Preparing for Standardized Testing
Admissions Expert Maria shares her tips on how to prepare for the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests.
2021-07-21 Preparing for Standardized Testing
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Preparing for Standardized Testing. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists. Hi everyone. My name is Maria and I was a Harvard class of 2020, where I studied sociology and health policy, um, and where I was pre-med for three years. Um, and now I’m doing, uh, public sector consulting, um, in DC. So I’m here to talk to you a little bit more about standardized testing.
Um, and the first, um, like topic I wanted to talk about is what impact does standardized testing actually have on a student’s application? And I think that this is always a bit of a tough question because, you know, we want to focus on like quantitative metrics, you know, like [00:01:00] GPA and standardized tests.
And I think the first thing to point out here is that standardized testing is really important. Schools do look at it and it is a measure of, you know, how much you may know about particular subjects. Like, you know, the big ones, um, you know, English writing something science, if you’re doing the act math, um, we’ll go into, um, the actual differences in details of each.
But I just wanna, um, first say that, like, it is an important part of the application, but it’s not the most defining part of your application. Um, we, um, I’ve heard a lot of admissions, um, focuses on. What your standardized tests are. And your GPA is just seeing, you know, whether you’d be someone who would really succeed in some of these really hard classes that some of these top schools, um, again, admissions officers really want to admit people who are.
Don’t fit into one category, but do have the similarity of having a rigorous coursework because some of these schools will have rigorous coursework and they don’t want you to get there and [00:02:00] feel like you’re not prepared. Um, so part of taking the standardized test is seeing, you know, what level academically you’re at.
Um, so it kind of helps you get what we call it, like on the bubble. And then there’s different things that can tip you on that can be, um, your essays, your extracurriculars, your passions, things that you explained either in essays or in other parts of your application. Um, so it’s helpful for you and the admissions officer in general, to have an idea of academic rigor, rigor, but admissions officers do know that not every student is necessarily a good test taker.
Um, so it’s definitely not like, um, it’s the most important or most defining part of your application. Um, so what standardized tests are part of the student’s application? So a lot of you may have already heard of the PSA T or the pre sat, so that usually starts off. You can even take it starting in eighth grade, but you could take it over a year leading up to 11th grade.
There’s the sat and previously the sat subject tests, which have now been [00:03:00] discontinued. There’s also the act, the TOEFL, which is for international students. Again, just, uh, um, like language English, language, proficiency tests, and different AP exams. So what is the PSA T and what is the process like? So again, the PSA T is just a practice version of the sat exam, and it’s really administered to help students start getting a feel of what the sat is.
Um, it’s taken once per year and usually administered at students schools. Um, and it’s most commonly taken in 10th and 11th grade, but you can take it as they said before, as early as eighth grade. Um, and then, uh, the reason that why a lot of people, you know, like to practice for the exam, you know, if it’s not going into your college application, like why do some students like focus so much on doing it?
One, it is a good preparation, you know, it’s a free opportunity to take a practice sat exam, and then it’s also, I’m in 11th grade, the scores can be considered for something called the national merit scholarship, um, which is a [00:04:00] very prestigious award. Um, And less than top 1% go on to be finalists. So again, it’s a very, um, it’s really great to have in your application.
Um, and it’s usually about two hours and 45 minutes long with long with a max score of 1520. And that’s broken down a bit like, uh, pretty much like the sat with evidence-based reading a writing and language component and a math component. Um, so I’m sure that the slides will be shared leader and you can look at the very specific, um, you know, how long it takes and what the scores are, but, um, yeah, that’s pretty much the PSA team.
Um, now the sat, so again, the pre sat was a precursor to this task. We call the sat, um, and it’s administered 77 times per year. It’s three hours and 50 minutes. So it’s longer than the pre sat. That pre OCT was just kind of a glimpse. And the highest score is 1600. And that score split between math, which is up to 800.
Of the full score [00:05:00] and, um, evidence-based reading and writing. So that’s abbreviated E B R w. So if you see that in any of your prep books, like, you know, that’s like the other half of the sat and you could also get max 800. So in the math section, that’s 80 minutes and it’s about 58 questions that tests, algebra problem solving data analysis and advanced math.
And then that evidence-based reading plus writing that EBR w and that is broken up into the EBR part. That’s 65 minutes, 52 questions, and that tasks, um, understanding of complex passages. So you’ll have to read through passages and identified words in context. Um, then there’s the, um, w part writing and language and that’s 35 minutes and 44 questions, and that’s more, more targeted towards grammar and argument building abilities.
Um, and again, if you’re doing any practices or, um, like Yeti, any practice tests or doing any prep, you probably have a better idea of what those questions might look like. [00:06:00] Um, and then the essay, which is optional now, and that’s 50 minutes. Um, and even though it’s optional, some schools may require the essay.
So a lot of times it’s better to just make sure that your school, um, what your school’s policy is on that. And I will also say that, um, sometimes like school seats optional, but I would usually recommend that even when schools say it’s optional, that if you genuinely have the ability to do it, that you do.
Um, just because again, it’s one more data point that, um, admissions officers can use to see if you’re ready with that for this. So, um, the next test here is the act. And so that’s, um, kind of usually the counterpart of the sat. Some students like to choose one or the other, some students like to take both.
Um, but they both are considered in the college application process. It’s also administered seven times per year, and it’s a bit short it’s three hours and 35 minutes with the highest score being 36. And that score is split between [00:07:00] English, math, reading, and science. So you’ll recognize that there there’s a new category, that’s science components.
So some students do prefer to take it because of that. Um, and you can score up to 36 in each section. And so what they do is the average, um, the four scores into a composite score. So it’s not like each section is like a part of your score if they just average it, um, you know, they add all four and then divide by four.
