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Jazzy

Did your kids get high SAT/ACT scores?

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If your kids scored high on the SAT/ACT, do you feel it was simply a result of innate ability or were there specific things you did that helped them become high scorers?

 

I went to a seminar by Jean Burke of College Prep Genius a few years ago and heard about how you can teach your kid to score well on the SAT and get lots of college scholarships. We didn't use her program, but my son did spend lots of time using test prep books and doing practice tests in hopes of scoring well, and his score did not improve that much. He can't work fast enough to finish the test, and his scores are stuck at the 90th percentile, which is good, but not good enough for scholarships as far as I can tell.

 

I am just wondering if there are things I can do with my younger ones that might make these kinds of tests easier for them. I am NOT talking about test prep, but just things like, "We read these kinds of books" or "We did this kind of supplement to our curriculum and I think that helped." Again, just wanting to hear from people who have btdt about things that might have helped.

 

My only reason for even thinking about this is because of the potential for scholarships that might make college more affordable for my kids.

Edited by Jazzy
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...his scores are stuck at the 90th percentile, which is good, but not good enough for scholarships as far as I can tell...

 

My only reason for even thinking about this is because of the potential for scholarships that might make college more affordable for my kids.

 

Well, 90th percentile is pretty awesome! True, it's not enough for the PSAT test (need to be in 99%) to earn a National Merit scholarship, but start checking the statistics on colleges and look for schools where your student's ACT/SAT score places him in the top 25%, or even top 10% of the test scores of incoming freshmen to that college. Applying to those colleges gives you a much better chance at receiving good scholarships. :)

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DS12 is innate ability and being a bookworm. He is also a seasoned test taker from being in public school until 4th grade. Lots of color the bubble practice from annual state testing in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. He took one time for ACT (96th percentile) and new SAT (95th percentile).

 

DS11 is slower in speed and he did test prep using test prep books. His SAT went up 250 points to > 1500 (99th percentile) composite the second time round. He was faster the second time round and finished everything. He is also my relatively calculator dependent kid and relatively slower in mental math compared to DS12. I need to be a cheerleader for him.

 

Each kid is different. My kids use the same curriculum but their scores differ by quite a lot. My DS11’s first SAT score is 150 below DS12’s only score, his second SAT score is 100 above DS12’s only score.

Edited by Arcadia
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Wow, 250 points is a huge increase!

 

Ds is still a junior so it is possible a year of growth could help. I don't want to put any pressure on him, so I'm just leaving it up to him as to whether or not to take the test again.

 

You are so right that every kid is different. I think that can make it hard to tell if the child has performed to the best of his/her ability or if they simply haven't been well enough prepared.

 

I do think oldest ds has probably done the best he can do. He studied hard and is slower in speed, in general, so it is what it is. I do wonder if there are things I can do to get the younger ones better prepared.

Edited by Jazzy

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You are so right that every kid is different. I think that can make it hard to tell if the child has performed to the best of his/her ability or if they simply haven't been well enough prepared.

I do think oldest ds has probably done the best he can do. He studied hard and is slower in speed, in general, so it is what it is. I do wonder if there are things I can do to get the younger ones better prepared.

 

Part of what can be different, from one child to another, is whether they struggle with test anxiety or not.  That can have a pretty big impact on how a student scores (ask me how I know  ;)).  I think some kids, with practice, can learn to manage the pressure of test day, but some just can't.  And for some, I think the repetition of multiple practices and test attempts can increase anxiety.

 

My oldest and youngest have been similarly educated and are both strong students.  Both were exposed to a classical education, reading the Great Books, following a typical math sequence leading to calculus (or statistics), studying Latin and other foreign languages.  I think what will set them apart, as far as scores go, will come down to DD having nerves of steel, as opposed to my DS who put too much pressure on himself and couldn't get past that test anxiety.  It all remains to be seen, though.  Can't wait for those PSAT scores to be released in December...

 

For what it's worth, I think studying Latin was hugely beneficial, at least for my kids.  It broadened their vocabulary (even helped my middle guy, who struggled with everything, learn to spell), cemented grammar concepts, helped in the study of other languages.  I don't think a particular curriculum matters, either--whatever works for each child.  Oldest used Henle and my two youngest studied with Cambridge Latin--very different approaches to learning the language.  None of my kids studied with the same math curriculum all the way through, either.  I guess what I'm saying is I don't think any one thing in particular is what gets a child prepared, but finding what works for them, challenges them, and is engaging for them.

