The Essay on the SAT

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

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

It's Essay Season - The Three Types of Essays Required of College Applicants

overwhelmedHigh school students are asked to write three types of essaysthroughout the college application process.  Each essay type is unique and requires a unique approach.

Know the essay purpose.  Know the reader/audience.  Know the format.  Have a plan.

SAT/ACT Essays (1-3 handwritten pages written under time constraints)

The Standardized test essays are persuasive essays.  They measure:

  • how clearly a student can express and defend an opinion
  • a student’s ability to write a traditional 5-6 paragraph essay
  • grammar, usage and mechanics
  • the ability to write under time constraints

Scores are not base upon accuracy of facts. Students are not judged on their opinion, but their ability to express and defend it.

The Personal Statement Essay ("your story" usually 650 words or less)college essay rescue

  • This is, essentially, a personal story or autobiography. It is the student’s way to set himself apart from the other students who present similar transcripts and test scores.
  • It is a way for the college to get to know the student.
  • It requires the student to dig deeply inside himself and reflect upon his life, who he is, and what he values.

The Supplemental Essays ("why us?"  "tell us more" usually 250 words or less)

  • These short essays tend to be either fact based or creative.
  • The fact based prompts require the student to research and explain or defend something.  They should contain accurate information.
  • The creative prompts are ways for the admissions readers to dig deeper into who the student is.

The three essay types above are very different and need to be approached differently.

 EDNavigators offers assistance with all of these essay types.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Related Articles:

Essential information about the SAT Writing Score and the Essay

The New SAT vs the Current SAT vs the ACT - A Preliminary Look

EDNavigators Introduces Guided Path for Comprehensive Management of the College Process

Common Application Essay Prompts for 2014-15

Side By Side Comparison: SAT/Revised SAT/ACT - A Preliminary Look

The New SAT vs the Current SAT vs the ACT

A Preliminary Look

Current SATTotal Time/#Questions Revised SAT - Effective For Class of 2017:(this is based on College Board’s 208 page DRAFT Release of Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT found here:  https://www.collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat/redesign  **Some features of the new test, such as timing, length, and scores to be reported, may still be adjusted pending the outcome of CollegeBoard studiesThis new test will "go live" with the PSAT in the Fall of 2015 - until then, the Current SAT will be the only SAT offered.Total Time/#Questions ACT (With ACT update, reporting will change but the test will remain the same) Total Time/ #Questions
Math 70min./54 Questions (approx 1/3 emphasis on geometry - includes algebra, sequences, permutations does not include  trig) 800 points 80 min/ 57 Questions(1/10 emphasis on geometry - includes trig,  a lot of algebra functions, algebra 2, area of circle, and complex numbers - more word problems with direct application to real-world events) 800 points 60min/60 Questions (pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry)
Reading 70min/67 Questions (Passage topics are random - includes uncommon vocabulary) 800 points 65 min/52 Questions (Passages will focus on science/history and social science - vocabulary will be tested in context) 400 points 35 min/ 40Questions (Passages broken down into Prose Fiction, Humanities, Social Science and Natural Science)
Writing 60min/49 Questions (called writing)- revision of sentences 800 points 35 min/44 Questions (called writing and language) - revision of passages/may include tables/charts/graphs - 400 points 45 min/75 Questions (called English) - revision of passages
Essay 25min/1 prompt score goes into writing score 50 min/ 1 prompt (optional) - graded separately from final math/reading/writing - will test reading and analysis as well as writing 30 min/ 1 prompt (optional)
Science none (incorporated into reading,writing and math sections) 35 min/ 40 Questions
Total 225 min (3 hours 45 min)/ 171 Questions 220 min (3 hours 50 min)/153 Questions 205 min/215 Questions
Penalty for Guessing? yes no no
Total Possible Points 2400 1600 **big change here in that math will be 800 possible points and reading and writing will be 800 possible points combined - this test places more weight on math than the current SAT - Essay will be scored separately 36
Scores will be broken down by subject and concept no yes yes (there will be more detail with the new ACT reporting)
Calculator allowed for entire math section? yes no yes

 

Key Points -

  • The Revised SAT very similar to the ACT
  • Math will be more heavily weighted on the Revised SAT
  • EDNavigators recommends that the class of 2017 take the current SAT and/or the ACT because there are too many uncertainties about the format of the new SAT as well as the timing of score releases and concordance tables for the new SAT
  • We will continue to share information we get about test changes as soon as they are available

How to prepare for these tests:

  • READ often
  • Understand math concepts - not just to get a good grade in school, but for yourself - You need to know the concepts after you are tested on them in class. The new SAT puts more weight on Math than the current SAT
  • Put down your calculator!  Practice math without using the calculator.  It won’t be allowed for part of the math section of the SAT
  • There are strategies, but no shortcuts.  Just like anything else in life, success comes from dedication and preparation.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

WILL THE NEW SAT BE EASIER?

New SAT - Graduation CapToday the College Board released more information about and sample questions for the New SAT. While all of the details are not yet released, my gut reaction to the New SAT is positive.  The New SAT looks like it will address the skills necessary for and relevant to college success.

As a test-prep tutor and educational consultant, I am frequently asked to compare and give educated insight into the SAT and the ACT.  A few common questions and answers pertaining to the ACT, the SAT and the New SAT are below.

Will the New SAT be easier than the current SAT?

The buzz amongst high school students is that the new SAT will be easier than the current SAT.  In one way, that is true.  By removing the wrong answer penalty students do not have to worry about whether or not to guess.  Other than that, absolutely not.  This test will be difficult for students who are not prepared.

  • The essay is significantly more involved than the current SAT essay.
  • The reading section will require the student to identify both the correct answer AND why it is correct.
  • The math will include more involved word problems.
  • Interpretation of science charts and tables will now be included.

Is the New SAT more like the ACT?

Yes, because it is now more achievement based like the ACT.

No, because the format and structure of the two tests differ significantly.

  1. The ACT essay, like the current SAT essay is a persuasive essay. The New SAT essay will require critical reading, analysis of a persuasive essay and analytical writing.
  2. The New SAT has a "no calculator" section.  The ACT allows calculators for the entire math section.
  3. The New SAT will measure understanding and interpretation of social studies and history.  The ACT includes these subjects but does not include their measure in the test results.
  4. The New SAT will integrate science into the reading, writing, math sections. The ACT has a separate science section

What do I like about the New SAT?

  1. It will include more critical reading, something that I believe is essential to success in college.
  2. It will incorporate real life scenarios in math, making it more relevant to life situations.
  3. There will be a significant focus on algebra and its application - the foundations of higher level math.
  4. No calculator will be allowed for portions of the test. I have found that today's teens rely too much on the calculator.
  5. Vocabulary tests will be more relevant.  Student will analyze the words used and how they affect meaning. - No more memorizing words that will most likely never be used again after the test.
  6. Science, history and social studies are integrated into the test and knowledge of these subjects is reflected in the score results.

I will post more details about the New SAT as they become available.

Sandy Aprahamian, Principal, Independent Educational Consultant, EDNavigators

 

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