Um, and it’s broken up into English, which is 75 questions and 45 minutes, 45 minutes. And that’s has grammar, grammar, usage, punctuation, sentence, structure, strategy, organization, and style. So again, just, you may have already been exposed to some of that in your school exams. Um, the math is 60 questions and 60 minutes and that’s testing pre-algebra elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate, geometry, planned geometry and trigonometry.
So I think something that’s really good when you’re looking at these tests or something good to do is, you know, have you taken the classes and do you have [00:08:00] the, um, experience in school to succeed in some of these? And if you do, that’s fantastic. I would still say, definitely study and take some practice tests and make sure that you understand that.
Um, questions are worded on the exam and if you have it on, I think that there is still plenty of people who may have not seen all of these in school who still take prep courses and who take practice exams, who feel confident enough to take this test. So it’s definitely a personal, um, opinion and experience, but I think that that’s an important consideration to have, um, the reading is 40 questions and 35 minutes, and that test reading comprehension of what is directly stated or implied.
So again, that’s a little bit different than the English portion. And I think that’s why I really do encourage in general, I’ve mentioned a couple of times already to take practice tests, to get a feel for how the sections. Um, and then the science component, that’s 40 questions in 35 minutes and it has interpretation analysis, [00:09:00] evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving.
So I think that you will probably see a lot of diagrams, a lot of tables, a lot of, um, pretty much looking at information and data and synthesizing it into, um, you know, conclusions about what that data means. Um, so that’s kind of in short what this science portion is about. And then there’s also an optional writing essay.
Um, a writing portion. That’s an essay that you have 40 minutes for. And I think the same thing that I said previously about the sat essay also applies like, make sure that, you know, do your school’s require it. And even if it’s optional, you know, consider whether you’re actually able to tell.
And so this is just a comparison chart that talks about some of those differences on those two last slides that you can also just take more time to look at. Um, and, uh, after this presentation, and I think that some key questions to ask when you’re looking at that comparison is what are your strengths, right?
Like, do you, are you really good at science? [00:10:00] Um, what are like, if you’re looking at the math portion, um, there’s a piece that’s in, um, I think it’s the sat, um, one of the two, um, kind of lingering up, but one of them had like a calculator portion. And so, you know, thinking through the different tests and seeing, okay, like, do I, am I more comfortable?
You know, having a portion of my score, like the math that I use a calculator for actually do I feel more confident not doing that. So I think that that’s an extra thing to also consider, um, what are topics that you’ve already covered in school and what are some that you’d have to study on your own for?
Um, so yeah, so those are different points to consider when you’re looking at this comparison. So I’ll pause there. I think, uh, Hannah’s delivering a poll here. Yes. The poles just gone out and we would love to know a bit more about you. So, uh, so we have a sense of what grades we’re talking to.[00:11:00]
Okay. Answers are starting to come in. It looks like the most is people who will be entering 11th grade.
Okay. So we have one person entering ninth, grade 11 entering 10th grade 36 entering 11th grade and 26 entering 12th grade, and two people who are entering a different grade. Um, wonderful. If you want to put any last answers in, then I will close the poll, but we can, uh, go back to the present.
Great. So, um, the next slide here is about when do most students first take the standardized test for college admission? And so, as I mentioned with the PSA T you can do that as early as eighth grade, but it’s most commonly taken in 10th and 11th grade. Um, and just remember that 11th grade, [00:12:00] um, score is what’s counted in the national merit.
Um, then there’s the sat and act, which usually start junior year, a lot of students that get junior fall. Um, but you know, it’s also a really good idea to definitely take it by junior spring, um, if possible. Um, there’s definitely dates in senior fall. Um, but I don’t recommend this because you’ll probably probably be in like the process of applying, um, on the common app and writing like essays.
And so I really think that is if you can just get the standardized testing out of the way, it’s probably for the better, so that you could really focus on the rest of your application. Um, then there’s the AP test, which just happened every year at the end of, um, your AP course. Um, and I guess a note on that is that it is also possible to take an AP exam, even if you don’t take the course, but it’s usually not recommended.
Um, part of the experience is, you know, learning that material, um, and engaging with it with the professor and with other students. So, um, while that is a possibility, it’s [00:13:00] usually not recommended. Um, and what are some of the best ways to prepare for standardized tests? I’ve mentioned this quite a bit before, but just taking practice tests.
I had a pretty solid score and I didn’t do any tutoring. I just took a lot of practice tests and a reason for that was just like, I felt like I had learned some of these things in school, but sometimes I would just get confused by how the test would word certain questions. And I thought that the best way to do that was just to keep on taking practice sections, practice tests.
Um, it’s also one of the cheapest way. If you find yourself with a tight budget, um, there’s a lot of tests out there online. Um, you could also ask your school if there’s any programs that your school uses, um, where you might get access to a test. And definitely if you have the opportunity still to definitely take the PSVT because that’s once again, another, um, bit of a practice.
Um, sign up for a test prep course, that’s also another option. Um, and those are fantastic. It really helps you to take a deep dive into each of those, um, [00:14:00] sections. Um, so I think a pro is, again, you’ll have a lot of experience. You’ll probably have, um, different representatives from whatever test prep course that is, um, helping you through, you know, if you don’t understand something like I’m sure that they give you strategies and tactics for how to address those.
Um, so that’s definitely one way. Um, you can also, again, do what I did despite your prep book and self study. That is again, the pro of that is, um, if you have a tight budget also studying at your own pace. Um, so those are the different ways that, um, I’ve seen people use them that I’ve also used. Um, so some tips for the day of the test, uh, eat a good breakfast with a low-glycemic index.
So that’s usually, um, kind of what we think about when we think about like a healthy breakfast. Oatmeal whole grain breakfast sandwich. Um, and the reason for that is it just gives you a more stable energy source over a longer period of time. And when we’re talking about these types of exams, you know, they’re almost four hours long, so you don’t want to be having like really sugary [00:15:00] cereals or some breakfast that will you have like a high, and then halfway through the test, like hit a low, um, get a good night’s sleep.
