Posts tagged ‘PSAT’

September 27, 2012

A glossary of high school standardized tests

by Grace

From Princeton Review, a glossary of standardized tests

AP (Advanced Placement): End of year, college level exams that are used for admissions purposes at just a few competitive schools (the Ivies, Berkeley, UCLA, USC), and to give students college credit at virtually every college and university. The scoring grid goes from 1-5 (higher is better), with 3 representing a passing score. These tests are traditionally given at a student’s high school during the second and third weeks of May. ACT: An alternative to the SAT. This test tends to reward students who are better in reading and grammar than they are in math. The ACT is the dominant college entrance exam in the Midwest and the South, and is scored on a 1-36 basis (the average score is about 21 or 22). The best time to take this test is in February or April of the junior year and/or September of the senior year. The practice ACT is called the PLAN. To sign up for the actual ACT, go to http://www.act.org.

PSAT: An excellent practice test for the SAT that has absolutely nothing to do with college admissions. Rather it serves the following functions. It is a strong window into your testing soul — if you do well on the PSAT, you are likely to do equally well on the SAT. Very good testers can achieve National Merit stardom, a scholarship contest that is predominantly linked to PSAT scores from the junior year of PSAT testing. Finally, when you sign up for the PSAT, you will be given the chance to join the Student Search Service through which your name will be released to colleges and you will receive ridiculous amounts of junk mail from colleges that both interest and horrify you. The PSAT is offered at your school during the second week or the third Saturday of October and you must sign up for this test through your high school. There is no essay or Algebra II on the PSAT and it’s about half the length of the SAT.

SAT: The grande dame of admissions tests and you know it all too well. The SAT is popular in the West and the East, and is scored from 600-2400. The average score is about a 1560, a good score is anything over 1800, and 2200+ is the number for the most ridiculously competitive schools. The SAT has Math, Reading and Writing sections, includes some Algebra II and an essay, and can be taken 2-3 times since colleges only count students’ highest scores. To sign up to take the actual SAT, you go to http://www.collegeboard.com.

Subject Tests: The Subject Tests are one hour, multiple choice exams that focus on individual subjects. Until recently, these used to be called the SAT II exams. Subject Tests are offered in Biology (Ecology or Molecular), Chemistry, Physics, World History, US History, Math Level I (not accepted by the UC but is accepted by private colleges), Math Level 2, English Literature and a host of foreign languages. These are of some significance in elite private college admissions, and can be submitted to UC schools to show strength in a subject where perhaps your grade is a little soft. If you are fluent in a foreign language, then take the Language with Listening Subject Test on the first Saturday in November. The test is offered in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. You will need to bring a portable CD player with headphones with you to the testing center. You may take up to three Subject Tests in one day (although we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s pretty tiring), and each Subject Test is scored on the 200-800 scale. A good score is 600+, and a great score is anything over 700. To sign up to take the actual Subject Tests, you go to http://www.collegeboard.com.

Related:  A recommended schedule for taking the SAT, ACT, and AP tests (Cost of College)

May 29, 2012

A recommended schedule for taking the SAT, ACT, and AP tests

by Grace

The Princeton Review published a High School Testing Timeline, with recommendations for when to take what tests.  Keep in mind that PR is in the business of selling test prep.

Here are key parts of the Princeton Review Timeline, with brief explanations of our local high school’s approach* to testing posted in blue text:

THE FRESHMAN YEAR

The Princeton Review philosophy is to not take tests during the first year in high school. We don’t even think it’s a good idea to take a PSAT as a 9th grader, because the scores seem to create more, not less, stress for the freshmen and their families. The one consistent exception to this is if a freshman is doing very well in her (or his) 9th grade Biology class, and is planning to take AP Biology before the end of the Junior year. If these two factors are in place, then we think it is a good idea for that student to take the Biology Subject Test (formerly known as the SAT II) in Ecology.

Our Local School —
Similar to above, except that many accelerated science students take AP Environmental Science in eighth or ninth grade as an alternative to biology.

THE SOPHOMORE YEAR

October: Take the PSAT or the PLAN
These tests during the sophomore year are opportunities for risk free practice that should not be missed. We do not recommend intensive preparation …

May: If you are in an AP class, then you will have the chance to take the AP in May. Some students take an AP class, but then do not take the AP exam. You do not want to be one of these students. College admissions people tend to frown upon students from AP classes who duck out on taking the AP exam.

June: Take any appropriate Subject Test
Traditionally, if a Sophomore is going to take a Subject Test in the 10th grade, it will be in either World History or Chemistry….

Our Local School —
Similar to above, with the opportunity to take the PLAN only recently becoming an option.  I’m glad they now offer the PLAN because it sets the stage for taking the ACT, which is a better choice than the SAT for some students.  Students taking AP classes are required to take the AP exam.

SUMMER BETWEEN THE 10TH AND 11TH GRADE YEAR

If you have the time, the inclination and the resources, this is the time frame best suited for test preparation. The students have learned the vast majority of the material that will appear on the SAT (and if they’ve completed Algebra II, they’ve learned all of it), and it’s a considerably less stressful time to be doing this work….

Our Local School —
Most students are advised to defer any test prep until after they’ve taken the SAT in their junior year.  According to guidance counselors, at that point a student will be in a better position to decide if he wants or needs tutoring.

JUNIOR YEAR

While many different scheduling strategies can satisfy individual student’s needs, the majority of students fall into two distinct categories: “Aggressive” and “Regulars”.

AGGRESSIVE
(Includes high academic achievers, kids with proactive parents, students who had a lot of time to prepare during the previous summer but who anticipate being extremely busy in the spring, students who want to try to achieve some flavor of National Merit status, very weak testers who may need extended preparation to achieve acceptable scores, and students who will apply as Early Decision candidates).
October – SAT followed by PSAT (may not be appropriate for weaker testers)
November – Language listening subject tests for native speakers
Winter – Refresher preparation
Mar – The second crack at the SAT, if necessary
April – Try the ACT
May – AP’s/Subject Tests
June – Subject Tests

REGULARS
Sep/Oct – Light prep (PSAT Clinic)
October – PSAT
Fall/Winter – Intensive prep (can do extended prep starting in November or begin in January, both in preparation for the March/April test in either the SAT or the ACT)
May/June – Subject Tests (if needed) or a second attempt at the SAT

Our Local School —
Similar to above recommendations on Subject and AP tests, but less aggressive on other testing matters.  Our high school generally recommends waiting until the spring of junior year to first take the SAT, followed by the ACT if the SAT score was lower than desired.  On the subject of test prep, our school appears slightly schizophrenic in their outlook.  Guidance counselors do not recommend extensive test prep for the vast majority of students, but the school administration sends the message that the highest test scores are the result of test tutoring.  My guesstimate is that at least half the students pay for some type of test prep.

SENIOR YEAR

The Senior year can become complicated because it is so late in the cycle, and the permutations are very dependent upon the individual student. From the broadest perspective, if you’re “Aggressive”, then October should be your last ACT/SAT/Subject Test attempt. The “Regular” students may take these exams up to, and including, December of their senior year and still make it in time for most colleges’ admission deadlines (including the UC schools).

Our Local School —
Similar to above, with a general recommendation to complete testing sooner rather than later.

* This is based on my experience and observations, so I make no claim that this is a comprehensive representation of their official policy.

Related:  College application timeline

%d bloggers like this: