Many parents and students approach the college application process – especially the test prep aspect – with a lot of trepidation and overwhelm. That being said, I want to make it easy for you to understand what’s involved and provide you with a successful way to navigate the process. The first step to get this clarity, is to dispel the myths and provide you with the facts:
MYTH #1: Most colleges prefer the SAT over the ACT.
FACT: ALL colleges place the same value on both exams. (See chart for correlations.) Some colleges who want Subject Tests, will even accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT + 2-3 Subject Tests, i.e. Amherst. Columbia, and Duke to name a few.
MYTH #2: An exceptionally high test score is your teen’s ticket to admission.
FACT: A low score will keep a student out. Student’s scores should correlate with grades, but remember there are 5 components to the college application package – in usual order of importance:
2. Test Scores
3. Personal Statement
4. Extracurricular Activities
Your teen is a package deal! (See here for more information.) NOTE: Since acceptance often relies on some subjectivity on the part of an admissions officer, for particular students, a very high test score may contribute 30-50% of whether your teen is admitted to a desired college.
BOTTOM LINE: There is not a checklist of absolutes that will guarantee a student being admitted to a dream school.
MYTH #3: It’s best to prepare a few weeks closer to the test date so the material is fresh.
FACT: If your teen wants to get a high test score, it’s best to begin the summer before junior year or MINIMALLY allow 10-12 weeks for prep.
In preparing for a test, students must get a comfort level with the format, question patterns, base knowledge, and skill sets demanded. This typically cannot be done in a condensed time frame with minimal input.
Time spent studying over this period should be 30 minutes a day. DAILY PRACTICE ENSURES TEST TAKING SUCCESS! It takes an average of 5 weeks (actually 3-6 weeks is the consensus) to change habits if minutes of practice are done on a daily basis. Once habits are changed, it takes several weeks to get a comfort level applying them.
BOTTOM LINE: Major test score jumps demand at least 40 hours of preparation for most students.
MYTH #4: Most prep courses are the same and consequently are equally successful in boosting test scores.
FACT: The Wall Street Journal wrote a story discussing the results of a study revealing that the average point boost among students who took test prep courses was 20-30 points on the SAT and 1-2 points on the ACT. That certainly is not a good ROI to say the least!
How can this be? Realize that all prep programs are successful if success is defined by the above marginal gains, but your student deserves scores that are much higher. How can you know if your teen is going to improve at least 50-120 points in each area?
- Since tutoring is more effective than a group program, work with a qualified tutor who has studied the exams and created proprietary material. This material should include not only the most effective strategies but how to build the foundation skill sets – critical reading and thinking as well as problem solving.
- Make sure you know about that tutor’s track record and years of experience in test preparation. There are a lot of tutors who merely go through a practice test book with students with no focus on teaching process!
- Confirm that the program is targeted to your teen’s needs and skill sets and recommends the appropriate number of hours to ensure success. (Most students require 6-12 hours in each area determined by Skill Set AssessmentsTM, academic profile, and prior scores.)
- There are open lines of communication between you and the tutor.
I hope this clears up the myths you may have heard about the tests and test preparation. So now that you have clarity and are ready to move forward with your teen’s successful test preparation, I look forward to connecting with you!