Preparing for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT
Nervous about standardized testing? CollegeAdvisor is here for you! Join Admissions Expert Maria Acosta Robayo as she shares tips and tricks for preparing for the PSAT, SAT and ACT so you can feel confident and ready to do your best. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-09-28 – Preparing for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT
Hi everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar Preparing for the PSAT, ACT and, SAT. To orient everyone with webinar timing, we’ll start up with the presentation, then answer your questions on the live Q&A on the side bar. You can download your, download your slides, and you can start some in your questions on the Q&A tab.
Now lets meet our panelist. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo and I am a graduate from Harvard College at the class of 2020 where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was also, uh, a pre-med student. I was on that pre-med track. Great and real quick, we’re just gonna do a poll. So what grade are you currently in?
Eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th or other. And other can be if you’re, uh, taking a gap year if you’re a transfer student. And while we wait for, and if you’re a parent on call, you can select the grade that your student is going into. And while we wait for that, Maria, can you tell us, um, when did you take the SAT or ACT and how long did you prepare?
Sure thing. So, uh, the SAT and ACT took both of those in my, uh, my junior year. Um, so I, I took it my spring semester of my junior year and I spent pretty much all of junior fall studying for it. Um, I was really lucky to have some school resources of just like online practice tests. And so while I didn’t have a tutor, I did have, um, a lot of things to practice with.
So I did that most of my junior fall and then felt ready to take it my junior. Great. So it’s looking like we have 24% 10th graders and 65% 11th graders making up the majority, and then 12% 12th graders.
Great. So, uh, it seems like there’s lots of different years and grades in the room. Um, so hopefully this will give a little bit more insight into this process for those early, as early as ninth grade, and also those who are, um, preparing to take this very. Um, so the first question that usually comes up when people are thinking about, um, standardized testing is just what impact it actually has on the application process.
Um, and so what I would say is standardized tests are really important, but they’re most, they’re not the most defining part of your application. In fact, there’s a lot of schools who have already become test optional or test blind. Um, the difference there being test blind commits to not really incorporating those.
Data points as part of your application and test optional is you don’t have to, but if you do, they will consider, um, your SAT scores. And so we already have some schools saying, you know, you don’t really need to. Um, and so, um, I think that’s refreshing for a lot of students in that you can focus on other aspects of your application that you have more control over, such as your essays, both your common app essay and your supplementals.
Um, I would say the standardized task can help you potentially get on the bubble of consideration. So let’s say there’s a lot of students who have a very similar profile as you, similar academic background. Just having an extra data point, especially a positive data point, can just help to, um, kind of separate you from other people who have the same, uh, academic background or the same profile as you.
So I would say that it, it could be a positive consideration depending on your. I think it’s also helpful for you and for the admissions officer to just give, um, like an idea or a better context for the level of academic rigor that you have. Um, admissions officers know that not everybody is a great test taker.
Um, and so that’s why there’s also all these other aspects of an application that can help fill in the gaps such as, Your essays or your teacher recommendations or other ways that, uh, admissions officers can get a better understanding of who you are as a student, very holistically and not just focused on the data points, but again, here, the impact that it has is it could add additional data points for that.
Um, the next is, uh, in general, like what standardized tests are actually part of a student’s application. I think sometimes we dive fully into like, how do we study for them, but let’s just take a step back and, um, kind of review what type of standardized tests they actually are available. So there is the PSAT, which is called the pre SAT.
Um, that one is not counted, um, in college. Like you can’t submit your, your PSAT scores, but we’ll talk a little bit later. Why taking that could be helpful. Um, the SAT and previously there used to be SAT subject tests. You might have read either blogs or articles that might include subject tests.
So I’m mentioning them here to say like, they used to be. Like SAT style tests shorter, obviously, and with a more focus on a specific subject. So it could be history or science or math, um, but all of those have been discontinued. So if you see that somewhere, just so that it’s no longer applicable. And then there’s the ACT, which is the counterpart of the SAT.
Those two are the two most popular, um, standardized tests. Um, and then the TOEFL, which you might see if you’re an international student, and that’s usually to prove your English, um, proficiency. So a lot of, uh, well, US schools or English speaking schools will use that test just to make sure that even though you might have really great academic rigor in your own language, um, while taking classes that are in an English language that adds another obstacle or another barrier, and so they just wanna make sure that as.
Applying to be part of that, uh, a part of one of their schools that you have the English proficiency to be able to really optimize all your knowledge. Um, and then there’s the AP exams and those are obviously at the end of, usually in May, at the end of the school year. And you can show your proficiency in, uh, a class that you’ve taken all year long.
Um, those AP exams are also available for students. Didn’t take the AP class, Um, but I would say it’s highly recommended that you take the AP class, uh, prior to taking the AP exam. So I just wanted to give again, like an overarching view of the different types of tests that we’re gonna talk a little bit more about.
Um, so the first one was a PSAT. So what is the PSAT and what is the test process like? So again, it’s a practiced version of the SAT exams, so that won’t be submitted to colleges and it’s taken once a year and it usually administered in your school. So you might have noticed like there, um, especially if you’re in your sophomore year, even your junior year, um, schools might ask you like, To, uh, they might just shut down classes for a day and have people take the test for either half day or the latter half of the day.
Um, and those again, are most commonly taken your sophomore in 11th grade, but you could actually take it as early as eighth grade. Um, that might not be necessarily administered by your school, but there are opportunities for you to maybe take that. Um, and another testing center, um, again, as I mentioned before, only your 11th grade.
Oh, uh, None of this will, like I be counting in college. But the reason we might wanna take the PSAT, especially your uh, junior, is because you can use those scores to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship. Um, and so that’s a scholarship that goes to only the top 1%, um, that go on to be finalists.
