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Summer SAT/ACT Test Prep Progress

Two months ago my son agreed to do SAT test prep for twenty minutes a day. That plan went pretty well the first week, but we found that on weekends, his days were so packed he could barely find a minute to study. He’d been using an SAT test prep book at home and we were just about to go on a long road trip. I was worried his twenty-minutes-a-day plan would disappear. Then I discovered SAT and ACT practice apps I could download for free. I was elated. He was a bit bummed that he now had no excuse not to study on the road, but I convinced him the apps are game-like and might relieve some boredom on the long car ride.

These are a few that he has tried:

Math Brain Booster Games is a free download in the Apple Store. This game helps to build speed and mental math skills. It’s fun to pick up and “play” and has a timed element which gives it a competitive edge. Their description notes, “it will improve ATTENTION, REACTION and VELOCITY.”

The Daily Practice for the SAT®, free app from The College Board, has several parts. One that my son found helpful was the Scan and Score feature which allows you to take a photo of your SAT practice worksheet and obtain instant test scores. They offer an SAT Question of the Day, or the chance to binge on specific SAT practice questions. Not the funnest interface, but definitely closet to the real thing given that it was created by The College Board.

Magoosh offers the free ACT Practice Flashcards app. This harmless interface allows the student to move through a series of flashcards and set their own practice pace. By logging in, your child can keep track of their progress and easily pick up where they left off. Practice sessions for English include: Punctuation and Grammar, and Structure and Style. For Math: Integer Properties, Fractions and Ratios, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Advanced Topics. For Science: Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

So no need to let the family summer road trip be an excuse for your child to stop SAT or ACT prep. And parents, you might want to try the app once in awhile. There’s nothing wrong with a little mental math practice in your adult years. And besides, children learn from example, right?

Start Planning Summer College Tours Now

Are you a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior? If so, I bet you’re already looking forward to summer break. Do you have a summer job or internship lined up? Or maybe you’re going to be lounging by the pool or ocean. Either way, summer break is the perfect time for a few college tours with the family. And you know what, it never hurts to start planning for them in advance.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to plan your summer college tours depending on what grade you’re wrapping up this spring.

If You’re a Freshman

If you’re a freshman, you have a simple task: go on a single college tour.

Yep, that’s it. After all, as a freshman, college is still a long way off. At this point, it’s okay to have NO IDEA about where you want to go to college or what you want to study once you get there. So to simplify the process, choose a college within driving distance that you and your family can visit over summer break.

Researching which colleges to tour will also introduce you to many facets of the college experience. Here’s all the information you can learn from just a few minutes reading a college’s website:

  • Majors offered
  • Tuition
  • Housing

Learning about these (and more) topics for the first time will lead to more questions, but that’s okay. By familiarizing yourself now with the ins and outs of the college experience, you’ll be better prepared as the transition to college approaches.

On Your Tour

So it’s summer, and you and your family have arrived on campus. As an up-and-coming sophomore, all you should be doing is listening/taking mental notes. The other students on the tour will be older and might have very specific questions about the college. Pay attention to their questions and the answers they receive.

Since this is your first college tour, you may quickly realize that this particular college isn’t for you. That’s okay, too! The experience is still extremely valuable, however, as the tour will expose you to much about the college experience that is identical no matter where you eventually end up going.

If You’re a Sophomore

In the sophomore year, you take either the PLAN or PSAT to gauge your readiness for the ACT or SAT. The companies who make these tests sell your information to colleges across the nation. Depending on your scores, you may have received dozens of letters from colleges vying for your attention. With such a large stack of letters, it can be intimidating to sort through them all. Your job between now and summer break is to choose three colleges which you would like to tour.

Now that you’re halfway done with high school, you should have a firm grasp on which subjects you enjoy. While rifling through potential colleges, ask yourself some fundamental questions:

  • Which colleges have strong programs that align with my interests?
  • Do I want to be close to home or far away?
  • What can my family afford?

These questions should help you turn a long list of potential colleges into a manageable few. You are now ready to go on some tours.

On the Tours 

This summer, I want you asking questions (lots of them) on your college tours. If you’ve done your research, there is a good chance that one of the schools you visit this summer will be where you go to college. Here are some potential questions to get you started:

  • Can I sit in on a summer class?
  • What work opportunities exist on campus?
  • How does Greek life play a part in campus culture?