 

Best wishes to you and your kids!

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Nancy in NH
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DS had a 33 ACT composite, with 36s in both English & Reading (equivalent to ~1500 SAT with 800 in English). His English, Reading, and Science scores all improved with intensive practice, although his math score never budged no matter how much he prepped. He has very low processing speed and there was simply no way he could finish the math section in the allotted time, although he did well on the questions he did answer. His English & Reading scores were always pretty high, even on his first practice test, which I would attribute to a lot of advanced reading as well as several years of Greek and Latin. But I would say it was the additional, focused prep work that pushed his E&R scores from 34 to 36. The most dramatic effect of test prep was on his science score, which improved by 5 points. The first time he took the ACT his brain was just fried by the time he got to that section. So the additional prep, including taking several practice tests under timed conditions, helped with pacing and building stamina, plus the specific advice in various prep books and programs helped him approach the science questions in a more effective and efficient way.

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I am just wondering if there are things I can do with my younger ones that might make these kinds of tests easier for them. I am NOT talking about test prep, but just things like, "We read these kinds of books" or "We did this kind of supplement to our curriculum and I think that helped." Again, just wanting to hear from people who have btdt about things that might have helped.

I realize I didn't address your question about specific kinds of books or curriculum supplements to boost test scores, but IMO the SAT & ACT are kind of their own separate thing, and they really do require (for most people anyway) a certain amount of prep work that focuses specifically on how to take those tests.

 

We are pretty eclectic, laid back, interest-led homeschoolers, so other than Greek & Latin (which I do think help with vocabulary and logical thinking) and just lots of reading advanced material, there isn't anything I can point to and say "that boosted DS's ACT scores." If you strive to provide each child with the best education for their specific abilities and needs, and then top it up with some test prep at the end, that's really all you can do.

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If your kids scored high on the SAT/ACT, do you feel it was simply a result of innate ability or were there specific things you did that helped them become high scorers?

 

I went to a seminar by Jean Burke of College Prep Genius a few years ago and heard about how you can teach your kid to score well on the SAT and get lots of college scholarships. We didn't use her program, but my son did spend lots of time using test prep books and doing practice tests in hopes of scoring well, and his score did not improve that much. He can't work fast enough to finish the test, and his scores are stuck at the 90th percentile, which is good, but not good enough for scholarships as far as I can tell.

 

I am just wondering if there are things I can do with my younger ones that might make these kinds of tests easier for them. I am NOT talking about test prep, but just things like, "We read these kinds of books" or "We did this kind of supplement to our curriculum and I think that helped." Again, just wanting to hear from people who have btdt about things that might have helped.

 

My only reason for even thinking about this is because of the potential for scholarships that might make college more affordable for my kids.

Reading, reading, reading. If they aren't *very* fast readers already, a speed reading course will help them throughout their lives.
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DD scored a 33 on the ACT, which was 99th percentile. She always scored that high on standardized tests, including in Kindergarten, so I do feel a big part of it was innate ability. Don't dismiss test practice, though, because test taking strategies can help tremendously. By doing practice tests, she realized that some of the ACT was designed not to be able to finish in time if you read everything. She used the strategy of reading the questions on the science section before going through the information/data, and it really helped. She scored a 35 on that section which was her highest individual score. 

 

And yes, the scores do equal money. If she is able to maintain the required GPA (3rd year and so far so good), she'll have earned about $60K in free tuition. 

 

As far as her education, I started teaching her the basics of math, phonics, and thinking skills at 2, and she could read before Kindergarten. She really wanted to learn and enjoyed us doing "school" at home. She went to private Christian school through 2nd grade and was homeschooled after that. She did read a lot as a kid. I did mostly traditional education with textbooks and the way I was taught in school. 

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My ds's reading score jumped to a 34 this year and he attributes that to an English class he took last year where he read a book one week and then wrote a 3-5 page analysis paper on it the next week. If it was a shorter book like The Old Man and the Sea, then he would have to read the book and write the paper in one week. The book selections were all good literature, but not necessarily tough reads, along the lines of Steinbeck or Kafka. He's read much more difficult works in the past like Dante and Milton, so maybe that gave him the foundation he needed, but I think it was the fast pace of the class that really helped with his score. I never would have dreamed he would be cranking out long papers like that on his own in such a short time. He found the class so beneficial, he's taking the next level of it this year.