So that is eight plus hours. And I know that’s really hard in high school. It’s easier said than done. Um, but I think that for an exam, this big, you know, it’s possible to, usually since they’re on Saturday, like just try to go to sleep early on Friday. Um, waking up with plenty of time. Um, I actually had trouble the first time I took my test.
Um, I accidentally went to the wrong test center. So you can imagine how panicked I was when I got there and realized like, my name is not on the roster. And what really helped me with that is I had woken up early and I was there early. And so you think that that might never happen to you and then it happened to me.
Um, especially like I was Taipei, like had everything ready, um, did everything right and still messed up in this way. And so I definitely think it’s better to go and wait at the test center and then have a hectic morning before a big test. Um, [00:16:00] and then, yeah, double check the test center, uh, and the time, the night before, um, prep your test taking materials ahead of time.
That’s another thing like, it’s just helpful to just have it all in a bag and just, um, head out. And then the last point here is just take a deep breath and remember that you are so much more than your test score and that’s true even outside of the application process, but even in the application process, admissions officers do take into account so much more than your test score.
Um, so that’s just like a good, good reminder throughout the day. And if you’re feeling any, um, if you’re nervous the day before or the week before, like, just remember that. So, what is the timeline for standardized tests in a college? So usually people start prepping the summer between sophomore year and junior year.
Um, just because some people decide to take it their junior fall. Um, and so it’s really good to just start that prep between sophomore and junior year. But if you’re a junior and you [00:17:00] haven’t started the prep, it’s not too late, like there’s definitely been several seniors that I know who started junior year and still had really excellent scores.
So it’s really about how you pace yourself. Um, like having a realistic expectation of like, okay, how much do I need to study per day? How many tests do I need to take? And at what frequency, um, and ultimately you have to submit the scores before the application deadline. So plan for a test date that allows you to do that and to receive your scores before the application deadline.
Um, and so make sure that if you’re applying early, you know, that you take it, that you take the scores and then you get, they take the test and you get the scores you want before that, um, And then some colleges will accept act and sat scores after their application deadlines. So into the January through March timeframe, but you always have to seek permission first.
Um, so for me specifically, what my standardized testing experience was like is I took the PSVT four times, but it was really just [00:18:00] because our school offered it and everyone kind of had to take it. And so I really didn’t know what I was doing until my junior year. And even in my junior year, I just like, wasn’t super aware about what national merit was.
So I, I kind of knew it was an important task, but I didn’t know where it fit into the college application process. So I would say if you’re in that boat where like, maybe you’re hearing about the PSAC for the first time. You know, you’re not the first and you know, like there’s plenty of people who’ve made it to the IVs who maybe didn’t get not, or I’m sure there’s many people who didn’t get a national Marriott who maybe didn’t even take a PSVT.
Um, so definitely don’t feel daunted by that. Um, I took the sat twice. Um, so the first one, I just took a, like an online prep course that my school provided, but it wasn’t actually prep. It was just like, um, it allowed me to take like practice sections of the test. So I just took a lot of, again, like sections of practice tests and got a lot of experience with the actual questions.[00:19:00]
Um, and then I took the sat, those two tests consecutively. So I knew that I didn’t do very well on one section. And so, because a school super score that I definitely want it to be. A little bit more on the, I think it was a reading part that I just sometimes, sometimes like certain parts are really hard for some people and not for others.
And for me, it was on the reading part of the grammar. Um, and so I retook that with a specific focus on that, knowing that they would super score, um, the top scores of each of those tests. And then I took the act test also. Um, I took it after I took my sat just because I felt like, you know, a lot of this overlaps and I might as well just take it and see how I do.
Um, and that’s the one where I, uh, almost missed the task because I went to the wrong center. Um, and then I took the, uh, nine AP exams and that was just, uh, the course load that I took in high school. So I definitely, all of those did align with me having taken the actual AP course. [00:20:00] Um, so that was my experience.
Um, I think this is a bit of a reiteration of what I mentioned at the very beginning, which is. Scores are important, but they’re not the end all be all. It’s not the most defining part of your application. Um, you should really pay attention to them because again, they help you to stand out and get put on that bubble.
But ultimately I would say put a lot of like, don’t sleep on your essays. Don’t sleep on the way that you describe, um, your different activities on the common app. Um, you’ll see. There’s a lot of sections once that opens, or if your advisors have shown you like a practice account yet, um, there are a lot of different sections where you have space to write down what you’ve done, and they’re not like formally like essays, but there are opportunities where you really get to showcase things that you’ve done.
That’s not just clicking, like, you know, a multiple choice. Like I’ve done this. Like you actually explained like what your position was, uh, describing your activity. So definitely don’t, um, don’t underestimate how powerful this could be [00:21:00] as well. So, um, what advice I would give to students is looking through that comparison chart that I showed a couple slides back.
Or even if you want to just do a bit of your own research and seeing like, okay, which test might be best for me, definitely feel free to use the information on this slide, but I’m just thinking about which one would be best. Even if you plan on taking both, which would be best for you to start off with, um, starting early so that you don’t have to rush.
If you need to retake, like sometimes things happen and like you might be having a tough day and not, um, you know, testing, uh, what may be the scores that you were getting during the practice test and that’s okay. And, and sometimes when that happens, like students who is so close to the deadline, They don’t get the scores they want and they don’t have the time to take it again.
So let’s say it’s still the summer. You still have, uh, several opportunities. This is not like you just have one more, you have more opportunities to take more than one test. And so I definitely suggest that you, um, start that process [00:22:00] sooner rather than later, if possible. Um, and then just taking practice tests.