And so, Um, it’s a really rigorous scholarship, but is one that could, again, looks really great, um, on your college application and can also put you in a network of a lot of students who, again, can open doors, um, later on as you’re applying into college. Um, So it’s usually something that a lot of students consider their junior year.
Um, how long it is, um, is it’s two hours and 45 minutes long with a max score of 1520. And so it’s composed of three different parts. It’s evidence based writing, so that’s 60 minutes and it’s scored be, uh, in a score of 80 to 380 and that’s half of your verbal score. The other half is your writing and language, which is 35 minutes, much shorter than the evidence based reading.
And it’s scored again in the same, um, the same 80 to 380 range. So all that together is, um, 760. That is part of your 1520 score. And then your math totals 60 minutes. It’s usually split between 25 minutes of no calculator and 45 minutes with calculator. Um, and that’s scored at, uh, from 160 to 760.
So, um, it’s really the test overall is split between evidence based reading and writing and language as one half, and then math as the other half. And that mirrors a lot of what the SAT looks like. And again, the purpose of this is to start prepping students. Um, so when, so then what is the SAT? Like what are you prepping for?
So this process is, um, usually it, this test is administered seven times per year in the US and it’s slightly longer than the previous. Um, SAT, it’s three hours and 50 minutes. And the highest score here is 1600. So much like the pre SAT, the score split between two things, the math and then your evidence based reading and writing.
And there’s an acronym there, EBRW. I’ll just call it like the English portion, the math portion, and the English portion. Um, so the math portion is 80 minutes and it’s 58 Questions. And it has a lot of math concepts ranging from algebra to just problem solving, data analysis, and some advanced math. And I would encourage you to go onto the SAT.
or the college board, um, where they have more information about the specific, um, topics or like math topics that are covered on the SAT, Um, for the English portion or the EBRW, um, you have 65 minutes, 52 questions, and it’s usually trying to understand complex passages, so you’ll probably get a couple passages that you have to read probably pretty quickly so that you can get to the questions, but, The questions then, um, ask you to like, identify words in context sometimes.
And so, um, it’s a mix between, you know, getting through some passages and then answering some questions related to the passages. Um, and then the writing and language portion is 35 minutes, 44 questions. And that one targets more like grammar and argument building ability. So they might give you a couple options of like, you know, which is the correct way to say this, or like, what word is missing here?
Um, and so those are all variations of like, uh, the same sentence grammatically. And, um, they’ll ask, they’ll test, uh, that portion of the language. Um, the language, half of the test, then the essay is actually optional. Um, it used to not be, it used to be required. So like, um, a lot of the trends of the standardized test is, uh, being optional and now the essay is, and that’s 50 minutes.
Um, and I would say that while it is optional, so schools may require that essay, so I would just make sure to reach out to an admissions officer and just check to see if the school requires it, uh, before you decide to not sign up.
Um, so we talked about the SAT, That’s one of the big, uh, the big tests that you would take. The other test is the ACT, and again, this is the counterpart because some students might have different strengths. Um, so I’ll go over what, what the ACT is, and then we’ll talk about the difference or why maybe one test is better suited for you than the other.
Um, so the ACT is also administered seven times per year. Oftentimes it’s alternating months, but sometimes they land on the same month. Um, it’s three hours and 35 minutes. So again, very close to what the SAT length was. And the highest score here is 36, and that score is split between English, math, reading, and science.
And unlike the SAT, which just adds all your scores together, um, the 36 here is actually an average of your four scores. Um, So each, each, uh, score goes up to 36, but then you like at them all together, divide by four and therefore you get your average of 30. Of max of 36. Um, so in English you can expect 75 questions.
Um, those are 45 minutes and sim similarly to the SAT, it tasks, grammar and usage, uh, punctuation sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style. So pretty much. Similarly, giving you like a, a paragraph, a sentence, and you have to figure out like what’s wrong or what you need to fix it. Um, then you have math, and that’s 60 questions in 60 minutes.
So a question per minute. And it tests pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, co geometry, plain geometry, trigonometry. So I’d say if you see, already, see some topics there that you might not have learned from. It’s a good idea to consider, like, are you, are you ready for this specific test?
Or maybe you are more prepared for the SAT. And then if you do wanna take the ACT, just make sure you dive a little bit deeper into those, um, those topics as you’re studying. Um, the third section is reading, so that’s 40 minutes. Uh, sorry, 40 questions in 35. And that one’s more reading comprehension of what is directly stated or implied.
And so again, that’s more of like taking a step back and seeing can you analyze what was just, what was just written, what you just read. Um, and then the science, so this is the very, the probably the biggest difference between the SAT and the ACT is that the ACT includes a science component and that’s 40 questions in 35 minutes.
And it’s not like, Very topical in that it’s not like I’ll test like your knowledge of like physics or chemistry or biology rather it test your, uh, your ability to interpret, analyze, evaluate, and reason. Um, like usually like science problems. So they might give you a graph and tell you like, Okay, this is the.
Um, kind of like the, maybe the results from a test, from a science test, measuring something in chemistry. Can you tell us what this, Uh, like they’ll give you like four sentences and they’ll say, which is, which correctly describes what’s going on on this graph. And so it’s not really testing like your ability to understand chemistry as much.
Like it’ll probably help if you have a background in chemistry, if that’s what that question is about. But rather test your ability to look at a graph and be able to deduct. What is this graph telling me? Um, and so it really is more data analysis. Um, and lastly, there’s a writing component just like the SAT, um, and it’s also optional, and it’s one essay and they give you 40, uh, 40 minutes to do it.
Yes. And now real quick, we’re gonna do another post. So where are you in the application process? Haven’t started. I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together. Or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And while we wait for those answers to roll in, Maria, can you tell us, um, did you have a preference for either tests?
