Digital SAT Update

The College Board just released the test specifications for the new digital SAT. Here is the most important information about what is changing on both the SAT and PSAT as they switch to digital formats in 2023 and 2024. The most important change is that the SAT and PSAT will now be adaptive–the difficulty of the later sections will change based on the performance on the first sections.

Reading and Writing

  • The Reading and Writing sections will be combined–students will see both Reading and Writing questions on the same test section.
  • Each question will be on a single passage that ranges from 25-150 words.
  • There will be new genres of passages presented, along with the continuation of fiction, historical documents, science, and social science. Students will now have some poetry and drama selections.
  • There will be two Reading/Writing sections, each taking 32 minutes, each having 27 questions.

Math

  • The topics covered in the math will remain virtually identical to what is covered on the current SAT and PSAT.
  • There will still be multiple choice and student-produced response questions.
  • The math test will be broken up into two sections of 35 minutes, each having 22 questions.

Takeaways

The SAT and PSAT are largely staying the same. Even the evidence-based questions on the reading, which I though might go away on the digital format, will remain. The grammar and math concepts will overlap with what is currently tested. The new digital SAT and PSAT should be less intimidating to students–the time constraints are quite generous, and students will need to stay focused for just over two hours to complete the exam.

I would encourage you to check out the sample questions available from College Board to get a taste of what is to come.

Please visit our blog for further updates on the new digital SAT and PSAT.

–Brian Stewart

5 Reasons to Take the SAT and ACT Tests

Over the past two years, there has been quite a bit of upheaval in the world of college admissions and standardized testing.  Many schools are now “test-optional,” meaning that students can submit SAT and ACT test scores if they would like, but they are not required to do so.  Given the media reports about standardized tests, some parents and students may wonder if they should even bother taking the SAT or ACT.  Here are five reasons why taking the SAT or ACT is a still a wise choice in this uncertain environment. 

1.  Nearly all colleges would like to see your scores.

From what is covered in the news, it sounds like most schools do not care about evaluating your test scores.  According to fairtest.org, the reality is that only 3.7% of U.S. colleges are “test-blind,” meaning they do not consider test scores.  The most well-known test-blind schools are the colleges in the University of California system; the others are predominately smaller liberal arts colleges.  This means that  96.3% of U.S. colleges either require the SAT or ACT or will consider SAT/ACT scores if submitted.  Some, like Georgetown University, West Point, and the University of Florida, have required standardized test results even during the pandemic.  Others, like Ivy League Schools and Big Ten universities, give students the option to submit test scores, recognizing that there have been test site cancellations and health concerns that may have precluded students from being able to test. 

Probably the most well-known example of a test-optional university is Harvard.  When you look at their admissions website, you will see that they would indeed like to see your standardized test results if possible:

“Harvard accepts other standardized tests or other academic credentials if you choose to submit them. In any admissions process, additional information can be helpful. For example, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-levels, national leaving examinations, national or international contests, early high school assessment scores such as the PSAT or pre-ACT, or courses taken outside your school during the school year or summer are just some examples of information that could be submitted.”

If you call the Harvard admissions office, they enthusiastically encourage students to submit standardized test results—an admissions officer told me that the majority of applicants do submit test scores, and they would like you to send in your scores if you are able to test.  The bottom line is that colleges prefer as much information as possible to make an admissions decision, and they consider standardized tests an important metric in evaluating applicants. 

2.  Test scores provide protection against grade inflation. 

According to the Department of Education and the College Board, the average High School GPA was 2.68 in 1990, and 3.38 in 2016.  A recent national survey of K-8 parents found that 90% of parents believe that their child is achieving at or above grade level, and that 66 percent think that their kid is above average.  Inflated GPAs may give parents and students an incorrect impression of academic readiness, and they make it more challenging for college admissions officers to differentiate among applicants.  Consider this excerpt from the Harvard admissions website

“Given the wide variation in how students prepare for Harvard – as well as the fact that most applicants and admitted students have outstanding academic records – it is difficult for high school grades to differentiate individual applications. That does not mean that high school grades are unimportant. Students who come to Harvard have done well day to day in their high school studies, providing a crucial foundation for academic success in college, including a 97% – 98% graduation rate.  SAT and ACT tests are better predictors of Harvard grades than high school grades”. 

