Category Archives: Test Prep

“Are the kids allowed to use sound blocking ear plugs during the SAT?” This question popped up recently in one of the many Facebook groups devoted to college admissions questions. The general understanding is that earplugs are absolutely forbidden on the tests, although my friend and colleague Pranoy Mohapatra shared the more pragmatic response: “Technically no… although it’s a rule many proctors are unaware of.” While I certainly agree that many proctors tend to be unaware of many important rules during these high stakes tests, the issue of earplugs is less familiar, so I did a little research. Interestingly, neither the current SAT Test Day Checklist nor ACT Test Day Checklist explicitly prohibits earplugs. The initial question may raise another one, mainly, “Why should earplugs be prohibited in the first place?” Obviously, maintaining focus without being distracted by noise should improve concentration and performance on test day. However, any potential…

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“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” This quote, unironically attributed to Christopher Columbus, says as much about education as it does exploration. The path of learning entails all kinds of challenges, particularly if you want a piece of paper that proudly proclaims what you learned and where you learned it. This is to say, the more prestigious a degree from a particular school, the more obstacles and distractions an applicant will need to prevail over simply for admissions. This fundamental truth applies to both undergraduate and graduate studies alike. Obviously, we talk a LOT about the SAT & ACT around here. These two standardized entrance exams may be taken more than any others in the U.S. but they hardly stand alone as necessary steps to specific academic programs. Most graduate programs–particularly those at the most prestigious schools–require entrance exams…

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“We all had to stand in line for about 20 minutes because we had to agree to statements regarding our health and COVID, which stunk. Then we were all divided into rooms with no more than 9 kids at a time. Nothing too crazy but it was definitely different!” “The testing center was very disorganized, and we had to wait for over an hour to even go to the testing room. They made us wear masks throughout the exam which was a little annoying.” These actual statements from actual students who took the actual SAT on August 29 should be taken as both precautionary warnings and signs of hope. What is the warning? The test makers and site supervisors are committed to enforcing health and safety measures for SAT and ACT administrations. Expect the following on test day: — All students and staff must wear masks or protective face coverings…

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Test preparation means being prepared for test day, come what may. While most preparation occurs in the months, weeks, and last desperate days before an exam, every test taker should endeavor to be ready for whatever might happen on the day when it all counts. And unexpected, surprising, and sometimes even alarming things can happen during tests. The process of testing can take as much of a toll on a body as it does on a brain. The atmosphere of intense concentration and anxious silence tends to open up nasal passages and magnify the nuisance factor of every little itch, pain, and sniffle. Toss in the fear that the students testing next to you might be carrying COVID-19 (even though they almost certainly are not) and you can understand why your Test Day Checklist must include a well-stocked first aid kit: MASK Don’t expect to get into your test center…

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While scattered locations across the country saw ACT administrations in June and July, the last weekend of August really marks the beginning–and hopefully not the end–of college admissions testing in the time of the novel coronavirus. Many school districts may have abruptly closed their test sites, but many still seem committed to offering anxious teens the opportunity to test. If you were lucky enough to register for a test center that is still running the SAT or ACT, make it count! College Board has shared guidance on health and safety measures for weekend test administrations, including the following rules: — All students and staff to wear a mask or protective face covering during an SAT administration. — Students must be seated at least six feet apart during testing. — Students must confirm a series of safety screening statements prior to entering the test center or room. Clearly, testing during COVID-19…

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Students often come to us with expressed fear of the math and English sections, and we usually start with one of those sections first because there is so much content we can cover that will quickly lead to higher scores. The Reading section of the tests, however, remains elusive, and is often the hardest section to make progress in. The best thing a student can do to improve their reading comprehension for the tests is read more–read widely, read often, read actively–and seek to understand what the text is saying, ideally by looking up vocabulary that is unfamiliar. Sustained reading increases the skills tested in the Reading section over time, but many students are scrambling to prepare for the SAT and ACT only a month or two before the exam date. So, when faced with a time crunch, what can we do to increase a student’s score in Reading? One…

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