And she said you took both. True thing. Yeah. So I, I did take both. Um, I think my preference was for the SAT just because I started studying for it first. So I just felt a little bit more at ease, like knowing what that was. I also wasn’t, it wasn’t my strongest suit to like analyze graphs and so I found the ACT a little bit harder.
Um, but I think that because I took the SAT first, It just put me in a good place to like have known most of the content in the ACT, and then I just had to study that extra bit about
Mm-hmm. , I did the reverse. I took the ACT twice, once in eighth, once in 10, and then I took the SAT my senior year and the SAT was so much better, but it’s looking like we have 35% haven’t started. 43% are work, are researching schools, 14% are working on their essays and 8% are, um, getting their application materials.
Uh, your audio is off. Oh, sorry. Um, I was just saying that it seems like we have a lot of different, um, levels or stages of out the application process represented here. Um, so hopefully this will give you a little bit more clarity if you’re still dividing whether. Take the SAT or the ACT. Um, so some questions that I would ask that I would suggest you ask yourself before you decide to sign up for one of these, or before you decide to start studying for some of these is, what are your strengths?
So, Um, you know, the SAT might have, you know, the SAT might be more math heavy, right? If there’s the calculator in the non calculator section, um, but then the ACT might have more science. And so, um, I posted here just like, um, kind of a summary side to side, um, comparison here that you can click on. I, I know we, I think we share the slides after this, so it will have that link there and you can go and have.
Maybe like a deeper dive into the differences, but some of the questions that I would ask you is like, what are your strengths, right? If you know you’re really good at science, you’re really good. Deductive analysis and just being able to. Some of those science graphs, maybe you should start with the ACT.
If you just feel more comfortable with like some of the math, you might wanna start with the SAT. Um, I would also think about what topics you have covered in school. So in that breakdown on the left, you can see like some of the different things that, um, are covered in the SAT versus versus the ACT.
The ACT does have a trigonometry on probability, uh, probability and statistics, and so, I would just make sure that you’ve gotten more of a chance to try those out. I would say, even though that’s what the chart says, like SAT also has probability in statistics. And so, um, I think the sa the math portions are pretty comparable.
Um, I actually found that there was like more, um, I think the SAT portion just highlighted math a little bit more just because it, it has three sections I. Four. Right. You know, the ACT, we said it was four parts that are evenly divided in, in terms of score, whereas the SAT was fully, half of it was math.
Um, again, one fourth in the ACT is math versus a full half the SAT. Um, and then I would think about again, how comfortable you are with non calculator math, because there are some portions in the SAT that have non calculator math, um, So those are just like a couple things that you can index on, but again, you can, you can use that URL to maybe take a deeper dive into what are some of the, the specific differences and which one might be best for you.
Um, so a lot of students, um, I just wanna know like when do. When do other students first start taking standardized tests to see like whether you should start preparing now or you know, just to kind of get a gauge for where you are. Um, and I would say that a lot of students start with just taking the PSAT and that’s usually because your school often offers it.
So it’s mostly taken in the 10th and 11th grade. But as I mentioned before, it can also be taken as early as eighth grade. Um, I would just again, do a reminder that. Until it’s your 11th grade test. None of those are really considered for National Merit Scholarship and none, even your, none of those scores, including your, your junior year PSAT scores are ever considered for college.
It’s only your SAT or ACT, Um, and then SAT and ACT most students start their junior year, but there’s plenty of students that also take it as far down as, uh, their senior fall, which I specifically do not recommend because I think you have. Usually just like a lot of other things going on usually have like the start of classes, which can be pretty stressful.
You have the start of your senior year, which like, it’s supposed to be fun, but sometimes it can be stressful at the beginning as well with so many events and so many things going on. And then lastly, you’re also starting your application process. So that’s actually when you’re starting to write your, or hopefully not starting to write your essays, but you’re continuing to write essays, you’re asking for letters of recommendation.
You’re filling out your common app, and so you have all these other things that you are adding into the mix on top of studying for the SAT and the ACT. So I usually recommend that you start studying. Similar to what I did, start studying your at the top of your junior year and make sure to take it before your senior year starts so that you’re not having to fall in so many, um, so many things.
Um, and then your AP test, that’s usually taken again on the year that you take the course, usually in May, but some students may choose to take that test without the course. I think you still take it in May, but it’s not necessarily based on you having, um, you having registered for a class.
Um, so what are some of the ways to prepare for the standardized tests that we just talked about? Um, my number one recommendation is to just take a lot of practice tests. Um, sign up for a test prep course also if you want to. But I would say if you take a lot of practice tests and you just get experience, um, just reading and like, uh, Kind of being exposed to the types of questions that you’ll see on the day of the test.
And so it won’t be, even though you might know the concepts, actually seeing the, the way that the questions are phrased and worded might be really helpful for you. And so taking lots of practice tests is my number one recommendation. Um, Some other students have said like, you know, I just have too much on my plate.
I really need just someone to walk me through these concepts. I like, You need some, someone to set a better foundation. And if you need that, then you can also sign up for a test prep course. Um, and there is lots offered. There’s the Princeton Review, I think there’s Kaplan, um, there’s several ones that, um, are pretty good.
Um, and then you can also buy a prep book and self-study. So as I mentioned, a lot of these companies that I just said and others on, um, Um, like if you search through Google, like there’s several different companies that usually put out like prep books. The college board itself also puts out prep books, and then you can use that to self study at your own.
Um, so what are some of the tips for the day of the test? So if you are, I think this is true of any test, um, if you are taking a long test, like a three hour and 45 me three hour 40 or three hour 50, um, it’s good to just have a good, uh, breakfast with a low glycemic index. And so that’s a little bit of like biology from my premed background.
But pretty much you want your energy to be stable. You don’t wanna start off the test like really hyper and. Super energized and then like just have a sugar crash. And so usually the way that you mitigate that is you have a low glycemic index breakfast, which just keeps, again, it doesn’t shoot up your, your, your blood sugar, but rather keeps it stable over a longer period of time.