 

We won't be getting lots of scholarships here either because my ds' overall score topped out at the 90th percentile, too, but I thought I'd share what helped with the reading score.

 

I do think Latin has helped my dd tremendously with the English section of the ACT. The first time she took that section in 8th grade (with a number of years of Latin under her belt) her score was something like a 34. Lately, I wish I had stuck with Latin instead of Spanish for my ds, because I think it would have benefitted him.

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AP English was the most help for my dc; that made the practice exams faster.  It would not have helped if they didn't read widely and have the expected vocab by the time they hit the SAT/ACT.  Use the Mensa for Kids book lists; make sure your dc use the dictionary and learn precise definitions, not fuzzy ones guessed from context.  Math is just good prep.  This is all part of a good education, not something to be done for gaming the test.

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Test prep helped me improve from a 1250 PSAT in 10th to a 1450 SAT in 12th. I saw the biggest improvements in math, which I think is more easily prepped for and I personally had more room to improve.

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Khan academy was a huge help here as was SAT question of the day. He did it from ninth grade on (? Of day not khan).

 

I don't know what else. He did complete calc in eleventh grade, but his score just went up 40 points which I attribute to Khan.

 

He's always been a reader, but isn't the type who reads classics for fun. He did tapestry of grace literature-lite (not the whole booklist) years 4 and 1 and then AP English Language in eleventh and got a near perfect Reading/writing score.

 

I think that analyzing your errors is the most important prep. He is a bright kid, though. I'm interested to see what happens with my other kids

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My oldest ds scored a 32 and my younger ds scored a 34, both on their first try. 

 

Innate ability played a big part - they have always done well on standardized tests and are quick readers and thinkers.

 

However, I do think that test prep was very helpful. They spent a couple months working their way through test prep books and taking practice exams. 

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I have two high scorers. One with a perfect score if you super score the two efforts, the other dc slightly lower. Innate ability helped a whole lot. But a few other things also helped. I think serious study in a foreign language (Latin) helps a great deal.

 

Exceptional grammar is the deal breaker between a low 30 and a 36 on the English section I feel. One of my kids was lacking part of this particular qualification (quit Latin) and that is their difference educationally and it showed here and reduced the composite. There was a level test prep did not seem to be able to surpass in two weeks for my highly competitive kid.

 

Math skills need to be at the level the exam is anticipating or very close. I think it is important for them to have some understanding of all of the problems in order to feel comfortable with the exam. There are always a couple of hard problems that many cannot answer. Knowing what the problem is asking means you can comfortably finish the exam and return to work on the hard ones without panic. Panic wastes time and makes them sloppy.

 

Familiarity, we tested annually from the start which helped make a timed test not stressful. At first this was because we were in a state where this was a requirement. After, we just saw the merit of it.

 

We also did test prep. I bought the review books before the exam and we did as much as time allowed. They never went in blind like I did. They always completed at least one timed practice exam. My kids took the exams together because of distance and travel expense. My younger child's scores improved greatly with practice exams so they can help a lot.

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My homeschooled guys scored 95th and pretty near tippy top 99th percentiles respectively.  My "return to ps for high school" lad got 88th percentile.

 

I credit foundation mostly, then grit and determination from my middle son to want to "be perfect."  Oldest did very little (but some) test prep.  Youngest didn't care to do any.

 

IME, test prep is good at helping with the timing/pacing of the tests and showing gaps of knowledge.  Work on that timing to get it quick (the timing on the science portion was middle son's toughest area and he never got it "perfect").  Then see what questions are being missed to work on the gap in educational knowledge.

 

Foundationally, reading is super important - knowing the vocab and styles, etc.  My tippy top lad also had our longest book list of books read for both school and pleasure.  Math skills and concepts are what's important there.  Knowing concepts means they can work many out quickly without even necessarily doing much actual math.

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I think self-prep doesn't always work because

 

1. Kids aren't always self aware enough to hone in on their own strengths and weaknesses.

 

2. Or they see them, but choose poor strategies to improve. They might do the fun stuff first and leave the hard stuff to the end or just be perfectionist and not move on to the next area when they should.

