Navigating the ACT and SAT

Don’t let the ACT or SAT tests overwhelm you! Mastering these exams is not just about being a whiz in English, Mathematics, Science, and Writing. It’s about understanding the tests’ structure, familiarizing yourself with the strategies, and arming yourself with the right techniques to answer questions accurately and efficiently.

Join CollegeAdvisor for a helpful webinar, “Navigating the ACT and SAT,” featuring Harvard University alum Maria Acosta Robayo.

The webinar will feature:

  • Comprehensive overviews of the ACT and SAT, including the structure, question types, and scoring.
  • Proven strategies to enhance speed, accuracy, and confidence in each test section.
  • Insider tips to help you interpret and respond to complex questions effectively.
  • Q&A Session .

Empower yourself with knowledge, strategies, and the confidence to excel in your ACT and SAT exams. Register today and join us on the path to acing the test! Your journey to college success starts here.

Date 03/07/2024
Duration 58:36

Webinar Transcription

2024-03-07 – Navigating the ACT and SAT

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Navigating the ACT and SAT. My name is Lydia Hollow, and I am your moderator for tonight, and I’m also a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor. I’ve been with the company for about three years now, and in addition to advising students, I’m also the proud co captain of our essay review team and a proud graduate of New York University.

In addition to my work with CollegeAdvisor, I’m also an education consultant and a former teacher. So to orient everyone for the webinar timing tonight, we’re going to start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q& A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides, and you can start submitting any questions that you may already have.

in the Q& A tab and also ask questions as they come up throughout the presentation. At the end of the presentation, we’ll be going over the questions and answering them and we’ll also be recording the session so that you can review the webinar again later. Now let’s meet our presenter. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo and I graduated from Harvard in 2020, um, where I studied sociology and business.

Global Health Policy and where I was also pre med. Um, I’m currently living in D. C. now, and I do government consulting. So, um, pretty different than pre med and what I, um, had. I thought I was going to be doing, which is medical school, but very closely tied to the things that I studied as a sociology major.

I’m really excited to get to talk, um, to all y’all about navigating the ACT and the SAT.

So, uh, before we jump into the presentation that Maria is going to walk you all through, I just want to do a quick temperature check, see what grade all of you are in. If you are a parent, you can just fill out that other option. I’ll go ahead and open the poll now. And while I give you all the

I’m back. Okay, now while I give you all the time to go ahead and answer that poll that I opened up for you, uh, Maria, I was just wondering, um, when you were going through the college application process, what was the most important thing for you or the thing that you struggled with the most?

I don’t think I can hear you. Oh, sorry about that. Can you hear me? Yes. Great. Um, sorry about that. Yeah, so I think one of the things that was the most challenging was the essay portion. Um, all of a sudden there was a ton of questions being asked of me as an 18 year old that felt really existential. Like, what is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced?

And like, what are the obstacles that I faced in my life? How do I, how do I overcome them? Tell me about like your identity. And like, as an 18 year old, I was like, well, I mean, I like play sports. I like, I was an athlete growing up and like, I love medicine, but it was really hard to think about how to form a through line between lots of different things that were, um, really salient identities in my life and trying to tell a story about who I am while answering, like, these really difficult prompts.

Um, I feel like everything else was already kind of built into our education, like, uh, taking tests before. Maybe I hadn’t taken the ACT and the SAT before, but I had taken tests before, I knew that structure, I’d written essays, but never essays like about myself in that way. And so, I think that was definitely one of, um, the bigger challenges of the application process.

That makes sense. And I think a lot of students really struggle with that part of the application process, trying to figure out what is my story and things like that. And I can definitely say, as a co captain of the essay review team, that that’s something that CollegeAdvisor definitely really shines in, is being able to help students kind of unlock what their story is and tell it in a compelling way.

So looking at the poll, it seems like the majority of our attendees tonight are in the 11th grade, and then we’ve also got a couple in 12th grade and a few parents as well. So we’ll go ahead and get started with the presentation. I’ll pass it off to you, Maria. Great. Thank you. Um, so we’ll just kick off with chatting a little bit about the impact of standardized testing on a student’s application.

I think a lot of folks get. Um, a little bit nervous about SAT and ACT testing because it just feels like such a huge new thing to add to your application. Um, especially if you haven’t taken the PSAT. Um, this just feels like the biggest metric. And the truth is that they are important, but they’re not the most defining part of your application.

And it’s one of the many things that are considered to help you get on the bubble of consideration. Um, and so there is lots of things that play into how you like, um, pretty much just the process of getting into school, but it’s also very dependent on the cohort that you’re applying with. And so, um, definitely scores have, uh, an impact, but they’re not the biggest thing.

Um, again, it’s multiple factors. Um, and it’s again, a bit of a insight into a bit of your academic rigor. And so definitely there’s the GPA. GPA portion, there’s the different classes that you’ve taken, um, and then there’s that SAT, ACT standardized testing scores that just help give admissions officers an opportunity to see your academic rigor and see kind of how you score in that, um, very quantitative metric.

Um, so what standardized tests are we talking about here? So, um, there was, or there is the PSAT, which is short for pre SAT, um, and that’s an opportunity for folks to, or for students to take practice tests pretty much. They get a chance to sit in a simulated test taking environment. They get a chance to go through a really similar test, like what they’re going to be seeing when they actually take the real SAT.

