Taking the SAT
I have two sons who now are done with college. Both went to College Prep, so I know a bit about the intense pressure faced by kids in academically competitive environments. I share the dominant view that this is way too early to start college prep, and that your best-intentioned efforts to help your child could have the unintended effect of adding to the pressure that too many kids already feel in high school. Your highest and best use may be to chill, and to help your child to chill.
Re SATs: Believe it or not, in this crazy world of competitive parenting and packaging kids for college admissions, there is no rule that a kid must do test prep. Kids can do great without it, especially if they test well. Have your child sign up for the SAT question of the day on the College Board website. https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice/daily-practice-app If she is motivated, she can do one question a day and by the time the test comes around, she'll be very familiar with all the kinds of questions they ask. Sign her up in junior year for SAT and ACT. Before the SAT, she can get a book and do a couple of time practice tests in the week or two before. See how she does. If she does great, she's done. Hooray! If she doesn't, lather rinse repeat with each test. If she still doesn't have a score she is happy to use, then she can consider retaking and doing test prep on the test she is most comfortable with. My younger son was a good test-taker, good PSATs, motivated to do well. We sweetened it with bribery: If he did well enough the first time out, we'd give him the money a prep class would take. Talk about motivation! He did exactly the above -- did the question of the day for months before, did a couple of timed practice SATs out of a used book he got from a senior, ate a good high-protein breakfast and took the SAT. Nailed it and was done. No need to take the ACT. Everyone was happy, and no one was stressed.
My son is finishing his junior year and if there's one thing I wish we had done the summer before junior year, it's start SAT prep. Junior year was really insane for him (though he did take 5 AP classes, which is crazy but unfortunately common for most motivated kids at his school). He crammed in SAT tutoring/prep from December through February to take the early March SAT. With so much homework from his classes, plus studying for 5 AP tests and 2 SAT subject tests taking place in May, plus getting started on the college app process, it was very difficult to find time do the SAT practice tests, which take 5-6 hours each to complete. I'm going to make sure my younger son starts on SAT prep the summer between sophomore and junior year to help relieve some of the stress of junior year. Good luck with junior year, it's nuts!
I'd advise against taking the sat or act until doing some prep. Some places want all the scores. Many test prep companies will give you a practice test and I think there are some online too. But I would advise against doing a practice that goes on your permanent record.
Most schools my kid applied to wanted him to be really into the things he loved. Maybe she should just do what she wants to do- work hard at something or play hard or chill!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Sat2 tests are required at some private colleges. They often want to see two tests in different subjects. If the student is interested in something like engineering, they want to see Math level 2 and any science. Some people like to take a math/science test and a humanities test, but I'm not sure it matters. Check a few colleges that might interest your student and see what they require. As for *when* to take them, the best time is *immediately after* the highest level class your student will take in that subject.
Yes, competitive private colleges want subject tests. Just pick some in which
you think your child will do well. Preparation will help.
I would really appreciate the opinion of parents and students who went already through this or, if possible, of admission officers and counselors: is it a good idea to send all AP scores to UCs, even if it's not a passing score, and if the second SAT went worse than the first do you also send it ? So far I've heard opposite opinions on this and I am trying to understand who is right. Thank you very much. Cristina
I don't know how we could have anticipated that a terrible SAT score would keep my daughter out of the college of her choice, but I wish now that my daughter hadn't saved a few bucks and sent her SAT scores automatically to UCs. With a tutor, she was able to pull up her SAT score by 100 points. If they had only seen her improved score, I'm pretty sure she'd be at a different college today. Best of luck.
My 9th grader wants to take the Biology SAT exam this June before she forgets the material. She is not planning on taking AP biology. She maintains an A (95) average in school for biology. I was concerned as she will be young (14 ) when taking the test and to offset it offered to pay for a two coaching sessions. She however refuses the SAT prep saying its unnecessary! Are there any drawbacks to letting her take this test? It is rather conveniently the Saturday before her school biology finals! Thanks! Chris
Hi Chris, I would recommend that your daughter take the SAT Biology Subject Test this year. Many schools do require two subject test scores as part of the admissions process. Since junior year is usually very hectic, it is beneficial to get the subject tests out of the way as early as possible. While I don't think tutoring for this test is absolutely necessary, since she will already be preparing for her biology final exam, I would recommend that she take the practice test from The Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests. This book can be purchased online or at your local book store. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions. Regards, James
As long as the fees are not a burden for you, there's no real risk in your daughter taking the SAT Subject test as a 9th grader. If she's not happy with her score, she can retake the test later, or simply not report it, and if she scores well, she'll have a confidence boost. My daughter, who just graduated college and is going to law school in the fall, took tests after 9th grade, during 10th grade, and during 11th grade. She took the LSAT a year early, after months of practice tests, to see how she would do. Her score was high enough that she was able to set that requirement aside and move on to other things. Anon
9th grade bio at most schools does not prepare a student for the bio SAT subject test. It would be much better for your daughter to take a subject test in a junior year course, or in an AP course. Mine took it after IB bio and did well, but would not have known the content after 9th grade bio. anon
Your daughter is a smart cookie. There is no reason not to take an SAT subject test in a subject she is already studying and doing well in. In fact, it is a great thing to do. If she does well, she's knocked out one of the testing requirements. If she does not do well, she does not have to use that test and can take others later. She doesn't need to be in AP classes to do well. This is, after all, supposed to test mastery of HS level material. There is a bit of extra work involved -- she will have to review the first semester material, and do a practice test or two -- but otherwise it's a twofer; she takes two tests for the price of one round of studying. If she is willing to do it, that is terrific,
I always urged my kids to take subject test twofers when they could. There is enough stress with all the college stuff. Knocking out any test with minimal extra effort is a great way to reduce that stress. My son took the Chem SAT 2 test at the end of sophomore year (not as a freshman, but he has a late birthday so he was young for his class) as he was studying for the final in Chemistry -- not AP chem, though it was a strong class in a demanding private HS. He did a bit of review of 1st semester work, did a couple of practice tests, and got a 740. Ka-ching -- one down. HIs buddy did the same the following year -- same class, same test result. (How weird is that?!) Easy peasy.
Good luck to your daughter. She sounds awesome. Mom of Big Guys
I have a Senior at BHS. My child took ACT with writing. My child also took 3 SAT subject tests. I would like to know from those students who have already gone through college admission process if they also sent their SAT subject test results even if colleges didn't require it. I am getting mixed advise, some say send, others say don't send if they don't require them. Thanks.... confused
A lot depends on how well your student did on the SAT Subject Tests and what he or she wants to major in. Some colleges see high scores as a plus in the admission process, especially if pertinent to the student's planned major because high scores show the student's strength. However, if scores are mid-range or mixed, they may not illustrate strength. Anonymous
If the SAT scores are good, send to impress them. If they are just average, you'll give the college a chance to rethink what kind of student your child is! ~Mother of Two College Sons
My son is a senior. He already took his SAT I's and did quite well, in his Junior year. I have some confusion about the Subject tests. I'm not sure if he has the grades (3.0 GPA & approx. 650-670 SAT scores) to get into a U.C.....and as far as private colleges go, we cannot afford much more than a U.C. education. My questions are: when do most students take the subjects tests, is it okay to take them in your senior year, do you need to have taken them already if you apply to a UC, how you decide which ones to take????....is it worth taking them, if you & child are not sure if he needs them for the school he will go to? Thanks! Shelly
Where does your son go to school? Berkeley High School has a wonderful College Career Center. They send out a ''College Application Handbook for Seniors and Their Families'' and do workshops for both parents and students. You can download last years handbook on the BHS website http://bhs.berkeley.net/index.php?page=college-application-handbook. If your child goes to Berkeley High and you didn't receive the 2010 handbook in the mail you can pick one up at the school. If your child goes to another school I am sure they have college advisers that have a wealth of knowledge about deadlines and application procedures.
I am not an expert but here is what I know from reading the information I have been given at BHS. It is not too late to take the SAT Subject Tests. Most students take them in the Spring of their Junior year or early Fall of their Senior year. Which Subject Tests to take will depend on your son and which major he is applying for. I think it is better to take them and not need them then to need them and have missed the deadline. However, if your son has extreme test anxiety you may want to encourage him to apply to schools that do not require the extra testing.
UC's require students to take the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Plus Writing. They also require two SAT Subject Tests. The SAT Subject Tests must be from different subject areas: history/social science, English literature, mathematics, laboratory science, or language other than English. If a student chooses to take a math test to meet one of the Subject Test requirements, the UC system will not accept the SAT Math Level 1 Subject test but will accept the SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test. Some UC campuses require specific SAT Subject Tests for certain majors. For example, UC Berkeley strongly recommends that students applying to the School of Engineering take the Math Level 2 test and a subject test on one of the sciences. The December 5th test date is the last test date to meet UC system deadlines. UC's require a minimum 3.0 GPA. Eligibility is based on a combination of GPA, SAT or ACT Tests and SAT Subject Tests. The UC website http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/ has great information. From the home page click on admissions and then download the ''Introducing the University'' .pdf. At the end there is a work sheet for calculating your students Eligibility Index.
I hope this information helps. Natasha
My son is a student Holden High School in Orinda, which does not give the PSAT or SAT. We live in Oakland. Does anyone know how I can arrange for my son to take the PSAT in the fall and the SAT in the spring? Oakland Mom
You can call local high schools to inquire about an extra seat with their students. Usually schools are open to hosting outside students on test day- especially if test day is a Saturday. You should call now, and then re-confirm in August or September.
As a former director of college counseling, I used to allow students from other schools to sit for the PSAT along side my students. The key for the host school is for them to know well in advance.
There are special codes on the test booklets for students completing the PSAT at a different school. Just be sure that your son reads the instructions carefully.
As for the SAT, you need to go to www.collegeboard.com to register for the exam. When doing so, you will have the option of choosing a test site. Usually there will be many to select from in your area. The registering process is fairly simple. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. Hope this helps... Ray
Hi Holden Mom. I know Joel and your school; seems like a wonderful place! The SAT won't be any problem. That is a national test administered by the college board. You sign up on their web site and pick any school where it is being held that is convenient. Same with the ACT. PSAT might take a bit more work. At least here in Orinda, it was administered by the high school, so info only went out to students. I would start by contacting a high school that would be a convenient location for your son to get to at 7:45 on a Saturday morning (groan) to see if you can sign up there. Good luck. Anne
Look at the website www.collegeboard.com for information about these tests. Click on the ''for students'' section. The PSAT is given in October. If your high school doesn't offer it, your child can take it at another high school in your town. Ask the high school which date (a particular Wednesday or Saturday only) it will be offering the test this fall, and follow their sign-up procedures. Sign-ups usually must be done in September, so ask early in the fall.
To take the SAT, you register directly on the College Board website (click on SAT). The test is offered a number of times during the academic year. Your student can take the test at any of the test locations where it is offered. College test locations (for example UC Berkeley) may be more comfortable than taking the test in a high school. Ask the guidance counselor at your child's school if they have materials describing the SAT tests, but you can find out everything you need to know online. Anonymous
I have heard about having a gifted middle school child (GATE) take the SATs early because there are some programs that used them for admittance. Has anyone tried this -- did it work out? Were the opportunities worth it? What happens if your child takes the test and doesn't do well? How stressful was it? Did your child study ahead of time? anon
My son took the ACT in 7th grade in order to be eligible for the Johns Hopkins CTY program. They have great 3 week sleepaway camps at universities around the US, including Stanford. My son is at the Oceanography camp right now. Students need a certain SAT or ACT score in order to be accepted. Here is the link: http://cty.jhu.edu/summer/summer- programs.html My son was pretty discouraged taking the test, and he just barely qualified. Much of the material, particularly in math, was stuff he had never seen before. He said he felt really horrible taking it and I regretted my decision, but the score came and he had made it, so I guess it was worthwhile. I bought him SAT/ACT prep books which he barely looked at. The English part was okay, but the Math was very stressful and he said he felt like an idiot. karen
Two of my sons took the SAT early (in 6th and 7th grade) in order to qualify for the John Hopkins Gifted and Talented Program. I don't know the website, but I'm sure if you google it, you'll find it. If your child scores high enough, they become eligible to take a variety of challenging classes, which my sons did. Neither of them studied for the test -- I didn't want it to be stressful or a big deal, just a possible opportunity. For both kids, the program allowed them access to more interesting classes, especially in math, than what they were getting in school. marissa
My daughter who is now 18 took the SAT in 7th grade as part of a Talent Search sponsored by the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University -- http://cty.jhu.edu/. The test was not stressful because we told her it didn't count for anything and was just to see how well she did. At that age the SAT and what the scores meant were not on the kids' radar screens yet -- for her it was only a few hours on a Saturday.
It was one of the best things she ever did, because she was able to qualify for summer programs offered by CTY where she met friends she will have for life, and the experiences were wonderful in many ways. Socially the summer programs (expensive, but there are scholarships available) can make all the difference for kids who may be unfavorably labeled ''the brain'' or ''the smart one'' in middle school and high school. Three of my daughter's CTY friends just came here for a visit, and in a few weeks the four of them will head off to UC Berkeley, Stanford, Penn and Harvard. So they are obviously a talented group, and very happy to have found one other as friends. As a parent I cannot recommend the CTY experience highly enough! Mary
My daughter just finished her sophomore year of high school. She tossed her PSAT scores and said they were terrible (we believe her). We would like to get her solidly prepared for the SAT and would like recommendations for good classes, tutors, books, etc whatever. Is this summer too early to begin? I know some families whose kids are taking the SAT for the first (and only) time in the fall of senior year. Would love to get others' opinion on this Want to be Prepared
Can relate to your concerns, my daughter has only recently begun to \x93test well\x94. Please tell your daughter that much of what is needed is learning how to take the test \x96 this can be learned \x96 the test results show what happened that day and are not a final statement of any kind.
That being said \x96 your daughter really needs to want to find a way to improve her scores. I would suggest seeing if the PSAT scores can be retrieved either from under her bed or from the College Board \x96 it will be very helpful to know where to start. The PSAT should come with complete scoring info \x96 which questions she missed, which were correct or skipped. If she has any learning issues you can work with her counselor to request additional time. Some students get time and a half, or double time if they have documented disabilities. Make sure she has had her vision tested this year, astigmatism can make test taking impossible.
Other test issues: Sometime students \x93over anticipate\x94 an answer and give the most creative response when the test is looking only for the most provable answer. Sometimes the student needs to improve vocabulary, or maybe tighten up basic math facts. Or they tested well on material they have learned and the test was asking questions on areas they haven\x92t studied yet. Or they skipped one question and half the test had their answers in the wrong place. Or simple panic can really mess things up. You need to see the scored and evaluated test to know where best to spend your collective time. If you can\x92t retrieve the PSAT there are commercial practice tests \x96 or she can take the SAT this Sept and you can pay additionally to have it scored and evaluated.
We have found the \x93Daily Spark Notes\x94 series on vocabulary, math, critical thinking from Barnes and Noble an inexpensive and approachable way to study. We are also using the Kaplan self-scoring software. Self directed study with the resources she has chosen has raised my daughter\x92s scores almost two hundred points since last fall.
We have had to take entrance exams since 5th grade to get into Middle schools and High School \x96 this has been a tough road. We have taken tutoring from various providers including Princeton Review and also classes with some East Bay private test prep groups. These worked to some degree. You can spend a bundle. What works best is what the student will use and get some satisfaction from. Tutors will say 50-100 points gain are average between testing with focused study. Take your student to a bookstore to look at the prep materials or take a free lesson at Kaplan or Princeton in downtown Berkeley or other location and try it out. See what her friends are doing \x96 sometimes going with your friends makes it easier. Also check out resources on the College Board website. Things need to be current because the test was changed this year.
One of the things that helped my daughter understand that additional study can be needed is that I told her that there were a lot of people doing it \x96 even the ones who tested well. If you don\x92t want to do a form of \x93test prep\x94, it helps to read widely and always read challenging books \x96 but many kids don\x92t enjoy it. We have a cousin who started memorizing epic poetry and went from a slightly struggling student to someone with perfect SAT scores. Perfect scores often come with offers of top college placement without applying AND often merit scholarships. You can also start reading with your daughter \x96 turn off the TV, radio, iPod, computer etc and read to each other or silently together in the same room. I confess to bribing/cash rewards/extra privileges for reading advanced books \x96 it can work.
There are people who have their kids tested from middle school at every test opportunity and tutored continually to get into Harvard. This is the world we live in. There are great colleges that do not require test scores or make submission optional. Sometimes these schools list very high SAT scores because the only entrants who submit them are students who have high scores. There are also Midwestern schools that prefer the ACT, which is in my opinion is a bit more straightforward than the SAT \x96 many schools will take either score, check their websites to be sure. Grades, good attitude, application essays, recommendations, and community service are all a part of the admissions picture too. For the Arts \x96 the portfolio presentation or audition can be the most important factor.