And the way that you do that is you can eat like, More whole grains or like oatmeal, like examples are oatmeal, whole grain breakfast sandwiches. Um, and again, that just allows you to have that same energy for a longer period of time. It, it’s also really recommended to get a good night’s sleep. I would say at least eight hours.
Um, I wouldn’t sleep more than like, You know, like nine hours. Cuz sometimes like students wake up a little groggy before a test. And so I would say like if you’re doing around eight to nine hours, like that’s a really good, uh, call before the night of the exam and then wake up with plenty of time. Um, a lot of students, uh, like to just like rush to get to the extent to the exam, but it’s actually better to wait at the test center than have a hectic morning before a big test.
Um, I see this with my own experience of realizing I. Um, I thought I had signed up for a testing center, uh, that was really close to me, and so I drove there and. Like I, it was a 15 minute drive and when I got there I started looking for like, you know, other friends who I knew were also gonna be testing at that center.
And what I realized is I had actually gone to the wrong testing center, and because I got there so early, I actually was able to make it across town 30 minutes away to the next testing center where I was supposed to be. And so, , even though it was still a hectic morning, I probably would’ve had to forfeit the test if I had really just rushed last minute to get to my testing center.
Um, and then, um, I would also say just prep your tests. Uh, taking materials ahead of time. So make sure you have your like calculator, you have your pencils, you have extra pencils, uh, erasers everything ahead of time so that you’re not rushing in the morning to do. And lastly, um, I think that this is something that we oftentimes take for granted, but just taking a deep breath and remembering that you’re so much more than your test score.
Like even, I mean, you should know this outside of what admissions officers like put or like consider, but um, if you’re are looking specifically at the college application process, the fact that. Uh, that standardized test is not the most I important thing. Um, you often have like so many other data points, or you, not only do you often, but like you actually do have so many other data points as part of your application.
Um, that, like this shouldn’t be as stressful. Um, I would say you should definitely, not that you should be stressed about like your s but you should definitely be giving more of a priority on your essays and some of the other qualitative portions of your application.
Um, and so what is the timeline for standardized tests in the college application? So, um, I think I mentioned this, I alluded to this when I was saying like how, um, when students usually take tests. So I would say start prepping the summer between sophomore year and junior year. Um, that way you just have a lot of time to go through like any topics that you might not have understood.
Usually by your sophomore year, you’ve often taken some forms of algebra, uh, potentially. Like, you probably would’ve taken your geometry already. You probably would be passed in algebra two or potentially precalculus. So it’s just a good place to, um, to start. And if you’re not at those levels yet, I would maybe delay a little bit into your junior fall.
Um, and then this gives you also time to just retake, uh, the test without the pressure of, you know, you like not being able to take the test before your, your application is due. And to also consider preparing for taking the other standardized test. So let’s say if you wanted to, uh, if you realize your score for the SATs just on improving, Being able to take it several times before and coming to that conclusion early on so that you could also study for the ACT is always just a better, um, better way to take these tests.
Um, and ultimately you have to submit the scores before the application deadline. So plan for a test date that allows you to receive your scores before the application deadline. I think there’s some students that think like, Oh, you know, if I take the test now and my applications due the next week, that like, you’ll have those scores, but usually it takes about three to four weeks.
And so. I would just budget that time that it takes for you to receive your scores. Um, and lastly, I would say that some colleges will accept the ACT and SAT scores after their application deadlines, but I would always seek permission first. Usually this happens if like an extreme emergency happens, like something happened where you really had to cancel and you like the only other time to take it was after the application deadline.
But I would say this is, these are exceptions. It shouldn’t be something that you count on.
Um, so we just did a pretty big overview of like what the SAT PSAT, um, and like AP tasks were like. And so now I’ll go a little bit further into like my specific experience. So I took the PSAT four times, but I didn’t really know what I was doing until my junior year. You know, I took it I think starting in eighth grade.
No, I, yeah, starting in eighth grade and then ninth and 10th, and I didn’t know what it was and. I realized my junior year that there was something like the National Merit Scholarship, and I was like, Oh, I should probably study a little bit more for this. Um, so that was my experience doing that. Uh, I took the SAT twice.
Uh, the first time was after having studied with an online prep course provided by my high school, and this was just like a prep course that had, it wasn’t really anyone teaching the content, it was just a ton of practice. Practice tests and practice sections and so I was really lucky to be able to like have that at a pretty early time, like my junior fall where I had the op, like the opportunity to practice a lot before my test.
And then I also took the SAT test consecutively. So I, um, I just didn’t wanna lose momentum. So I, I took the test like one month and then skipped a month to study a little bit more, and then took it the next month. Um, and after I took the SAT I felt pretty good about my score, but I just, I didn’t know if my ACT would be.
Higher. And so I just, uh, took the ACT as well. I took a lot of practice tests and practice sections and then just took the ACT once and I was happy with my score. So, um, I ended up super scoring the SAT and sending that in and then, um, sending in the ACT as well. And then, um, my AP exam. So that is usually, uh, I think there was a question I think on the chat about like what AP exams were, um, from an international perspective.
And I think those are only US based, uh, curriculums. So this is like a level of. Uh, of testing that is only for, uh, students who are, uh, in high school in the us. And so if you’re international, you wouldn’t have to worry about that. Like you might have IB or you might have a different level of like honors or higher level classes.
Um, but in the US there is a level that is the AP level, and I think that is the one of the highest, if not comparable to ib. Um, and in my case, I took nine of those exams because I took nine AP classes throughout my high school time from, so from freshman year to senior year. And so all of those, uh, exam scores went through to my, to my school, um, or to my college.
And I, I’ve mentioned this before, so I’ll just reiterate. While SAT, like all your standardized tests are importing considerations, they’re not the most defining part of your application. And so I would just, again, take a deep breath and know it’s like one of many other factors.
