Standardized Tests

PSAT Scores are Back - Tips on Interpreting Scores -

PSAT scores were released over the past week.  For those students who were able to access them, many are not clear on how to interpret them.

Most common questions:

Based on my PSAT results, how will I do on the SAT?

Official concordance tables have not been released to predict how the 2015 PSAT scores would project to the SAT - A perfect score on the SAT is a 1600. A perfect score on the PSAT is a 1520. The PSAT perfect score is lower because the SAT is more difficult than the PSAT. The PSAT 1520 perfect score is shifted down to account for its differences in difficulty level. While a perfect score on the PSAT suggests you might earn a perfect score on the SAT, this is not certain because the additional questions on the SAT will be more difficult than those that were on the PSAT.  Many in the industry have also noticed somewhat inflated PSAT scores this year.

Will I qualify for the National Merit Scholarship?

National Merit Scholarship Qualification is based on your NMSC Selection Index Score.  The selection index score can be found on the third page of your PSAT score report.  The Selection Index Score is calculated by weighting your Writing score ⅔ and your Math score ⅓ - More information about the PSAT/NMSQT can be found in the student guide.

Official selection index score cut-offs have not yet been determined for the class of 2017, but the predicted scores by state can be found here.

Should I take the ACT or the SAT?

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I refer to this article and chart by Compass Prep with the reminder that the most difficult SAT questions were left off the PSAT, the scoring of the March SAT will be delayed and preparation for one test overlaps preparation for the other.

If I decide to take the SAT, do I need to take it with writing?

It depends. This link will provide some insight into that.

Sandy Aprahamian, M.Ed.  EDNavigators LLC

 

Do I Have to Take the Writing Section of the SAT or ACT?

  Screen_Shot_2016-01-13_at_12_53_41_PM 2With the College Board making the SAT Essay optional for SAT test takers beginning in March 2016 and the ACT, which already had a writing optional status, changing its writing section format,  many students are wondering if they need to take the writing section of either test.  

In short, as with most college admissions related questions, the answer is:  It depends.  It depends upon which colleges/universities you are interested in.  Some colleges and universities have decided on their policy with regard to writing and some have yet to decide.  Since the list of where each school stands on the essay is continually being updated, it is best to check one or both of these links where the website owners, College Board, and Compass Prep are updating their information regularly.  If in doubt about a certain school, it is best to take the writing section of the tests just in case.

Chart Compiled by Compass Prep

College Board List addressing  SAT only

Sandy Aprahamian, MEd.  EDNavigators LLC

Five Essential Components for Success on the ACTScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.29.02 AM

A

Attitude - Success requires a positive attitude.  Think, “If it can be done, I can do it!”.  You need to really WANT to do well and you must squash the ANT (Automatic Negative Thinking) Eliminate all negative thinking during prep and during the actual test.  There is no room or time for negative self-talk during the ACT.  

Application - Work through retired ACT questions and take retired ACT practice tests before sitting for the real test. Understand the correct answer to every question you miss as question types repeat themselves on standardized tests.

C

Content - Fully understand the content that is being tested

Commitment - Make the test a priority.  Commit yourself to dedicated preparation and focusing on areas of weakness.

T

Time - Finding time for quality test preparation is usually the biggest challenge in the life of high school students today. ACT success requires quality focused preparation time:dedicated work on content and retired ACT questions, timed full length practice tests, time put into reading and studies. Testing time is tight on the ACT.  You must work at a fast pace. Pace increases when you know what to expect on the test and have confidence solving similar questions - practice questions from retired tests.  Pace increases with practice under timed conditions - time yourself when taking practice tests and working on practice test sections.  Read this post for suggestions specific to increasing reading speed.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Improve Reading Speed and Comprehension for the ACT

Read to SucceedReading is a learned skill that builds upon itself. Reading often is the best way to improve comprehension and reading speed. Reading connects people places and times. It builds on personal experiences and learned knowledge.

