What Makes AP Courses So Important?

ap logo2It used to be enough for graduates to have all A’s on their high school transcripts to be admitted to highly selective colleges. Not any more! Now the top college-bound students must also demonstrate they have challenged themselves with rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) courses that teach college-level material in high school. Some high schools also offer International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, which are considered even more rigorous college-level courses than AP.  

This emphasis on academic challenge is meant to help students prepare for the demanding workload they’ll face in college. Rigor is commonly measured by the number of AP and/or IB courses they take in high school. Some experts say this focus on rigor is taking a heavy emotional toll on students, causing some to “collapse on the treadmill trying to keep up.” As recently reported in Inside Higher Ed, students often feel pressure to pass up other valuable educational experiences just so they can take more AP courses. It is not uncommon for some colleges to require as many as 6-8 AP courses during the high school career, mostly in 11th and 12th grades. You might expect these high demands from the Ivy League schools, but Georgia Tech and UGA also have high expectations.

There are over 30 AP courses offered in high schools in the arts, English, history, math, sciences and world languages. AP is a trademark of College Board, the same folks who bring us the SAT and PSAT exams. Each year in May, there are 30+ AP exams scheduled at schools over a two-week period. Click here for the 2018 AP exam schedule.

The AP exams are usually two to three hours long with multiple-choice questions and free response (typically essay) questions. The scoring scale is from 1 to 5, with 5 as the top score. Some colleges allow students to get credit for a college course if they score 4 or 5 on an AP exam. In more cases, colleges use AP scores as guidelines for placement, waiving prerequisites and allowing students to start advanced courses sooner.

At Dogwood, we help AP and IB students with one-on-one tutoring throughout the school year to stay on top of the challenging curriculums. Our expert tutors also help students prepare for each May exam by prioritizing and reviewing the topics covered. And we teach key test-taking strategies to approach the AP/IB exams more methodically. Using practice tests and other materials, we provide valuable review and practice exercises to prepare students for test day.

Click here for the 2018 AP exam schedule and IB exam schedule. Call Dogwood today at 678-735-7555 to help your student get ready for the AP and IB exams in May. Customized tutoring in our professional learning center, seven days a week by appointment.

Why Is ACT More Popular Than SAT?

For over five years, ACT has been the most popular test for college admissions and scholarships. In March 2016, College Board threw out the 2005 version of the SAT — but ACT remains number one. Why is that?

Two years ago, the redesigned SAT adopted many of the features of the ACT. The SAT essay is now optional and they removed the quarter-point penalty for wrong answers. The SAT Reading and Writing sections now look quite similar to the ACT. That said, there are still some ACT-SAT differences that stand out – and help to make ACT more popular:

1. The pace of the ACT is faster than SAT: fewer seconds for each question.
When students take the ACT for the first time, it is quite common to run out of time. Once they learn to manage time using strategies – and get lots of practice – they can beat the clock and get more questions right.

2. ACT is more straightforward than SAT: the answer choices are more clear and distinctive.
SAT often gives two answer choices that look right. It can be stressful and time-consuming for students to figure out which answer is THE right one. ACT gives answer choices that are simpler to differentiate.

3. The ACT Math section is built differently than SAT Math: all multiple-choice and all calculator-allowed.
The redesigned SAT Math includes a non-calculator section for the first time, which many students find more challenging. SAT Math also includes the dreaded grid-in questions, where you can’t guess the answer or work the problem backwards. ACT Math has none of these disadvantages. On top of that, the SAT Math score is 50% of the total SAT score, while ACT Math is only 25% of the ACT composite score.

4. ACT has a separate Science section (a data exercise), while SAT includes a few data questions in their Reading, Writing and Math sections.
The ACT Science section is unlike any test your student has seen before. The crazy thing is the Science score is weighted the same as Reading, English (multiple-choice writing) and Math. First, ACT Science really doesn’t test science knowledge. It’s a data exercise where students answer questions by finding the right nuggets of information in tables, graphs and charts. Then they apply some light data analysis to identify the right answers. Students can usually improve Science scores pretty quickly by applying strategies and getting plenty of practice – without having to build underlying subject skills.

Use this link to see a section-by-section summary of ACT-SAT differences.

How should your student get started? If they took the PSAT in October, we recommend they take a full-length ACT practice test (3 hours) to experience the look and feel of the fast-paced test. Then we’ll meet to compare the PSAT scores with ACT scores to see which test results are better. We’ll also answer your questions and discuss how your student feels about each test in order to select the least objectionable one.

If your student did not take the PSAT in October – or didn’t test well that day – we can administer our ACT vs SAT Comparison Test. It’s a pared-down version of both tests and takes 3.5 hours. In any event, Dogwood does not charge you to proctor any ACT-SAT practice tests. We then use those results to identify each student’s needs so our tutors can customize each one-on-one lesson. Call Ivan at 678-735-7555 to discuss how your child can achieve his or her best results on the ACT and/or SAT.

Combined ACT and SAT Prep

We’re not saying ACT is better for all students because SAT is still a good fit for many. For students interested in taking both tests, Dogwood offers a combined ACT and SAT program to prepare for both tests simultaneously. That’s not as ominous as it may sound. Our expert tutors work one-on-one with your student in our professional learning center, encouraging them to improve their skills.

Now That PSAT Scores Are In, What Is the Next Step?

education, technology and internet concept - happy student girl with tablet pc

PSAT scores are now available to students who took the test in October. To see the scores and download the four-page report, students need to create their free account on the College Board website. Then go to the Score Reporting Portal and use the access code provided by school — or the student’s email address provided on test day.