Also, while on the tour, imagine yourself spending four years on campus. In many ways, touring a college is like looking for a new home. Choosing a school that matches your personality will go a long way to encouraging your academic success.

If your family cannot afford to visit colleges that are far away, don’t worry. That’s why college websites exist. Also, if you have questions, call the admissions department. They will be happy to answer all of your questions.

If You’re a Junior

If you’re a junior, this is your last high school summer break. Before classes are back in session, you need to finalize your college list. Doing this may require an additional college visit or two. Why not more? Well, the summer break before senior year is one of your final chances to set yourself apart as a future applicant. Here are some examples:

  • Taking the ACT or SAT for the second time
  • Performing an internship (Or working at a job where you learn a vital skill)
  • Completing a volunteer project

There’s already a lot to do this summer, so I don’t want to overload you. One or two final college tours is more than enough.

On the Tours

As an up-and-coming senior, the purpose of your college tours should focus on answering vital questions you have about the school’s academic programs and how they can prepare you for your future. It’s alright if you don’t have a major picked out (remember that plenty of college students change their majors, too) but make sure the college has strong programs in two or more of your primary academic interests.

After a Tour

Before wrapping up, let’s discuss what to do at the end of a college tour. If you received permission to sit in on summer classes, that should be #1 on your list. After that, here are some ideas that will help you better get to know your potential home for the next four years:

  • Eat in the cafeteria with your family
  • Explore the library and lecture halls
  • Read the student newspaper
  • Take to some current students

In short, become an active observer.

Final Thoughts

Even with the internet and email, college tours are still an essential stepping stone between you and receiving a letter of acceptance from your dream school. Also, they are the rare occasion when colleges try to impress potential students (and not the other way around). So this summer, invest a little of your vacation time into planning for the future.

See you on campus!

Does your high SAT / ACT score guarantee that you will be admitted to college?

The average SAT score for high school seniors admitted to college is approximately 1060/1600. The ACT score for the same group is around 20/36. However, averages can be misleading. For selective colleges that accept less than 25% of applicants, the test scores of their freshmen class are 30-35% higher than the national averages. However, we have found only four colleges with an average SAT score above 1500 and fewer than ten colleges with an average ACT score of 34 or higher. If your total SAT / ACT score is only 10-15% higher than the national average, you are likely a part of the top 25% of test takers. Yet this score may not be enough to make you a competitive applicant in the eyes of the top 25% of colleges and universities.

There is a definite correlation between standardized test scores and college admission success. You need to understand where your test scores place you against other applicants at a specific college. You should work on your SAT / ACT scores to maximize your chances of getting into the best possible college. That is why both the College Board and ACT offer tests designed for 8th-grade students: students can familiarize themselves with the testing process and improve their score over time.

Do high SAT / ACT scores guarantee that your dream college will accept you? Well, not really. College admissions officers are not robots focused solely on number, and this works to your advantage. They look for well-rounded candidates, not only great test takers.

High SAT / ACT scores equal a better chance of admission. If your scores are not quite where you would like them to be, you can still improve your admissions chances with the other parts of your application. Colleges begin by reviewing your high school transcript. Also, many colleges value AP courses and often prefer candidates with high AP scores. Your personal qualities play a role, too. For example, candidates who demonstrate a strong work ethic are more likely to graduate college; this is a trait that colleges want in every applicant they accept. Your extracurricular activities, passions, and interests can also make up for relatively lower test scores if you can tell a compelling story of who you are and how you can contribute to a college’s community.

At myKlovr, we compare your standardized test scores to your list of potential colleges, as well as help you identify specific areas, academic and non-academic, that you should focus on to become a more desirable college candidate. Finally, myKlovr helps you develop your personal story and gives you the tools to tell it distinctively and engagingly in your college application essays.

We believe that the earlier you begin thinking about your path to college, the more successful you will be when you apply. As a freshman or sophomore, you may think it is too soon to worry about college. But if you procrastinate, you may be surprised to learn that you are not ready to apply when you are a senior. Start with myKlovr today, and discover how to become the best college applicant you can be.

How Important Are My SAT/ACT Scores?

You sit in an auditorium packed to the gills with thousands of high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors from all around the nation. On the vast stage is a single podium, behind it a massive projector screen displaying the myKlovr logo and a single sentence in ten-foot high letters – the title of this article.