Um, there’s the SAT, which is paper and of recent, um, there’s a digital version as well that we’re going to be chatting a little bit more in a couple slides. There used to be SAT 2, which were the SAT subject tests, but those are no longer offered. I mention them here just in case you have heard that name before, um, so that you don’t get confused as to like, is there something missing?

You know, the SAT 2 or subject test were things that got tested in the past, and those were usually like an opportunity to shine in a particular area. So when I was applying, um, I took, for example, SAT 2 for biology, for Spanish, again, to show a little bit of my ability to, um, I guess as a pre med to like shine in the biology area and then also, um, as a way to demonstrate my multilingual, um, skills.

So lots of students do that, especially if they’re bilingual. Um, and then there’s the ACT, which is, um, another Standardized test is very common, so you have the SAT, ACT, they’re both looked at absolutely the same. Um, and we’ll talk a little bit about the differences between them so that you can decide which one might be best for you.

Um, there’s the TOEFL, which is usually for students who are international, and so that test tests your English proficiency and is an opportunity for you to, if you’re an international student, to show that you would thrive in an American education system and you have an opportunity to show that. You have the degree of English to be able to, you know, just like every other student starting in college, you know, be challenged by the subject matter, um, but enough so that the English barrier, the English language barrier, the language, the English language isn’t as much of a barrier.

Um, and then you have AP exams, which are just, um, tests that you take if you take an AP course. There are students who decide to take the AP exam without taking the AP course, but usually, um, there is the test that happens at the end of the year for students who are taking a class that’s like, usually, the highest level of rigor in an academic setting.

So you have like your, um, normal class and usually there’s like an honors class and then you have like AP exams or IB there at the similar, um, level. Of rigor, and I’m sorry, I’m getting over the flu. And so I might be coughing a little bit throughout this presentation. Um, but, um, when we’re talking about the traditional paper, and again, I’m differentiating that because there is a new digital version that we’re going to be talking about.

But if you are going into a center and taking it on paper, this is what the test process looks like. It’s usually administered about 7 times per year. So very frequently throughout the year. It’s three hours and 50 minutes, and the highest score you can get is a 1600. That score is split between math, which is a max.

You can get a maximum of 800 points. Um, and then evidence-based reading and writing, which is maximum 800.

Um, and when it comes to the math section, that’s 80 minutes, 58 questions, and it tests different topics, including algebra, problem solving, data analysis, and advanced math. This is again, what’s in the college board. website for SAT, but if you go into any of your prep books, you’ll get a chance to really break down what that math section is, um, and it’ll break it up into the different areas that you will need to know and, um, and understand for the test.

Then there’s the evidence based reading and writing that’s shorter, so it’s 65 minutes, 52 questions, and that part tests the understanding of complex passages and identifying words in context, so usually you’ll be reading through a passage. And get questions about the content. Are you able to follow the logic, the flow, um, and then writing and language, which is 35 minutes, 44 questions.

And that is testing more grammar and argument building abilities. And lastly, there is the essay, which is optional. Um, it’s 50 minutes. Um, there are some schools that may require the essay, so just make sure that you ask before you go and take the test and decide to not, uh, take the essay. I would just, again, look through your college list, work with your advisor from CollegeAdvisor, or your high school counselor to make sure that, um, if you are applying to a school that requires it, that you’re aware of that before you go in and take the test.

So then, what is the digital SAT that I’ve been referencing? Um, so that is a new type of testing. It’s, um, obviously it’s on the computer, so it’s online. That’s the biggest change there. Um, but it also, so it, another, like, similarity before we get into differences is, It still tests like the same content areas, like it’s still split up in reading, writing, math, but, um, oh, and it still uses like the scale of 400 to 1600.

So the max score is 1600, but it does have a different testing structure. So, um, it has something called multi stage adaptive testing, which means that the more you take the, the more you take questions, the more that it will sense. Like if you are doing better on a question, then it’ll give you harder questions.

And so the way that that is broken up. is that each section, reading and writing and then your math, is divided into two equal lengths, but separately timed modules. So you answer your first module, and then before moving to module two. And the questions that you’re giving in the second module depend on how you performed in the first module.

So, again, if you get everything right in the first module, most likely you will have a harder module 2. But again, all of those things are calculated in such a way such that, like, it’s not, like, it’s, It’s definitely not to your advantage to try to be strategic, but like, well, maybe I’ll get some wrong on purpose so that it’s not as like hard here.

Like, that’s not the point. Like the way that you think these things are scored and the way the algorithm brings up these questions are is such that you will have an accurate representation of your knowledge. And so definitely do module one as best as possible. Module two will account for what you got wrong or right.

And again, everyone is at the same level, like the equal playing field. So here again, it’s not, um, adaptive testing is just a way to measure that. Again, it’s, it’s equitable. It is not something that is going to, um, disadvantage you if you get really good scores in module one. Like that is not the way that it works.

Um, and then something that is helpful to know here is that you can jump back and forth between questions in a module, um, and preview upcoming questions or mark earlier questions to return if you have time. So there’s no, and there’s no penalty for guessing. So definitely make sure that you fill out all the questions because you won’t be penalized for getting it wrong.