Um, so my parting advice, um, for you on standardized test taking would be to look through that comparison chart and try to find the test that is best for you based on the strengths of weaknesses that you might notice. Um, and I would just try to start really early and take as much, uh, as many practice tests as you can.
Um, I think one of the biggest things that I learned was just having the ability to. Take a lot of the same like question, uh, take a lot of the same like types of sections, allowed me to recognize trends in a way that questions were phrased and the type of information that was being asked of me. And even though the numbers might change or the vocabulary might change, the types of questions became the pattern of the types of questions just became a little bit more apparent to me.
And so I was able to more easily recognize like, Okay, am I not know? The exact numbers for this math question, but I know like the strategy to solve it, and so that’s something that you get just by taking practice tests.
Yes, so that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and reremember. Remember again that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. Moving on to the live Q&A. I’ll read your questions you submitted in the Q&A tab and read them a aloud before our panelist gets you an answer.
There as a heads up, if your Q&A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom links into your email and not from the webinar landing page, also known as the website or else you won’t get all the feature that big marker. Um, so yeah, so, and also I have added some links into the public chat if you would like to get them.
I don’t think they are saved after the webinar. Um, but just to highlight a few things. I put like links to all the different testing. Um, you can take the ACTn SAT as early as seventh grade. If you take it seventh grade and do well, you can, I think for the ACT you can get the Duke tip scholarship if that’s still around, um, which is just cool.
Uh, and then, um, What else? And super scoring is when you take the highest score from each section of the exam, when you have taken it multiple times. So for example, if you take the SAT twice and the first time, you get a 700 on math and a 700 on reading, and then the second time you take it, you get a 600 on math and an 800 on reading, you can take that 700 math, which was higher and that 800 on reading, which was higher.
Super score for a score of 1500 instead of just getting a 1400 on those other exams. Uh, I believe when you’re doing that, depending on the schools, some schools require you to send in all your exams. Usually you’re gonna end up sending them your exams that you want them to see. And if you’re super scoring, you send them all your exams scores and then they’ll calculate it.
And then if it’s self-reported, I believe you can send. Super score, but you had to read the fine print on the schools, but any who onto the Q&A? So, um, one of our first questions that I saw a student was asking if you take the exam, um, well, essentially they’re asking if you take the exam multiple times, do you, um, will they know if you don’t, um, submit it?
And do you get punished for not submitting, You don’t get punished for not submitting. Um, I think with the SAT you do see your scores, I think. So back when I, I was taking it, I know that you had to send to, uh, colleges before you saw your scores. And so it was a bit of a risk, but it was not, it wasn’t, um, this was only if you wanted them to be free.
So for example, if you wanted to send, if you didn’t want to pay to send your scores, then you would choose on the day of the test. I think they give you two schools that you could sense to for free, but again, it was with the risk. If you did badly, they would still get those scores. So short, long, long story short is that unless things have changed, which I think that this is still the case, like you can still send in your score.
The date of the test and not have to pay or you can wait, see your scores, which I think is just the better option to just be safer. But I know for those who may be having financial considerations, like that is something you might wanna keep in mind. Then you get to send them after you see your scores.
Um, I would say, I think it’s the same with the ACT, um, I think the second part of that question was like, if you are a disadvantaged, if you don’t send in your scores or will, um, and I think that you, it’s a bit of a balance between do you think that the these test scores are gonna help you or is it gonna be a detriment?
So if it’s like something below what you really think you could have done, and if you think it’s. It’s not really to par with your up to par with like your academic scores, like with your gpa, then I would say it might be a better idea to not send them in and to try again. Um, but if it’s something that you’re like, you know, I think it adds a positive no, or a positive consideration for the admissions officers, then I would say please feel free to do that.
Like, even if the school is test optional, it might be a, a good idea to send in an, uh, another additional. And then also for, um, schools that are test optional, always read the fine print. Um, cuz every school has different policies and some that have merit based financial aid may require you to send in test scores if you want financial aid.
I know that was an issue one of my students had before the school was test optional, but because she needed financial aid or scholarships, um, she still had to take test scores, always read the fine print. And then also, um, To clarify, schools won’t know whether, how many times you took the exam unless you tell them.
And so they won’t know if you don’t send scores that you have essentially, unless you sign it up on the paper. I did not know about that. That’s interesting. Mm-hmm. , Um, going on to the next question. If a student takes the SAT with extra time, uh, and an extra time accommodation, how are students compared with students who do not have a, uh, any kind of accommodation?
So I would say your scores are both looked at equally. Like I think that the reason why someone would have like a time accommodation is usually because there is, um, like an educational consideration where like other students will not have that, like, because they didn’t need the extra time. It also means like it that that’s more comparable, right?
If you, if you need the time, it’s usually because like there is some educational. Uh, consideration that schools needs to have when looking at your scores and giving you that extra time just is an equity thing to allow you to perform at the same like opportunity level as someone else who might not have any educational barriers.
And so the scores themselves will look, will be looked at in the same exact way. So even if you took, even if a student took longer to take that test, then the scores that they have, they assume that the test already. Uh, kind of equal, uh, or even out the playing field by giving the student extra time so the scores will look the same.
Also, colleges won’t know that you had extra time. They don’t release that information. Mm-hmm. And then, uh, going on to the next question. Let’s see. Oh, and if you see any questions that you wanted to get to, please feel free to answer. Um, a student is asking, Do you have to retake the SAT or ACT multiple?
Uh, you don’t have to. It’s an opportunity that you get if you wanna improve your scores or potentially one reason why someone might wanna take it several times is because you can super score. And so super score means that if you have, let’s say, a really good math section, but then maybe a not so good breeding section, you might want to focus then primarily on your, uh, English section or your writing section and your.