PSAT scores are reported on a scale of 320-1520 points, with two major score categories:

  • Evidence-based Reading & Writing — Score Range of 160-760
  • Math — Score Range of 160-760

In addition, there are these score categories:

  • Cross-Test Scores — 2 categories
  • Sub-scores — 7 categories
  • Test Scores — 3 categories: Reading, Writing & Language, Math (38 points possible)

While many 10th graders also took the PSAT, only 11th grade students are eligible for National Merit Scholarship (NMS) recognition. It is interesting and very confusing that the NMS Selection Index is based on the three “Test Scores” (on the 38-point scale), not the PSAT score (on the 1520-point scale).

The current NMS Selection Index system was devised in 2015 when the redesigned PSAT was launched. Between 2005 and 2015, the top PSAT score was 240, which corresponded to the top SAT score of 2400. The NMS cutoff score was consistently between 214-218 on the 240 scale for PSAT. In 2015, however, the PSAT scoring changed to the 1520 scale, so this new Selection Index system attempts to convert scores back to the 240 (now 228) scale. The current NMS Selection Index also places equal weight on reading, writing and math scores even though the 1520 PSAT scale puts more weight (50%) on math and less on reading and writing (25% each). The 1600 scale of SAT scores also places more weight (800 points) on math.

To calculate the NMS Selection Index score, you double the three Test Scores in Reading (38 max), Writing & Language (38 max) and Math (38 max) for a maximum total score of 228. The exact NMS cutoff score (which is different for each state) will be announced in the Spring. The last two years, the NMS cutoff scores for Georgia were 219 and 220. Georgia students with NMS Selection Index scores at those levels or above were declared National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. Other students with NMS Selection Index scores of 209 (in 2015) and 211 (in 2016) were declared Commended Students. The National Merit Scholarship Finalists are announced each year in September, about 11 months after the PSAT/NMSQT test.

Dogwood students have established a very successful track record of qualifying for National Merit Scholarship recognition. As you search for the meaning behind your child’s PSAT/NMSQT scores, it can be a daunting task to figure out what your next steps should be. At Dogwood, we are always here to help you understand the test results and the process for helping your child achieve his or her educational goals. Call us at 678-735-7555 to arrange a complementary consultation. We are your trusted, expert resource for SAT prep and ACT prep in Metro Atlanta.

What if my child didn’t take the PSAT? Are there other options for practice testing?

What is new about the redesigned SAT?

What are the differences between ACT and the redesigned SAT?

ADHD: What Every Parent NEEDS to Know

Let’s start with a clarification. ADHD is a medical condition, not a personality flaw. Just as you need to be aware of, monitor, and support any other medical condition your child might have, the same is true of ADHD. Here’s why:

A child who isn’t paying attention, isn’t learning

Even if your younger child is managing now, you will find that as they progress in school and the workload gets greater, what was once manageable through some extra time on homework or parent support, is no longer sustainable. It’s like the old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Only in the case of a child who has ADHD, “You don’t know if you don’t know what you missed.”

Unidentified ADHD impacts social skills, particularly in girls

Ever hear the words “flighty” or “spacey” to describe a child? Chances are, she was a bright girl with ADHD who was overloaded. Imagine the impact on a child’s self-esteem when instead of supporting her when she needs help, we laugh it off to a character flaw. It might at least partially explain the under-diagnosis of girls with ADHD.

Consider the ADHD reality. Boys with ADHD are more likely to run around and play sports during recess. A recommended strategy to support ADHD. What about girls? They are far more likely to walk and talk, just the opposite of the type of mental health break a girl with ADHD probably needs. And when she misses part of the conversation, her friends get mad thinking: She doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, and never remembers what we tell her. As a result, if a girl doesn’t know how to cope with her attention needs, it could impact her friendships.

Unsupported ADHD can lead to risky behaviors

stop buttonKids with weaker attention tend to have more cognitive difficulty controlling their impulses. It’s not that they are any less aware of the consequences, but everyone, especially teens, contemplates taking risks. The problem is that kids with ADHD are more likely to take the risk. Let’s just say their “stop button” often doesn’t work as effectively without training. Unsupported ADHD is linked to behavior problems in school, eating disorders, dangerous and distracted driving, addiction, and earlier sexual activity.

What’s Next?

  1. Don’t assume your school will alert you. Remember, ADHD is a medical condition. So while asking the school to help you identify if your child shows signs of ADHD is a legal right, the teachers and support team at school might not recognize your child’s struggles.
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions. There probably isn’t a parent alive who hasn’t at one time or another wondered if their child has ADHD. Every child can show symptoms. Only a professional using an objective measurement tool is qualified to tell you if your child has ADHD. Don’t make assumptions, but do seek out expert help if you have concerns.
  3. Consult a professional. A psychologist, psychiatrist or pediatrician who specializes in ADHD is the best path to an accurate diagnosis and a comprehensive support plan. Of course, this is also expensive, and depending on where you live and the time of year, potentially a long wait.
  4. Use an Attention Screener. If you’re uncomfortable talking to the school and not yet ready for an outside professional, consider an objective screening tool to understand if your concerns are well-founded. Parent observation checklists are a good start. Child Mind Institute’s symptom checker and Understood.org’s Checklist of ADHD symptoms are two options. Ultimately, you will want an objective test. Mindprint’s free objective attention screening test is similar to the type used in some doctors’ offices.
  5. Begin supporting your child. Having difficulties with attention doesn’t equate to needing medicine. However, it does equate to having strategies to support time management, focus, and organization. Fortunately, most of the strategies for supporting students with ADHD will help all students. They are just a necessity for students with ADHD. ADDitude, Understood, and Mindprint all provide free strategies to support attention.

Guest Blog by:  Mindprint Learning