Um, and then, uh, this format again, this is all from the College Board website so that you can, uh, when you get this deck later on, you can click on that website and then go, um, or on that link and then go to the website where you’ll get a lot more information about the digital test. Um, uh, and then this, the format, the digital testing format is, um, doesn’t require continuous connection.

So if for whatever reason you lose connection during the test, um, you can continue testing without disruption. Um, so the different testing structures, so again, it’s still broken up in general between reading and writing as one section, math as the other section, but it’s a lot shorter. So you have 64 minutes to complete 54 questions total in reading and writing, um, and 70 minutes to complete 44 questions in the math section.

For the reading and writing, those two sections are combined and have shorter passages, which means, uh, which allows the test to give you less, uh, number of questions, and all the math section is, um, you can use a calculator for, uh, so in total you have 46 fewer, um, 46 fewer minutes, um, than the paper version, and 56 questions, uh, less than the paper version, so it’s a shorter test in general.

So then, now let’s move on to the ACT. So, and you can take, and you can take like a paper SAT and then a digital SAT if you wanted to. Like, it’s not like you can only take one version. Um, it’s just whatever suits you best. And this is where I think it’s really helpful to take practice tests and see which environment you feel more comfortable in.

Um, the other test that you could take is the ACT. Again, SAT and ACT are both tests that are looked at exactly the same by colleges, and so it’s more about, uh, which is best for you. The ACT does not have a digital version, so we’ll just be talking about the paper version. normal SAT, ACT. Um, it’s also administered seven times per year.

It’s three hours and 35 minutes. So, um, longer than the digital test, but shorter than the paper test for the SAT. Um, and the highest score you can get is a 36. That score is split between English, math, reading, and science. So as you notice, there is one new area here, which is science. That is not something that you see on the ac on the SAT.

And so one of the reasons why folks might decide that this is the better, a better test for them is their understanding of, and this is, we’ll get into it in a second, but this is not talking about content. Like it’s not gonna ask you like, um, you know, a super. Niche biology or chemistry question. It’s more about understanding data.

Um, and can you understand, um, can you analyze data in charts in like an experiment and like make kind of hypotheses about these things and answer questions about the logic of that? Um, and so. That is something that is not available on the SAT. We’ll talk about that section in just a moment. Um, so, here in the ACT, so you can take, you can score up to 36 in each section.

So, scoring here is composite, which means that, unlike in the SAT, when you were adding, um, you know, it was maximum score is 1600, split between math and reading and writing, and it was 800 plus. The score of this plus the score of this gave you your final score. That is not how the ACT works, it’s more so the average of four different areas.

So you’re not adding your scores, you’re getting an average of all four sections. Um, so you have your English section, which is 75 questions in 45 minutes. That’s testing grammar usage, punctuation, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style. Then you have your math questions, which is 60 questions in 60 minutes.

That’s testing pre algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry. I know this looks like more than the SAT, but the math is fairly similar between the two. Um, you obviously would want to take some practice tests to see which ones you like best. But again, the topics or the content is generally the same.

For reading, you have 40 questions to, uh, and you have 35 minutes to answer that. And that is, uh, testing reading comprehension. Um, and so that is again, kind of like those passages where they will ask, you know, like, what is true about this passage? What is not, like, what is not true? And it’s testing your ability to comprehend, um, text of, like, um, blocks of text.

Uh, and then you have your science questions, and so That’s 40 questions in 35 minutes, and like I mentioned, it’s not the content of like, biology or physics or chemistry, it is testing interpretation, it’s testing analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving, so you might see Like a chart with data and it might ask you like, um, is it fair to assume this, this or this, like what, what is, um, a potential thing that was maybe being tested given the results that you see in this table.

And so that’s a way to, um, again, understand. Demonstrate your ability to, uh, solve problems and to evaluate data. Uh, and then similar to the SAT, you have your writing portion. It’s 40 minutes and it’s also optional, so I recommend the same thing that I mentioned with the SAT, which is making sure that your schools, um, the schools that you’re applying to have a good writing portion.

Okay, so we’re going to take a quick break from the presentation before we jump back in to ask you all another quick question, which is which standardized tests are you planning to take? So Maria just did a great job breaking down the ACT and SAT. Just curious where you all are landing if you plan on taking one or the other or taking both.

Um, so while we give people a chance to answer that question, Maria, I’m just curious, which test did you gravitate towards more? Did you have a preference? Um, and in general, how did you feel about standardized testing? Yeah, so I, um, was really lucky that my school gave us like this online practice, um, version of the SAT.

And so it took you through like different modules where you could just. Take lots of practices. So I got really accustomed to the SAT. Um, I ended up taking both the SAT and the ACT. Um, I think the A CTI thought I would do better because I was, I had to get a lot of science classes and I took a lot of stem.

But, um, to be honest, I found the, the SATA little bit easier for me. Um, so I definitely gravitated towards that one. I think for me, my state that I went to high school and, um, they provided the a CT to all juniors, so I got used to taking the a CT, but I ended up having to take the SAT later on. Um, and I only took it once, but I actually ended up doing better on the SAT, um, compared to the ACT, just because with the SAT, it’s just two subjects.

You got the math and the, the reading, and I was always really strong in math. So I had a little bit more weight on my strength there. Um, But looking at the results, it seems like people are agreeing. They gravitate more towards the SAT, with 60 percent saying that they plan on taking the SAT, 20 percent saying they plan on taking 20 percent saying that they plan on just taking APs.

