This two-part article explores two sides of the same issue: 1) Why test prep requires a serious commitment, and 2) Why it’s important to minimize the time and energy that goes into test prep.Read More
The most misunderstood section of any major standardized test is the ACT’s science section. Most people assume the ACT science section tests students on what they’ve learned in biology, chemistry, physics, etc. However, that is NOT the case. This article explains what students will find on the ACT science section.Read More
Let’s start by answering a common question: Do all colleges accept the ACT? YES, ALL COLLEGES ACCEPT EITHER TEST. All 4-year colleges in the U.S. will accept either the SAT or the ACT. COLLEGES HAVE NO PREFERENCE FOR ONE TEST OVER THE OTHER. The popularity of one test over the other is purely geographic. If you grew up only knowing about the SAT and think the ACT is some new trend, try talking to someone from the middle of the country. I guarantee they grew up only knowing about the ACT and think the SAT is the new trend.Read More
The latest episode of SNL poked fun at Lori Loughlin for bribing her daughter’s way into the University of Southern California. But the sketch also took a jab at USC: “Hold up, you paid 500 grand for USC?!?” Kenan Thompson’s character asks incredulously, placing a skeptical emphasis on “for USC??”
For those of us raised on stereotypes of USC as the “university of spoiled children,” home to little more than frat parties and football games, it’s time to rethink. USC is now an extremely selective college. The acceptance rate at USC in the most recent admissions cycle was 11%. To show how drastically admissions has changed, it was easier to get into Yale (11.3%), Princeton (12.7%), and Stanford (13.0%) fifteen years ago than it is to get into USC today.Read More
On both the SAT and ACT, there are five sections (excluding essay). We only prepare students for four. That’s because the fifth section is an experimental section, which is largely used to test new questions for future test date.
Up until very recently, these sections were purely experimental. They did not count towards students’ scores and were solely used to vet questions for future tests. In fact, prior to March 2019, students taking the SAT with essay didn’t even have to take the experimental section.
Here’s some clarification on where the experimental sections stand now:Read More
William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind of the college admissions scandal, used sports as a “side door” into colleges, bribing coaches to advocate on behalf of the students he worked with. For those not intimately familiar with the admissions process at highly selective universities, the scandal revealed just how different the process is for recruited athletes.Read More
The college admissions scandal involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman has the world of test prep and college admissions consulting dominating headlines. In this blog series, we’ll examine lessons from the scandal.Read More
Many students take the SAT or ACT multiple times in hope of achieving their highest possible score. We often get asked questions like, “What happens if I do poorly on one test?” or “Do I need to send all my scores to colleges?” The answer is pretty simple. It’s almost always no, with just a few exceptions. To clarify, the vast majority of colleges DO NOT REQUIRE STUDENTS TO SUBMIT ALL SCORES. They allow students to pick and choose which test scores to send. This process is, fittingly, called Score Choice.
However, there are some exceptions. Some colleges DO require students to submit all SAT and ACT scores. Here is a list of all the colleges that require you to send all test scores:Read More
It’s early December, which means PSAT scores are coming out. Here are a couple things to know about PSAT and National Merit scores:
1) PSAT scores are not out of 1600
The PSAT scoring scale is roughly similar to the SAT, which is out of 1600. However, because the PSAT leaves out some advanced SAT concepts, a perfect score on the PSAT is only 1520 (760 Reading and Writing, 760 Math).
You can also find percentiles below the primary scores. For purposes of preparing for the SAT and thinking about test prep, percentiles are essentially meaningless. The number out of 1520 is the one that matters, since it (roughly) translates to the 1600 scale that the SAT uses.Read More
It’s the week of your SAT or ACT. You’ve been preparing for weeks or months. Now it’s time for the last-minute cramming you’ve gotten accustomed to from studying for tests in school, right?
Not so fast! The SAT and ACT aren’t quite the same type of test as what you’re used to in school. Since they cover years of material and test broad reasoning skills more than specific concepts, there’s little sense in cramming. Better to get a lot of sleep the week of the test and go in well-rested.
So what can you do to get ready the week of the test? Follow these steps below.Read More
When is the best time to take the SAT or ACT? We’ve broken down the three most common categories that students fit into and what kind of testing timeline each type of student should consider.Read More
Converting scores from the old SAT (out of 2400) to the new SAT (out of 1600) should be easy, right? The old SAT had 3 sections--each out of 800 points--and the new one has 2 sections--each out of 800 points. So multiply your old score by 2/3 and you get your new score. A 1500 on the old SAT would be a 1000 on the new SAT. A 1200 on the new SAT equates to an 1800 on the old SAT. Right? Isn’t this the way it should work?
WRONG, says the College Board. Yesterday, May 10th, they released a series of complicated concordance tables. The tables show, essentially, that higher scores are the new normal. The 1800 on the old SAT that we thought would be equivalent to a new SAT score of 1200? Actually equivalent to a 1290. The 1500 on the old SAT that we thought would be equivalent to a new SAT score of 1000? Actually equivalent to a 1090.
So what are the key takeaways here? First, don’t think comparing old and new SAT scores is as simple as multiplying by 2/3 (or 3/2). Make sure to consult a concordance chart. I’ve created a simplified version, which I’ve printed below and which is always available at PremierEdgePrep.com/resources. Also be careful when converting ACT scores to new SAT scores--make sure you are using an up-to-date concordance chart that reflects the College Board’s new scales. Second, if you’re a junior taking the new SAT or a sophomore beginning to prepare for it, don’t get too excited by what seems like a high score. Unfortunately, it’s not worth as much as it used to be.
