If you’ve heard anything about SAT Subject Tests lately, chances are it’s that fewer and fewer colleges and universities are requiring them as part of a student’s application. That raises several questions: should I take the SAT subject tests? do the SAT Subject Tests still hold value for college-bound students? Is it still worth the time and effort a student must put into preparing for these exams? The answers, as a good test taker might predict, are ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’ In this post, we’ll take a look at the enduring value of the SAT Subject Tests, when students should consider taking them, and all you need to know about the SAT subject test preparation. What Are SAT Subject Tests? SAT Subject Tests are college admission exams on specific subjects. This definition is according to the College Board - the national organization that administers the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP exams. Formerly called the SAT IIs, the one-hour SAT Subject Tests come in a variety of flavors offering something for nearly everyone: Math, Literature, History, Sciences, and a surprising number of languages. The number of questions on the respective tests varies from 55 to 95, and that number can change for different tests of the same subject (e.g. not every English Literature test has 55 questions; some have 60 or more). Regardless of length, each test receives a score out of 800. That score is computed the way the SAT used to be: students get a point for each correct answer, while partial points are deducted for each incorrect answer. More on that later. SAT Subject Tests are offered on the same days as the SAT—though not all tests are offered on all dates, so students should check with the College Board. Additionally, students can take up to three Subject Tests on a single test date. The Value of SAT Subject Tests Because the colleges requiring or recommending SAT Subject Tests tend to be the most selective, the question students should be asking themselves is not “Will SAT Subject Tests be required,” but instead, “Will SAT Subject Test scores be considered as a part of my application?” If the answer is yes, then it’s a safe bet that other students will be submitting them with their applications. Like it or not, the college admissions process is a competitive one. Students have a limited amount of time and space to make their case to a school that they are not just a good fit, but the right fit. While competition brings out the best in some, not every student responds well to this kind of motivation. Still, these students should consider taking SAT Subject Tests, as they’re a great way to show a prospective school a student’s interest in (and dedication to) a subject. There are a couple of powerful reasons to show such dedication: This can reinforce an interest expressed elsewhere in a student’s application. For example, let’s say that a student wants to be considered for a college’s robotics [...]
The Illinois state-mandated SAT is now seven weeks away (on April 10), and millions of students across the country are gearing up for March, May, and June administrations of the SAT. With so many students sitting for upcoming administrations, we want to offer some insights on how to prepare for the SAT for your student. How to prepare for the SAT reading section With the SAT’s 2016 redesign, “going the distance” means something entirely new. The redesigned SAT features a 65-minute reading section, and the number of passages has grown from four to five. So, our little reading gladiators have entered a new arena, and the endurance requirement of the sport has changed: a reading rumble that involves only 4 rounds of approximately 9 minutes of reading on the ACT, for example, now involves 5 rounds of 13 minutes of reading on the SAT. How is your child training? Is your child getting in enough reading rounds? How long does your child sit and read complex texts? And let me specify: without interruption! No texting, no Snapchatting, no Facebooking, etc. In the weeks prior to the SAT, how can we intensify the training? A practice test to simulate the exact reading conditions of the test; shutting off all devices and reading for over an hour without breaks; timed 13-minute rounds of reading bursts to prepare for the passage-by-passage experience. As parents and educators, we know that mindless drilling does lead to improvement, if not true learning. However, understanding the actual requirements of an academic task – the timing, attention, endurance required – is necessary to create a learning experience that prepares students thoughtfully to maximize their performances. You have to practice how you play. It’s time to script out that all-important and inspiring Rocky training montage for your child, complete with some extra reading rounds to build endurance for an SAT that promises a new, important, and extended reading challenge. How to prepare for the SAT grammar questions How good is your child’s grasp of grammar? Or how well does your child grasp grammar? Even the two questions above raise an important grammar question—what’s the difference between “good” and “well”? That’s easy, right? “Good” is an adjective, and “well” is an adverb. But hold on: can’t you say, “I am good,” and “I am well”? In the second case, “well” is an adjective meaning “healthy.” And hold on again: can’t you say, like James Brown famously did, “I feel good,” and isn’t “feel” a verb? Oh well, maybe we should just call the whole thing off. Writing off grammar is not really an option for student’s taking the SAT, preparing for college-level curriculum, or, for that matter, anyone who wants to avoid costly mistakes in life. This point has been made especially clear in a very expensive class-action lawsuit amounting to $10M in overtime pay a dairy company in Portland, ME owes its workers—all because of the importance of one little, missing comma. The lack of an Oxford comma in [...]
Major changes to college-entrance exams like the SAT or ACT can make Hamlets of us all, leaving us wondering what to do, what path to take, whether ‘tis nobler to SAT or ACT? To help students and families with their “Hamlet-izing,” let’s consider the following issues. Reading Comprehension: What Kind of Decision Maker is your Student? When reading, some students are more like Rodin’s Thinker — deliberate, calculating, cautious in their decision making. Others prefer more of a Looney Tunes roadrunner approach: reading and reacting quickly based on initial impressions, interpretations, and judgments. The recently redesigned SAT features passages with greater text complexity, so the reading requires a bit more thoughtful analysis. The SAT also grants 43% more time per question, however, so students have increased time for thorough pondering of the passages and the questions. So, if students prefer the extra time and enjoy deep-sea-diving into texts to arrive at decisions and conclusions, then the SAT is for them. However, if students prefer to skim the surface waters and glean the meaning quickly, making decisions on first impressions, then the ACT is their choice. Mathematical Reasoning: What Kind of Problem Solver is your Student? While the SAT and ACT math largely covers similar material, the SAT is a bit more demanding on thorough, algebraic problem solving and less concerned with a student’s memory of geometry formulae. What’s more, ACT allows a student use of a calculator throughout its 60 math questions, while SAT does not allow calculator use for 20 of its 58 math questions. Of those 58 questions, 13 are student-produced-response questions, which feature no multiple-choice answers. In short, on the SAT, students have to do math more the old-fashioned way: they earn it! So, if your student is a problem solver, who is comfortable working it out, grinding it out, and calculating answers by hand, then SAT is the preferred option. If your student is more calculator-dependent in arriving at his or her answers, ACT may be the more comfortable math path. Science Reasoning? Does your student enjoy a full science serving or merely appetizer portions? Whether your student takes the SAT or ACT, they will be asked to assess science through data presentations and analytical questions. The ACT, however, features a standalone science section consistently situated at the end of the multiple-choice sections. On the ACT, science is always the fourth section, after English, Math, and Reading, while on SAT, 35 science-related questions are spreadthroughout reading, grammar, and math. So, if your student is fond of science, and enjoys a healthy, full order of science (ending the test with science as the last section), then ACT is the right choice. If your student would prefer some assorted science appetizers, delivered as small servings throughout the exam, then he or she has an appetite for the SAT. English Grammar and Essay Writing: Apples to Apples The Hamlet-like dilemma, “To SAT or ACT,” is simplified when it comes to the English grammar and essay writing sections, which are largely [...]
Supporting your child through the standardized testing process can raise some age-old anxieties. Am I starting too early and overwhelming her? Am I starting too late and neglecting him? What are other parents doing for their child? Although these feelings intensify as SAT and ACT testing approaches, they are by no means new. Here are some guidelines to help parents get the most out of test prep.