Standardized tests are used by colleges and universities as one part of the application process. Many high schools are utilizing the PSAT as a tool to measure student progress. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior gives you an opportunity to take a standardized test and see how you do, without having to worry that colleges or programs will see your scores. It’s also a great way to prepare for the regular SAT and it is the only test you can take (as a junior) to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
National Merit finalists could receive between $2,500 and full-tuition, depending on the kind of scholarship awarded. The three types include: National Merit $2500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships.
What can you do to be as prepared as possible for this important test?
5 Steps to Prepare for the PSAT in October
Remember, the “P” in PSAT stands for practice. It’s just practice! So, if you miss the test date, do not worry. However, if you are a high-achieving student (all A’s), you can contact the PSAT/NMSQT administration to request information about retaking the test.
To qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist, you must be among the top one percent of all juniors in your state who took the PSAT. The National Merit website reports that “approximately 1.6 million students meet entry requirements, but only about 50,000 of the highest scoring students receive program recognition.”
Homeschooled students can take the test at a local high school or approved location. Contact the guidance counselor at the nearest high school to make arrangements.
Just as a reminder, seniors are encouraged to wrap up their SAT and ACT testing by December. Your test scores are a key part of your college applications, and colleges typically require you to submit test scores by their application deadline.
Here are the Fall 2018 test dates:
October 27, 2018: Registration deadline is September 28th
December 8, 2018: Registration deadline is November 2nd
To register for the ACT go to: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration-information.html
SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests
November 3, 2018: Registration deadline is October 5th
December 1, 2018: Registration deadline is November 2nd
To register for the SAT go to: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register
Many graduating seniors have shared that if they could change one thing about their college planning they would spend more time using test prep to get higher scores and qualify for more merit aid! Studying for and taking the PSAT is the first step to help pay for college.
Hope you have a great week!
Credit: GuidedPath Guru
This week's guest post is written by Heather Choate Davis. She was very gracious to allow me to share her blog that was originally posted on Ed Stetzer's blog, The Exchange. Heather is a writer, speaker, liturgist, thinker, and co-founder of icktank. Her books include Elijah & the SAT and Man Turned in on Himself: Understanding Sin in 21st-Century America. You can follow her work at heatherchoatedavis.com.
While high school seniors compare their financial aid award letters, juniors are taking standardized tests and underclassmen are doing homework. For college-bound students, "making the grade" has become more important than life itself. But are grades more important than God?
When I was growing up, there were A-students, and B-students, and C-students, and no one—not the kids, not their parents—worried much about it. We all found our way. A single generation later, my son arrived at our local public high school fresh out of a K-8 parochial environment to discover honors students taking Adderall to give them the edge in AP-cram sessions and the SATs, and parents being called home from PTA meetings to find their high-achieving daughters breathing into paper bags.
It’s not surprising that our secular culture has allowed the pressures of quarterly-earnings-report thinking to invade the American childhood in the name of “just wanting them to be happy.” By what other standard would success be measured? But what about those of us who claim to follow a God who promises that our children are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); that in all things He “works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28); that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Assured that there are as many kinds of good lives as there are rooms in our Father’s house—why don’t we believe it? How is it that we have fallen prey to the same lie that our best hope for our children is to make sure they look good on paper? Many have even reduced church to a platform for creating resume points: youth group team leader, oversees mission trip, “oh, and I served Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless every year.”
Data shows us that the majority of Christians are hedging their bets when it comes to their children’s futures. But times have changed, we say. The world is so much more competitive. And besides, excellence is a virtue. What we don’t say is that we’re absolutely terrified that the world won’t think our kids are quite as extraordinary as we do:
So we fluff them and fold them and nudge them and enhance them and bind them and break them and embellish them beyond measure; then, as we drive them up to the college interviews that they’ve heard since birth are the gateway to the lives they were destined to lead based on nothing more than our own need for it to be true, we tell them, with a smile so tight it would crack nuts, “Just be yourself.” (Elijah & the SAT)
It’s not that we don’t know there’s a problem: we do. We know all about the anxiety and the depression. We read all about the exceptional kids who go off to college only to find they have no idea who they are or what they care about. Kids who have mastered the art of jumping through hoops at the expense of curiosity, grit, spark, and their own unique callings. Kids who have so little experience with failure, they are unable to “shake it off” no matter how loudly they blast Taylor Swift. Looking into the shell-shocked eyes of our own striving teens we can almost hear Him say, enough! “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Instead we say a little prayer as we rush them off to SAT-prep class, unwittingly revealing the truth that most Christians have mixed up priorities.