Um, I’ve mentioned that several times, so I won’t go more into that.
Okay. So this is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q and a, a read through questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them in the public chat.
So you can see and then read them out loud before our panelist gives you an answer. As a heads up, if you’re a QA tab, isn’t letting you submit questions. Double-check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not the webinar landing page. Okay. Let’s start at the top. Uh, our first question is how does homeschooling effect standardized testing if at all?
Sure. So, um, I wasn’t homeschooled, but my best friend was, um, their whole family. [00:23:00] That was six kids who all, um, extremely successful in different professions from medicine to law. And they were all homeschooled. Then they did have to take the sat in order to get into colleges. I don’t think that that process varies.
Um, your experience that you may talk about in your essays may vary how they see, um, your curriculum, you like your school curriculum, and, um, your grades could also differ the, you still have to take the standardized tests that I mentioned here, the differences, maybe you weren’t offered the PSVT. Um, just because maybe that was in something that, um, either like the co-op that you were part of or your parents, like maybe, um, had access to.
Um, but other than that, the sat and the act are definitely two standardized test scores that are still available for homeschoolers and that are, um, still required for, for the schools. Um, again, with COVID, some things are optional, um, but that’s optional for everybody. There is no difference between homeschooling.[00:24:00]
Okay, our next question is I’m good with math and writing in general, but I have trouble with the reading section. What should I do to improve on the reading? Sure. So, as I mentioned, that was also, um, where I found, um, I needed more help with as well. And honestly, the best thing that I could do was just take practice exams.
Um, I’ve mentioned this several times and that’s just because, um, I felt like the more experience I had with the questions, um, the better was, um, if it’s about vocabulary, honestly, like there’s a lot of index cards that you can like do vocabulary on. Um, but it really comes down to like, there are so many words that they could choose from that sometimes it’s all you can do is study as many as possible and just hope that, you know, the majority of the ones that you’re being tested on.
Um, so I think that’s just the reality of, of that unless you’re able to memorize literally every single one in all of the different. Like prep books that they suggest could [00:25:00] be on the test. Um, another part that I found for the reading is just like, you can like mimic, um, some of the questions that the sat asks you or the act by just doing like comprehensive reading on your own, whether you’re reading the news, um, whatever platform it may be on.
Uh, whether you’re just reading an article, whether you’re even reading, um, a Twitter post or an Instagram post, like anything that’s trying to convey an idea. Like you can definitely take the time to be like, okay, what is true about like, w like, what can I conclude as being set from this? What can’t I conclude that it’s being set from this?
What, what arguments don’t line up. And so those are things that you don’t actually have to take a test on. Like, it just thinks something that you can do, um, again, on the side and simultaneously to actually doing some practice sections on that. Our next question is how early should you start studying for the sat.
Yeah. So, um, as mentioned, I think maybe this [00:26:00] was an earlier question before we got to this later in the slide, but, um, it’s the best time I think personally is between the, the summer between sophomore and junior year. Um, if you’re able to do it sooner, that’s fantastic. Um, but like a solid place to start is then because a lot of students prefer to take their standardized test scores, uh, their standardized tests, uh, junior fall.
And the reason for that is because some students like to start on their essays and, um, maybe are a little bit too, um, like preoccupied with AP exams that usually happen your Jean, your junior spring. So sometimes it’s better to just knock the, at least the first, um, like standardized tests, um, out of the way, the first semester.
And then actually, like, if you see that you don’t get the score that you want, like having the space to study a little bit more into junior spring and potentially into this.
Our next question is, is it good to take the PSA T and P act in the [00:27:00] fall and sat and act in the spring? I don’t think there is a PAC T. Yeah. So there is no PCT am. And I think that this question feeds a little bit into what I just mentioned about how it’s good to always seek the PSAC, just because you don’t want to like miss out on an opportunity to take, um, an like a glimpse into the sat.
Specially a PSA teas are usually delivered in the same conditions as an sat. Like you’re, you’re sitting down and you have a Proctor and like you’re bubbling in pretty much like the same type of handbook that you would have the sat. So I think, definitely take that up to your junior year, which is the last time that you could take it.
Um, and then take the other scores again in the timeline. I just mentioned. Okay, our next question, is this a good one? Are expensive test prep courses worth the money? Um, I think there’s some students who have a fantastic experience and I know several people who think it’s definitely worth it. Um, they think that they [00:28:00] got the guidance that they needed and that they had, um, the direction.
Um, I think sometimes it’s really hard, especially if you’re juggling a lot of different things, uh, in school and activities and family and whatnot. Um, sometimes it’s hard to just sit down and self study. Um, and so for some people it’s really, you know, it’s worth the investment to have someone kind of coach you through that process.
Um, for some other students it’s a really hard, um, like it’s really hard to financially and they find that they could actually, um, kind of fit into their just like their day to day, just like some studying. Um, again for me, like I, um, It was really expensive and I could try doing it on my own. And so I did things like I had like an, an sat vocab deck.
And at the time this was obviously pre COVID and everything on, I was training for like, uh, like a marathon by where I lived. And so what I would do is like, I would just jog, um, on a treadmill and just like [00:29:00] read vocabulary sometimes, or just like have it on audio. And that was one way where I just like, obviously wasn’t ideal.
It’s not the best way to run, um, necessarily, but it was one way where I built it into my existing schedule that allowed me to have an alternative, um, from just taking a course. So there is ways that you can build that. Also when you memorize stuff while you’re moving, it gets into your brain. Like, like you have more attention.
That’s very cool. There you go. Um, okay. Our next question is what do you mean by comparison charts and finding the right test for you? Sure. So one of the slides had a site decide just like two columns, one that said the sat and one that’s at the act and each row just had like the differences between timing, the timing isn’t that far off.
