The two main college admissions tests are SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Testing). Each of these tests generates a high degree of angst for juniors and seniors. I suppose a certain amount of concern is justified especially if you have not been a good student during your middle and high schools.
What is the purpose of these tests?
Both SAT and ACT are deigned to assess a student's readiness for college level academic work.
"The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support, and scholarships, in a way that's fair to all students. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests keep pace with what colleges are looking for today, measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century."
This clip from the College Board explains what the SAT is.
Here is a brief description of what the ACT test comprises:
"The ACT is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in: English, Mathematics, Reading &Science
The ACT Plus Writing includes the four subject area tests plus a 30-minute Writing Test.
ACT results are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the US.
The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing). Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing).
The ACT is administered on six test dates within the US, US territories, Puerto Rico, and Canada. In other locations, the ACT is administered on five test dates."
Test preparation options
Because the SAT in particular is so popular, a whole segment of the educational channel specializes in delivering a wide array of SAT test prep options. You can find everything from test prep books, CD/DVDs and online test prep courses to live test prep courses offered by both for profit providers and not for profits. The Pingry School, for example, has offered a very successful SAT test prep for many years.
The Pingry School has offered an SAT Preparation Course at its Basking Ridge Campus in New Jersey. As this abstract indicates, SAT preparation courses help SAT candidates to hone their test-taking skills among other things.
SAT Preparation Program
For over 20 years, the SAT Preparation Program at The Pingry School has been helping students from central New Jersey do their personal best on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Staffed by a caring faculty that quickly comes to know each individual student's strengths and areas that need support, the program eases fears about taking the SAT and gives students the tools and confidence they need as they approach one of the milestones on the road to college."
This short video explains how you can build confidence taking the SAT math tests.
National for profit organizations such as Princeton Review, Kaplan and TestMasters offer a variety of test prep options including online and classroom. These firms can be found in most major urban areas as well.
You should also explore the regional for profit test prep firms in your area. For example, Lafayette Academy in California offers SAT Prep scaled to your child's specific needs. To find SAT test prep courses in your area Google "SAT test prep".
Not sure which test prep outfit to go with? Then you might want to check out sites such as Reviews.com which rates SAT test prep sites.
SAT Test Prep on a budget
Obviously as you can see from all the options above you can spend a lot of money on your child's SAT test preparation. Or you can go another route and save yourself some money. How? By starting the test preparation process as early as you can. I have found over the years that students need to understand a couple of things about the SAT.
- The test format
- The time limits
- The kinds of questions to expect
You can learn about the test format and the kinds of questions to expect a few months before your test date. Invest a couple of hours on those issues and your child should be in good shape. However, doing the test to the clock takes practice. I recommend that you schedule a practice test for your child at home under test conditions. Set aside a quiet room where she can work to the clock with no distractions. No cell phone. No music. No interruptions. Schedule the first practice test in September. Regardless of the results schedule a second practice test in October. That will allow six to eight weeks for your child to review any problem areas before the actual test in December.
You can enrich your child's inexpensive SAT test preparation by using web sites and blogs to help her with any questions she may have. The key here is to begin well in advance of the test. Working lots of tests and becoming thoroughly familiar with the kinds of questions which will be asked takes time. Show your child how to manage a major project like preparing for the SAT by breaking it up into manageable segments. Show her how to complete each segment before she moves on to the next one. Show her how to create lists of questions. Show her how to identify problem areas which need more attention.
Alexis Avila, Founder and Director of Prepped & Polished, LLC shares some free SAT prep websites with us.
By starting your child's SAT test preparation as far ahead as possible you will have plenty of time to arrange for tutoring if it is needed. Cramming test preparation of any kind into the last few weeks and days can create unneeded pressure and anxiety.
Remind your child that the SAT is merely the first in a series of assessments which she will have to face as she matures and enters her chosen field. Graduate school and law school admissions requirements, to name just two, require comprehensive testing in the form of the GRE and LSAT. The time which she spends practicing the SAT and understanding how it works will be time well spent when she goes to take those important exams after college.