Okay, so I’ll hand it back to you to finish up the presentation before we jump into the Q& A. And just as a reminder to the audience, uh, feel free to submit questions as we go to the presentation and we, we will answer them, uh, at the end of the presentation. Um, so which test should you take, SAT versus ACT?

The answer to that is just based on your strengths. Like, which do you feel more comfortable in? What topics have you covered in school? Like, if you feel like You know, you haven’t really taken a lot of classes where there’s some data analysis, and you’ve gotten a chance to get used to thinking about, okay, visual data and what that looks like on paper, what that translates to, um, in terms of drawing conclusions and inferences about data.

Um, you might not feel comfortable with the ACT. Um, so there’s a couple of things that you can look at. Um. Again, I would, there is a link that I have here that just compares the SAT and the ACT, and so, um, if you get a chance to look at this handout and go on that website, it will give you more details into differences between the two.

Um, and now kind of stepping back a little bit now that we have a sense for what these tests are. Um, just thinking about, okay, what is the process of just taking these in general? Um, so most students take, uh, standardized tests for college admission, uh, in high school. Some students start taking the PSAT as early as eighth grade, but it’s most commonly taken in 10th and 11th grade.

Um, 11th grade is the only one that really, um, matters in terms of, uh, being considered for National Merit Scholarship. Um, it’s a really, uh, prestigious, um, award, and it’s also something that is not very Common or easy to get only the top 1 percent become finalists. And so that’s definitely an opportunity to shine something that you can add to your resume.

If that’s something that you get in 11th grade. So it is a reason to study for the SAT earlier on. Um, But again, those scores do not get sent to colleges. It’s just if you get a high enough score in 11th grade on the PSAT, you could get National Merit Scholarship, which does look good on your application, but the scores from your PSAT will not be going to the college.

You would have to take the real SAT or the ACT. Um, and most students are doing that their junior year, um, and into their senior fall, which I don’t recommend because you have so many things that are suddenly thrust upon you, uh, your senior year, uh, you are writing. A lot of supplement essays for your schools, you’re maybe writing still your personal statements, even though, um, if you are, uh, an, a rising senior at the end of the semester, uh, definitely recommend using your summer to be, to write your personal statement.

Um, but. You can start, um, definitely you’ll, you’ll probably be still writing your senior fall, and so it’s sometimes not the wisest idea to also add testing into that mix. It’s often better to just feel like you’re going into that without the pressure of also taking exams, um, and obviously add to that your normal high school workload.

And so that, that’s quite a bit. If you can, Front load some of those things to your junior year. That’s going to be really helpful for you in your senior year. Um, and then you have your AP tests, which are just based on the year that you take the course. Or like I said before, some students choose to take it, uh, despite not taking the class.

Um, and that is possible, but not as often, not as recommended. Um, so that’s kind of the cadence of when, uh, the different tests are taken. So what are some of the best ways to prepare for the standardized testing? So I definitely think that the best way to do that is to take practice tests because you get a feel for the types of questions that are being asked.

Um, you might not see the same numbers or the same exact content, but you’ll start seeing some similarities about the types of questions that are asked. And as you build that muscle and you take more practices, you’ll start to get a feel for Um, and an intuition for how to answer a question or the strategy to answer a question.

Um, and especially if you’re taking the digital test for the first time and I added a link there to, um, a practice test on in the College Board website. Um, you should definitely take a practice test if that’s your first time taking a digital test. Um, you could also sign up for a test prep course. And that can be, um, through Kaplan, College Board, Princeton Review, there’s plenty of prep courses.

Um, the, obviously the drawback to that is that they’re often expensive. Sometimes there are scholarships for them or you can apply for some financial aid, but for the most part, these are just an investment into the course. performing better if you learn better through, um, someone teaching you the material.

Um, and these can be solo, these can be in small cohorts, sometimes it’s large cohorts, it can be online, or it can be in person. Um, but that is kind of the extent of, um, having someone like teach you the material. And then lastly, you can buy a prep book in self study. So this is like buying one of those like The books that have, you know, an overview of the materials that are covered usually have some practice sections for each of the, um, the areas of your, in your taking the SAT and you’ll have your math and reading and writing.

If you’re taking the ACT, then you’ll have your four sections, your math, reading, writing, um, and your science. Um, and so these are often from the, that same, those same companies that I listed for the prep courses. So Princeton Review, College Board Kaplan, the ACT website, um, they have their own books and they have, uh, prep courses as well.

So what are some tips for the actual day of the test? So definitely eat a good, a good breakfast with low glycemic index. And the reason I mentioned that is because you want your energy to be stable, especially if you’re taking. Um, the A. C. T. Which is like still three hours and a half. If you’re taking the paper A.

C. T. That’s also like three hours and 50 minutes between the digital test. You still don’t want to run out of steam like two hours into the test when you’re kind of finishing it out. So it’s good to have a meal that will help you have steam. Uh, more stable energy over a longer period of time. So usually you want to have like oatmeal, whole grain breakfast sandwiches, things that are not too sugary and are not going to give you a sugar high and then a crash.