Um, you know, the sections I mentioned the, um, like sat had three sections, the act has four. Um, the breakdown of the scoring. I think this might roll into like a couple of other questions I saw about [00:30:00] scores, like STT scores up to 1600 and each section has its own score. Whereas the act has, um, Like composite scoring, where they take the average of the four sections.
Um, so I think when, I mean, comparison towards like lots of people, you can make your own comparison chart, but it’s just the idea that I’m trying to capture there is make sure that, you know, the differences between the two tests and that you’re realistic about which one would be the best for you. Um, based on the different, um, components of the tests.
Okay. Our next question is what about college placement testing? What is that like? And how can I prepare for that? Sure. So I actually don’t have any experience with college placement testing. I think if I’m getting that right, that refers to sometimes like schools for a specific school, like see the school of engineering, they might have a specific test that tests your skills.
Um, so I personally don’t have any experience with that. [00:31:00] Um, I’m not really sure on what platform that’s taken or how you schedule that. Um, but I’m sure that what I can say is that the schools are interested in you applying and you would taking that test. So if you reach out to them and you ask very specifically, you know, what their processes, I’m sure their admissions officers will give you a more specific answer to how you taking this task will like affect your application to that specific school.
So I do recommend you reaching out directly to the school. I will also say about placement tests. I did take a few placement tests for the most part thereafter. You’ve not only been accepted, but, um, have, uh, what’s the word have said, you’re going to that. Um, uh, committed. There we go. Uh, and so it’s not, you know, it’s not a question of like, oh, if I do badly on the placement test, are they going to kick me out?
It’s more about just making sure it’s more, that they make sure that they place you in a [00:32:00] class that you’re going to succeed in. So if you don’t understand like multivariable calculus or whatever, even if you took it in high school, if you’re still kind of shaky on that, they don’t want to place you into linear algebra where you need to know multi-variable calculus.
Um, so it’s not, it’s not like a punitive measure. It’s just about helping you find the best fit. Yeah. And I’d want to echo that. I think I had a different idea of what, like the placement test was. I thought that it was very specifically for like, I know some engineers like have to take some tests or like some people that are in very like specific stem fields to get into a school.
And I do remember, like for Harvard, they have the language placement tests and that’s more, um, another thing that like they could use that for is some schools allow you to opt out of certain requirements. And so, like Hannah said, you do take that after you’ve been admitted. Um, but it just helps, um, you find helps admissions officers place you in the right place.
Um, and sometimes if [00:33:00] you already prepared with certain, uh, with a certain background, you don’t have to take things like let’s say a language class. Yeah. Okay. Our next question is we’ve had a few along these lines. How do you improve your scores and how can we find out what mistakes we made on the actual exam?
Yeah, totally. So I think that, um, for improvement, um, well actually first I’ll talk about like how, you know, like what you did. Um, I think when you receive your scores, they do have a breakdown of like, which, um, like which questions you are, how many you got wrong in each section, they don’t really go into the specifics of like, you know, reprinting, like what the question exactly was and like what the right answer was for that.
So that’s a little bit tough to like, figure out, but it is a good indicator. How, how many you missed in a section is a good indicator of like, okay, what sections do you need to study more? Um, for the next test. And I think that for [00:34:00] that, honestly, like just taking a lot of like practice sections instead of practice tests and just really hammering in, um, I think one thing that really helped me is identifying like overarching strategies.
So maybe there was a type of question. This works a lot for math, at least like where I knew they were asking. You know, like asserting question, like, you know, you need to arrive at like X and they would maybe like, after taking enough, like section practices, I realized like, actually, this is just a variation of a question that like I saw previously.
And so just making notes of like, okay, this strategy works for this. And this type of question just helps you to have a better toolbox of like strategies that you can apply to different questions instead of trying to memorize, like, you know, how do I do every single one? You just have these again, overarching strategies that apply to different questions and just make you more.
Uh, more of an agile test take care of really. Um, and so I think that’s one way to practice [00:35:00] that. Um, you could do that. I think that’s a very clear example for math. You can do that also for the other sections. Um, just because again, like, think about it as if you were making tests, like you’re not going to make something completely new each time.
Like they do, um, the strategies of this, like they’re testing very similar things every year. And so, um, you can definitely get into the cadence of understanding, how do I test for this specific section and the best way to do this and just take practice as many, do as many questions as well. Absolutely.
Okay. So I’ve combined the next two questions. The first one is if you didn’t do so great on the sat act and see LT, but you have top grades and extracurriculars and such. And if you are looking at test optional schools, should you devote time to studying and retaking the test or focus on your stronger attributes?
And then the other question is, do you think colleges will be test optional for the class of 2023? Yeah. So I think that’s a really good [00:36:00] question. Honestly, it’s a very personal question. Like some people may really feel like, Hey, like I’ve studied a lot for these tests and I still haven’t done well because I’m not like the best at test taking.
And I think that that’s not to say. Hey, if you’ve done, like not so well, like once or twice, like, Hey, just give up and like, don’t take them. I think it is about being conscious about like, okay, maybe I can then like redistribute my time to make sure like, Hey, if test taking, isn’t allowing me to, um, you know, go to practices, whether that’s for music or sports and whatnot, it’s not letting me do all these other things.
Um, then maybe consider like, just taking one of the tests or focusing on one of the tests. Um, I think one way that you can figure whether this is, um, or like one way to approach this big question is to say like, okay, there are certain things that I definitely need in my application. Like I don’t need to be doing 20 extracurriculars, but let’s say like, I want to have like three or [00:37:00] four extracurriculars that I’m heavily invested in or where I have leadership opportunities.
Um, that showed different sides of me. And like, let’s say these are the core, like four or five. Um, let’s just put like four or five as a, as a number. Um, and do I have the time to do this and to study for those exams? Is there places where I can carve that out? What I would, would I wouldn’t recommend is to just say like, okay, I need to study for this test.