A reader can improve reading comprehension by:

  • Selecting reading material of interest.
  • Reading with purpose - reading title page/ copyright and introduction and connecting time and place if given - getting any background available
  • Focusing - shuting out negative thinking and distractions
  • Looking up new vocabulary and concepts as they come up

A reader can improve reading speed by:

  1. Understanding that Speed Reading is basically more focused reading.  The best way to increase reading speed is to read often with focus and concentration.  Continued practice is key.
  2. Gently trying to read faster than comfortable.
  3. Grouping Words
  4. Trying out these free apps/software programs:  

Acceleread App - use the free version of this app for an introduction to the process of and skills needed for speed reading.

Spreeder:  a free online speed reading software where you can copy your own text and practice reading it with custom speed and grouping (set speed and grouping preference in “settings” under the passage) - I have no experience with the paid version of this program.  I think the free version should be fine for practicing. Copy and paste portions of  these Newspapers and Magazines The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Scientific American, The Atlantic Monthly, or The New Yorker into Spreeder and read them for speed and comprehension.  While reading, determine the purpose, main point and tone of each article. . (You may eventually want to copy and paste the article you select into Spreeder to practice reading it at the speed needed for the ACT.)  A reading speed of at least 300 wpm is needed to get through the ACT.  This reading speed is also important to get through the large amount of reading that is required in college.

Sandy Aprahamian, Principal, EDNavigators LLC

Some October 2014 SAT Scores are Delayed

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.03.23 PMSome high school students recently learned that the reporting of their October SAT scores is being delayed.  This Washington Post article provides an overview of the situation.  With many Early Action and Early Decision deadlines only three days away, seniors who were counting on these scores to complete their application may not make the application deadlines.  The score delays affect students who took the SAT in China, South Korea and, possibly Singapore.  Students who find themselves in this situation should call or email each school directly to ask how the delay will be handled.  Some colleges will give a grace period due to the circumstances - some will not.  This is frustrating all-around.  At EDNaviagotors  we encourage students to complete their testing by the end of their junior year of high school.  For high school seniors, this removes the testing burden, the uncertainty of where test scores will fall and whether or not scores will arrive in time.  High school seniors are busy enough focusing on grades, essays and applications in the fall.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators

Rising Seniors - Summer Timeline for College Applications

College Application Checklist for Rising SeniorsFirst semester senior year is busy.  Class rigor and grades for senior year count toward college admissions. EDNavigators encourages students to remove some of the senior year stress by beginning applications over the summer. What can a rising senior do over the summer in preparation for college applications?

June and July: 1. Plan and adjust college by researching and visiting colleges. 2. Prepare for the SAT or ACT if taking it in the fall. 3. Go to the website of or call the college of interest to find out: • If it accepts The Common Application - If yes, are supplements required? Are they available yet? Supplements to the Common Application become available on a school-by-school basis. Princeton University’s Supplement to the Common Application for the Class of 2015 is available now as well as Purdue, Amherst and Penn. • If it accepts The Universal College Application - If yes, are supplements required and are they available yet? • If it has its own application - If yes, is it available? For schools with rolling admission, the sooner you complete and submit the application, the better your chances of getting in. Penn State's application becomes available September 1. There are different application requirements and different timelines for each school. The only way to get the information you need specific to each school is to go to the school’s website or call the school’s admissions office. 4. Write the common Application Essay. The Common Application Essay prompts will remain the same as they were last year. They are available now. 5. Take time to do things you enjoy

August: 1. On August 1, The Common Application and The Universal College Application go live for the next school year. Complete the core sections during the month of August. The Common Application and The Universal College Application for Fall 2015 will be available August 1, 2014 2. Continue to adjust and revise the college list 3. Continue with test-prep 4. Take time to do things you enjoy.

 Specifics for the Classes of 2016 and 2017

Essential information about the SAT Writing Score and the Essay

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.23.14 AMSAT scores are back today.  Many students got up at the crack of dawn to check scores.  If you got the score you hoped for, congratulations!  If not, stay confident.  Don't let this score define you.  You are more than a score.  Sign up for the next test and continue to prepare.  A positive attitude is essential. After working with many students on SAT Prep, I have seen that SAT scores CAN be improved with dedication, practice and a positive attitude.  It takes a lot of time and a lot of work. There are strategies, but not shortcuts.  It takes TIME.  The SAT is a standardized test.  There is only one correct answer to each question.  With practice and preparation, it becomes easier to find that correct answer.