Good grades are certainly a key part of a successful college application.  However, students will stand out among the applicants if they have good test scores as well. 

3.  Those who submit test scores likely have a better chance of earning admission. 

According to the Future of Higher Education Newsletter, those who submit test scores are admitted at a rate that is often twice as much as those who do not submit test scores.  Here are some examples for applicants in the fall of 2021:

  • Emory: Admit rate 17% (with tests) vs. 8.6% (without tests)
  • Colgate: 25% (with tests) vs. 12% (without tests)
  • Georgia Tech: 22% (with tests) vs. 10% (without tests)

Colleges will happily accept applications from anyone who wishes to submit one—after all, they receive application fees and will see improved selectivity statistics.  Colleges will need to see clear evidence of academic strength in other areas to be confident about students who do not submit test scores.  To have a successful application, students would be smart to include test scores that demonstrate their readiness for college-level work. 

4.  Good test scores can lead to substantial scholarships. 

  • For those seeking major merit awards to Ohio State, like the Maximus, Trustees, Provost, or National Buckeye Scholarship (up to a $54,000 value), the criteria include SAT and ACT scores for those who have been able to take them. 
  • The University of Oklahoma awards out-of-state students who are National Merit Semi-Finalists (based on the PSAT and SAT tests) a $56,000 scholarship to cover four years of tuition. 
  • The University of Alabama gives a Presidential Scholarship for students with perfect ACT/SAT scores.  It includes four years of tuition, a stipend, a research grant, and a book grant, valued at $112,000 over a four year period. 

Three to four hours on a Saturday morning could be the best financial investment a student could make. 

5.  Colleges use ACT and SAT test scores to determine your course placement. 

It is one thing to be admitted to a college; it is another to get started on desired major classes as soon as possible.  Achieving certain section scores can allow students to place out of general education requirements, saving time and money.  Ohio State, among many other schools, use ACT and SAT test scores for English and math course placement.  The University of Louisiana, for example, gives students who score a 28 or above on the ACT English a full semester credit for English 101; those who score over a 30 on the ACT math earn two full semesters of credit for Math 109 and Math 110.  Since the ACT and SAT are designed to measure how likely a student will be successful as a college freshman, taking the tests will highlight areas that students should improve so they can be successful in collegiate coursework. 

I hope you found this information helpful.  Please contact us at www.bwseducationconsulting.com with other questions you may have about the SAT and ACT. 

–Brian Stewart

When Should You Take the SAT and ACT?

If you are planning on trying to earn a National Merit Scholarship and apply to highly selective colleges and universities, the following general test schedule might be a good fit for you:

  • Take the SAT in August or October of your Junior year–this will help you be well-prepared for the PSAT in October of your Junior year. Since you have one chance to do well on the PSAT for National Merit Scholarship consideration, a “dress rehearsal” with the SAT will be extremely helpful. You may also want to try taking the PSAT as a sophomore for additional practice.
  • Take the ACT in December of your Junior year. This test date has a Test Information Release available so that you can analyze your test questions and answers.
  • Evaluate your PSAT scores and December ACT scores so that you can determine if the SAT, ACT or both tests would be the best fit.
  • Take the ACT, SAT, or both in the spring of your Junior year. Most students improve the second time they take the test, so it is a no-brainer to try the tests at least a couple of times. Consider taking the March or May SAT because of the Question and Answer Service; you can get a copy of your test booklet and answers. Also consider the April or June ACT, since those dates offer the Test Information Release.
  • Take the ACT or SAT again in the summer if needed. If your scores are not quite where you want them to be, try the July or September ACT, or the August or October SAT. Keep in mind that many schools superscore (take the best score from each test section), so you may want to try to improve your weaker test sections. Ideally, if you can have your testing complete by the time you start applying to colleges, you will be much less stressed.