 

3. In my opinion, some of the popular test prep material out there is not very good or not well matched to certain kinds of students.

 

I tutored my kids myself, but if I didn't feel capable I would have considered a tutor.

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Exceptional grammar is the deal breaker between a low 30 and a 36 on the English section I feel. One of my kids was lacking part of this particular qualification (quit Latin) and that is their difference educationally and it showed here and reduced the composite.

My older one who hit a 34 for English section first time for ACT in 6th grade did not do any Latin. His world language is German and his heritage language is Chinese.

 

Sentence diagramming while in public charter 2nd & 3rd grade helped. Proofreading after that helped.

Translation between languages which was what my kids like to do for fun when bored helped.

 

My younger one did not finish any sections of the ACT and SAT the first time. I won’t be surprised if his ACT scores go up like his SAT second time score did. He did get a low 30 for English for ACT with that section unfinished as a 10.5 year old :) He lacked the speed his brother has but he is also more careful while his brother lose points to carelessness.

Edited by Arcadia
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DS12 is innate ability and being a bookworm. He is also a seasoned test taker from being in public school until 4th grade. Lots of color the bubble practice from annual state testing in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. He took one time for ACT (96th percentile) and new SAT (95th percentile).

 

DS11 is slower in speed and he did test prep using test prep books. His SAT went up 250 points to > 1500 (99th percentile) composite the second time round. He was faster the second time round and finished everything. He is also my relatively calculator dependent kid and relatively slower in mental math compared to DS12. I need to be a cheerleader for him.

 

Each kid is different. My kids use the same curriculum but their scores differ by quite a lot. My DS11’s first SAT score is 150 below DS12’s only score, his second SAT score is 100 above DS12’s only score.

With your DSs being so young, do you mind telling me what curriculum you used in Math, Reading, Critical thinking, and LA? Also test prep-lol;)

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My two cents:  I'm of the opinion that, if practice alone didn't help the student score what you believe is the student's potential (e.g. due to speed issues) then I'd at least consider whether alternative test-taking strategies might help.  That is how I see my kids in general - we'll see how it pans out in practice.  For us, this means an experienced tutor teaching the strategies, though strategies are also available in books, on the internet, etc.  Importantly, learning the strategies isn't enough - they then must be practiced extensively until they are automatic.

 

I would prep for, and take, both the ACT and SAT.  I would not take either one without prep.  Note that the ACT has a reputation for being easier material, much more straightforward, but with less time per question - a good choice for the fast student.  In contrast, the SAT continues to have a reputation for being trickier, but allows more time per question.  In theory, the smart-but-slower student should go for the SAT, though how this works out in reality is anyone's guess, thus the strategy of taking both.

 

Note that only a few schools request all scores.  Check whether this is true for the schools the student is interested in; if it isn't, then it doesn't matter how many times the kid takes it.  If it is, then I'd be inclined to take it no more than three times.

 

My impression of the SAT, from everything I've read online and from what my own kid is telling me, is that the math and grammar have been on the easy side but that the reading section has gotten significantly harder since January (the actual January test is available as practice test #8 at Khan).  She was emphatic that nothing she has used for practice has approached the difficulty of the real SAT reading sections she has taken this fall - difficult meaning both the passages themselves and the ambiguity between two answer choices.

 

It will also be interesting to see whether extensive SAT prep, with harder material, ends up helping to get through the easier ACT material quicker.

 

ETA, to answer OP's question, aside from reading a lot (including a sampling of older, 19th century stuff) and having taken up through the right level of math (alg 2/trig for the SAT), I don't think I can point to specific things a high school education plan should include.

Edited by wapiti
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A lot depends on the kid.

 

Some can study just a little and score in the high 90th percentile. My oldest was like that.

 

Others can study a lot and still get in the 80th in some parts of the test while scoring high in other parts. I'm just glad that my struggling math student is pulling an "A" in college math. I truly believe that we did all that we could. I was thrilled when they placed into college math, not the remedial pre-college courses. That was a huge achievement after many, many months of work.

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With your DSs being so young, do you mind telling me what curriculum you used in Math, Reading, Critical thinking, and LA? Also test prep-lol;)

We use very public school stuff and my kids were in public school. So I doubt my curriculum choices would help. We didn’t do anything for Reading or Critical thinking unless anything I listed below for Language Arts counts.