So how do we break the cycle, knowing that the secular world will keep on competing, no doubt celebrating the spots our kids leave open as we endeavor to let them find and follow the path of life He has for them? Well, the parents of the prophet Elijah faced a similar challenge. At a time when Jezebel and her blinged-out pantheon were attempting to drown out the sovereignty of Yahweh, they named their son, “my God is the LORD, ” boldly professing the great I AM and teaching Elijah—not with flashcards, but with their very lives—to pray, listen, and obey.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be countercultural. As Christian parents living amidst the 21st-century lie that says that we and our children must prove our worth to the world, we are asked to repent of our own sins of pride, fear, and faithlessness, and hold fast to his Word: “For he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). And when we start to believe that what he promised was a 2000+ SAT score, a full ride to a DI school, or a plum internship that’ll give our kid a leg up on the competition, we may want to check the Word again.
Change. It’s exciting for some, stressful for others. The SAT changed in 2005 because of the criticisms from the University of California system. With more students taking the ACT than the SAT, it prompted College Board to make changes.
We are entering a unique time in college admissions with the massive changes in standardized testing. While the PSAT and SAT have the most visible changes, the ACT is making subtle changes as well. Regardless of which test you prefer or decide to take, here are some new standardized test-prep strategies for juniors and seniors.
Since the new SAT will be first offered in March 2016 and scores released in May, this may cause some confusion among upperclassmen who are not sure which SAT they should take in 2016.
Seniors who have yet to take the SAT should take it in November or December 2015 and retake it in January 2016 (if necessary).
Juniors taking the new PSAT in October 2015 should register for the new SAT in March 2016. You will be taking the new PSAT to prepare for the new SAT. Juniors taking the January 2016 SAT will be tested on the current SAT format.
Many test prep tutors and some college admissions professionals are recommending that juniors focus on the ACT during the spring. Let the states and school districts that require their juniors to take the new SAT serve as the test market. And since the new SAT is going to look remarkably similar to the current ACT, don’t stress over which one to take. They recommend that juniors who want to take the new SAT take it in October 2016. This will give College Board time to work out the initial testing bugs.
Dave Berry of College Confidential recently interviewed Mark Greenstein of Ivy Bound Test Prep. Mark advocates taking the current SAT: “There is a STARK difference between studying for the current SAT and waiting for the redesigned SAT. Though it’s getting late, there are four reasons why almost every junior is better off with the current SAT.
When is it ever a good time to take a 3-hour test?
But wait, there’s more!
The SAT Essay is an optional 50 minute section and an additional $9.50. Should students take it? I recommend that students take the essay section if the college requires the ACT with writing. It won’t hurt to take it just in case you apply to a college that requires the essay.
In August 2015, Janet Lorin shared about the division among the Ivy League schools about requiring the SAT Essay. Those in favor: Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth. Those opposed: Brown, Columbia, Cornell and UPenn. As of today, most colleges will not require the essay. “Of almost 300 schools responding to [a Kaplan Test Prep poll], more than two-thirds said they will neither require nor recommend students submit the essay.”
So when will juniors have time to take the SAT Subject Tests or AP tests since those are scheduled for May and June? David recommends “tutor now for the November, December and (if need be), January SAT. Take Subject Tests in January (if open), May, and June. Take APs in May.”
Bottom line: testing will always be situational and student specific. So talk through your options with an advisor or counselor. Juniors need to decide TODAY which tests they need to take: ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or AP tests. Then make a plan to practice, get tutoring, and schedule their tests. This means students need to review the colleges on their Working List of Colleges to determine what tests they require.
Don’t forget, if students bomb their standardized tests, there are hundreds of test-optional colleges that might be a good fit.
College planning philosophies will differ from high school guidance counselors to independent educational consultants. However, the goal remains the same. It’s not about graduating high school. It’s not about being accepted to college. It’s about coaching students through the college planning process to find a college or university where they can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. This will result in a lifetime of opportunities including saved time and money (4 vs 6 year graduation), increased earning potential (2xs more than a high school diploma), and establishing a healthier lifestyle regardless of age, income, or demographics.
With that goal in mind, mastering Internet technology for college counseling is important. You should log every podcast, virtual tour, college search engine, scholarship search database, and more so you can guide your students with confidence. Here are some tips to become their digital filter.
Podcasts give you a way to listen to relevant career and college planning content on your time schedule. Listen to a few before recommending them to others. Don’t be afraid of social media, it doesn’t bite. As a college planner, take the time to teach students how to interact and behave with adults using various social media platforms. Videocasts and videos are great ways to learn more about a specific career or topic.