Whenever my students (or their parents) complain about the necessity of the SAT, I give them this example: Suppose the SAT and ACT didn’t exist. Two students apply to the same college. Student 1 was a successful student (A’s and B’s, some honors/AP classes, some activities and leadership experience) at the most difficult private school in the area. Student 2 attended a tiny high school in the middle of nowhere that had few offerings--no honors classes, no guidance counselors, few activities. Student 2 had perfect grades, but no one from Student 2’s high school had ever applied to this college before. How does the college compare Student 1 with Student 2? How might Student 1 have done at Student 2's high school? Or vice versa? Will Student 2 be able to handle the rigor of classes at the college? If only there were some standardized way of comparing the two students… Perhaps a test that measured the critical reasoning abilities and basic English and math skills needed to succeed in a college classroom?
The SAT does a beautiful job of helping colleges compare students across schools. It does help predict first year college GPA, as well as 4th year GPA and future income. It is as consistent and fair as any standardized test out there, and the rigor that goes into each question is well-documented.
As most everyone has heard by now, the College Board is rolling out a new SAT in 2016. The primary motive behind the impending change is to address claims that the SAT can be “gamed” or “beaten” through test-prep techniques. The College Board wants to make a test that is fairer and more open, one that gives students from all walks of life an equal opportunity to succeed. Given the changes that have been announced, I suspect the new SAT may end up doing the exact opposite.Read More
On Wednesday (March 5th), the College Board announced a major overhaul and redesign of the SAT. While my predictions that the new SAT would eliminate difficult vocabulary and include a document-based essay were correct, the College Board went much further. The new test, effective starting in the spring of 2016, goes back to the 1600 scale and includes a number of sweeping changes.Read More
In my first SAT tutoring session with a new student, I always ask two questions:
- What do you know about the SAT "guessing penalty"?
- Should you guess on the SAT?
The range of answers that I receive is wider than a California freeway. There are a lot of conceptions--most of them misconceptions--out there about guessing on the SAT. So what's the deal? How does the SAT scoring system work? And as a student taking the test, how does that affect you? Should you never guess? Should you always guess, even if that means just filling in a random bubble?Read More
“When it comes to choosing your undergraduate institution, you should never go to the best institution you get into. Never. Go to your second or your third choice. Go to the place where you’re guaranteed to be in the top part of your class.”
In the video above, Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author of The Tipping Point and Outliers, argues that it is irrational for students to choose to attend elite universities rather than less elite ones. Gladwell attributes the choice of most students to attend the best college possible to something he calls Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder: “When we have an opportunity to join elite institutions, we are so enormously flattered and pleased with ourselves that we do things that are irrational.”
But even if there are psychological factors affecting what universities students choose, what exactly makes it irrational to choose the most elite one?Read More
David Coleman, the President of the College Board, spoke this week at a conference for college admissions counselors, where he reinforced and expounded on the changes that will be coming to the SAT.
Coleman first announced changes to the SAT in February, saying that the SAT should become more aligned with common core standards in order to do a better job testing content that students learn in school. While his announcement was short on specifics, Coleman had previously identified the essay and the SAT's arcane vocabulary as the targets most ripe for change.
At the NACAC conference in Toronto, Coleman gave us further reason to suspect changes will come mostly to the essay and vocabulary. See the article at InsideHigherEd.com for the most detailed report on Coleman's remarks.
The essay section of the SAT will probably not go away; it will simply change its form. We're more likely to see something like the DBQs found on the AP U.S. History exam or the Analyze an Argument writing prompts found on the GRE.
Personally, I welcome the change. The essay is my least favorite section of the SAT to prepare students for. I've seen that SAT math tutoring often increases students' overall math intuition and reasoning, that SAT reading tutoring often increases students' ability to comprehend and analyze complex texts, and that SAT grammar tutoring often increases students' grammar fundamentals, but I almost never find that SAT essay tutoring increases their writing ability. Teaching the SAT essay involves teaching a bland formula, as well as encouraging unsavory yet effective tactics like using canned examples and blatantly false evidence.
I have no doubt that a more analytical or responsive essay prompt, such as the one found on the GRE, would be just as coachable, if not more so, than the current SAT essay. After all, if a typical high school English curriculum prepares students well for any type of writing (excluding creative), it would be the type of short persuasive writing currently tested on the SAT. Analytical prompts, meanwhile, would be just as easy to beat through sound strategy, yet learning the strategies to do so would be more likely to improve students' overall writing skills. I, for one, eagerly anticipate a new and revised SAT essay.
Vocabulary is the other aspect of the SAT that Coleman has singled out as an area for change. I feel ambivalent about changes to the difficulty level of SAT vocabulary. On the one hand, the vocabulary on the SAT rewards students who spent their childhoods as active readers, steadily mastering the complexities of the English language. The SAT also consists largely of words that students will see often in college level texts and well-regarded news publications. On the other hand, I do think the SAT goes a little too far with some of the more difficult words. I'm a huge proponent of expecting high school students to know words like ambiguous and capricious and to figure out words like irreverent and inscrutable, but it is a little absurd to expect 16 and 17 year olds to define words like treacly, perfidy, and diaphanous. I hope that the SAT maintains the basic structure of sentence completion questions--which are fantastic for testing students' ability to recognize and utilize context clues--while only altering the difficulty level of the vocabulary.
I'll be sure to provide info and analysis as further information is released regarding changes to the SAT.
Today, September 6th, is the deadline to register for the October 2013 SAT. If you waited until today (or wait until the late registration deadline on 9/23) to sign up, you will probably not have too many options for a testing location. However, students who sign up early usually have the option of taking the SAT at their own high school or at a different school nearby. This begs the question, should you take the SAT at your school or at a different school?Read More