduling or honors dorms as perks.  Our next blog entry will explore these last points in detail.  Stay tuned.

March 29th, 2015

Juniors! Time to Make a Plan!

Time is fleeting for the class of 2016, at least in terms of getting ready to apply to colleges next fall. If you’re a little late to the process or just need a refresher, you can easily get up to speed by the first day of senior classes. Just follow the timeline below.

Spring 2015

Ideally, you’ve earned a great score on the SAT and/or ACT. We suggest two tests minimum after prep. If you haven’t met your goal yet, or haven’t yet signed up for a test, time remains. Each test is still being offered twice: the SAT on May 2 and June 6, the ACT April 18 and June 13. Unfortunately, it’s late to begin prepping for the earlier of either test and registration for the April 18 ACT has passed. For further deadlines check out the tests’ respective sites:

https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-us-dates

http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html

Applying to one of America’s top universities? You might then need to take an SAT II test. They are offered on both May 2 and June 6, but note that you may not take an SAT II and the SAT on the same day. If this is all news to you, no need to worry. The SAT, SAT II, and ACT tests are all offered multiple times in the fall.

Summer 2015664

If work, a sport or vacation is taking up your spring break, then plan a road trip this summer to visit some colleges. Be sure to take the official tours and sign your names in their registration books so they know you’ve visited. Showing this level of interest helps your application. Also, be sure to ask questions and talk to as many students as possible. Make notes and whittle down your list of prospective schools.

August’s arrival should have you contemplating your college application essays. We highly suggest completing these with professional help before senior year begins. The application essays have become one of the single most important factors in the admissions process as they are the sole glimpse a prospective school gets of you the person, instead of you the student. August also means time to begin prepping again for fall tests, whether it be the September ACT or October SAT.

Still have questions? Concerns? Email us at contact@raisemysatscore.com

February 17th, 2015

Make the Most of Your Prep at Home

shutterstock_114474988Your parents have plunked down the money for prep, you’ve dutifully attended the sessions, now that first practice test is waiting to be tackled. Keep in mind that your score on the actual ACT or SAT will largely be determined by the work you do at home. Beyond conscientiously working to internalize the taught strategies and tactics and adhering strictly to time limits, what else can you do at home to maximize your prep? Try paying attention to your environment.

Study locations: If you usually complete your homework in your room, stick with it. If not, beware because no room contains more distractions. Then again, if you typically complete your homework in front of the tv, better find a different location. Ideally, you want to approximate the test location as closely as possible. This means finding a location with minimal distractions. Avoid spots where people will talk to you, where there is a lot of movement, or even locations that are too quiet. The test room will be quiet, but not silent.

Background noise: Research demonstrates that doing any kind of homework with headphones on decreases retention. Yet, background noise has been found to increase students’ focus. Some studies even suggest that certain types of music – Bach, Beethoven, or flowing instrumentals – may even increase intelligence and retention of material.

Lighting: The test rooms will be well lit. Turn those lights on if knocking those tests off in your room, or if in a library or cafe, sit where the lighting is good.

You want a great score, then give every effort. Find blocks of time that will allow you to complete entire sections, review the tactics and strategies right before practicing, time yourself strictly and avoid doing work on the bus or in front of the tv. Environment matters!

October 28th, 2014

The ACT is Changing Too

(This article ACT-test-changes-graphicmarks the first in a series documenting the imminent changes in the ACT and SAT tests and an analysis of what this means for you and your freshman, sophomore or junior.)

The radical transformation of the SAT has been detailed in print and digital media for the past six months so we save this for a later article. What is less known is that the ACT is changing as well, though not as dramatically. Let’s take a closer look at the two primary modifications being made to the ACT.

First, the content of the test itself is changing, though the changes will be subtle. In fact, ACT officials claim that students taking the test both this year and next probably won’t notice any difference. The Reading section will include more author comparisons, testing whether students can integrate and compare knowledge across multiple texts. The Mathematics section will include a small bump in the number of problems dealing with statistics and probability. Finally, the essay will require more analysis, increasing its difficulty level to better match the challenge presented by the SAT essay. An overall writing score will still be reported, but students will receive subscores in the areas of ideas & analysis, development & support, organization, and language use. ACT administrators say the changes are evidence-based and better reflect classroom instruction.

The change with the largest possible future impact is the option of computer-based administration of the test. This past April, 4,000 students at 80 test sites tapped away on keyboards taking the computer-based test on a trial run. 2015 will see a broader release of computer-based testing while 2016 is targeted for a nation-wide roll out. And while there is currently no plan to abolish the paper and pencil test, from a preparation perspective, which test a student takes will matter greatly. The number of questions, the content, and even the timeline for reporting scores will be the same as if one was taking the paper and pencil test. However, the ACT has proposed some timing changes for the computer-based version and pricing for computer-based testing has not yet been finalized.

Seniors and juniors are safely ensconced in the “old-world” of testing. The landscape for sophomores and freshman is about to change dramatically, however. Hopefully, these changes will benefit these students when it’s their time to turn their attention to college preparation.

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