February 2016: Changes to the SAT are coming in March 2016. The redesigned test will differ from the former SAT test in the way it is structured, administered, timed, and scored. Some new features include an optional essay, fewer multiple choice questions and no penalty for wrong answers. There will be an increased emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving and data analysis. It will return to the 1600-point scale, with the Math and Reading sections scored between 200-800, and the optional essay evaluated separately. The math section will be in two parts: one where a calculator is permitted and one where it is not. Some science reasoning questions will be interspersed in the Reading section. More time will be given for the optional essay (50 minutes). The Math section will have 5-answer choice questions. Make sure you are ready for the changes!
Christmas 2015: For grade 11 students, now is the time to focus on preparation for two or more SAT Subject Tests. You have the option of English, History, Math I or II, 3 Sciences, and 9 Languages. Subject Tests are best taken in May or June, immediately following completion of the course in that subject matter. Keep in mind that for a student who is a native speaker of Mandarin, taking the Mandarin Subject Test will not impress the admissions committee. This year, we offer online Math I/II and Physics Subject Test courses beginning in January on Sundays, 9-1pm. Register ahead of time to save your spot. Also, remember that May and June are the busiest dates in terms of booking a local test center so register with College Board ahead of time to insure you won’t have to drive across the border for testing.
October 2015: WHAT TRAITS DO THE SMARTEST TEST TAKERS SHARE? The smartest test takers from the graduating class of 2017 are already emerging. No, I’m not talking about their test scores — not yet, at least. I’m talking about their behavior. As our students transition to grade 11, the ones destined for optimal testing outcomes share a few notable characteristics.
They Are Pragmatic: The smartest test takers do not underestimate the importance of testing in the university admission process. Rather than letting fear or self-pity set the tone of the year ahead, these students will matter-of-factly accept testing as a relevant component of their high school record and move on quickly to determining how to make testing serve their needs rather than dash their dreams.
They Are Planners: Great planners use calendar as a verb. All smart test takers calendar well, and they start by counting backwards from the fall of senior year. They do not think in terms of “taking” tests — isolated events aimlessly scattered across school years. Savvy students, meanwhile, work backwards from test dates so that proper preparation and reaction timelines can take shape. They take mock tests at regular intervals and sign up for the test ahead of time with a Plan A, a Plan B, and sometimes even a Plan C in mind.
They Are Resilient: Smart test takers map out a plan early but are willing to make corrections as they navigate their path. While staying nimble, they are also able to remain persistent. They trust the thoughtful guidance they’ve received, they make rational and informed decisions, and they stay focused on long-term attainable goals they’ve set for themselves. They know test preparation is hard work that involves some frustration and disappointment. A sub-par score along the way won’t derail them. Testing is not a box smart students try to check off the list as soon as possible. Instead, it is deliberately integrated into the overall process of getting ready for university — affording students time to grow into their scoring potential through persistent practice, taking mock tests, and working and reworking their areas of weakness.
Who Will Be the Smartest Test Takers in the Class of 2017? The smartest students will strive to simplify this exercise by driving the process, mapping a course of action, spending time on practice and mock tests, and remaining focused, resilient, confident, and sensible. They will aim for taking their tests, as well as any retests required, by the end of grade 11. As they enter their senior year, they can focus on their coursework and their university applications, knowing that they have successfully put standardized testing behind.
Fall 2015: ACT STUDENTS: For those of you who took the ACT class with us last year, please be aware that the fall ACT ESSAY will have a new format, a new scoring system, and will be 40 minutes in length. Some of you will have to retake the full course in preparation for taking the ACT. Others may be ready to sit for the test this fall and may want to sit in on one session of the fall class to master the new essay format. Our Sept 23 session at Mulgrave will focus on the essay portion of the ACT.
November 2014: Here are 5 common Myths about Standardized Tests. Myth 1: Standardized tests are IQ tests. The first step in test preparation should be to shift how you view these tests and your potential for success on them. Combine dedicated preparation with the belief that you will do well! Myth 2: Taking both the ACT and SAT will double your chances of doing well. Yes, these tests matter. But so, too, do your grades, activities, family, friends and sanity! If you are better at one test, it should become evident pretty quickly after some practice. It is best to pick the test you feel more comfortable with and put your efforts into that test. Myth 3: The ACT is an easier test than the SAT. The ACT is a different test, not better or easier. You might do better on the ACT if you are a highly academic student prone to test anxiety. You might do better on the SAT if you are a can tackle questions analytically, since the SAT rewards those who look for “the angle”. It is worth exploring both tests to see if one is better for you. Myth 4: “Good” colleges prefer the SAT over the ACT. While this concern may have been well placed years ago, it isn’t now. William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University, states, “We accept ACT and SAT scores on an absolutely equal basis.” Myth 5: You should take the SAT or ACT as often as you can. You are probably better served by taking the SAT or ACT only a few times. Taking a lot of practice tests is the better way to go. Some colleges may ask for all of your scores. That doesn’t mean you should be afraid of taking tests more than once, but don’t treat the official SAT or ACT as practice. Practice tests are for practice. The real thing is the real thing.