Um, so most cereals usually fall into that, that category. Um, you want to get a good night’s sleep. So eight plus hours. Wake up with plenty of time So it’s better to wait at the test center than to have a hectic morning before a big test you don’t know if there’s gonna be got bit like a Accident on the street and then you have like a traffic jam.

You don’t know If for whatever reason you accidentally drive to the wrong test center, I say that because that’s what happened to me. I kept on, uh, I took the SAT at a particular test center for some reason the a CT signed me up for a different one. And so I was, when I was gonna take my A CTI, um, I was, I really liked getting to the test centers early and just being relaxed, um, before starting my test.

Um, and because I got there early. I started looking at the roster sheet and realized that I wasn’t on it. And then when I looked at where my test center was, it was actually across town. So I had about 45 minutes to cross town and get to the new test center, which was really helpful for me because I didn’t have to cancel my tests or.

do any of those things, but it was very hectic. Um, I just wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t woken up early and actually waited at the test center. So definitely double check your test center and time the night before to make sure you’re going to the right place. Um, prep your test taking materials ahead of time.

Don’t forget your calculator. Um, especially in the digital test. Like now you can take, um, You can have, use a calculator for all your math, so definitely make sure that you have that available to you. Um, and then lastly, just take a deep breath and remember that you are so much more than your test score.

Um, applications are so much more than the test score. They include a lot of things about, um, Your essays, your story, your personality, um, your extracurriculars, your GPA. There’s lots of things that go into that. Um, and overall, even above that, again, as a, as a human, as an, as a person, um, you are so much more, and defined by so much more than just your test score.

And so, it’s sometimes helpful to step out. And see the big picture.

Um, and then the timeline for standardized tests in a college application usually is, um, you can start prepping the summer between sophomore and junior year, and that will give you an opportunity to. Start getting to know the material before taking the test your junior fall or your junior spring again this is with the ideal version of like not having to take tests your senior year and so if you’re prepping sophomore year or The summer between sophomore and junior then that allows you to actually take it your junior spring your junior year.

Um, and it gives you time to retake without the pressure of feeling like you’re not going to get your scores are not going to make it to the school. Um, and it could also help you to consider prepping or taking other standardized tasks. So if, you know, you decide you want to try out ACT, that’s harder to do.

If You are making that decision your senior fall than if you’re making it your junior spring. Um, Ultimately, you have to submit the scores before your application deadline, so plan for a test that allows you to receive your scores before the application deadline. Although some colleges will accept ACT and SAT scores after their application deadline, so into that January and March time frame, but always seek permission.

Don’t assume that this is something that that schools are offering. Um, My particular standardized testing experience, just to that, to give an example of what this looked like in person. Um, I took the PSAT like four times because my school offered it, but I had no idea what it was or what I was doing until my junior year.

By which point it was a little too late to study for it, but I started studying a lot for the SAT once I realized how important it was. As one of the many elements in my application, I had just never studied for it before. And so I started studying for it, took the online prep course provided by my high school, which I referenced earlier, and just took a lot of practice tests in sections.

If I was not doing great in a math section, I would just drill math sections. It’s not always easy. Uh, the best idea to do a full test. Sometimes it’s better to just take lots of sections and get used to the sections themselves before scaling up to a full test. Um, and then I took the SAT test twice. I took it consecutively.

Um, and I improved my math scores a lot in my second test. And so when I super scored, um, which means, like, for example, if I do really well in my math in the first test, but maybe not so hot on reading and writing, um, then maybe I can focus a lot more on reading and writing. And if for whatever reason, When I take it the second time, maybe my math score is not as high as the first time.

So maybe it could still be high, but if I like my score better in the math section before, schools will super score. So they will look at the highest scores of your sections throughout multiple tests. Um, and they will use the, the top ones. And so let’s say for math, I get an 800 in the first time, um, a perfect score.

That’s great. I don’t want to lose that, but I need to take it again because maybe in my reading and writing, I got a 600 and I feel like I can do better. Then the next time that I take it, maybe my math is a 750, but my, my reading and writing is also a 750. The school will take the 800 from the first test and add it to the 750 of the reading and writing section on the second test.

And so I don’t have to worry about losing that 800 if I take the class, if I take the test again. Um, and then the ACT, I took it once. I took a lot of ACT practice tests and sections, and then I just took the SAT. Um, and I did better on the essay on the SAT. And so, I mean, in hindsight, um, I, I wish I hadn’t taken it because I did better on the SAT, but I wouldn’t have known that unless I actually took it.

Um, and then I took, uh, AP exams. So I had nine exams, um, because I took nine classes. And so I, um, just to get at the end of every class, I never took any AP exam without the class. So these are just reflective of the nine that I took as actual classes. And my last parting advice for students preparing for standardized testing is to just look through the comparison chart and find the best test for you based on your strengths and weaknesses.

That chart again, you can look it up on, um, on this deck. I put a link to it. Um, and then start early so you don’t have to rush if you need to retake it and take practice tests, especially the digital tests. Those are all my, uh, my slides for tonight. Okay. Thank you so much, Maria. I really appreciate you taking the time to walk us through all that.

I know I learned a lot. Um, so that is the end of our presentation portion of our webinar. I hope that everyone else that is watching tonight found this information helpful and just remember that you can download the slides in the handout section. tab. Um, and so now we’re going to move into the live Q and A where I’ll read some of the questions that you all have submitted for tonight and then Maria will answer them and I may help respond as well.