I walk on the stage wearing a myKlovr t-shirt and jeans, causing the audience to erupt in rapturous applause. I am, after all, myKlovr’s academic guru. I stand behind the podium and begin to speak:

“SAT and ACT scores are very important. That is all. Now please leave – Apple has reserved this space for their next product launch announcement.”

Without another word, I walk offstage, leaving the audience in stunned, frustrated silence.

I wake up from my dream and sigh. Becoming the Steve Jobs of the education world will have to wait for another day. However, my answer was pretty much on the money: SAT/ACT scores are a crucial component of college admissions success.

In this article, we’ll examine some reasons why your SAT/ACT scores are important no matter where you hope to attend college.

So How Important Are We Talking About?

You’re not just a number in the eyes of college admissions counselors. You’re a collection of numbers and letters. 😉

Yep, for a large percentage of applicants, ten seconds is all it takes for a college admissions counselor to make up her mind, even if she continues reading your application for a few additional minutes. This usually happens to applicants whose grades are in the C-F range, and their standardized tests are lower than the college’s Middle 50% scores for accepted students. This way, many applications go into the ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ pile as fast as if they were rolling off an assembly line.

In other words, good SAT/ACT scores prevent you from receiving an automatic rejection. This situation is stark a contrast to past decades when a good score was all that it took to gain acceptance to a top college or university. Not any more – at America’s top colleges, most applicants have respectable scores and top grades. Today, a high score keeps your foot in the door, making sure that the admissions counselor takes the time to read your essays and recommendation letters.

Not every college admissions counselor has the ‘automatic rejection’ mindset. If a college can afford a large admissions staff, for example, they may read everything in your application before making a decision. But admissions counselors are only human. When no one’s looking, and an admissions counselor has a large stack next to her (not to mention that it’s 6:00 PM and she promised her little girl she’d try to be home early once this week), what do you think might happen?

What if They’re Optional?

Submit them anyway. Everything helps. 🙂

What if My Dream College Doesn’t Require Them?

Yes, many colleges (and not just community colleges) no longer require standardized test scores to apply. Personally, I think that’s a step in the right direction. However, good scores are still important for two facets of the college experience:

  • Course placement
  • Scholarships

Good scores may let you skip introductory-level courses (saving you money) and help you earn scholarships (saving you even more money). You don’t even have to apply for some of these scholarships; you gain some automatically if you live in a state with a lottery scholarship or attend a college with a guaranteed merit scholarship.

So if you like saving money, aim for a high SAT/ACT score.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way around it: good SAT/ACT scores may not earn you an automatic acceptance to your dream college, but they are still rank just under your grades in order of importance. And no matter what, make sure that every part of your application is as polished as it can be.

And since summer break is fast approaching, start researching college tours. The more the merrier!

SAT or ACT? Which One Should I Take?

As a teenager, people are always telling you what to do. Clean your room. Mow the lawn. Don’t drive too fast. Don’t get into trouble. Take a standardized test to get into college.

But at least you get a choice of which test to take. Yay…?

All right: I know that having a choice of which test to take doesn’t come as much comfort. Both the SAT and ACT are difficult tests that require dozens of hours of study time to achieve a respectable score goal.

One thing that shouldn’t take up a lot of your time is deciding which test to take.

In this article, we’ll explore some fundamental questions: what are the differences between these two tests, which one should you take, and do you need to take both? By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a plan to determine which test works best for you.

So what’s the difference?

You ever hear the phrase “like apples and oranges?” Well, the differences between the SAT and ACT boil down to “like apples and apples.” Just like the Galas and Honeycrisps in the produce section of your local grocery store, very little separates these two tests other than a few small cosmetic differences:

  • The ACT has a Science Test, which is just a camouflaged, more difficult version of the ACT Reading Test.
  • The SAT and ACT Math Tests have slightly different background knowledge requirements.
  • The SAT has some grid-in questions on its Math Test.

There are a few more differences, but again, it’s not worth your time to know all of them.

Let’s get to the more important question:

Which one should I take?

In short, it all depends on your preference.  

That’s right: just like your apple choices at the grocery store, your personal preference plays an important role. Just about every high school student naturally performs better on one test over the other. That means before you do a single second of test prep, you need to discover which test best matches your natural abilities.

Here’s how you select your test: take a practice SAT and ACT. Choose two Saturdays a week apart and take a different practice test on each one. Simulate test-day conditions by using a quiet place in your home or a local library.

