Well here we go ... it's now your turn to jump into the standardized testing world. I know you hate this part but avoidance only prolongs the agony. If you get on top of your standardized testing now, most of it will be done by the end of the eleventh grade or October as a senior. The next three months will have something to do with these tests so pay attention to it, don’t bury them and believe out of sight out of mind. Also, don’t bother trying to get a definite answer on whether paying for test prep will help your son or daughter. Some students seem to benefit from having an adult taskmaster; others do quite well on their own. Depending on their score after preparing for the test, students will either tell you it was great (because they got a high score) or a waste of time (because they got a low score). Know that in both scenarios, the scores were probably influenced by many things other than the prep course. Remember these two facts: the highest scoring students are the last likely to pay for test prep and the claims on the national test prep companies about average score increases never stand up to scrutiny. For most students, the greatest potential gains come from familiarity with the test and from learning a few simple strategies for how to approach it. A forty hour course is almost guaranteed to be a waste of time but a five to ten hour review might be useful. This is why we recommend Tara Mayole for her test prep above the national companies and have recommended her for more than 10 years. Let me know if you’d like her contact information.
If your student has gaps in their knowledge of the test’s content, particularly in math, should consider getting a personal tutor and if you have (or are) a motivated student, the most sensible times for the test prep are summer after tenth grade, leading up to the PSAT in October of the grade eleven or January to March of grade eleven in preparation for a March or April test.
A couple things that I have come to discover over the years and that people often ask are that if you live on one of the coasts, SAT is the test you know while in the middle of the country the ACT is the test that most students take. Both have over a million test-takers per year and virtually every college in the nation accepts either to fulfill its testing requirement.
Some additional thoughts:
• Tests have a conversion chart that is designed to translate the scores of one to the other, many students believe that it is easier to score well on the ACT.
• The latest trend, which I support, is to take both in eleventh grade and see which one suits you best.
• The ACT is the more straight forward test and doesn’t have as many wrong answers dressed up to look right as does the SAT. But the ACT often requires more knowledge of academic material. In math, for instance, you’ll get trigonometry, logarithms and matrices on the ACT but not the SAT, which has more basic math presented in trickier ways.
• Read interesting books – no matter what you go to college for, you’ll need a good vocabulary and strong reading comprehension skills. Reading is also one of the best ways to prep for college entrance exams.
• Get a social security number if you don’t already have one – you’ll need it for your college applications.
• Think about Yourself – What are your goals? What are you curious about? What are you good at? What do you like to do in your spare time? Knowing the basics about yourself will help you make the right college choices.