The career search is missing from so many plans and usually limited to what major a student is interested in studying. Help students use personality, learning style, and career assessments to understand who they are and what they like. Look for a college search engine that does not focus on the best marketing campaign, but one that shares the best matches for your student. Before taking campus tours, virtual tours will give students insight, spark excitement, and generate questions to ask on their actual tour.
Since paying for college is at the front of everyone’s mind,helping students find and use quality financial aid, scholarship, tutoring and test prep companies is important. Financial aid sites will include federal and state aid. While students shouldn’t pay for scholarship options, they may find more value in paying for the personal interaction for tutoring and test prep.
Read. Take notes. Read. This is great advice for a student entering college. It’s also great advice for every career and college consultant. Books share planning tips and great stories. Blogs share ongoing, relevant information based on every subject mentioned above. And don’t be afraid to share your own personal experiences either. Write a blog for your local audience.
Once you’ve become your student’s digital filter, you’ve reached your destination. Success!
The standardized entrance exam has become a major requirement in the college admissions process. While hundreds of colleges are becoming test optional, thousands still require that you submit the SAT or ACT as a part of your application. It’s important that every high school student create a test prep game plan.
Depending on your college admissions goals, you could take the PSAT, SAT, PLAN, ACT, AP, IB, TOFEL, or some other acronym. Most students will take one or two of those exams. The Pre-SAT (PSAT) is the only one with its own scholarship. The PSAT is administered to sophomores and juniors to become familiar with how the test is structured, but it does not count toward college admissions. It’s just for practice. However, juniors who score a 200 or higher will generally qualify for a National Merit Scholarship offered by the College Board. And most colleges offer scholarships (up to full tuition) for finalists!
Your test prep game plan should include taking the SAT and ACT at least once. The SAT measures your aptitude and overall reasoning abilities developed in primary and secondary school. This test covers critical reading, math, and writing. If you haven’t heard the SAT format is changing in 2016. If you’re good in math, you may want to take the SAT since math counts for 33% of your total score. However, guessing or marking wrong answers will count against you.
The ACT measures your achievement which is directly related to what you have learned in high school. You’ll be tested on English, math, reading, and science. So if you excel in science, be sure to take the ACT. They also don’t count wrong answers against your score.
After you take both the ACT and SAT during your junior year, I recommend retaking the test you scored higher on as a senior. For the colleges that use test scores for admissions, scoring higher will not only improve your chances of earning additional merit aid, your scores could also improve your chances of being admitted. You’re showing progress.
Along with your high school GPA, the standardized tests are used to help college admissions officers decide if you are a good academic fit for their college. While test scores will not predict how successful you will be in college, they may predict your academic success as a freshman.
High school and homeschool students should contact a guidance counselor or independent college planner for guidance finding quality test preparation resources. If you live in a metropolitan area, you can access personal tutors, group tutoring sessions, as well as online tutoring. If you live in the country, your best bet will to use online resources or connect with a high school teacher. Personal tutors will charge by the hour, but some places may offer free resources, sessions, or books.
Some free online sites that offer SAT and ACT test prep include, Number 2, Spark Notes, and Free SAT Prep. Free sites will not be full-service and may have lots of advertisements. Businesses that offer test prep for a fee include ePrep, Barron's, and Sylvan Learning. Although some companies will promise a 300-point SAT increase and a 3-point ACT increase, the results will be up to you – the student. What you use and how you prepare is important.
As you can tell, to prepare for the college entrance exams, you need test prep game plan. So during winter break, spring break, or over the summer, work on your plan. Earning higher test scores will not only improve your chances of earning additional merit aid, it could also have a significant impact on your chances of being admitted. And one of the most important regrets a high school senior has is not spending enough time preparing for the standardized tests.
Here are some final suggestions. Remember that free sites will have limited resources but can still answer some questions and check your work. If the free site does not have current material, the test questions may be outdated.
Paid sites will offer a diagnostic tool that will allow you to customize your curriculum so you can focus on what you need to learn. You should also take the quizzes, practorials, practice tests, and real tests. Some programs offer test taking strategies that may help you in high school as well!
Some also have a challenging but fun vocabulary section. Use it! The more you read, the more you know. (I bet you’ve never heard that one before.)
Too many students spend too much time studying for the test. I recommend a simple 3-4 plan. Three to four months before your scheduled test, study 3-4 days a week for 30-40 minutes per session. Balance your time between each section of the test. Studying in chunks of time will improve your results.
Once you find a test prep tutor or service use it! Determine to do your best to improve your chances of acceptance and merit aid.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.