 

Language Arts:

Vocabulary Workshop (school and then we continued with the series)

Reading Detective (home enrichment, helped with reading comprehension test prep)

K12 LA (public charter school, I felt their LA materials were good for K-5th which my kids completed before we left public school)

 

Math:

Singapore primary math standard edition SM2A to SM6B (after school, standard edition because it follows California’s standard, we skip SM1A/B)

AoPS prealgebra to intermediate algebra (at time of ACT and SAT tests, after school then continued when homeschooling, oldest has finished the Calculus book this spring)

 

My oldest didn’t do test prep but he is a seasoned state test taker. All the California state testing he did was enough for color the bubbles practice and educated guessing practice. As well as translating test English and Math to layman English and Math (if the test question says this, it is asking for that).

 

My youngest did not have state testing experience when we started homeschooling. He did the practice tests in paper form because this kid is slower on paper so his Khan Academy practice test scores were high but paper scores were lower. So after his first SAT test, we stuck to paper only for test prep. We also used Barron’s SAT book the second time round since we ran out of practice tests as he did the first six practice test from CollegeBoard before he took the new SAT the first time. He didn’t like McGraw Hill SAT book and did a practice test from Princeton Review SAT book which he was neutral about. He basically need test prep to boost his speed by improving his pacing. If he is stuck he move on and come back to those after the last question so that he can maximize the number of correct answers. No penalty for guessing so he guess those he is uncertain about.

 

We are a pro test prep family though and don’t believe in going to an exam without doing a practice test for familiarity. Then it is strategizing test prep for each child and each exam. While I don’t expect my younger to get as high as my older the first time around, not doing test prep would be a disaster for this kid as in his scores would be way below ability. We “sacrifice†some time two weeks before a test for test prep because that is the optimum for our kids. It is something you have to decide for each kid, how much time for how much returns (score improvement) on investment (time).

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Dd14 only scored really high in reading - 35. I think it is due in large part to innate ability. She learned to read easily. But also due to interest and practice. She reads a lot. Maybe not 300-400 books per year now that she is past those 200 page chapter books, but she still reads 2-3 books per week in addition to the TOG books.

 

ETA: She reads quickly, which helps. She slowed herself down and still had 5 minutes left at the end.

Edited by Meriwether
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Ds is still a junior so it is possible a year of growth could help. I don't want to put any pressure on him, so I'm just leaving it up to him as to whether or not to take the test again.

 

In our house, the jump from spring of junior year to fall of senior year (the two times we test) is dramatic.  Same study effort both times.  With more maturity and perspective under their belt, as well as application deadline looming, they have always seen an improvement that made a senior year attempt worthwhile.

 

ETA Believer in good literature (audio and reading) influencing vocabulary acquisition.

Edited by secretgarden
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My only reason for even thinking about this is because of the potential for scholarships that might make college more affordable for my kids.

 

Just want to add that a lot of students who are above average (like 90%), are, for whatever reason, just NOT going to be able to make 95%-99% on tests, no matter how much studying, prepping or tutoring is involved. And some of those students may end up really stressing out with endless practice, new prep booklets, tutoring, and repeated testing. Esp. if they're not breaking through after 2-3 re-tests, it's time to shelf the focus off of testing and move on.

 

I totally get that finances are a huge concern about going to college, but if you find that your student is just not going to make much more advancement on 90% on tests, and is starting to stress out with testing and test prep, then it might be time better spent looking at alternatives:

 

- rethink your financial expectations

Full ride and full tuition scholarships are just not as common any more. Even students scoring at 95%-99% are not necessarily landing these types of big scholarships. I'm seeing that it is much more common for scholarships to be half-tuition scholarships, and the student might also get an additional partial scholarship of some kind.

 

- look in to other ways of landing scholarships

Sports -- takes up a less-popular sport and lands a scholarship (a friend's son landed a golf scholarship this way). Participation in an extracurricular that could directly land a scholarship (a family in our homeschool group just landed a 4-year full tuition scholarship for DS being top competitor in his Mock Trial competition). Volunteering or an interesting extracurricular that could indirectly help land a partial scholarship for leadership or service (I know families where the students got partial tuition scholarships for both these areas).

