Category Archives: Test Prep

Back in the early days of college admissions testing, students generally tested at the same time. However, we’ve come a long way from the days of exclusively testing at the end of junior year and the beginning of senior year. The big tests now grace nearly every month of the calendar year. In fact, no matter what week or month you read this, lots of high schoolers are preparing to take their SAT or ACT. So, before you decide when you or your teen should sit for these very influential exams, consider the options… MONTH BY MONTH What is the case for the February ACT? What is the case for the March SAT? What is the case for the April ACT? What is the case for the May SAT? What is the case for the June SAT & ACT? What is the case for the July ACT? What is the…

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Standardized admissions tests ranging from high school tests like the SSAT and ISEE to college exams like the SAT and ACT to even graduate school tests like the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT all share the same notorious reputation for lots of traps. This seems unfair somehow to those who find the depth and breadth of the reading, writing, and math content challenging enough. However, in the wild world of norm-referenced assessments, difficulty begins with content and weaves through a veritable obstacle course of constraints and pitfalls. Traps on tests are a feature, not a bug. WHY EXACTLY DO TEST ITEMS INCLUDE TRAPS? Standardized admissions exams are designed to rank large groups of testers–millions per year in the cases of the SAT and ACT–along the standard distribution. Most test takers should fall within the big part of the bell curve, huddled one standard deviation or so from the mean. For these…

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From September to June, high schoolers can count on an opportunity to take at least one of the two big college admissions tests every month. Some months, however, offer ambitious test takers shots at both the SAT and ACT. Sitting for both exams in rapid succession can be a better idea than you’d think, especially in December. What makes December such a good month to take the SAT and ACT? For one thing, the tests fall early in a month that gets busier as it progresses. The SAT is traditionally administered on the first Saturday of December, followed by the ACT the next weekend. This means students can finish both tests before the first holiday parties of the season. December also deserves strong consideration for testing because the timing meets the needs of both high school juniors and seniors at this point in the academic year: SENIORS who haven’t yet…

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No part of everyday life escapes disruption by a global pandemic. Even something as fundamental as education gives way when society responsibly shuts down to prevent the spread of a lethal virus. But while classes could–at least in theory–be conducted remotely, all the other trappings of American schooling fell away piece by piece starting this past spring. One rite of passage people didn’t expect to miss the way they mourned the loss of sports, clubs, and prom was testing, specifically college admissions testing. But once the April ACT and May SAT were cancelled, the obvious upheaval of the application process became very real. Spring was a crazy time for anyone in higher education. Colleges across the country faced existential threats they have not yet overcome. At the same time, students in the high school graduating class of 2021 confronted challenges of their own as target test dates fell away with no clear options ahead. College Board and ACT adopted  two…

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Your graphing calculators are powerful tools, but do you know how to use them effectively on the SAT and the ACT? This summer, I participated in a teacher training with Texas Instruments on the use of the TI-Nspire on the ACT. Most of my fellow participants were classroom teachers. Many of these teachers said that they personally do not teach their students the full use of their calculators, because the teachers want their students to master the math on their own. While this reasoning is understandable for classroom teachers, it can harm their students on the tests. Students need to know the most effective ways of using their calculator to get their best scores on the SAT Calculator Math and ACT Math sections. You can use these skills on the TI-Nspire to maximize your time. Something as simple as getting an answer in the right form for the test can…

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This time of year finds us answering a lot of questions about the PSAT, from parents eager to arrange prep to others wondering if their teens should take the the October test at all. And, really, the question deserves consideration. Just about every high school has its juniors, and sometimes even sophomores, sit for the PSAT. Schools have good reason to administer these tests, thanks to the wealth of score data the College Board sends back. But is the test worth any single student’s time? Why take the PSAT? The College Board describes many benefits to taking the PSAT, but only a couple of them seem persuasive. Consider each one: Discover Your AP® Potential BAD IDEA, at least if you are already a junior. By that time, qualified students with access are already enrolled in several AP classes. 10th graders who haven’t already tried AP European or World History might…

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