Whichever score is stronger (Compare your practice test scores to the latest percentile rankings for the SAT and ACT), that’s the test you will study for and eventually take.

End of story.

Do I Need to Take Both?

Should you take a practice test of both to determine which one better matches your natural skills? Yes. Do you need to study for both tests and report scores from both to your dream college when you apply? No. That would be a tremendous waste of the time and energy, both of which you need to polish other parts of your application and continue to perform well in your classes.

Before you protest, let me say that I get it: leaving the SAT or ACT score section blank on your application may make you feel like your application is incomplete. However, remember that when a college says they’ll take the SAT or ACT, that’s exactly what they mean. Having that one small blank space will not upset them one bit.

What if my school makes me take the SAT or ACT?

Some public schools require students to take the ACT or SAT in their junior year, usually during the school day. This is what it was like in the district where I taught for four years. If this should describe your situation, let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • It’s (likely) free.
  • It’s good practice.
  • Your school may offer a (again, likely free) test prep program leading up to test day.

Cons

  • You may not have enough time to prepare.
  • The test may not be the one at which you’re naturally more capable.
  • A low score may discourage you.

Consider a school-sponsored standardized test as a gift rather than a burden. In my experience working with students like you, the three pros significantly outweigh the three cons (and any others you may think up after finishing this article).

Final Thoughts

The standardized test-industrial complex wants you to believe that colleges view the SAT and ACT differently, or that there are significant differences between the tests. Insidious untruths, I say! Invest some time and energy in selecting a test. Then, and only then, create and follow through on a study plan.

Juniors: Use Midwinter Recess to Make an SAT/ACT Prep Plan!

Despite having the illustrious title of ‘academic advisor’ at myKlovr, I don’t know everything. For example, five minutes ago I had no idea that public school students in New York City had a midwinter recess, or what a midwinter recess even was. I grew up in Tennessee, and we only got spring break!

As this article is slated for publication on midwinter recess eve, please take a moment to enjoy the fact that you have a week off of school.

*Momentary Pause for Enjoyment*

Now that you’ve had enough time to enjoy your break, let’s get down to business. Juniors, if you haven’t already taken the SAT/ACT, the time is fast approaching! The next ACT is on April 14th, and the SAT follows right behind it on May 5th. Simply put, you have between eight and ten weeks to prepare for your first date with a standardized test.

Let’s use part of this week to create an SAT/ACT prep plan!

Selecting Your Test: 2 Days

A quick Googling informs me that in New York City, the SAT is a much more popular test than the ACT. But popularity doesn’t mean everything. If you know the colleges you want to apply to, research their admissions data to determine which test the majority of applicants take before applying. If your dream colleges have no preference, or you don’t yet know where you want to apply, it’s time to take a full-length, timed practice SAT and ACT.

Yes, you will need two days, one for each test. Don’t try to take them both on the same day; your results will be as useful as pulling a random score out of a bag. Take the tests in the morning, just like you will on test day. Once you have your scores, compare them against the SAT and ACT percentile rankings. On whichever practice test you earned a higher percentile, that’s the one for which you will prepare.

Note: To give your brain a break, skip a day between each practice test. That way test fatigue won’t affect the results of your second practice test.

Figuring Out Your Weaknesses: 1 Day

It’s time to dive into the test results to discover your weaknesses. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. By Question Topic: For each section of the test, arrange all missed questions into categories based on their question topic. For example, if you missed a comma question on the ACT English test, that question would go under ‘commas.’ When you are finished, you will understand which topics are giving you the most trouble.
  2. By The Reason You Missed the Question: Did you miss the question because of a simple mistake, because you misunderstood part of the question, or because you had no clue how to solve the question? By categorizing your missed questions this way, you can identify the ‘low hanging fruit,’ question types you can master with the least amount of effort.

Either way, you organize your missed questions, you will discover your weaknesses on the SAT or ACT. The next step is to create a study schedule. 

Scheduling Time Between Now and Test Day: 1 Day

Sit down with a calendar and mark everything coming up between now and test day that has nothing to do with the test itself. Examples include family activities, working at a part-time job, extracurricular activities, etc. All of these commitments come before studying for the ACT/SAT, so you need to know just how much time you can dedicate to studying.

