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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 should ignore the SAT or ACT. In January 2023, NCAA Divisions I and II adopted legislation to remove standardized test scores from initial eligibility requirements for all student-athletes who initially enroll full-time. Check with the NCAA school you plan to attend regarding whether standardized test scores are necessary for admission or scholarship requirements. 

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 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 positively. 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. (The ACT option was 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 on 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. Trying the PSAT 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, he received a presidential scholarship from the University at Buffalo, then as a National Merit Scholar, and finally, he received an additional $1500 award from 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 prepare for college testing diligently, Test Preps can help! Contact us well before their junior year to discuss how they can benefit from early preparation for the SAT or ACT.

*Thank you to my colleague Donna 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 colleges will consider all their scores? 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 scored 650 on the critical reading section and 550 on the math section. On her second SAT, she scored 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 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 by 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.

Remember 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 that 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 more and more schools are becoming “test-flexible” and embracing superscoring each year. 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 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 your test’s English grammar sections as it reinforces proper grammatical usage and spelling. By seeing how sentences are structured, you’ll become accustomed to correct writing practices and learn how to identify grammatical errors easily. 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.

If reading books isn’t your thing, consider reading at least two or three magazine or newspaper articles daily. If you don’t have those in your home, search on Twitter for a topic that interests you 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 complement your college applications, showcasing your character, skills, and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers and 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 mentored you in a particular subject area or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges 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, multiple seniors ask teachers to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, reaching out to recommenders at the end of junior year rather than waiting until fall of senior year is best. This will allow you to pass along your resume and share your goals and achievements with them. 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. They must be aware of your college’s 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 two 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 8 weeks before your preferred test date. Be aware that there are stringent registration deadlines!  For example, you’ll be charged a hefty late fee if you’re one to three weeks late to register. Registering early ensures that you are able to choose your desired test site.

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 can do it later. Your registration may be canceled if your photo is not submitted at least a week before the test. 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 with your photo and a valid photo ID!

When it comes to signing up for your test, timing and attention to detail are critical. Using the tips above to be proactive about your registration 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! Contact Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349 to learn more about our services.

 

Sources:
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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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 the holiday break:

No school conflicts – The burden of test preparation can be overwhelming when you have homework, AP exams, mid-terms, sports/musical practices, and class projects. Your mind and schedule are most free during the weeks when you have no school-related commitments and can focus on your testing. During the holiday break, pick a day to take a practice test for both the SAT and ACT to determine which test you prefer. Dedicating a full day to this will allow you 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, having fun over the holidays and taking a break from the craziness of school work and activities is important. Once you take a couple of practice tests and establish a test prep plan, giving yourself some time off from everything is best! Taking at least a few days to 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 contact Melissa Cook 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. In reality, earning scholarships is a competitive process – even if you’re a straight-A student. When it comes to scholarships awarded by colleges and 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:

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 know 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 must have a net price calculator, so it’s helpful to take advantage of inputting your information as you apply to schools. Check out U.S. News & World Report for links to the net price calculators of about 300 top national colleges and universities.

You’ll be a competitive candidate for many private scholarships. Thousands of private scholarships are 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 ensure 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.

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 for certain academic programs (i.e., a STEM scholarship). Or, if you hope to earn a scholarship through admittance to a college’s honors program, a high test score will favor 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, contact Melissa Cook, or call (716) 574-7349.

February 17th, 2015

Make the most of your SAT/ACT prep at home

shutterstock_114474988Your parents have plunked down the money for prep; you’ve dutifully attended the sessions, and now that the first practice test is ready to be tackled, Remember that your ACT or SAT score 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, you’d 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 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 increase intelligence and material retention.

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

If 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!

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