The one exception to the 'one correct answer' is the essay. The essay is graded subjectively and has many possible answers.  This article, written by Debbie Stier, the author of The Perfect Score Project, is an essential read for all students (and parents of these students) who are taking or have taken the SAT for ACT.  After seven attempts, she, a published writer, could not get a score of 12 on the writing.  Her friend, whose books have been USED ON THE SAT CRITICAL READING SECTION could not score a 12!!!  (On a much more positive note - you can still get a perfect SAT score with a 10 on the writing)

On a separate note, I highly recommend Debbie Stier's book, The Perfect Score Project to parents of students who are taking standardized tests.  It will make you laugh and give you a glimpse into the testing world of teens today.  My review of the book can be found here.

Sandy Aprahamian - Principal, Educational Consultant, EdNavigators

 

The New Redesigned SAT

David Coleman reported on The Redesigned SAT today.  Below are some highlights. DeliveringOpportunity.org will provide all specifics of the new SAT.  The New SAT will be:

  • Focused and Clear
  • Useful and Open (applicable to work in college and career settings)
  • Based upon what is currently taught in class

The Content of the Redesigned SAT will include Three Sections

1.  Evidence Based Reading and Writing:

  • The exam will showcase students command of evidence rather than picking right answers.
  • Students will be asked to locate the evidence that supports the answers.
  • Students will read and analyze a wide range of texts (Science, Social Studies etc) - This sounds very similar to the current ACT
  • Students will work with narratives  and graphs - students must be data analysts
  • Students will analyze texts.
  • There will be no more sentence completion
  • Vocabulary will be "powerful words" like synthesis and its various meanings

2.  The Essay

  • Assignment will be to analyze the core argument of a text.
  • Directions will be:  As you read the passage in front of you, consider how the author uses evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements to add power to the ideas expressed.
  • Essay will be optional on the SAT (like the current ACT)

3. Math

  • Will focus on three areas:
  1. problem solving and data analysis (ratios, proportions..)
  2. the heart of algebra (linear equations and systems)
  3. passport to advanced math (the math that opens doors of opportunity - calculus will be included)
  • Students will be presented with a scenario to which they will apply the math they have learned.
  • There will be calculator and non calculator sections of the SAT.

Other Facts:

  • America's Founding Documents and Global Conversation will be included on the Redesigned SAT.
  • The new exam will be given spring 2016 It will be offered both through computer and pencil and paper.
  • The new test length will be 3 hours with an optional 50 minute essay
  • The New SAT will return to the 1600 score
  • The essay will be scored separately.
  • The penalty for wrong answers will be removed.
  • April 16 the full blue print for the exams and sample questions of the New SAT will be revealed.
  • Khan Academy will provide FREE test prep.  It will be adaptive.  It will provide customized learning.  Khan Academy has always been a cornerstone of learning at EdNavigators.  As EdNavigators students know, Khan Academy has provided answers to the questions in the College Board Blue Book for a while.  We are thrilled about this new partnership.  We are looking forward to the Khan Academy SAT Prep. Khan Academy SAT prep will be found at:  khanacademy.org/sat

Sandy Aprahamian, Principal, Educational Consultant  - EdNavigators

Making Sense of the Testing Options and Requirements for College Applications

HELP-Standardized TestsGone are the days of simply taking the SAT to meet college application requirements. Today, students are presented with a variety of exams, some required, some optional.  These exams include:

  1. SAT (New SAT for class of 2017 and beyond)
  2. ACT
  3. SAT Subject Tests (also known as SAT II Tests)
  4. AP Exams:

(In effort to make this article a manageable length, the above list does not include IB testing or major-specific exams.)

The Basics

  • The majority of four year colleges require applicants to submit scores from the SAT OR the ACT.
  • Some highly selective schools require or strongly recommend that applicants submit scores from two or three SAT Subject Tests.
  • Some schools accept the ACT with Writing in lieu of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests.  For more information on this complicated decision, please read these articles written by Nancy Griesemer who has done extensive research on this topic.

With all of these testing requirements, it is important to create a testing plan in high school.  Freshman year is not too early to plot out the test plan since some tests may be taken then.