As a heads up, if your Q and A tab isn’t working, just double check that you joined the webinar through your custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. So we’re going to go ahead and get started with our first question, which is how long or how far in advance should I begin preparing for standardized tests?

Yeah, so this is, um, basically just some of the content on the slide of just, you know, it ends up being up to you, but Ideally, you would not want to be taking the test your, your senior year because there’s a lot of things that are going on that year. And so ideally, you’d want to probably start studying the summer between sophomore and junior year to try to take it during your junior year.

And is there a certain study materials? And I think you mentioned a couple, but are there any other study materials that you would recommend when preparing for standardized tests? Um, I think I mentioned a couple, like, um, there’s Khan Academy has, uh, or sorry, I mentioned Kaplan, Princeton Review, um, college, the college board website, the ACT website, but then there’s also some, um, materials where you could learn, like, about specific, um, topics.

So Khan Academy has really good videos. You could look up specifically if you’re struggling with, like, trigonometry. Um, you can look up SAT trigonometry or ACT trigonometry, and that would be really, uh, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of, like, resources there, and so it really depends on, like, if there’s a specific topic area that a student is struggling with.

Um, But I think I mentioned most of, like, the bigger names that I’ve heard of in the, in the educationisms. And, uh, one student was asking, is there a quote unquote good score or baseline score that any student should shoot for? Or does it really just vary depending on the school that the student is applying to?

Yeah, so definitely is based on, uh, it goes school by school. Uh, another metric to think about is, uh, It’s like scholarships, um, schools sometimes have scholarships based on like merit. And so, sorry, there’s some like that are, um, need based financial aid. And then there’s some that are like merit based financial aid.

And for those who, the schools that have merit based financial aid, there’s often, um, like different categories to look at. So they could be looking at your GPA, they might be looking at, um, you know, Like, uh, a contest that you were a part of or something like that. But, uh, another big metric that they look at is your standardized tests.

And so usually if there’s some type of scholarship like that, they’ll show, they’ll give you like a specific score that you need to be shooting for. Um, I am originally from Miami, so in Florida there was Bright Futures, and the Bright Futures scholarship did have a specific score that you needed to get in order to access, um, those funds for school.

So, um, those are all things to consider. And would you say that there is such thing as taking an SAT or an ACT too many times? Could you take a test so many times that it actually reflects poorly on your application? Yeah, so I’ve heard like usually the magic number is like you don’t want to take this like that each of those tests like more Than necessarily like three times and like there is some grace between like three and five But I think some schools actually do cap it at five Um, but I, like, ideally you want to take it no more than three times.

Got it. Um, and do colleges ever have a preference between ACT or SAT or are they looked at in the same light? Yeah, they’re looked at the same light. Um, I haven’t heard of a school that doesn’t look at them in the same way. Um, definitely is worth checking in your, um, like in college list, um, and looking at the school’s requirements.

Another student is asking, um, for standardized testing, if a student has a lower GPA, can an SAT or ACT score that’s particularly high ever offset that? Or is it something that if your GPA is not good, then it doesn’t really matter how you end up doing on standardized tests. No, it definitely matters. So it’s, uh, definitely like one of those like quantitative metrics that there are several like things that go into that, such as the, like your AP score, your test score.

If you’re taking like a non, like if you’re taking an AP class or an IB class, um, those things will usually also factor into your GPA. Um, but for example, if you, um, have a low GPA, but a high, um, Standardized test score. Um, it could just show that like you grew a lot and like maybe there was grades that happened earlier in your high school career that, um, pulled down your GPA, but you still knew.

prepped really well for the standardized test and so that helps offset in the sense of, in the category of thinking about a student’s quantitative scores, which again is like a series of different scores including your GPA, your standardized test, um, it could help offer a different perspective than just having the low GPA, but it’s not going to change your GPA, like an SAT or an ACT won’t change the fact that you have a certain number in your GPA.

That makes sense. You gotta make sure that your application is balanced. I know, um, for me, in my experience, having a lower, a really low GPA, but having very high test scores, that there’s a huge disparity, which honestly, it’s not usually that common, but it does happen where there’s A student doesn’t really perform well in their classes, but they happen to perform really well, really well on standardized tests.

What that tends to communicate in my perspective is that it may be a student who is not very good at applying themselves on a consistent basis, but has you know, a lot of just natural talent when it comes to performing well academically, which isn’t always the best look, because a lot of performing well in college is not just about, you know, being able to be a good test taker, being able to show up one time.

It’s about the continued stamina and the will to learn on a consistent basis. So you want to be able to show, you know, both sides. I think grades can show the determination and the will to learn, while standardized testing can sometimes show just a natural affinity for being able to show up in high stress academic situations.

So, if you’re able to do both, that’s great, but, um, obviously that’s not always possible. Um, And in relation to the question that I just asked Maria, another question that I’m seeing is how should I address my test scores in my college application? This could be in the situation that we were just talking about where maybe they’re abnormally high in comparison to GPA or where they’re abnormally low in comparison to a rather high GPA.

How should they address it or should they address it in other parts of their application? Yeah, so there is on the Common App, there’s an area where you could. Right. You can address like anything on your application. It could be, it’s just like an additional, um, like text box in the common app where you can add maybe context for why GPA is lower.