Like whatever section you didn’t do well last time and really increase that score. And so you’ll get, when schools get all your scores together, like it’s not like you choose which scores to send in, You send all of those scores. And what the, what the schools will do is they would just choose the top in each, uh, test.
And so that’s one reason why students might wanna take it more than once. You’re not obligated to, you’re not even obligated to take it at all unless your schools like require. But, um, it’s one of those reasons why you might wanna take it is to super score or because you just feel like you want to do better overall.
Yes. So, uh, another student just asked how do you get the, um, FUSE score, super score? Uh, you send all your scores on the. Your college that you’re sending them to will do the calculations and that to super score you need it. Um, take the SAT or ACT multiple times and they super score on their own. They do not like you can’t take one score from the other, essentially.
Yeah. You have to send all the scores in and they’ll do it themselves. Uh, okay. I’m seeing a lot of questions asking about which programs or resources are good to use, um, to study for either. . Yeah, so I would say the Princeton Review is a pretty good one. The college board has some, um, ACT itself is like a separate website, like the ACT is like an actual organization.
And so they have their own ACT book, which I think is the best one. If you’re, if you’re, uh, trying to do the ACT, there’s Kaplan. Um, so there’s several. I’m kind of just saying the ones that are at the top of my head that I. So my like peers use, or that I’ve heard of good things about, but I know that there’s several other ones that you can find on like bars and nobles usually kind of curates the best ones as well.
So you can also look on their. . Mm-hmm. And for those in the room who are already working with us, we know that the admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike, especially when trying to figure out what, um, what exam to take, how to make your application look the best, working on the essays in all other components of the admissions process.
Um, so we highly recommend signing up for CollegeAdvisor because our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts such as Maria are here to help you. Um, navigated all in one-on-one advising sessions. In these sessions, your advisor really gets to know you and helps you, um, really build a strong application to really show up who you are, what your interests are, and what matters to you.
And they can also guide you and which exams to take, How to do. Scoring and all of that good stuff. And then also by signing up for CollegeAdvisor, you get, um, access to, I believe it’s a discount in some services, um, with our partner method learning, um, method. I will have to find the actual name, I’m sorry.
Um, where you can, um, Get some, uh, additional resources and, um, self, uh, guided testing prep, uh, for the SAT and ACT, which is really helpful for a lot of our students. So you can sign up, um, for a free strategy session, um, with an admissions expert by scanning the QR code on the screen, and it’ll take you to a site to schedule that out.
Um, but yeah, so definitely consider signing up for CollegeAdvisor. Now back to the Q&A. So a student is asking, um, Score is required for most of the Ivy League schools. Yeah, so actually the Ivy League schools don’t have a set score. So first they’re mostly, uh, test optional or some are test blind. So it’s not, I don’t think any of them actually require the SAT or the ACT, but I would double check just in case.
I know that especially after the year of Covid, like 2020, 2021 didn’t, I think they didn’t, um, I don’t know if any have reverted back to requiring. Um, seems like one has, uh, McKenzie, Do you know which one? Cornell. Cornell. It’s weird though. It depends on which college you’re applying to. So there are like seven colleges here.
Um, and each college has their own policy. So like my College to College of Humanology does require it, whereas the, like, the College of Arts and Sciences doesn’t require it. So you need to check out each school’s, um, Okay. Yeah, I think Harvard is still test optional. Um, and most of them I think are still test optional or at test blind.
Um, but even if, like outside of that, like before the pandemic, when everything was required, um, the both standardized test scores and GPAs, usually they, there’s nothing listed on the upside of like, this is the requirement. It’s more so like you. If you’re constantly, if you’re like, have all Ds, it might be really hard for you to prove the academic rigor that you might need for the Ivy League schools.
Um, I would say I have seen students who have gotten CS before in high school who made it to Harvard. And so there’s obviously different types of considerations including like what were their extracurriculars? Maybe one of them was like, professional athlete or like, like did like really great community service things or just like showed through their essay.
Those like grades were like the result of something happening in the family. I don’t know, like there’s lots of different considerations, but what I do know is like there are students who have gotten CS before who made it into Harvard. Um, uh, there’s also like lots of students who maybe didn’t do great on the test and that’s why there’s also essays and other ways to show that your, um, like who you are as a student and as a person.
What I would say is like something that all admissions officers are considering in the Ivy Leagues. Is the environment that we have in our school, something that whoever is applying will like thrive in. And so one of the considerations is like you might really want to go to an Ivy League school, but if a student doesn’t maybe have the history of being able to do well in like a very rigorous and ac an academically rigorous environment, it might not be a best fit for you or the school because again, it’s maybe like.
You like, it won’t really optimize all the skills and the talents that you have to be in that environment if you’ve, if you’ve shown that, like that’s maybe not for you. And so what I would say is like, that is a consideration for all admissions officers if, like, are we a school that is gonna be the best environment for this student to flourish?
Um, and if that’s not the case, then like that is usually what they’re, they’re usually using like your GPA or other academic considerations to, to see that. So I think that’s the long winded answer of saying like, there is no requirements, but just use your best judgment to see like is this something that like will absolutely just like not meet the bar.
Like getting like a very extreme example is like getting all these are all. Mm-hmm. . Uh, kind of going off of that, uh, you may find in our other webinars specifically on like college list building that, uh, presenters will talk about, uh, likely schools reach schools and match schools. Um, basically those are, um, categories you put a school into based on your qualifications versus the schools average admitted student.
Uh, a lot of schools have taken. Away some of their average admitted students, um, scores. So they may be a bit harder to find just with covid changing, um, admissions requirements. Uh, but that shows you like the range of scores and grades and ranks that students were, that were admitted. Um, so that can sort of help you gauge where you fall.