Possible Testing Timeline beginning Junior Year

  • SAT OR ACT :  Take one of these tests Two times between January and June (This leaves September/October of Senior Year available as additional test dates if needed.  Ideally, however, all testing is complete by the end of Junior Year - Senior year is very busy with applications and essays.)
  • SAT Subject Tests:  These should be taken May or June of the year the subject is studied
  • AP Exams:  These are given in May of the Year the subject is studied
  • Class of 2017 suggested SAT/ACT prep timeline

EdNavigators recommends the following:

  • Take a full length practice ACT and a full length practice SAT to see which test you prefer.  Prepare for the test you prefer and plan to take the test "for real" at least twice.  *Many students select to take both tests...in this case, two additional test-prep sessions would be required to discuss content and strategy for the test the student did not prep for.  The content covered on the SAT and ACT is very similar (EDNavigators Test Prep Packages are described on this page - Package 2 is to prep for the SAT OR the ACT, Package 2B is to prep for the SAT AND the ACT)
  • Take the SAT Subject Tests and AP tests around the same time because they can test similar information.   It also makes sense to take them right after completing the course.  (If a student takes Honors Biology as a Freshman, he/she should take the test(s) Spring of freshman year.)

If you feel your standardized test scores don't represent your abilities, don't panic. There are also FairTest Schools.  A recent study revealed that students who chose not to submit standardized test scores for entry into college still performed well in college.

For now, however, many colleges do still require standardized test scores.  It is worth the time and effort to make a plan and prepare.

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Consultant, EdNavigators

AP Exams - Quick Facts

AP Exams are the cumulative final exam for students who take AP classes in high school.AP Exams 101 Test takers do not have to have completed an AP course to sit for the exam.

For some colleges, AP exams can earn the student college credit.  For other colleges, AP courses and successful exam scores are expected for admission - no college credit is earned.

AP exams are scored from 1-5  a minimum of three is required to earn college credit but many schools require a 4 or 5 on the AP exam to award college credit.  This varies by school, by subject sometimes by department within a school.

AP exams are offered in high schools over a two week period in May.

For a full description of AP exams and the dates they are offered, visit The College Board's AP Website.

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Consultant, EdNavigators

Prevent Panic on ACT Test Day

ACT TIPSYou have been working hard and are academically prepared for the ACT.  Don't let last-minute logistics sabotage your confidence.  Below are last-minute tips to prevent test panic and maintain an optimal state of mind for testing. Two days before the test:

  • Print out your admission ticket and read it over.
  • Read and complete the Test Day Checklist
  • Read the Test Day Tips
  • Gather everything you need to bring to the test center.
  • Get directions to the test center.  Plan a test-drive to the test center if you are not familiar with the area.
  • Decide what time you will need to leave your house in order to arrive at the test center a few minutes early.
  • Plan what you will wear to the exam and lay it out. Pick something comfortable.
  • Plan your breakfast for test day and be sure you have the ingredients available.
  • Reviewing the big picture format and timing of the test.

The day before the test:

  • Gather any test items that you were not able to find yesterday.
  • Make sure there is enough gas in your car.
  • Relax - Remind yourself that you ARE prepared for the test. Focus on how much you DO know.
  • Do NOT think about areas you feel you need work on.  Do NOT take extra practice tests.  If negative thoughts slip into your mind, delete them immediately.  Tell yourself you are prepared. Do NOT try to cram in information.
  • Go to the movies or do something that takes your mind off of the test.

Unexpected Scenario 1:  Bad weather and power outages

Unexpected Scenario 2:  Sick on test day

  • Don’t worry.  Colleges do not see that you registered for but missed the test day.  Obviously, is best to take the test when you are healthy. If you are unsure of what to do, is worth a call (319.337.1270) to ACT to explain your situation and discuss your options.

If any other questions come up, go to the testing source, ACT.org.

A relaxed brain performs.  In order to earn your optimal score, take ACT in a comfortable, relaxed and confident state of mind.

Wishing you all the very best on test day.

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Independent Educational Consultant, EdNavigators

 

 

The SAT is tomorrow and I have the flu! What should I do?

fluWinter is a popular time for high school juniors to take the SAT.  It is also, unfortunately, flu season. If you have the flu and are scheduled to take the SAT tomorrow, don’t panic.  Your health is most important.  There is still time.