And, um, I’m going to work all the other parts of my application around studying for this test. Um, because I think admissions officers do look at your activities, but they also really inform your essays. And if you’re not leaving space to reflect on what, you know, some of these like very existential questions on the college app, like they ask about who you are, what your identity is, they ask about like your passions, your obstacles, and at like 17, 18, 19 years old, it’s really hard to sometimes verbalize those things.
And so I definitely think that you [00:38:00] should leave space to be able to work on essays and to not be. Um, tied on time. Um, the way that also looks like the, like the realistic implications of that is like, you just need to be really serious about like, Hey, maybe I have like 30 minutes in my day, extra, um, only 30 minutes to study for a test.
I’m going to use this 30 minutes and whatever test score I get. It’s the test score I get, but allowing yourself like a, you know, a 30 minute or some time within the week where you actually at least try to see if you could fit in both. Okay. Our next question is, do you recommend certain prep, books and courses?
Um, so I don’t necessarily recommend any just because I, um, don’t like specifically sponsor any of them, I think. Um, there’s just, um, yeah, I think it would be hard for me to like specifically choose one, especially because I didn’t necessarily use one. Um, so I can’t even talk about my own personal expense.[00:39:00]
So everything else I would say is anecdotal. Um, so again, anecdotally, I know that some, like the Princeton review, some like Caplin, some like the college board. Um, so those are just options. I, again, can’t say like which one is called, like better than the other. Um, but I think that those are three, um, commonly used options.
Okay. Our next, um, question is if my SAP score is lower than the average score of students accepted to a certain college, should I still apply to that college? Yeah. I mean, I think that’s also another one of these like very personal questions of like, what is that college literally had? Like, I know Stanford has a lot of writing supplements.
Like what if, like it’s something it’s like a school like Stanford or like another school. You know, it’s kind of time intensive. And so that’s where the question becomes more real of like, do I like spend all this time writing these [00:40:00] supplements? If my test score might not even get me like on the bubble.
Um, and I think that, um, you should think about, I think that my initial responses don’t cross yourself off, um, allow the admissions officer to do that, um, like shoot your shot at these schools. Um, so I think you’re, I would recommend that your default is like, yes, go for it. You never know. And it’s been known to happen that some students think they’re not going to get in because of their scores.
And then they get in, um, I know people who had higher scores than me, who didn’t get into Harvard and S uh, students who had lower scores than me who did. And so, um, I would say again, the default should be. Try it out apply. Um, but the caveat to that would be like, if you see that this is gonna take away from like heavily take away from the time that you have to apply to other schools where you might have a higher chance, then like have an honest conversation about like what the trade offs of that is.[00:41:00]
Also an average is just an average. So if it says our average is, I don’t know, 1400, that means that there are students who are probably well above that. And well, below that, so don’t yeah. Don’t like Maria said, don’t count yourself off automatically. Okay. Our next question is where did you find vocabulary and how can you judge whether a vocabulary word would be on the sat or act?
Yeah. So for that I use like one of those little like boxes that have like the short like index card, like, um, vocabulary words, I think. So the reason I didn’t recommend a prep course, uh, or like a prep book is because I didn’t use one, but I did use, um, like one of those little packets of index cards. And I don’t remember what company was, but I’m sure that Kaplan, uh, Princeton review college board all have those.
Um, and again, it was just these little index cards. [00:42:00] Um, and I think that there’s also some like audio files that have like those vocabulary words and like definitions. But I would definitely look that up with some of the more reputable brands like Caplin college, um, uh, call it college board and Princeton review.
Um, again, there’s, I’m sure that there’s others. Those are just the ones that are coming up to my mind. Okay. We’re going to take a quick break in the middle of the Q and a, and I want to let you know what you can do if you want to sign up, uh, to work with an advisor from our team of over 155 advisors and admissions off.
So you can sign up for a free consultation with us by going to CollegeAdvisor.com and clicking the green chat button in the bottom, right of the screen from there, just write in consultation and the live team member will get back to you to help coordinate your free consultation with us. Okay. And now back to the Q and a, our next question is, oh, slide’s not moving.[00:43:00]
Hmm, great. Uh, it’s easy on our end. We see the slide of questions and answers if that’s the one. Okay. Yeah. I think my internet, just a hiccup there for a second. Okay. Our next question is I’m graduating early, so I’m the class of 2022, but I took the sat and didn’t do so well. What should I do? Um, so if you’re class of 20, 22, then I think you still have, like, there’s still some tests you’d be applying in this next cycle.
Like you would be a rising senior. And so you still have some dates that are available for you to still take those tests. So I would say I would encourage you to take, take it as many times as you feel comfortable with. Um, like I think that there is a threshold where like, you don’t want to take it like more than like four or five times, um, like the same exact test, but I think that you should definitely use the [00:44:00] available test dates from now until when you apply.
Um, I think maybe one way that could be impacted is if you’re trying to apply early somewhere, um, I would say like, definitely then try to take it sooner rather than later. Um, but if you’re applying regular, you have like more opportunities to retake that exam.
Okay, I’m going to combine two questions. So the first one is what tips and advice would you give to someone who is retaking the sat and how do you not get tricked on the reading section? Yeah, so I think that those are all questions where like, I would echo again, like the best way to, um, prep or retake.
Some of these is just to take, um, practice sections in the sections that, you know, you didn’t do very well in. Um, so that means just like looking at like how many questions you got wrong in different sections and like, you know, trying to do those practice sections again. Um, and then, uh, I [00:45:00] think that also answers, like how do you not get tricked on the reading section?
It’s really just about, um, doing so many questions that you start getting a field. How, like the questions are worded on the test and you just start, like, I think some of us have maybe just gotten an experience, even if it’s not like academically related, where like you see something so often, um, that you just like start understanding how it works better.
