Only give tests
when you have
a valid reason
for doing so!
SAT, ACT, PSAT, preACT, Aspire, SAT2, Stanford, Iowa, TSI, Accuplacer.... the list goes on and on. There are a lot of tests out there but not every student will benefit for every test. The first test a student needs is a baseline.
BASELINES - Every student needs a baseline. A baseline will tell you exactly where your student is in relationship to his or her peers. This is how you know if they are behind, ahead, or exactly average. Which baseline to take depends on the student's age.line.
K to 3rd - This age group needs a single end of year review to make sure they are progressing in their reading, spelling, grammar, and math skills. A standardized test is not needed. If you suspect there is a problem, then a specialized diagnostic test is called for.
- 4 to 6th - For these younger grades, a Stanford or IOWA taken 2 years in a row, is a solid baseline. These test have a Stanine component that when compared to the National Norms is extremely accurate. By taking the same test two year in a row, you produce a meaningful result. If you find a problem the first year and make changes to your school plan, then the second year results will tell you if those changes were helpful.
- 7-11th Baseline - For older students, no test is valid except for the preSAT or preACT (with the exception of a diagnostic battery). Why these tests? They are the most normed tests on the planet. If you want to know where your kid stands, these are the tests to take. Oh, and when you see the scores, try not to justify why they are lower than expected. Maybe your son was sick that day -- but since 1.5 million kids took the test on the same day, a percentage of them were sick too. So that has already been factors into the score. That's what it means to be "highly normed". These test validate where your student is in relation to the peers that they will be "competing" against at college.
WHY TEST AT ALL? Once you know where your student is academically, you can make an appropriate strategy. If your student is behind, then you will want to fix those gaps, asap! If your pupil is just average, then you will not want to waste time, money, and precious emotional energy on expensive and time consuming PSAT, SAT, or ACT prep since statistically it won't change the score enough to get you into a better college or get more financial aid. Sorry, it's just the truth! Don't worry. There is a path to college for every type of student. Knowing your type will save time, energy, and money. If your kid is ahead of the pack, then you will want to go all in with the tests prep and go after merit based aid.
TESTING IN 7-12th GRADES - In middle & high school, there are six big test that parents feel their students need. These tests each serve a different purpose. Know that purpose then don't bother with a test that does not serve a valid purpose for your student.
- PSAT - There are two times to take PSAT. First as a baseline in 8-10th. Then in 11th grade for students with National Merit potential. If your baseline says you don't have shot at NMS then don't take the 11th grade PSAT.
- SAT - There are three times you might take SAT. Once in 6-7th for Duke Talent Search (for only top testers). Once in the fall of 11th grade for NMS. Then once in October of 12th grade for college admissions. That's it!
- ACT - For most kids, ACT is a better option than SAT since scores tend to be higher for American students. Take it once in spring of 11th to find out what caliber of colleges to apply to. Then take it again in September of 12th as a last ditch effort to bring up your score and get more aid.
- SAT 2 - These are individual subject tests. Colleges like students who take 1-2 and score over 650. Especially in math and science. HINT: Consider using them to super score the SAT!!!
- AP- Advanced Placement tests matter to colleges. But they don't really care about AP classes. So take what ever classes you want, but consider taking one AP test each year of high school to earn the AP Scholar designation by the end of 11th grade. They key is picking the right tests.
HOW TO PREP - The tests prep industry is a more than $3 billion dollar a year business. A typical prep program will set you back a couple of grand for just a few weeks Private tutors are $50-500/hour! But studies show very clearly that tests prep is not effective in raising scores enough to change the amount of aid the "average" student will get for college. Read more here!
The best way to prep, is to work with a friend for no more than 1 hour per day up to 3 days per week using the published retired tests from the CollegeBoard's SAT Prep Guide or the ACT's Official Prep Guide. Throw in a good tutor to provide challenge questions and you will see increased scores!