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Advice about the SAT & PSAT
My 11th-grade daughter just bombed the PSATs. How do I cope with this ? What do I say when she gets back from prep school (in a week) ? Her grades are excellent, but she certainly did not inherit my test-taking genes. I've only dealt with her academic success so far, not with this particular shortcoming. What do I do if she can't end up at an Ivy League college, even after working hard ? Worried Mom.
You say that you are worried about how to cope if she doesn't get into an Ivy League school. What is that about? The Ivy League is a group of schools in the same athletic conference; they are certainly not the only schools that provide academic excellence. You seem overly focused on a brand name educational achievement for your daughter. Please take a look around and notice that many of the brilliant people you know did not go to Ivy League colleges. It's also true that entry to the Ivy League does not guarantee life success or happiness.
I value academic success and hard work and want my kid to go to the best colleges they can get into, but I really don't understand your point of view. It seems that you are setting up yourself and your daughter for a lot of dissatisfaction. I hope she can get advice from adults in her life whose estimation of her worth doesn't fall precipitously when one test score isn't up to snuff. Yes, I know I'm Judgmental About the Fact You're So Judgmental
In addition, does she want to go to an Ivy League school or do you want her to? Why, honestly? I ask this as both the mother of a teen who had the opposite configuration (top test scores; mediocre grades for refusing to do homework) and an Ivy League professor who also serves as freshman advisor and in graduate admissions in my university. I see many, many different kinds of students every cohort, including kids like your daughter.
From what little I know of genetics, only intelligence is innate -- the other two can be learned and even mimicked behaviors. Kids in this country are increasingly being taught to follow formulas to ''success'' that range from how to construct perfect -- albeit usually unoriginal -- essays to how to reach the correct answers on a test sheet. Although rewarded by high grades and test scores, neither of these activities measure actual ''brilliance.''
Moreover, did you know that test scores are not the paramount admissions consideration in many Ivy League universities? This is because we recognize that test-taking abilities, academic brilliance, intelligence are not the same thing. In fact, a kid with a perfect test score, grades and a high IQ might prove a less attractive candidate to a college admissions committee than another one whose grades and tests were ok, but whose sparkling mind shows through in an essay, art, scientific work, a performance, activism -- whatever.
I see all sorts of combinations of the three characteristics in our undergraduates -- perfect test scores followed by mediocre to poor academic performance; academic brilliance following low SAT scores; excellent test scores, brilliant academic performance but totally unremarkable intelligence; sparkling intelligence with poor academic and test performance -- you get the picture. In addition, factors such as undiagnosed learning disabilities, however mild, or depression and anxiety can greatly affect a kid's test scores and performance.
In other words, I'd say that when she gets home you don't tell, just ask, and talk -- lovingly. Ivy League Prof and mom
Here are two things you might consider.
First, the PSAT doesn't matter one whit. Students often know this, and pay it little attention. So worrying about a low PSAT score is usually unwarranted, yet doing so certainly increases tension (which correlates with lower SAT scores later). So worrying is probably the worst thing you can do, along with conveying that worry to your daughter.
Second, what you consider low might not match what her best-match colleges consider low.
:: What do I say when she gets back from prep school (in a week)?
Well, if you say something that indicates that you're disappointed with or worried about her score, then that's what she'll likely hear, and that is likely to serve you both poorly. What about simply letting her know that you read the score report, and you're interested in knowing whether she thinks it's worth discussing?
:: What do I do if she can't end up at an Ivy League college, even after working hard?
I think it may be helpful to be clear on this point: no amount of hard work -- *no* amount -- is a guaranteed admission into an Ivy League college today. If the Ivy League is your only acceptable goal for your daughter, then I'm afraid you are very likely to be disappointed, no matter who she is or what she is capable of.