Um, but don’t. Don’t not submit your applications to schools. If you think, uh, your scores aren’t exactly perfect or a hundred percent, cuz all of the Ivy Leagues are gonna say that everybody got, um, a 1500 and above on the SAT and a perfect 36 on the ACT. It’s, it’s never, it’s never that serious. But, um, also, some schools are test flexible.
Can’t remember if I mentioned this, but, um, that means you can submit your AP or your IB scores in place of SAT and ACT scores. I believe Brown is test flexible. And then also, I liked how Maria said that. It just gives them an idea of if you’ll fit into their school and you’ll fit with them. Um, and I wanted to note that with the, um, TOEFL or the test that international students have to take for English pro proficiency, um, Typically, from what I’ve seen, schools that have a higher requirement on those scores, it usually means that they have less resources for international students or students that don’t speak English as well.
Um, whereas schools with lower scores, which are typically gonna be the Ivy Leagues ironically, um, require it means that they have more resources to help you with, um, navigating campus and getting through classes, even if you aren’t as proficient in English. So that is something to consider. But going on to the next question, uh, you mentioned that you applied pre-med.
So, um, what test and you apply to Harvard, but what test is most respected by schools and is it better to take the ACT if you’re applying to a STEM major since it has the science section? Yeah, I would say like, um, the, being able to show science proficiency if you’re applying as a premed is always like a plus.
It just shows evidence for, you know, you’ve taken the classes that you will. you will take class. You have taken classes that are similar to the ones that you will take in college, right? Like I had taken, um, a biology and a chemistry, um, SAT subject test. And so that just provided further like validation that like, okay, I knew this is something that I have tried out.
I have excelled in some of the classes or it’s ex exams. Now that there’s no SAT subject, I would say the ACT is another good way to prove. I’m not saying it’s necessary. There’s plenty of students who I know were also on the pre-med path. We’re currently in medical school. Some of them are even at Harvard Medical School who only took the SAT, and so it’s not like a, you know, you have to do X, Y, or Z.
It’s just like if you have the opportunity to take the ACT and you can show pro proficiency in that area, that’s great. I’ll also disclose that when I took the ACT, I still did the worst in the science portion and I still got into Harvard, and so it’s debatable like how important that. Um, again, I did have a lot of, I, my dual dual enrollment classes.
My SAT subject tests were primarily in sciences, and so I did, there was other ways in which I showed my passion for science or my academic rigor in science. Mm-hmm. also, I just, to answer a question I just got, um, when you scan the QR code on the screen, it will not. Allow you to, um, apply for Maria or myself as your advisor.
Uh, it’ll take you to, um, the strategy team and then, or the match team, and then they will, um, match you with an advisor based on availability and other qualifications that you, um, put in your application. This is just so you can meet with the strategy person to figure out where you’re at in the admissions process, which plan would work best for you, and then you, um, figure out, um, From there, who would be your advisor?
Um, but yeah. So going on to the next question. Um, A student is asking, are the, are there, uh, other scholarships I could earn by, uh, getting a higher, uh, score in a test? Yeah, so I would say some, some, um, like scholarship requirements could be to submit your SAT or ACT. I don’t have those on top of the top of my head, but I know that if you, like when people ask about scholarships, I think Google is your best friend for two reasons.
One, it’s more comprehensive than any. Particular person. Um, and two, because scholarships often change a lot. Um, some of the ones that require SAT and ACT don’t like, those are usually like every year pretty constant. But for example, there’s scholarships that like, you know, someone like made a fund because like unfortunately someone like passed or like, you know, someone wanted to just give an amount of money to make a fund once those funds are gone.
The scholarship is also gone unless it’s been replenished. And so while there might be a scholarship in 2021 that existed, there might not be one for 2022. And so in general, my like advice is to go on Google and to look at and to look at what specific type of scholarship like you might be looking for.
Um, I know I look specifically for like Hispanic scholarships. Um, and so I would say like, make sure that you’re specific about what scholarship and if you, uh, for the SAT or standardized test, I would just write and google like scholarships for, uh, based on, on standardized tests or based on SAT or based on ACT.
Um, and I think that’s just the best and most accurate way to find one. And then also school. It depends on the school’s financial aid. Um, but for needs based schools, your test scores don’t matter in terms of your financial aid. Um, but for merit based schools, they tend to base it off of your gpa, your test scores, and other merit you may have.
Um, so at some colleges such as Howard University, they have different. Scholarships. So like I, when I applied there, I ended up getting like the founder scholarship, which was the highest one because I had a high test score, high gpa, and, uh, other academic and extracurricular qualifications. And then it goes down, um, based on your qualifications.
Um, so look into the schools, um, if they offer scholarships or merit based financial aid, um, to see how your test scores would affect that. Um, Uh, we will not be saying what our test scores were. Um, and then, uh, going on to the next question, uh, students asking, do you have any tips or tricks to reading the long essay passages in the reading section in such a short time?
Yeah, so I would say what I, what I usually did is I tried to ski. The first pass, like, so I would skim it really quickly and then get to the questions, and then based on the questions, I would go back and like try to see like, okay, where, what parts of this pass? I would read it, I would read the passage a second time with an eye towards trying to answer the questions.
So the first pass was just to get myself oriented and kind of like in the, in the zone of what this story was about, and then go straight to the question so that you could narrow. Until like as you do your second pass of the reading, you’re specifically looking for answers to your question. And there might be already that through the skimming some that you can already answer and that’s great.
Like just mark those off and like maybe double check through your second reading. Um, but there were some that I often found like I needed that second pass. . Mm-hmm. . And then also, um, this is alwaySATip that people put out. Um, when you get to the end of the exam, like the last five minutes or less of the exam, just start bubbling in anything that you have not answered, because you don’t get penalized for wrong answers, but you do get penalized for not answering.