 

- aggressively search for colleges that match your student's test scores and your family's finances

Reiterating from my above post -- check out College Data website and the statistics from College Board's Big Future details on specific colleges website to start finding matches where your student's 90% test stats put him in the the top 25% or even top 10% of a college's incoming freshman test scores.

 

- look at alternate ways of financing college

Check out this past thread: "s/o Cautionary Tale/High Cost of College: a brainstorming $$ ideas thread!"

 

- brainstorm alternatives to going away to college, or going directly to a 4-year college -- or even re-think going to a 4-year college at all:

 

Consider an all-online option like Lumerit (formerly College Plus). For about $25,000 and 2-2.5 years of time, via online courses and CLEP testing, your student can earn a Bachelor's degree simultaneously -- either while finishing high school, or right after high school graduation -- all from home (so no additional room & board costs).

 

Consider starting at a community college and transferring, so only 2 years are needed at the university (less time = less money, and there are transfer student scholarships out there).

 

Or, for many students, an Associate's degree -- the AAS (the "degree-to-work" degree) rather than the AA (the "gen. ed. to transfer to university" degree) is a much better fit, costs less, takes half the time to earn, and can be a stepping stone career for saving up money and then going back to get a 4-year degree, if that ends up being what the student really wants.

 

Or, straight into a field of work and work your way up, no college needed. Or, work and save and attend college later.

 

 

 

Just wanted to provide OP (and others who may be reading who don't have 99%-er students) with some ideas for if testing is not going to get your student all the financial aid needed. There are a LOT of us like that on these boards -- it's just that we don't tend to post that because it's a little intimidating next to the high amount of high performers on these boards. :)

 

Way to go top performer students! And in our different ways, way to go not-top performer students!  :hurray:

Edited by Lori D.
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Experience with the process is helpful. My kids were taking standardized tests from third grade on (initially because of the requirements of the public funding they received for homeschooling.) I never made a big deal about the results but we would always do a sample test at home prior to going in to familiarize them with the process and ease any anxiety.

 

That said, I have one who is naturally anxious and certainly that impacted her test results at any given time. They were always quite good, but a little inconsistent. Another daughter does not have that issue, and her score is typically top 1%. Prep helps somewhat. The daughter with top scores had a dip in her math PSAT score in 10th grade, when Alg 2 was two years past. Reviewing some of those older concepts helped for the junior year PSAT. The anxious daughter certainly was helped by a prep class, probably because it made the process more familiar and helped her know what to expect.

 

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I believe that much of the foundation for doing well on the ACT/SAT is laid in K-8.  Here are some things that I believe were helpful here:

 

Making sure that arithmetic, Algebra I, and geometry were rock solid.

 

Reading aloud with a focus on books containing complex language and elevated vocabulary.  This included classics and also nonfiction written for educated adults.  Assigning/encouraging these sorts of books as soon as they were ready to read them themselves.

 

Speaking standard English in the home.

 

Discussing the reasons for the edits I made to their writing and having the vocabulary myself to express the reasons--so learning the grammar alongside them and referring to the concepts as they were taught.

 

Having them take a standardized test each year starting when they could read well enough to take one (for my kids this was grade 3 and K).

Edited by EKS
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I can’t find the old thread in Chat board right now discussing this September 20th, 2017 article ACT/SAT Test Prep Tips from a Family With Three Perfect Scores http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/actsat-test-prep-tricks-from-a-family-with-three-perfect-scores_1505933651

 

Lots of common sense tips in the article for younger and older kids.

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I agree that PRACTICE helps kids - they can learn how the test works, identify weaknesses, and practice their strategy and timing. You can download all 8 SAT practice tests from the College Board here.

 

PRINT them out and take them on pencil and paper (One of my kids got a 30 point jump in her score just by working off a hard copy)

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And please realize that how a child does can actually depend on the test taken that day. Some are just harder. Some kids have a natural ability to be calm under pressure; some do not. I would do test prep. I think it is important. And with that look at strategies to make the test easier -- that is basically what the prep does. With my daughter, we looked at how she solved a math problem or looked at the reading/ writing question to see if she was taking the long way to get the answer. (She ended up with a 1570 on the SAT). We did quite a bit of prep. And we had to slow down (back up) her math so she was practicing the math on the test.

