test prep programIt’s important to put into perspective what’s really involved in the college application process regarding test scores. Some parents don’t put enough emphasis on them, while others put too much. What follows will provide you with some clarity not only on what are ‘good scores’ but also explain what is involved in optimum test preparation.

  1. A score differential of 10-30 points on the SAT and 1-3 points on the ACT is not enough to make a significant difference to admission. (Yes and no!)

Colleges publish a score range of acceptance, as well as the score of the top 75% of those accepted.  These scores are for the ACT as well as the SAT because ALL colleges and universities accept both. The more competitive the school, the higher the score range.

For most schools, a difference of 10 to 30 points on the SAT or 1 to 3 on the ACT may not be a major consideration for acceptance; however, for the Ivy’s and very often the little Ivy’s, it could be the deciding factor. The reason is that since those students that do apply to these schools are in the top 1%, a small increase in the right direction may tip the scales in the right direction.

(For more information about how to easily find the right college options for your teen based on GPA and test scores, go to www.collegesimply.com.)

  1. ALL schools will accept the ACT and the SAT.

Since 2007, all colleges and universities have been accepting both exams. Prior to that time, the ACT was more popular in the Midwest and Southwest, and the SAT on the West and East coasts. For the past 3 or 4 years, the ACT has had a slight market share edge – mainly because more than 13 states have testing contracts. With the changes to the SAT, I believe that edge will narrow. (The SAT is also gaining testing contracts with states and offering a weekday test date in states that request it.)

So which test should your teen take? Since the change, the new SAT and the ACT have many more skill set as well as format similarities; however, there are differences. Have your teen take our 60 Second ACT vs. SAT AssessmentTM  to find out which test fits your student better.

  1. Millions of dollars of merit scholarships are available to students at ALL income levels.

There is a lot of merit scholarship money out there, especially this year, three times more than last year. That said, if your teen gets a score on the SAT or ACT that is above a particular school’s average range, merit scholarship will be offered regardless of the parents’ financial resources. (See last week’s newsletter for more information.)

  1. Scores are not the most important variable in college acceptance.

So, your teen is a great test-taker but only has a 2.5 GPA.  For most schools that is usually the kiss of death. It says here’s a bright student who is immature and not motivated.  Since the freshmen dropout rate is close to 34%, that is not the type of student most schools would welcome. Bottom line, scores should correlate with GPA. And yes – I have worked with students whose scores were ultimately too high relative to their GPA!

  1. All prep courses do NOT review the same strategies and techniques.

Parents should enroll their teen in a prep program that serves their teen’s strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that company or tutor has a diagnostic tool to ascertain which is the better test – the SAT or the ACT.  Also, the number of tutorial hours should be based on the results of a SAT Skill Set Assessment, ACT Skill Set AssessmentTM, GPA, academic profile, and prior scores when available. Not all students require the same number of hours in both the reading and/or the math!

Whatever test prep program you select, it is important that it also includes skill sets intrinsic to teaching strategy and providing practice testing like efficient reading skills – improving speed and comprehension. The strategies do not tend to be as effective when the foundation portion of the program is not taught!

Also, essential is that the program is not merely about correcting mistakes but also about addressing process. The tutor/company should have developed proprietary material that reflects their understanding of the nuanced essence of the tests.

There is a huge difference between taking a prep program in a group vs. one-on- one. Years ago, when I owned a company that offered both group and tutorial prep, I learned that in the group situation: a third of students would improve their scores regardless of the learning environment, while another third were there because their best friend was attending (i.e. little or no motivation), and the final third’s attentiveness was dependent on mood!

Based on my almost four decades of preparing students for these exams, I can honestly say that ALL students benefit in a tutorial learning environment.

So now that you have clarity about the tests, what colleges really want, and optimum test preparation, are you ready to move forward?  BreakThrough Test Prep will offer your student a program that will provide your teen with exactly what he or she needs to get through this process successfully.


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