Why, um, you know, there was a certain test score. If like, you know, You know, for whatever reason, if I hadn’t made the ACT test and, um, if I was able to cancel my scores and it just came out as like a really low score or, I don’t know, something like that, like where there’s like a fluke in the system or something to explain or add additional context, um, there is a text box in the Common App section for that.

Got it. So, another question is just talking about test optional or test free. flexible policies that have become more popular in the week of COVID 19. And they’re asking, you know, with all those policies in mind, how important are the ACT and SAT now? Are they as important for me to even take or study for since there are so many colleges where I don’t have to submit those scores?

Yeah. So it definitely depends on your, on your list, on your college list. Um, most of the Ivy League still require. Um, an S. A. T. A. C. T. There was a period of time in which they did it, which was in usually for twenty twenty twenty twenty one area or for folks applying in twenty twenty twenty twenty one. Um, but for the most part, um, there’s been, um, a lot of schools who have, like, started to require them again.

There are schools who have decided to go optional, which means that you could submit it. Um, and then there’s also, um, depending on the school, it might be that you could submit it and it will be looked at and added to consideration for, you know, again, if you like, maybe don’t have the best GPA and you want to give additional data points for your academic rigor in a quantitative way, um, that could help.

There are other schools who say, absolutely not. We’re not looking at the ACTSAT. We’ve, after COVID 19, we realized it wasn’t a very equitable process and we’re just not going to consider them. That also, again, just depends on the schools. So it, so there, there are some students who decide no matter what, I don’t want to take the ACT, SAT, I’m not going to apply to a school that requires it.

And that is not maybe the most advisable strategy, but it is definitely a consideration, um, for students who are trying to balance a lot of things in their time and their, and what to dedicate their time to in junior and senior year. Makes sense. So, um, for the students that are planning on taking the ACT and SAT, um, how would you recommend they decide whether or not it’s worth it to enroll in, you know, those ACT or SAT?

prep classes. Do you feel like it’s something that every student should consider or is it best for a certain type of student? Yeah, so I think the one of the biggest factors is like the budget for that. Um, I was not necessarily in a position where I wanted my parents to pay for that. And so I decided that I, for me, I could just buy books or I could use the free resources I found online and through my school.

Um, But it also required a high level of, like, initiative and being a self starter and knowing that, like, I can push myself through studying. There are some students who, for whatever reason, like, it’s just very difficult to focus on pushing yourself to study. And for those students, it might be really helpful to have, uh, someone who is teaching a class on Saturdays and you know that is your day to study.

Or, like, you know, you have homework in between and it just gives you some structure. Um, for me I really like the flexibility of self studying, but again it’s not for everybody and some students actually who try to self study, um, end up feeling really confused or feeling like they’re wasting their time and so it really depends on your personality.

Makes sense. And your budget. Yeah, and so speaking of budget, are there other ways that you feel like parents could be more supportive of their students and performing well on these tests, even if they don’t necessarily have the funds to send them to, you know, uh, ACT or SAT prep class? Yeah, so I think there it’s just really helpful to Like, go to Bars and Nobles on a Saturday, maybe, like, driving your children to a store where they can have access to some of these materials.

Uh, and the library, they also have, uh, prep books, and so there are free resources out there. Um, obviously, if you go to Bars and Nobles, the idea is to, like, buy the book, but I do know there were times where I was like, I just need to look at this year’s edition, and that was only available at Barks and Nobles, and I would sit at the cafe and I would look through the questions.

Um, but, um, yeah, those are, those are some of the ways, like, very practical ways of making sure that if you’re, you know, Um, if your child is not able to go to a prep center, then just offering other opportunities, making sure there are other opportunities for them to study and like to be on top of that. Um, but I have found that one of the best ways that parents can support their kids as they’re studying through this process is reminding them that they’re more than a test score.

Um, oftentimes students already put enough pressure on themselves, um, to perform really well on these, as if like, this is the biggest. You know, performance they’re ever going to have in their lives and, um, sometimes they’re students who aren’t great, great test takers and it takes a different type of pushing and encouragement or a balance of pushing and encouragement.

And so I think with the students that I have, um, like been an advisor for in the past, there has been a medley of how much parents are involved in that. And I think one of the best ways is just. Making sure that the student feels encouraged and feels like this is something they can do and not just something that if they don’t do well, well, they’re never getting going to get into a school like that.

There is already those fears present and they’ll need more fueling. Right. That’s a great point. We’re going to take a quick break from the Q& A just to remind you all that CollegeAdvisors team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are here and we’re ready to help you and your family navigate the college admissions process in one on one advising sessions.

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So now we’re going to go back to the Q& A and that QR code that I was talking about will still be on the screen if you would like to schedule a session with one of our experts. So, um, Maria, one of my next questions, uh, which I think is somewhat related to what you were talking about at the end of your last answer is for students who do have a lot of anxiety or feel a lot of pressure around standardized tests, what are some tips that you would suggest to them to help them?

Overcome that anxiety and that fear. Yeah. So I think one of the best like things to help with that is just getting to know the material. Well, oftentimes, um, fear comes from like, not knowing what’s going to happen. Um, and so understanding the content, taking practice tests. putting yourself in the environment before you have to be there.

Um, like, you know, putting yourself through a full time test before you’re actually taking a full time test for and having to use the scores, um, is just really helpful. And so in addition to the things that I’ve already said, I think just taking a lot of tests and getting those reps in will really help.