Please keep in mind that the above timeline is a general suggestion, and many other factors should influence when you take the tests. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Does your state offer in-school ACT or SAT tests? If so, you may want to focus on being well-prepared for those test dates. You will get to take the test during the school day in familiar surroundings, possibly giving you an enhanced opportunity to perform well.
  • Is a certain time of year less busy for you because of decreased extracurricular commitments? If you are a fall athlete, perhaps you should focus your preparation on the winter tests. If you have a busy spring, try to get your testing done in the winter.
  • Are you being recruited for sports? Coaches often like to have your test scores as early as possible. You may want to move your testing timeline up a bit if recruiters would prefer that you do so.
  • Are you only applying regular decision? Many students want to weigh different financial aid offers and want more time to consider possible schools. If so, you do not need to have your testing complete until December or January of your senior year.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have questions about the best test-taking timeline for your particular situation, please reach out to us and we would be happy to help.

Six Things To Do During the Coronavirus Shutdown

Students across the country are out of school for the next few weeks–the shutdown could last all the way until the summer.  While many students may be tempted to increase their video gaming and snapchatting, this downtime presents a golden opportunity to make independent progress on long-term academic and extracurricular goals.   Here are six ways to make that happen:

1.  Prepare for the modified AP Exams.  The College Board will offer at-home AP tests that are 45 minutes long and consist of only free response questions.  You will be able to take the tests in a way convenient for you: on a phone, tablet, computer, or even by hand.  Colleges will accept the results from the exam just as they have in years past.  Get ready for the AP exams by doing self-study and practicing for free response questions.  The College Board will provide updates here:  https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates .

2.  Build your online portfolio.  You can submit additional materials with your college application to showcase your unique talents.  Among the types of materials you can submit: recordings of music, videos of debate and theatrical performances, short stories you have written, art pieces, and samples of films you have made.  Take advantage of this down time to work on independent projects that you have not had time to focus on with the hustle and bustle of high school.

3.  Get ready for the June SAT and June ACT.   There is a national SAT test date on June 6th and a national ACT test date on June 13th.  There will be additional test dates throughout the summer and fall.  This is an excellent time to do test preparation work like practice tests, content review, and online tutoring.

4.  Earn college credit through independent study and examination.  Is there a college course you have always wanted to take, but have never had the time?  Humanities, world history, religion, astronomy, or statistics?  You can study independently and earn college credit on websites like https://study.com/  .

5.  Read some good books!  Students often complain that they never have time to read for fun; now you have plenty of time to work through that reading list.  Online books are freely available on library websites like https://www.columbuslibrary.org/ .  If you are wondering what types of books might be helpful to read in order to improve your reading comprehension for standardized tests, here is suggested list:

https://bwseducationconsulting.com/docs/ACT_SAT_Recommended_Reading_List.pdf .

6.  Get started on your college application essays.  Over 900 colleges accept the Common Application, and they have already announced what the common application essay prompts will be:  https://www.commonapp.org/apply/essay-prompts .  The fall of the senior year is extremely busy with college applications, school, and extracurriculars.  If you can get a head start on your college essays now, that will take a major task off of your plate.

We at BWS stand at the ready to help you with your independent work.  We have tutors available to meet you online to help with the SAT and ACT, college essay preparation, and AP exam review.  Please register to work with us at:

https://bwseducationconsulting.mypaysimple.com/s/bws-education-consulting-tutoring-registration .

 

 

 

Questions on the ACT, SAT, GED, and other Major Tests have only One Definitive Answer

One of the most helpful things for students taking the ACT, SAT, GED, or other major tests is to know that there is one definitive answer for every question.  This can be quite a change if you are used to coming across rather vague questions on school-based tests that indeed could have a couple of correct answers.  The ACT and SAT take significant steps to ensure that they do indeed only have one correct answer for each question.