Thankfully, most would agree that such an education is not a necessary part of a happy and successful life at this time. Indeed, being a smart and capable student without an admission to an Ivy League school would put your daughter in very good (and very plentiful) company. Wes
What message are you giving her? Not brilliant academically? Come on--you said she gets good grades at a good school. Get over it and support her in whatever she wants to do. And don't put your disappointment on her. She probably carries enough of her own. a mom
I have a Senior at BHS. My child took ACT with writing. My child also took 3 SAT subject tests. I would like to know from those students who have already gone through college admission process if they also sent their SAT subject test results even if colleges didn't require it. I am getting mixed advise, some say send, others say don't send if they don't require them. Thanks.... confused
My son is a senior. He already took his SAT I's and did quite well, in his Junior year. I have some confusion about the Subject tests. I'm not sure if he has the grades (3.0 GPA & approx. 650-670 SAT scores) to get into a U.C.....and as far as private colleges go, we cannot afford much more than a U.C. education. My questions are: when do most students take the subjects tests, is it okay to take them in your senior year, do you need to have taken them already if you apply to a UC, how you decide which ones to take????....is it worth taking them, if you & child are not sure if he needs them for the school he will go to? Thanks! Shelly
Where does your son go to school? Berkeley High School has a wonderful College Career Center. They send out a ''College Application Handbook for Seniors and Their Families'' and do workshops for both parents and students. You can download last years handbook on the BHS website http://bhs.berkeley.net/index.php?page=college-application-handbook. If your child goes to Berkeley High and you didn't receive the 2010 handbook in the mail you can pick one up at the school. If your child goes to another school I am sure they have college advisers that have a wealth of knowledge about deadlines and application procedures.
I am not an expert but here is what I know from reading the information I have been given at BHS. It is not too late to take the SAT Subject Tests. Most students take them in the Spring of their Junior year or early Fall of their Senior year. Which Subject Tests to take will depend on your son and which major he is applying for. I think it is better to take them and not need them then to need them and have missed the deadline. However, if your son has extreme test anxiety you may want to encourage him to apply to schools that do not require the extra testing.
UC's require students to take the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Plus Writing. They also require two SAT Subject Tests. The SAT Subject Tests must be from different subject areas: history/social science, English literature, mathematics, laboratory science, or language other than English. If a student chooses to take a math test to meet one of the Subject Test requirements, the UC system will not accept the SAT Math Level 1 Subject test but will accept the SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test. Some UC campuses require specific SAT Subject Tests for certain majors. For example, UC Berkeley strongly recommends that students applying to the School of Engineering take the Math Level 2 test and a subject test on one of the sciences. The December 5th test date is the last test date to meet UC system deadlines. UC's require a minimum 3.0 GPA. Eligibility is based on a combination of GPA, SAT or ACT Tests and SAT Subject Tests. The UC website http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/ has great information. From the home page click on admissions and then download the ''Introducing the University'' .pdf. At the end there is a work sheet for calculating your students Eligibility Index.
I hope this information helps. Natasha
My son is a student Holden High School in Orinda, which does not give the PSAT or SAT. We live in Oakland. Does anyone know how I can arrange for my son to take the PSAT in the fall and the SAT in the spring? Oakland Mom
As a former director of college counseling, I used to allow students from other schools to sit for the PSAT along side my students. The key for the host school is for them to know well in advance.
There are special codes on the test booklets for students completing the PSAT at a different school. Just be sure that your son reads the instructions carefully.
As for the SAT, you need to go to www.collegeboard.com to register for the exam. When doing so, you will have the option of choosing a test site. Usually there will be many to select from in your area. The registering process is fairly simple. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. Hope this helps... Ray
To take the SAT, you register directly on the College Board website (click on SAT). The test is offered a number of times during the academic year. Your student can take the test at any of the test locations where it is offered. College test locations (for example UC Berkeley) may be more comfortable than taking the test in a high school. Ask the guidance counselor at your child's school if they have materials describing the SAT tests, but you can find out everything you need to know online. Anonymous
I have heard about having a gifted middle school child (GATE) take the SATs early because there are some programs that used them for admittance. Has anyone tried this -- did it work out? Were the opportunities worth it? What happens if your child takes the test and doesn't do well? How stressful was it? Did your child study ahead of time? anon
It was one of the best things she ever did, because she was able to qualify for summer programs offered by CTY where she met friends she will have for life, and the experiences were wonderful in many ways. Socially the summer programs (expensive, but there are scholarships available) can make all the difference for kids who may be unfavorably labeled ''the brain'' or ''the smart one'' in middle school and high school. Three of my daughter's CTY friends just came here for a visit, and in a few weeks the four of them will head off to UC Berkeley, Stanford, Penn and Harvard. So they are obviously a talented group, and very happy to have found one other as friends. As a parent I cannot recommend the CTY experience highly enough! Mary
My daughter just finished her sophomore year of high school. She tossed her PSAT scores and said they were terrible (we believe her). We would like to get her solidly prepared for the SAT and would like recommendations for good classes, tutors, books, etc whatever. Is this summer too early to begin? I know some families whose kids are taking the SAT for the first (and only) time in the fall of senior year. Would love to get others' opinion on this Want to be Prepared
Can relate to your concerns, my daughter has only recently begun to “test well”. Please tell your daughter that much of what is needed is learning how to take the test – this can be learned – the test results show what happened that day and are not a final statement of any kind.
