WHAT TESTS TO TAKE
Not every student needs every test! Be fair to your students and give them only the tests they need when they need them.
In 8th grade and up, a formal PSAT 8/9 is a very useful tool. First as a baseline. Then as a year-over-year comparison to confirm that your student's curriculum is working. Once you have a formal baseline, you can start to fine tune your high school degree plan and classes to meet long term college admissions and financial aid goals. For 10th and 11th graders, who tend to be naturally good tests takers, following the right testing schedule is a major deal when it comes to financial aid.
THE LOW DOWN
What To Take, Why, & How To Prepare
WHAT TO TAKE - 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.
- K-6th Baseline - For younger students, a Stanford or IOWA taken 2 years in a row, is a perfect baseline. The first year, you will want to compare the results to National Norms. The second year you will want to compare it to the previous year, to see if your student is improving. No improvement means your educational plan is not working!
- 7-11th Baseline - For older students, forget everything except one of these key tests: PSAT, PLAN, or Explore. Why these? 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"
WHY? Once you know where your student stands, 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
- Through middle school & high school, there are six big tests that really matter. These tests serve different purposes and should not be taken too soon or two frequently.
- 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.
- SAT - There are three times you might take SAT. Once in 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. Yep! That's it!
- ACT - For most kids, ACT is the better option 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 only take an AP test if you have a real chance at a 3 or better. Earn three 3s before the end of 11th grade, and it really matters.
HOW TO PREP - Hold on to your hats here folks! 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 $100-500/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, use retired tests such as those from College Board SAT Prep Guide or the ACT's Official Prep Guide, along with a feedback methodology. Throw in a good tutor and a triad of study-buddies, and you will see increased scores!
Don't Over Test!Your Student Will Thank You For It ♥