Um, and that’s true of like sports music, even like friends and family members, you just start understanding them better. The more you spend time. So I think, um, not according a test to any of those, but the principles still applies there of the more you do it, the better you get to do it. And the more that you subconsciously understand things better.
Also, if your mind works that way, if it helps you to actually sit down and like pick the questions apart and think about like, what’s the, what’s the writer, like, what’s the trick, basically, [00:46:00] if that’s something that helps you. I know a lot of people who did that very successfully, uh, And if that’s just like a waste of time, then don’t do it.
Um, okay. Our next question is, uh, this is a question about applying. Do you recommend applying early action with this score you get on either the sat or act, or do you think you’re more likely to be rejected if you apply early action? I assume without taking another, getting the chance to take another test?
Yeah. So I think that that really does depend on like how badly, like you think you did, um, if like you really like, just objectively like bombed one of them because it wasn’t your day, maybe you missed a section. It just really was below the score that you wanted. Um, I would say you just hold off and, um, there’s a lot of things that go into applying early that if you may be reused that time or like reutilize that time to, uh, better prep for the tests, you probably [00:47:00] would have a better chance in reg.
Um, however, if it’s just like, you know, you didn’t get a perfect score, but you were like, had really high scores. It just wasn’t like perfect. Or wasn’t like extremely high. Um, I think something nice about applying early is that like, if you don’t get in like fucking, you just get rolled over to regular decision and you just kind of knock that, like, all you have to do is like click a button that says you want to be reconsidered.
Like you don’t have to spend that much. Like you don’t have to spend time rewriting essays or anything. So if you feel comfortable and like, you kind of want to shoot that shot, like definitely do it. There is no repercussions. Like you’ll just be reconsidered in the next cycle. And you can resubmit tests that you weren’t considered in that regular decision.
It’s not like, you know, you only have until early decision to take tests and then like you can’t add anything in, you can definitely take a test between early and regular decision and just include it in your application. Absolutely. Okay, our next question is what’s your advice on balancing school extracurriculars work and studying for the [00:48:00] sat without getting stressed out?
Yeah, so I think realistically, I’ve never met a student who doesn’t get stressed out at some point in the process, like I think is just, it’s impossible. Like your hand, like you’re just handling a lot of things. You’re handling school, you’re handling extracurriculars, you’re handling tests. You’re also handling like, as I mentioned before, like these existential questions about who you are and where you want to go.
And like, even sometimes that alone can just cause people to like stress out about like, where am I going? Like what’s going to happen if I don’t get into this school. Like, there’s a lot of reason. I think there’s a lot of valid reasons to, um, you know, feel stressed out. I think that it’s more about like, okay, if that happens, You know, how do you best manage your time to minimize how much that affects your life?
Um, but to try to avoid stress entirely, I think is a little bit unrealistic. Like just by virtue of 24 hours in a day, you [00:49:00] need to sleep for some of that. Like, it’s really hard to heal for like eight of those hours. Exactly. Yeah. And so I definitely think that like, don’t assume that there’s going to be like a stress free way to apply to college.
It’s more like, okay, under that stress, how can you best manage it? And I think that one way to do that, um, that I found is just really prioritizing, like having a period of time in your day where you like reorient yourself about what are like, what are the important things here, like, obviously. College is like really important.
Um, school is important. Like it all plays a big part into the opportunities that you have in the future. Um, but ultimately, like there are so many other, like, really important things to consider that you don’t want to let go of like your friends and your family, you might be moving out of state. So all those relationships are important.
Your mental health is important. Your physical health is important. Um, I know maybe there’s some students here who like me in high school was like, I’m not sleeping like very much, [00:50:00] or like I’m not getting to exercise or eat as much, like eat well as much as I want to. Um, and I think to that, I would say, um, I don’t want to be calloused about how real that experience can be.
And so like, for those of you who are feeling like that, You’re almost there, like it is a race and like, you’re, you’re going to get there and it’s going to be different and you’re going to have on all your hard work is going to pay off. Like, I definitely do believe that. Um, I think managing your time with making sure you, um, you know, you’re having a balanced, courseload like, you’re, maybe you’re taking difficult classes, but like, are you just taking classes because they’re prestigious or because like they’re honors or do you actually enjoy the classes you’re taking?
Do you want to balance, like maybe you’re you have to take some, some classes that if you’re pre-med, let’s say you want to show you, like, you’re really proficient at like chemistry or biology. And you’re like, these are really hard classes. Like I want to take like a class that’s like de-stressing and you want to do something with music, just something that uses different parts of your brain.
Like, I think that’s one way, like [00:51:00] looking at your course selection. It’s one way that you can build in, Hey, like things I really enjoy versus things that you kind of have to take. Um, I think another way to do that is do a hobby. You actually really like it, not just because it’s going to come up on an app, um, like community service is going to be really important for those of you who like love community service.
Like that’s fantastic. It’s right up your alley. There’s some of you who might not have had that experience. And it’s really hard. And to that, I would say like, try to like rethink the way you think about like service and being able to help other people. And like, it can be really fulfilling, even if it’s not something you’re used to.
So a lot of times doing community service and building that into, you know, one of the things you may talk about in a college essay, but finding that that’s actually a really fulfilling way to find that like, Hey, the college application process might be such a big deal to you right now because it is a big deal.
But maybe there’s people who are experiencing things that like are so much harder than maybe what you’re going through at the moment. [00:52:00] And that’s not a way to invalidate your experience at all, but just to like put things back into perspective that could also help you, um, not be as stressed out, like bringing, coming back to that question of like the stress.
Um, all of these are ways that you could really help manage that stress. Um, so I think those are, those are my recommendations there. I do think there’s, um, a lot of times in these webinars, we have students basically asking like, what extracurriculars are gonna look great for college? And the answer is genuinely the ones that you care about.
