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

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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.

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

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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?

Optional SAT-ACT Essays – Take Them or Leave Them?

essay writerWhen your student takes the ACT or SAT, should it be with or without the optional essay? The ACT Writing section (essay) has always been optional. Not so coincidentally, students now have the same option when taking the SAT. The essays are the very last section of each test. Students who opt out of essay writing get to leave the test center, leaving the essay writers behind for another 40 minutes for ACT — or 50 minutes for SAT. The scores on the ACT and SAT essays are reported separately, not included in the composite scores.

The SAT essay is a pretty standard five-paragraph essay where students read a passage and analyze the author’s effectiveness. On the ACT, students read three different perspectives on a given topic, then evaluate at least one perspective, as well as explain their own position. The ACT prompts can be quirky, requiring a bit more preparation. In the end, good writers will have little problem other than the fatigue that sets in after three-plus hours of testing.

Which students should take the essay section of the ACT or SAT? If they are applying to colleges that require or recommend the essay, students should definitely comply. In addition, we recommend that all high-scoring juniors and seniors do the essay to demonstrate their writing skills, which are so important to success in college. Generally this includes students scoring 1350+ on SAT and 30+ on ACT. In fact, most colleges do not require the essays — although admissions officers like to compare the quality of ACT/SAT essays to the essays written as part of the college application. They know that the students actually wrote 100% of the ACT/SAT essays, while many applicants get outside help on colleges’ essays.

At Dogwood, our expert tutors help students improve their writing skills, which they’ll demonstrate through college and beyond.

Use the following links or visit college websites to see each school’s ACT/SAT essay policy.

SAT Essay: List of colleges with their SAT Essay Policy

ACT Essay: List of colleges with their ACT Essay Policy

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.Why not start ACT, SAT or SSAT test prep this summer when students have their lightest workload all year? At Dogwood, we work with many rising juniors and seniors to prepare for ACT in September or SAT in August (a new date this year). We also help with SSAT for private school admissions, but more about this later. The ideal situation is to complete ACT-SAT testing before the college application process intensifies in 12th grade. There are two exceptions, described below, that call for testing later in 11th grade. For most students, however, it is practical and highly productive to prepare during the summer before junior year and take a test (or both tests, if desired) the recommended two or three times.  

What are the circumstances that should tell students to wait on starting 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.

The other exception takes into consideration students with 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. 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 September so they can then decide which test to prepare for. We disagree. Why pay $50 per test and wait 4+ 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 detailed score report that gives you much better information than the real ACT or SAT score reports provide. Our comprehensive 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 tutoring help to 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.