Every little bit helps but encouragement and praise go a long way. Setting goals and studying some every day or at least every week will make more of a dent than a crash course but any study usually will change the outcome Anon
As a high school English teacher, I'd like to say that it is absolutely NOT too early to be thinking about the SAT. Most of my students (at an academic, college-oriented suburban school) do NOT wait to take the test in their Senior years; in fact, most have taken it TWICE by the end of their Junior years...Prep classes do help orient students to the task itself, and this training is invaluable.
Having said that, I also want to stress that doing well on the exam does not somehow come down to simply learning a bag of tricks in a class over a few weeks. Kids who do well have been building these skills for years. There's an old cliche' I'ver heard for years that goes something like this, ''How do you prepare for the SAT? Read for the last 10 years...''
Reading is truly the skill that strengthens their comprehension, that builds vocabulary, that gives students a sense of language (and thus influences their writing abilities as well). They don't have to read ''classics,'' really it can be ANYTHING-- fiction or non-fiction... essays, novels, magazines, WHATEVER(as long as they are written with vocabulary and sentence structure that stretch your child's abilities...)
If your child has the opportunity to take an SAT prep class, s/he should... but truly, s/he needs to be reading consistently. This is the best training available for the language and writing portion of the exam, I promise.
Good luck!!!!!! an English teacher
Our experience has been that a great time to start working on SAT preparation is toward the end of sophomore year, or over the summer before Junior year. The pressure at this time should be low, and the studying somewhat low-key.( A kind of get your feet wet exploration.)
We recommend that students normally begin studying in earnest 8 weeks prior to the SAT. The information stays fresh, the techniques are able to be immediately applied, and the students are often ready to get it done. If your child studies a good deal earlier than this, and you may find that the precious element of cramming (specifically designed for standardized tests, of course) is often largely forgotten.
Depending on your child, you can seek individual, pair or small group tutoring, or you can take the many SAT workshops and classes that are out there. You are your student know how they learn best (and if not, then exploring your options may help determine this), so I would recommend talking to several SAT prep places and tutoring and support services.
Yup, we offer SAT help too, but again, check lots of folks out. I am happy to talk with you should you have any questions! Just call: 510-540-8646. Our site: www.classroommatters.com Molly Gales Classroom Matters
Summer after 10th grade and after 11th grade is a good time to begin SAT prep, because the skills kids learn are good skills for high school. This is especially true of the math section. (the math part is definitely something you can study for). For tutors, try BHS grad Andrew Gordon-Kirsch, 526-7371. He's a friend of my college aged son, and aced the math section, and since he's more the kids age, can relate well with high schooler. His email is andrewgk [at] ucla.edu (as is in his email, he is at UCLA but home for the summer and tutoring teens for the SATs) Happy to refer Andrew Gordon-Kirsch as a SAT tutor
BEGIN SAT PREP IN THE SUMMER
Many kids start preparing for SATs during summer after 10th grade because there is more free time and less stress without schoolwork. My daughter took a subject area SAT in Math in October of 11th grade and used a math tutor during the summer to prepare. She highly recommends preparing during the summer because she felt so much more relaxed about it. She was able to concentrate on reviewing math with the tutor without all the pressure of other classes. Email me if you want a recommendation (and over the years I have used the tutors listed in Berkeley Parents Network with great results) vetex
Ideally students should complete all testing requirements during their junior year, completing:
an SAT or ACT by March/ April, SAT subject tests in May or June, with June or Fall of senior year open for a potential retake of the SAT or ACT.
There are many factors in determining the best time to begin with SAT classes or tutoring.
Scheduling is generally the deciding factor - if students are involved in sports or are otherwise busy in the Fall, then the summer between sophomore and junior year may be a good time to start. However, for many students waiting until after the junior PSAT's in October and preparing for the January or March/ April SAT's works fine. And no, students do NOT need to prepare for the PSAT at all - the only exceptions being 1) if with some added preparation, the student may qualify as a national merit scholar or 2) the student has been diagnosed with learning differences, or has significant test anxiety, in which case a longer duration of test prep can be helpful SuccessLink Tutoring info[at]successlinktutoring.com