They do this by testing the questions before they are given on scored tests.  The SAT does this on every test.  Each SAT has 10 sections, only 9 of which are scored.  The 10th section is an experimental section which they use to test out questions for future tests. They want to be certain that the questions are not biased towards any gender or ethnic group, and that the questions are of appropriate difficulty.  The ACT does not test its questions as frequently as does the SAT, but they seem to pick the June test date to add in an experimental 10 minute section for test-takers to do at the end of the test.  In order for these experimental sections to be valid, the test-takers cannot be aware that they are experimental.  Otherwise, students would simply go to sleep and save their energy for the questions that actually impact their score.  The test-makers are quite good at this question experimentation – the last time I took the SAT I thought I had determined which section was the experimental, but when I received my answers and test booklet in the mail, I realized I had been mistaken.
How good are the SAT and ACT at making sure there is only one definitive answer to each and every question?  Very, very good, and if they do mess up, they fix it.  Check out this great New York Times article on the appeals process for questions on the ACT and SAT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/education/edlife/strategy.html

What struck me is that in a 22 year period, no ACT questions were thrown out.  Between 2005 and 2008, only 3 questions on the SAT were deemed to be flawed.  If and when the SAT and ACT do find that they have made an error in a question, be assured that they will take care of it and omit it from scoring.  This is one reason why it takes time for your scores to come back – ACT and SAT need time to make sure that they have not made any errors on the test, and need the opportunity to find any questions they might have to omit.

One potential reason that the ACT has a more of a spotless record is the strong possibility that the test makers repeat some questions.  I do not know this for a fact, but I do know that the ACT limits you to taking the test 12 times in your life while the SAT allows you to take the test as many times as you would like.  (I try to take the tests regularly, and I am spreading out my ACT test taking experiences so that I don’t run out!)  I can see no reason other than the possible repetition of questions as to why they would place these limits on test takers.  Once the ACT knows they have a perfectly worded question, they are in the clear and can use the questions on subsequent tests.  Since the SAT is starting fresh each time, they have more room for error.  Keep in mind that this is all just an educated conjecture on my part.

How does knowing that there is one definitive answer help in your test-taking and your test preparation?  Two ways:

 1.       Don’t waste time looking for games or tricks on the test.  Spend your time thinking instead.  There is no point in overanalyzing a question to see if there could be two correct answers; this simply isn’t going to happen on the SAT or ACT and if it does, they will omit it from scoring.

2.       Make sure you prepare with practice tests that have definitive answers.  If you are prepping with practice questions that in fact have 2 correct answers on occasion, you will drive yourself insane in overanalyzing the questions.  As a result, you will have a flawed strategy when it comes time to take the test.  So, be sure the materials you are using are high quality.  One great place you can go for solid questions is the website of the test you are taking. You can also purchase actual materials from ACT and SAT.

I hope you found this discussion helpful.  If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you passed it along to your friends.  Thanks so much.

Should You Do Test Prep Before Taking the ACT and SAT for the First Time?

Students and parents often wonder whether to take the SAT and ACT with or without any test preparation the first time.  There is not a simple answer to this, so I will offer you some things to consider when making your decision:

1.  How close to applying to college are you?  If you are in the spring of your junior year or the fall of your senior year and are going to take the ACT or SAT for the first time, I would highly recommend doing some test preparation prior to taking the test.  Because you don’t have much time left you want your first time taking the test to be a solid experience, so do some test preparation beforehand.  If you are in the fall of your junior year or earlier, you may decide to take the ACT or SAT once as a run-through just to see where you stand.  You can then do more targeted test preparation based on the areas of weakness that you find in your test results.

2.  Do you have significant anxiety about testing?  For many students who are quite anxious about testing, having a bad experience the first time around on the SAT or ACT can give them baggage and hang-ups the next time they take the test.  For students like this, it usually makes sense to do some test preparation ahead of time so that the test goes smoothly the first go-round.  However, I want you to consider that once in a while, I see students take the SAT or ACT without any prep and, because the students expect so little of themselves, they are able to truly relax and let their intellect shine through.  For example – I had a young lady who took the ACT after doing some preparation and scored a 27.  Then, she took the SAT thinking that it didn’t matter, did zero prep for it, and scored the equivalent of a 30 on it!  I have found that this may be the case for students who are very bright and pretty anxious.

3.  What is your personal schedule like?  Some students have significant extracurricular commitments during part of the year; they have no time to do any test preparation during those months.  However, they may need to take the SAT or ACT during those times.  If this applies to you, you may want to do your test preparation the summer before school starts so that you have the opportunity to give it your full attention.  If your schedule permits you to do test preparation leading up to a test date, that can be quite beneficial as all the strategies and concepts will be fresh.

