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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
April 4th, 2019

PSAT Primer for Accelerated Students

Everyone knows that high SAT or ACT scores can be rewarded with scholarships, tuition assistance and other great benefits. But the PSAT can also be worth money if you test exceptionally well. Standardized testing is a part of every high school student’s path to college. For strong students who are accelerated in their coursework, preparing for an SAT or ACT before taking the PSAT can be a savvy option. Besides getting an early start on test preparation before junior year becomes busy with AP work and extracurricular activities, early test prep can also ready a student for the PSAT and possible National Merit recognition and money.

About 1.6 million U.S. students take the PSAT each year. However, only scores achieved during junior year are eligible for National Merit rewards. If you score in the top 3 to 4% of PSAT test takers in your state, you move on to the Commended Scholar level. Every state’s required score is different and changes each year, depending on what scores are produced that given year. “Commended Scholar” is a nice line on your college application resume and your PSAT journey is over.

But let’s say you score really well and are in the top 1% of your state’s test takers – congratulations! You are then considered one of about 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists. That’s an even better line to put on your application, just from scoring exceptionally well on the PSAT.

Here is the tricky part. Those 16,000 National Merit Scholars are asked to take either the SAT or ACT and score high enough to validate that their PSAT score wasn’t a fluke. (ACT option just added for the class of 2020!) Also, there is an application package to complete which includes an essay.

About 8,000 (or half) of these National Merit Scholars will be given money. Some will earn $2,500 as a one time payment, straight from the National Merit organization. Some will get money right from their intended college. Others can earn money from corporate sponsors – typically $10,000 divided into four payments. Colleges may even reward National Merit Finalists in addition to the student getting a corporate scholarship. Click here for more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Here’s where early test preparation can help a serious student excel not only on the SAT/ACT, but also with the PSAT. In my personal experience, my son took an ACT preparation course at the end of his sophomore year and got a great first score on the June ACT. With additional preparation and practice, he achieved a perfect score on the ACT in the fall of his junior year. When he tried the PSAT, it was easier because he already knew how to attack a standardized test. He seriously prepared for these tests and was rewarded for his efforts. First, a presidential scholarship from University at Buffalo, then as a National Merit Scholar, and finally, with an additional $1500 award by the college when the National Merit money was applied during his freshman year. It certainly added up!  Additionally, prepping early in junior year avoids a heavy load in the spring during AP exam testing and finals.

The PSAT can be more than a warm-up for the SAT, it can be an avenue to additional accolades and money for college. If your teen is accelerated in their high school coursework and ready to diligently prepare for college testing, Test Preps can help! Contact us well before their junior year to talk about how they can benefit from early preparation for the SAT or ACT.

*Thank you to my colleague D. Cicero for sharing her wealth of knowledge and her son’s PSAT experience in this guest post!
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
May 31st, 2018

College Recommendation Letters 101

With so much going on in the college admissions process, it’s easy to forget that acquiring college recommendation letters requires strategic planning. Experts suggest that students give thought and attention to their recommendation letters as early as junior year.

Letters of recommendation serve as a complement to your college applications, showcasing your character, skills and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers, as well as a letter from your guidance counselor. However, colleges have different requirements, so it’s important to refer to each school’s website or admissions department.

Who to ask?

Start with teachers you have known for a long time and have developed a meaningful relationship with throughout high school. This may be a teacher who has served as a mentor to you in a particular subject area, or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you either excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges is someone who could be well suited to write a letter on your behalf.

Additionally, many students choose to ask coaches, club advisors or employers for a third letter of recommendation. Letters written by these individuals can speak to your talents outside the classroom and highlight your commitment to extracurricular activities, such as a sport, music program or internship. Employers can write about your work ethic and responsibility.

When to ask?

Each year teachers are asked by multiple seniors to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, it’s best to reach out to recommenders at the end of junior year, rather than waiting until fall of senior year. This will give you an opportunity to pass along your resume and share with them your goals and achievements. Most importantly, it gives your teachers time over the summer to write your letters – before they receive a flood of requests in the fall!

General tips

After speaking with your recommenders, be sure to provide them with all the information they need to submit their letters. It’s critical that they are aware of your colleges’ deadlines and have access to the forms or links required for submission. Be sure to send hand-written thank you notes after your applications are completed!

Your recommendation letters are a key component of your admissions profile. Planning ahead will help both you and your recommenders manage the process in the best way possible.

Source:
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/your-high-school-record/how-to-get-a-great-letter-of-recommendation
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!

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.

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