Remember, you don’t need to study every day. When planning and executing a successful study schedule, the key word is ‘consistency.’ If you make a plan to study four times a week, see it through. If you resolve to commit one hour to each study session, see it through. Just like exercising, studying will become more natural if you make it part of your routine.

Start Your Study Plan: 1 Day

There’s no time like the present to get into the studying habit. Near the end of your midwinter recess, take an hour to hit the ground running. As it’s your first study session, start with something easy, one of the ‘low hanging fruit’ topics we discussed earlier. Mastering a simple topic will give you a sense of accomplishment and encourage you later on. Also, another reason I’d recommend starting with an easy topic is that you probably won’t need outside help. Save the harder topics for when you’re back in school and can call on the help of teachers and peers.

Final Thoughts

Hey, would you look at that: midwinter recess lasts a total of nine days, and you’ll only need five of them to help you create an ACT/SAT prep plan. That means there’s still plenty of time to relax, and maybe even play tourist in your hometown.

Happy studying!

The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing

For Americans 60 and younger, standardized testing is part of our shared experience. The ACT and SAT are as much a rite of passage as they are tools for colleges to determine whom to admit. Some states even require high school students to take the ACT or SAT to graduate. These two tests are an ingrained part of the fabric of American life.

On the other hand, many colleges and universities no longer require applicants to submit standardized test scores. Their reasoning: standardized test scores are just a number, and cannot reflect an applicant’s true to potential to succeed in college. Also, education groups have pointed to the SAT / ACT as the cause of teenagers’ unhealthy stress levels.

So what are you, a 21st-century high school student, to think? In this article, we’ll explore both sides of the issue. Finally, I’ll leave you with a little advice on how to excel both academically and mentally during standardized test season.

The Pros

If there is a case to be made in favor of the SAT / ACT, it’s that preparing for these tests teaches you many life skills that you will need later in life. What do I mean? Let me break it down for you:

  • Planning: Preparing for a standardized test requires a lot of planning. Do I need a tutor? Which test-prep book should I buy? How long each day should I study? These are only a few of the questions that you must consider when building a successful study plan.
  • Routine / Discipline: Preparing for a standardized test requires you to create a study plan, along with the discipline to see it through. This is a life skill that people need no matter what life throws at them.
  • Coping: Your first attempt at the SAT / ACT may not go the way you expect. If this happens, it’s okay to feel disappointed, especially if you created and followed through on a study plan. After sadness should come the resolve to improve on your weaknesses. Your test results will tell you where you need to improve, giving you a valuable study tool.

The Cons

There are two sides to every coin, and the SAT / ACT has just as many cons as pros. Let’s look at the big ones:

  • Stress on You: Do you get knots in your stomach when you think about the SAT / ACT? That’s not uncommon; I felt it, too. Also, as a teacher, I knew a few students who broke down in tears during these tests…even the practice tests.
  • Stress on Your Teachers: Believe it or not, testing season has the same effect on teachers as it does on students. Think about it: they have to rearrange their schedules, teach test-prep strategies (boring!), and try to explain the importance of doing well on the SAT / ACT. Also, principals put pressure immense on teachers during standardized test season; many schools’ reputation rests on raising or maintaining their standardized test scores. In summary, nobody is having a lot of fun this time of year.
  • You Aren’t a Number: As a former high school student and teacher, I have plenty of experience to prove that a test score is small potatoes compared to the everything else that makes up your college application portfolio. So even if your scores aren’t where you want them to be, feel confident in the other parts of your application that make you a shining star.

Staying Centered

So it’s standardized test season. Besides creating and following through on a study plan, there are many things you can do to minimize the ‘cons’ this season brings with it. Here are two simple strategies:

  • Cut everyone (and yourself) some slack: Students and teachers are testy this time of year, and it’s not uncommon for everyone to feel stressed out. Realizing that others feel the same way as you will help you work with your teachers and peers.
  • Take some time for you: Study plans are great but combined with your school work, extracurricular activities, and family life, you can feel that you don’t have a moment for yourself. Yes, there will be many busy days, but don’t forget to build in personal time. If you have to put aside your work for an hour, the benefits will outweigh the negatives.

Final Thoughts

Standardized testing isn’t going away anytime soon. That being the case, I’m glad you took the time to learn about both sides of the issue. A little perspective goes a long way. Now that you have some essential knowledge, use it to help start your study plan. I wish you the best of luck on test day!

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