I hope that you found this discussion helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Schools that Superscore the ACT Test

Superscoring the ACT is when you take the best subscores from multiple test dates (i.e the best English, best Math, best Reading and best Science) and take a NEW average for the composite score.  Here is a list of many of the colleges and universities that superscore the ACT.  As always, double-check with the college directly to be certain as to their ACT scoring policy.

College/University Name If BLANK, they superscore the ACT. If they do something different, the policy is clarified.
Albion College
Amherst College
Babson College
Baylor University
Bates If a student chooses to submit ACT scores, we look at the highest composite score and  highest scores in each subsection.
Beloit College
Boston College
Boston University The Board does not superscore the ACT; however, if you send in scores from multiple test dates, the Board of Admissions will consider the scores from each of the subcategories, noting the highest scores achieved for each.  For this reason, we encourage applicants to submit scores from all ACT test dates as well.
Bowdoin College Applicants also have the option to select some test types and not others for review (for example, a student might choose to include SAT Subject Test scores but not an SAT score). These choices are communicated via the Bowdoin Supplement.

Bowdoin will not review selected sections of an SAT or an ACT score (for example, just the Science portion of the ACT). If an applicant chooses to include scores for a specific test type, Bowdoin will review the complete score for that test type.

Brandeis University
Butler University
California Institute of Technology When we review your application we have all of your test scores available to us. We will look at all of your scores, paying particular attention to the general pattern of scores and emphasizing the highest score for each individual exam.
California State University System Does not include the University of California, but the other schools in the system.
Colby College
College of Charleston We do not superscore the ACT for scholarship purposes.  However, we do want all ACT scores to be sent to us so that if superscoring would help the student in the admissions process, we can determine that.
Colorado College Yes, we do superscore the ACT and/or SAT (both by subject and overall score).

Regarding our testing policy, we require that applicants submit either the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT test, or elect a third option (the Flexible Testing option) including three exams of the applicant’s choice chosen from a list of acceptable exams:

 

Three Flexible Testing Options

  1. The College Board SAT Reasoning Test

or

  1. The American College Testing (ACT) Assessment Test

or

  1. Three exams of your choice, which must include at leastone quantitative test from Category A, at leastone verbal or writing test in Category B, and a third test of the student’s choice among those tests listed in Category C.

 

Connecticut College
Denison University
DePauw University
Dickinson College For the ACT, the composite score is given the most weight.
Drexel University
Duke University For students who choose to submit the ACT with writing, Duke will consider the highest composite score and highest subscores on each section, regardless of test date, but will not recalculate the composite score. Students who take the ACT are not required to submit SAT or SAT Subject Test scores.
Duquesne University
Eckerd College
Elon University
Florida Atlantic University
Florida State University
Georgia Tech We use all three portions of the SAT and/or the three equivalent parts of the ACT, as outlined below. We do not use the ACT Composite score nor the Science or Reading score.

  • SAT Critical Reading = ACT English
  • SAT Math = ACT Math
  • SAT Writing = ACT Combined English/Writing

Only your highest section scores from either test will be viewed in the evaluation process. Additionally, your highest combination of scores may come from tests taken on different dates. For example, your high test scores may include SAT Critical Reading from March, ACT Math from October and ACT Combined English/Writing from December. Each time you submit new scores to us, we will update your record with your highest scores.

Gettysburg College
Hamilton College Our applicants are best served by being provided with a variety of ways to meet our standardized test requirement.  They include:

  • The SAT Reasoning Test; OR
  • The American College Testing assessment test (ACT); OR
  • Three exams of your choice, which must include a quantitative test, a verbal or writing test, and a third test of student’s choice.  The following tests satisfy Hamilton’s quantitative and verbal/writing requirements:

Acceptable Quantitative Tests:  SAT Math; SAT Subject Tests in Math, Chemistry, or Physics; AP Computer Science, Chemistry, Economics, Math, or Physics; IB final exam results for Chemistry, Computing Studies, Economics, Math, Physics, or Physical and Chemical Systems

Acceptable Verbal/Writing Tests: SAT Critical Reading; SAT Writing; ACT Writing; AP English Language and Composition; IB final exam results for Language (A1, A2, or B English); TOEFL or IELTS (for International students ONLY)

Note:  It is Hamilton’s policy to select the testing options that will serve you best.  We strongly encourage you to submit all of your testing to Hamilton and we will choose the best scores for you.