That makes sense. And I completely agree with that. I think the more comfortable that you get yourself with, you know, anything, whether it’s, you know, It’s just a general academic topic, not even standardized testing or public speaking or the ACT or SAT, all of those things, the more that you do it, the less anxiety that you will feel.

I think if the first time you sit down for the, what, two hours and 45 minutes that it takes to take one of these tests, um, is on the day of the exam, then it’s going to feel a lot more stressful. Then if you condition yourself to get used to that kind of stamina by taking practice exams and things like that, um, you’re not going to feel as blindsided by certain questions if you’ve exposed yourself to them through practice books.

So, the more time that you set aside to try and get comfortable with the concepts and get comfortable with the stamina that is required, the less overwhelming it’s going to be. I always try and compare it with my students, um, to running a marathon, really. If the first time that you even go for so much as a jog is the day of the race, then obviously it’s going to feel really overwhelming.

But if you’ve been taking the time, going on your runs on a consistent basis every week, then doing that marathon is not going to feel as bad. And you might even feel really proud of how you did at the end if you take the time to prepare. So don’t underestimate the impact, um, of preparation. So, uh, something else that we had a question about is, uh, Do you, do you have any recommendations for students who have disabilities or have accommodations that they need?

Um, Are there certain ways that they would need to prepare for the ACT or SAT that might be different than a student who doesn’t have certain kinds of accommodations? Should they practice with those accommodations in mind, or should they practice as if they’re not going to receive them? Yeah, so, that’s a really good question.

And I think that this is where it’s really helpful to work with your high school counselor or someone in your school who already knows. Or, sharing maybe some of those needs for accommodation with someone at school because they’ll help you also be able to practice in those conditions. And so you might be taking the SAT and need more time.

Um, and so like, I, um, Was working with a student who has dyslexia and they needed the accommodation of having more time And also I think there was like some a proctor in the room who like could help just read out certain words And so there are different types of accommodations oftentimes it like you would need a professional to like And these are all things that if you reach out to the college board for the SAT or the ACT, like there are already built in structures for how to help folks, so it’s not something that you would have to invent, it’s not something that like your high school would have to like create the guidelines, it’s more so that it’s probable that your school has already seen a student who has or who needs accommodations, um, and they would know the process for how to reach out to ACT and that, um, The a CT organization or the college board for the SAT.

And so those structures are there. Um, definitely like tap into those, I would say prep based on the, the, um, accommodations that, you know, will, you’ll be getting. Um, so I think the first step is figuring out like, are those accommodations available? What are the accommodations available to you? And then practicing your sections and practicing your tests under those conditions.

Yeah. And that, I think that’s a great idea. And I think. I agree as someone who is a former teacher, if you are entitled to certain accommodations, especially if you plan on taking the ACT or SAT outside of your school campus, I know a lot of high schools will at least give you, you know, one or two chances during your junior year to be able to take the ACT or SAT in the school building, but if you plan on doing additional testing outside of that, Um, definitely make sure that you’re communicating with the testing site and with the company to make sure that those accommodations will be accounted for because if you’re receiving them, you’re entitled to them and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to perform at your absolute best because you didn’t plan for it in advance.

Um, another question we have that’s related to the test optional question that I have. Um, earlier is if I know that the colleges that I’m hoping to apply to have test optional policies or a test free, is it even worth it for me to take the ACT or SAT or should I just skip it? Yeah, so I think that again depends on, especially if it’s test optional and schools say that they will consider it as something that could help, you don’t have to report all your scores, like it’s not like, There are like some graduate school programs where you have to report your scores if you’ve taken the test.

Not all schools require that you report your test. There might be some that, that do. And I think that it just, again, is, goes like school by school. Um, oftentimes if the school is test optional, it doesn’t require you to send them in if you have taken them. And so, um, you could decide to take the test and look at the scores and say like, actually, I don’t want to submit those.

Um, I think that there is like a reduced price for sending your score if you send it like during the test, like you can write in like the code. If you already know that you don’t want to for sure send the scores, um, you can budget that into like, okay, I would rather have the piece of knowing like what my score is before sending it.

Um, and so you could do that. Um, you could also decide like, For myself, I want to know if I can do this, but to be honest, like another strategic way to look at it is you will have a lot to do for college applications. And so if you know you don’t have to take them, then that’s great. Like devote that time to other things that will help way heavily into your application, like your essays.

Got it. Um, so our last question for the night is, do you have any just general recommendations for how students should approach or think about the SAT or ACT or just final messages of things that they should avoid when preparing or taking the ACT? Um, I think I’ve mentioned most of them tonight and so I’ll just reiterate, take a lot of practice tests, remember that you are more than your score.

And make sure that you’re giving yourself ample time both to prep and to get to the actual test site on the day of the test. Okay, great. Well, thank you so much, Maria. I feel like this was a really informative session. Um, so thank you so much for teaching all of us and thank you to all of our attendees for coming out tonight and listening to this talk.

This is our schedule for our March series. That’s the end of our webinar, and we had a really great time tonight telling you about navigating the ACT and SCT, and we look forward to hopefully having you attend another one of our sessions this month. I hope that everyone enjoys the rest of their night.

All right, bye. Bye.