That being said – your daughter really needs to want to find a way to improve her scores. I would suggest seeing if the PSAT scores can be retrieved either from under her bed or from the College Board – it will be very helpful to know where to start. The PSAT should come with complete scoring info – which questions she missed, which were correct or skipped. If she has any learning issues you can work with her counselor to request additional time. Some students get time and a half, or double time if they have documented disabilities. Make sure she has had her vision tested this year, astigmatism can make test taking impossible.
Other test issues: Sometime students “over anticipate” an answer and give the most creative response when the test is looking only for the most provable answer. Sometimes the student needs to improve vocabulary, or maybe tighten up basic math facts. Or they tested well on material they have learned and the test was asking questions on areas they haven’t studied yet. Or they skipped one question and half the test had their answers in the wrong place. Or simple panic can really mess things up. You need to see the scored and evaluated test to know where best to spend your collective time. If you can’t retrieve the PSAT there are commercial practice tests – or she can take the SAT this Sept and you can pay additionally to have it scored and evaluated.
We have found the “Daily Spark Notes” series on vocabulary, math, critical thinking from Barnes and Noble an inexpensive and approachable way to study. We are also using the Kaplan self-scoring software. Self directed study with the resources she has chosen has raised my daughter’s scores almost two hundred points since last fall.
We have had to take entrance exams since 5th grade to get into Middle schools and High School – this has been a tough road. We have taken tutoring from various providers including Princeton Review and also classes with some East Bay private test prep groups. These worked to some degree. You can spend a bundle. What works best is what the student will use and get some satisfaction from. Tutors will say 50-100 points gain are average between testing with focused study. Take your student to a bookstore to look at the prep materials or take a free lesson at Kaplan or Princeton in downtown Berkeley or other location and try it out. See what her friends are doing – sometimes going with your friends makes it easier. Also check out resources on the College Board website. Things need to be current because the test was changed this year.
One of the things that helped my daughter understand that additional study can be needed is that I told her that there were a lot of people doing it – even the ones who tested well. If you don’t want to do a form of “test prep”, it helps to read widely and always read challenging books – but many kids don’t enjoy it. We have a cousin who started memorizing epic poetry and went from a slightly struggling student to someone with perfect SAT scores. Perfect scores often come with offers of top college placement without applying AND often merit scholarships. You can also start reading with your daughter – turn off the TV, radio, iPod, computer etc and read to each other or silently together in the same room. I confess to bribing/cash rewards/extra privileges for reading advanced books – it can work.
There are people who have their kids tested from middle school at every test opportunity and tutored continually to get into Harvard. This is the world we live in. There are great colleges that do not require test scores or make submission optional. Sometimes these schools list very high SAT scores because the only entrants who submit them are students who have high scores. There are also Midwestern schools that prefer the ACT, which is in my opinion is a bit more straightforward than the SAT – many schools will take either score, check their websites to be sure. Grades, good attitude, application essays, recommendations, and community service are all a part of the admissions picture too. For the Arts – the portfolio presentation or audition can be the most important factor.
Every little bit helps but encouragement and praise go a long way. Setting goals and studying some every day or at least every week will make more of a dent than a crash course but any study usually will change the outcome Anon
Having said that, I also want to stress that doing well on the exam does not somehow come down to simply learning a bag of tricks in a class over a few weeks. Kids who do well have been building these skills for years. There's an old cliche' I'ver heard for years that goes something like this, ''How do you prepare for the SAT? Read for the last 10 years...''