 

Harvey Mudd College
Haverford College
Hawaii Pacific University
Hendrix College
Hollins University
Indiana University Bloomington
Ithaca College
Kalamazoo College
Kenyon College
Kettering University
Lafayette College
Lawrence University
Loyola University in Maryland
Middlebury College
MIT They do superscore the ACT. All applicants must complete one test from each category:

 

  1. SAT or ACT with writing or TOEFL
  2. Math Level 1 or Math Level 2
  3. Science SAT II Subject Test: Biology, Chemistry or Physics

 

Millsaps College
NCAA Clearinghouse
New York University We do not super-score the ACT, but we will see the individual subscores in addition to the overall composite. We can also see test scores from multiple test dates, so while your highest composite is ultimately what we will use to evaluate you, we can see whatever you send us.
Northeastern University
North Carolina State University
Pepperdine University
Pomona College Consistent with the ACT standards for acceptable use of ACT test scores, the admissions office will record the test date reflecting the highest composite score. We will consider all sittings and having all test scores from all dates permits the admissions deans further consideration of peak or higher sub-scores from other test dates as skill sets and performance are evaluated in our review process. Please be aware that Pomona requires a full testing history, so if you have taken any components of the SAT and the ACT, you are required to submit the results from all test dates.
Purdue University If you submit multiple ACT tests that you have taken, we always take the highest score from each of the sections and we take the highest composite.
Regis University
Rhode Island School of Design They do superscore although they do not refer to it as such.
Rice University Rice does not superscore the ACT. We only record the composite score. That being said, we do ask applicants to send all of their ACT test results. The reason for this is that we consider subscores in our admission committee discussions. If a student has received high subscores on any of the ACT tests they have taken, we will discuss those higher scores in our discussions. It is to the applicant’s advantage to submit all ACT test results.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Scripps College We take the best overall composite score as the student’s “official” score and review all the subscores.
St. John’s University
Stanford University For the ACT, we will focus on the highest Composite and the highest Combined English/Writing scores from all test sittings. We will also consider individual subscores.
Swarthmore College
Syracuse University
Trinity College
Trinity University
Tufts University
United States Naval Academy
University of Arkansas For admission purposes we do superscore. (Check with Arkansas with respect to scholarships).
University of Chicago
University of Colorado – Boulder
University of Connecticut We encourage students to take the SAT and/or ACT more than once. We will accept the highest scores from your combined test dates.
University of Dayton
University of Delaware
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Illinois We do what I like to call sub-super scoring where we take the highest overall composite and each highest individual scores even if it was on a lower composite exam. We will always use this to the students advantage. This is why we ask all scores to be sent to our office.
University of Louisiana – Lafayette We only take the highest subscore from each test to determine your eligibility.
University of Maryland
University of Mary Washington We do not superscore the ACT, however we will see all of your scores.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of North Carolina
University of North Texas For admissions requirements, we do superscore. Now for scholarship requirements we do not.
University of Pittsburgh
University of Puget Sound We consider the Composite, English, and Math sections of the ACT, and we do Superscore.
University of Rochester
University of South Florida
University of Tampa
University of Tennessee
University of Vermont
Valparaiso University
Vassar College 
Virginia Commonwealth Unviersity
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest University Wake Forest will only consider the highest score in each category, regardless of when it was achieved.
Washington University – St. Louis
Wellesley College Does not superscore but recommends that students submit all scores so that they may see best subscores.
Wesleyan University
Wheaton College
Williams College
Xavier University

 

 

Columbus GRE Tutoring and Test Preparation

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering GRE tutoring to clients in the greater Columbus, Ohio area and in the greater Indianapolis, Indiana area.  Several of our newly hired tutors scored exceptionally well on the GRE, and are available to tutor students applying to graduate school.  GRE tutoring is currently offered at $80 per hour with an associate tutor.  Please fill out our registration form to get started:

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