In an ideal world, you planned your testing timeline in advance and gave yourself some room “just in case” this were to happen.  If you didn’t plan out your testing timeline, do it now.

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.23.14 AMAssuming you plan to take SAT Subject Tests and AP exams, your new testing timeline can be as follows:

  • SAT March 8
  • SAT Subject Tests May 3 and June 7

Since not all subjects are offered on both dates, it is important to

1.  Check when the tests you want to take are offered and

2.  Leave May and June test dates open for SAT Subject Tests.

***You may take up to three subject tests in one day

Retesting option is  October 11 and maybe November 8 and December 6 depending upon the college deadlines and whether or not you are applying Early Decision or Early Action.  All colleges have different application deadlines.

**SAT and the SAT Subject Tests can't be taken on the same day

Note:  AP Exams are May 5-16.  These are given during school hours so they will not conflict with the SAT or SAT Subject Tests in scheduling.  It’s just important to be aware that they will be given during this timeframe.

If you do have the flu and need to reschedule your SAT:

  • Log in to your College Board account and request a new test date.  The College Board directions are here.
  • There is a $27 change fee.
  • Colleges do NOT see that this change was made.
  • They will simply see the date you actually take the test and the scores you receive.
  • Don’t worry about the change- just work on feeling better.

I do not recommend taking a standardized test when you are ill because you will not be presenting yourself at your optimal strength.  If, however, you are only slightly under the weather or just want to skip the test because you want more time to prepare or you don’t want to get up early, I recommend you get up and take tomorrow’s test.  If you don’t like your score, don’t report it and take the test again on a later date.  At least you got one test under your belt.

Before rescheduling, create a calendar and make sure you have time to make-up the test.

2014 Testing Dates:

2014 SAT Tests are  January 25, March 8, May 3, June 7, October 11, November 8, December 6,

2014 SAT Subject Tests are offered  every SAT testing date except March

2014 AP Exams are May 5th-16th

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Educational Consultant, EdNavigators

 

A Relaxed Brain Learns. A Relaxed Brain Functions.

IMG_6450A relaxed brain learns.  A relaxed brain functions.  Worry, fear and panic freeze the brain. Students need to learn how to relax their brain. A relaxed brain during a test is able to think and process the questions.  A brain in panic freezes.  Students need to learn how to turn off the negative thinking that sneaks in and leads to panic.  They need to learn how to relax their brain.

Some methods of quieting the panic and relaxing include:

  • listening to music
  • playing an instrument
  • taking a walk outside
  • any form exercising
  • running
  • looking at the ocean
  • spending time alone
  • spending time with a person who calms you
  • reading specific texts
  • writing (putting your worries onto paper exits them from your head)
  • breathing slowly
  • meditation

What method works for you?  Once you figure it out, incorporate it into your testing strategy.  Give yourself enough time to spare before the test so that you can prepare yourself to take the test with a relaxed brain.

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Independent Educational Consultant, EdNavigators

Standardized Testing

motivational road signStandardized Testing is a dreaded word.  Who can possibly enjoy standardized tests?  They are long.  They are intimidating.  Some are intentionally tricky.  For most students, they are simply a miserable experience. Many students are paralyzed in fear when handed a standardized test.  It breaks my heart to see a young person's dream shattered because of a single test.  After many years of discontent over the pressure students are put under to perform well on these high-stakes tests, I have decided to take some action.  I can't end the practice of testing but I can give students the tools they need to conquer these exams.

With my background in education and teaching, my knowledge of the academic progression from pre-k through college and my detailed understanding of the college admissions process I am equipped to empower students to approach these tests with confidence.  Attitude, confidence, motivation and strategy are the most essential tools.

My goal is minimize the level of intimidation standardized tests present and empower students to embrace the test as a means to show the world what they are capable of.

Important note:  some students do have learning differences that limit them from performing well on these tests.  The key is to discover these differences early.  This way they can be addressed before it is too late to get accommodations for the students.  Documentation for accommodations for the SAT and ACT needs to start Freshman year of high school in order for the student to receive testing accommodations.   Also, early discovery of a learning difference can prevent years of discouragement and frustration.

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Independent Educational Consultant, EdNavigators  sandy@ednavigators.com