Reading is truly the skill that strengthens their comprehension, that builds vocabulary, that gives students a sense of language (and thus influences their writing abilities as well). They don't have to read ''classics,'' really it can be ANYTHING-- fiction or non-fiction... essays, novels, magazines, WHATEVER(as long as they are written with vocabulary and sentence structure that stretch your child's abilities...)
If your child has the opportunity to take an SAT prep class, s/he should... but truly, s/he needs to be reading consistently. This is the best training available for the language and writing portion of the exam, I promise.
Good luck!!!!!! an English teacher
We recommend that students normally begin studying in earnest 8 weeks prior to the SAT. The information stays fresh, the techniques are able to be immediately applied, and the students are often ready to get it done. If your child studies a good deal earlier than this, and you may find that the precious element of cramming (specifically designed for standardized tests, of course) is often largely forgotten.
Depending on your child, you can seek individual, pair or small group tutoring, or you can take the many SAT workshops and classes that are out there. You are your student know how they learn best (and if not, then exploring your options may help determine this), so I would recommend talking to several SAT prep places and tutoring and support services.
Yup, we offer SAT help too, but again, check lots of folks out. I am happy to talk with you should you have any questions! Just call: 510-540-8646. Our site: www.classroommatters.com Molly Gales Classroom Matters
an SAT or ACT by March/ April, SAT subject tests in May or June, with June or Fall of senior year open for a potential retake of the SAT or ACT.
There are many factors in determining the best time to begin with SAT classes or tutoring.
Scheduling is generally the deciding factor - if students are involved in sports or are otherwise busy in the Fall, then the summer between sophomore and junior year may be a good time to start. However, for many students waiting until after the junior PSAT's in October and preparing for the January or March/ April SAT's works fine. And no, students do NOT need to prepare for the PSAT at all - the only exceptions being 1) if with some added preparation, the student may qualify as a national merit scholar or 2) the student has been diagnosed with learning differences, or has significant test anxiety, in which case a longer duration of test prep can be helpful SuccessLink Tutoring info[at]successlinktutoring.com
I hear various recommendations for when to take the PSAT.
I guess most kids take it as Juniors the first semester but
some kids take it as sophomores. Can you take it twice?
Any harm to taking it as a Sophomore? Any advantages?
There are various things you can do if you want to boost your scores. First of all, if you have the money, taking the (extremely expensive) Princeton Review or the (slightly less-expensive) Kaplan test preparation courses promises a hike in your numbers (literally: the Princeton Review guarantees a substantial raise in scores). These programs develop curriculum by intensively studying the PSAT/SAT and figuring out lots of little tricks to "beat the test". And the tricks work. The Princeton course also includes tips on stuff like how to overcome test anxiety, what to eat before the test, etc. If your child is very self-motivated, he/she can also pick up a copy of various SAT prep. books from a book store, such as the Princeton Review or Kaplan series. (These aren't as good as taking the course, but then again, $10 is very different from $1,000.)
Lots of kids don't perform well on these kinds of tests because of acute anxiety--and of course they're anxious, quite a bit of their future is resting in their number 2 pencil on an early Saturday morning. As parents, make it clear to them that these tests measure nothing important, and never shame your kids of they don't perform well. Tell them that these tests aren't indicative of success in life. Make sure that they prepare, but don't get all stressed out, that only makes it more difficult.
Colleges are paying attention to SAT's less and less--hands down, the most important thing in terms of getting into prestige colleges/universities is demonstrating some kind of passion that sets you apart from the crowd. Just ask an admissions officer if you don't believe me, they'll tell you the same thing. There are tons of people with good SAT's--but not many great writers, or mathematicians, or scientists, or singers/songwriters, or actors, or musicians, or butterfly collectors, or kind people who go way out of their own way to help others...these are the kinds of things that colleges really look for. (Of course, you have to try to get decent grades, and do your best on the SAT's, but these aren't the most important.) So do your best on the SAT, take the courses if you can afford it or work through the books if you can't. Having been through it myself, and also on the sideline with many others, I know it's stressful in the moment, but if you do these, it'll all work out in the end.
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