And so in terms of not getting stressed or, or not, not getting stressed, but managing stress, um, If there’s an extracurricular where like, you know, nine days out of 10, when you go to that extracurricular, you’re like, okay, like this is my happy place. I can, I feel like being here makes me feel good. Being here is important to me.[00:53:00]
Um, that kind of does the double duty of both helping you manage your stress, but also being something that you’re actually you actually really care about. And that’s going to be the thing that admissions officers are like, oh, that’s exciting. That student really cares about that thing. And that’s something that’s incredibly hard to fake.
I don’t think really, almost any high schoolers are really capable of faking that. Yeah, definitely agree with that. Okay. Our next question is, are standardized tests currently being asked for when applying to college, if not, would you still recommend taking standardized tests? Yeah. So the most current information I have that I’ve gotten about this is the, some are still like optional, um, not required.
Um, the majority actually are still like not required, but optional. Um, and I think a lot of us are probably keeping tabs on like what the Delta very variant is like [00:54:00] here in the U S um, and I think honestly, this pandemic and this whole season has been, um, so full of surprises that like, it might be the case that like, it just continues to be optional for the next year.
So, um, it might be the case that things just like vaccination rates just go up or like herd immunity just goes up. But for whatever reasons, we are a more, um, like safe place as a society to be able to take those tests. And maybe schools will determine that now it’s like more available to students, maybe.
Um, again, the situation changes and w neither cannon, or I can really predict that. What we do know is right now, there’s still, uh, Yeah. Um, and I do know that there are some schools who have gone test-optional who have made noise about continuing to stay test optional, but I don’t think anyone who was not test-optional before has really committed yet.
Like, I don’t think that Harvard has said yes, we are staying test optional [00:55:00] forever or anything like that. Um, okay. Our next question is what part of the college application process should I focus on this summer before school starts as a rising senior? Sorry, you cut out for a second there. Can you repeat that question please?
What part of the college application process should I focus on the summer before school starts as a rising senior? So as a rising senior, I definitely think that’s something you want to get done. This the summer of possible is your, uh, personal essay. Like I think that’s usually a big one where, you know, this is the one that’s getting sent to all schools.
And so some schools may not have supplements. Um, there are schools that don’t have supplements. And I think that a lot of students like find that one way to, um, just increase their chances of getting into school is just sending out applications that for schools that may not have supplements. And I think that like one pre one big prerequisite of that is having your, your, um, common app essay, like your personal essay.
And I think that, um, a lot of [00:56:00] times as students write their personal. They might find subtopics said they want to talk about in a supplemental. And so I do think that that’s a really big one. It also is usually the longest essay you’ll have to write. And so it’s better to knock it out of the way. When you have time in the summer, you may be taking summer classes, you may be doing different activities, but I, I genuinely think that as remembering my rising senior experience and just like most people senior year, senior year just gets more hectic until you actually get your decisions and you commit to a place.
Um, so however busy you may think you are now, I am almost certain that your summer will not be as busy as your senior fall. And so I think getting the se out of the way, your senior, um, the summer before your senior year is a really great idea, um, that alongside with like, just making sure, I think that’s like a big priority overall, but like also making sure, like, are you ready to take, have you taken an, uh, like a standardized test?
And if you haven’t, are you [00:57:00] preparing to do that? Um, Are you like, is there anything that you’d want to, you probably don’t want to like add a ton of like extracurriculars your senior year that can look really, um, disingenuous, but, um, maybe you want to apply for like a leadership position in something you’ve done or you want to expand your reach in like different activities.
And I think that’s something else that you could consider, um, the summer before your senior year. Also, do you have some sense of your school list? Um, if you, if you are like, yes, I know what it is. That’s great. If you’re like, I don’t know any colleges, other, like I’ve heard of Stanford, then that might be a good thing to research during the summer before senior year.
Okay. Our next question is what are some tips to plan out studying and some tips for motivation and how many hours a week should I study? Yeah. So again, I think that that’s a really personal question just because, depending on [00:58:00] how many things you’re juggling and, um, how the difficulty of your courses where you are as in like, have you, maybe you’re at a place where you were already sat with, um, like your essays or how you want to describe your hobbies.
So maybe that just gives you more time. Um, I think in general, I would suggest to anybody that before you take an exam, like a real sat or act that you take at least two to three practice tests, like full practice tests, fully timed, fully in conditions where like you’re not pausing or anything. Um, I just think that’s, that’s a really good precursor to knowing how you might do on the test.
Um, and I would say that that’s in addition to doing practice sections, um, in practice questions. And so maybe to get there, like you need to practice, um, a section. I don’t know, like for a couple of weeks before, and then use a weekend to like, take the test. So I think that you just need to consider, you know, what time you have on your hands, you [00:59:00] know, are you thinking of going on vacation?
Like, do you really want to be studying for the sat or the act on vacation? And if you do, how are you going to do that? Like kind of taking in, I would say the first step is being realistic about what you still need to do, um, in all areas of your application. Um, so essays, activities, um, um, maybe also like just looking at your, uh, schedule of classes and seeing how you’re, if, unless you want to take the test before the, before you start school, like, how will your schedule potentially change as you start school?
Um, and then just trying to plan, uh, what, what days and at what pace you want to take those, um, practice sections and practice. Okay, so this, it looks like that is all the questions we have time for. Uh, thank you everyone so much for coming out and thank you, Maria so much for presenting. Perfect. Thank you so, so much for hosting this and [01:00:00] thank you everyone who joined.
So this is the end of the webinar. We had a wonderful time telling you about preparing for standardized testing and here you can see the rest of our July series. So tomorrow we have a webinar on, um, oh no, that’s not correct. On the 22nd, we have something on supplemental materials. Okay. Have wonderful night, everyone.