That was, uh, something about the SAT that I thought was interesting. So just try and fill in all the bubbles if possible. . Uh, going on to the next question, how can, uh, is the PSAT SAT ACT free, uh, and how do you register? Yeah, so I would say, uh, usually your PSAT is free. It’s just part of something you could take through your school.
Um, the SAT and the ACT are usually not free, but if you’re on free or reduced lunch, you can get a waiver when you’re, when you’re registering, and you usually register for the SAT through the college board and through, uh, for the A ACT through the sa ACT. Yes. And then, um, also if you’re looking for the waiver, usually you go to your school counselor to get that.
Um, and then some high schools may even, uh, give you the SAT or ACT for free. I know my high school did. Um, so always ask your school counselor, um, for more information if possible, or your college counselor if you have one of those. Uh, going on to the next question. Um, Okay. Um, so a student was asking about like the actual score sending process.
So they’re wondering, um, do you have to attach a college’s SAT or ACT code before you take that test? Or is that something you do later? I know they always ask you to submit scores, but when is this process? When in the process do you actually do. Yeah, so like I said, you could do that the day of the test.
If you know, like usually in the booklet it has like sometimes like schools, like, uh, codes there, and so you can write in the code, but most of the time what you could do is after you get the scores, you sign, you sign when you get, uh, when you’re looking at the results, there’s usually a button that sends, like sent to schools and that’s where you would look on the common app.
And the common app often has the. Um, like sending code also on the website in college board or the ACT, they also have that directory. And so the way that you actually send those in is not through the common app, but rather through the, um, through the college board or the ACT website. What you do, do, what, what you do on the common app is you.
Mark that you are sending in scores and you can also like actually write down what you had, like what you earned. I think that’s part of your common app, like questions. Uh, but obviously they will fact check that with your scores that you sent, that you sent in through the college board or the ACT website.
Yes. Uh, going onto the next question a student is asking, uh, when should students start preparing for the. Yep. So I would just reiterate some of the, um, things I said in the presentation of, I think it’s the best to start your junior fall because if you start your junior fall, then you can, you can take the test in your junior spring and hopefully not need to take anything else and just focus on your, on your application and on your essays, uh, in the, your summer and your summary, and you’re senior.
Mm. And then also, um, some scholars or scholarship programs for act, uh, students still in high school such as Thrive Scholars, which I was a part of. They did ask for your test scores, though you didn’t need them. It just helped. Uh, and so I applied for that my 11th grade year. So because I took the exams 10th and eighth grade, I was able to send them in for that scholarship.
So even taking it as early. Ninth and 10th grade can really help with, um, getting additional scholarships and then also just getting used to the exams. But again, that can be a bit hard depending on, um, if you’re able to get a waiver or not, uh, costs associated with it, et cetera. Um, going on to the next question.
Okay. Um, oh, okay. We are coming up on time. Um, Hmm. Okay. Will students that are bad test takers be penalized for low scores, but an otherwise strong application? I know you mentioned this before, but just to reiterate. Yeah. So I would say with this it’s, Well, one, if you do really badly on your test, you don’t have to submit it.
So that’s like a first like, Kind of wait off your, of your chest. Like you don’t have to submit a really bad score, but if you do end up submitting it, like they will cross reference that with like a really great essay that you might have written or like really good teacher recommendation. So I would just reiterate that this is a holistic process for they really do look at your qualitative and quantitative things.
If maybe you like. You did really well with your gpa. Like you have done maybe dual enrollment classes or high level classes, like those are also things that will kind of count towards your consideration about your academic rigor. Um, again, if you do turn in your SAT or ACT scores, they will also take that into account.
So if you did really badly and you submit it in a way that does penalize you because you’re giving them an extra data point that is lower than maybe your others. So I would say, unless it’s required, I just wouldn’t. Mm-hmm. , Uh, and as we are coming up on, well, um, will I be disadvantaged if I apply test optional?
Um, you won’t know if, if it says optional. They’re assuming that like you, you know, they, they are. Most schools, especially after covid, have said like, if it says optional, like we will consider it and it could be a positive part of your application. If you don’t, it won’t look badly. I would say one thing to consider is if there’s two people with this, let’s say in a scenario where they have like really exactly the same student profiles or like very similar and they’re like at the cusp where they’re like, Well, we don’t really know who to choose having any type of extra data.
could be helpful. So like for example, if there’s an optional essay that you didn’t write, I would say that’s more powerful of something that was not done that could have really tipped the balance than maybe your SAT or ACT score. But in general, any extra data point can help to tip the balance.
Mm-hmm. , uh, going on to the next question, um, do colleges only want your recent score? Uh, no, you can, you can send all your scores if you want. Like, again, I think there is like how many, I think there’s like a couple years, like it has to be within a certain number of years, but, um, like you can super score so you don’t have to like, I think there is.
A bit of a taboo. Like if you send more than like five, five or more, that’s like, okay, like why, why have you taken that many? But primarily, like if you stay within like the max three or three range, four range, um, I think they’ll just super score your top scores. Mm-hmm. . And then, um, this will be the last question and then you can give any final advice, but how much time should you dedicate to studying for the.
Yep. So I, I mentioned that like, I think you should use like all of your junior fall. That’s what I did. Um, you, most of your junior fall if you wanna study earlier. But I think how much it takes for you to do a pro, a whole practice test and feel confident. Okay. And any last minute advice? Uh, no. I think I mentioned it in my PowerPoint that, um, you know, just take as many tests as possible and start.
Great. So that is the end of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful. And remember, again that you can download the side from link in the handouts tab. And this webinar is being recorded if you’d like to view it again later on our website. Thank you to our wonderful panelist, Maria, for all this great information about the various exams and tests.
And here’s the rest of our to, well, here is our upcoming October series where we’ll have different college panels and different, um, webinars going on. Going over various aspects of the admissions process and how to improve your application. So thank you everyone for coming out tonight and goodnight.