Summer ACT-SAT-SSAT Prep Is A Smart Way To Start

Vector sunset or sunrise icon. Vector sunset or sunrise icon. Sunset or sunrise logo design. Vector illustration.

This year, ACT is adding a July test date for the first time. It will be the seventh ACT date on the calendar, the same number for SAT test dates. That means January will be the only month without an ACT or SAT test.

Why should students do test prep during the summer? Lots of reasons! The best reason is there is no school workload to compete for the student’s time and attention. Test prep can be tedious and stressful, so summertime is much less of a burden.

For almost all seniors, summer testing makes perfect sense. Those who will apply for college in the fall (especially using early action) will have just a few test dates available to improve their scores before the college application deadlines arrive.

For rising juniors, let’s look at some specific circumstances that encourage students to wait on ACT-SAT testing. For one, football players should wait until their season ends because they just don’t have enough time or energy to add test prep to their already demanding schedules. All students should try to schedule around their peak seasons so they don’t add test prep to an already full plate. For students who have conflicts all year long, try to start test prep early because procrastination is not your friend.

Another reason to wait is when juniors have lower math skills. The math on both ACT and SAT is primarily algebra. If rising juniors struggle with basic math and plan to take Algebra II next year, they might want to wait until second semester to start ACT-SAT test prep. On the other hand, for students who will take pre-calculus or advanced math in junior year, there is no reason to delay test prep because there is no calculus on either ACT or SAT.

Take One of Each Test And Then Decide What To Do – A Bad Strategy

Some people think students should take the real SAT in August and real ACT in July or September so they can then decide which test to prepare for. We disagree. Why pay $50 per test and wait several weeks for score reports that give you absolutely no detailed information? Come to Dogwood this summer and take ACT and/or SAT practice tests at no charge. Within a few days, you’ll receive a comprehensive score report that gives question-by-question detail — much more useful information than the real ACT or SAT score reports provide. Our diagnostic reports help you make informed decisions about which test is a better fit for your student and how professional test prep services can help improve the results. No cost, no obligation. Just reliable information you can use.

SSAT – Secondary School Admissions Test

Most Atlanta-area independent schools require the SSAT, a very challenging test that rewards good reasoning skills along with math, reading and verbal skills. Even the most talented students in grades 5-11 need expert tutoring to help them achieve their best SSAT results. Because most private school admissions deadlines are around February, students should start SSAT prep in the summer. You should allow time for your student to take SSAT two or three times. We do not recommend taking the SSAT without proper preparation.   

Call Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep today at 678-735-7555 to discuss your student’s needs and goals. We look forward to helping you navigate the complex maze of admissions testing.

Who Gets Extra Time on ACT or SAT Exams?

3d lifebuoy with stopwatch save time concept on white backgroundMost students struggle to beat the clock on timed tests, especially standardized tests. Why do some students get extra time? In general, they have a diagnosed medical or psychological condition that qualifies them for an accommodation. The most common conditions that can qualify for extended-time testing are ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia.

Accommodations are meant to level the playing field for students with certain learning issues or medical conditions. Accommodations are not supposed to give anyone an unfair advantage. For more details, consult the ACT website and College Board website for the specific rules and procedures to apply for accommodations. Also contact your school’s counseling department because schools play a vital role in the application process for accommodations. To protect students’ privacy, the testing agencies do not disclose information about accommodations when reporting scores to colleges or scholarship programs.

College Board makes accommodations decisions for their SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT and AP exams. ACT makes its independent decisions for accommodations for the ACT exam and its pre-ACT exams. There is no connection between the two testing agencies. Just because one approves accommodations doesn’t mean the other will do the same.

The process is simplified for students with a 504 Plan, IEP or approved accommodations plan. The key is that students must actually use the extended-time accommodations when testing at school. It’s difficult to get extended time from ACT or College Board if the student’s in-school tests are administered with standard time. You may also be required to provide documentation from an approved practitioner to support an application for certain accommodations. College Board accepts applications for accommodations on their exams as early as 9th grade and their approval usually remains effective through 12th grade. ACT, on the other hand, requires students to register for an ACT exam before they will consider applications for accommodations.

Even though College Board and ACT streamlined their respective accommodations approval procedures in 2016, the process can still be frustrating, time-consuming and sometimes costly. You need to work closely with the designated counselor at your school. Start the process early, follow up often and stay patient yet persistent. It’s worth the effort.

For seven years, Dogwood Tutoring & Test Prep has been helping students prepare to take the ACT, SAT and AP exams with extended time. Call Ivan at 678-735-7555 to discuss your child’s individual needs.

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.