 

Not all my kids did as well even with the same practice techniques. Some have severe test anxiety. This one has some natural ability, but she says the test practice is what helped.

Edited by Linda in TX
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Just want to add that a lot of students who are above average (like 90%), are, for whatever reason, just NOT going to be able to make 95%-99% on tests, no matter how much studying, prepping or tutoring is involved. And some of those students may end up really stressing out with endless practice, new prep booklets, tutoring, and repeated testing. Esp. if they're not breaking through after 2-3 re-tests, it's time to shelf the focus off of testing and move where your student's 90% test stats put him in the the top 25% or even top 10% of a college's incoming freshman test scores.

 

I agree with you, and since this child did test prep without much improvement, I think he may have reached his maximum score.

 

He didn’t seem stressed by the work we did, but it just didn’t seem fruitful. He can answer most of the questions correctly, but he simply can’t work quickly enough to finish the test. Repeated practice testing did not help at all. He kind of works slowly in general.

 

I’m not going to mention the test at all for now. I know he did his best, and I don’t want to pressure him. At the end of the school year, I’ll ask him if he wants to do a real prep class (outside of the home) over the summer and take the test again in Aug. That’s over 9 mo from now, so maturity could help. But I’d leave that up to him.

 

We have a great community college system that has transfer agreements with state schools, and we also have several good schools within commuting distance that are affordable. So we have options, thankfully.

 

I was just wondering if there are things I could have done in the earlier years to prepare him better. I have appreciated all of the responses!

 

There are some things, like Latin, the Mensa reading list, etc. that I am planning to do with the next two kids in line that I didn’t do with the oldest. The article that was linked about top scorers mentioned getting a newspaper subscription, and I’ll probably do that as well.

 

Thank you all for the input!

Edited by Jazzy
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Just want to add that a lot of students who are above average (like 90%), are, for whatever reason, just NOT going to be able to make 95%-99% on tests, no matter how much studying, prepping or tutoring is involved. And some of those students may end up really stressing out with endless practice, new prep booklets, tutoring, and repeated testing. Esp. if they're not breaking through after 2-3 re-tests, it's time to shelf the focus off of testing and move on.

 

I totally get that finances are a huge concern about going to college, but if you find that your student is just not going to make much more advancement on 90% on tests, and is starting to stress out with testing and test prep, then it might be time better spent looking at alternatives:

 

- rethink your financial expectations

Full ride and full tuition scholarships are just not as common any more. Even students scoring at 95%-99% are not necessarily landing these types of big scholarships. I'm seeing that it is much more common for scholarships to be half-tuition scholarships, and the student might also get an additional partial scholarship of some kind.

 

- look in to other ways of landing scholarships

Sports -- takes up a less-popular sport and lands a scholarship (a friend's son landed a golf scholarship this way). Participation in an extracurricular that could directly land a scholarship (a family in our homeschool group just landed a 4-year full tuition scholarship for DS being top competitor in his Mock Trial competition). Volunteering or an interesting extracurricular that could indirectly help land a partial scholarship for leadership or service (I know families where the students got partial tuition scholarships for both these areas).

 

- aggressively search for colleges that match your student's test scores and your family's finances

Reiterating from my above post -- check out College Data website and the statistics from College Board's Big Future details on specific colleges website to start finding matches where your student's 90% test stats put him in the the top 25% or even top 10% of a college's incoming freshman test scores.

 

- look at alternate ways of financing college

Check out this past thread: "s/o Cautionary Tale/High Cost of College: a brainstorming $$ ideas thread!"

 

- brainstorm alternatives to going away to college, or going directly to a 4-year college -- or even re-think going to a 4-year college at all:

 

Consider an all-online option like Lumerit (formerly College Plus). For about $25,000 and 2-2.5 years of time, via online courses and CLEP testing, your student can earn a Bachelor's degree simultaneously -- either while finishing high school, or right after high school graduation -- all from home (so no additional room & board costs).

 

Consider starting at a community college and transferring, so only 2 years are needed at the university (less time = less money, and there are transfer student scholarships out there).

 

Or, for many students, an Associate's degree -- the AAS (the "degree-to-work" degree) rather than the AA (the "gen. ed. to transfer to university" degree) is a much better fit, costs less, takes half the time to earn, and can be a stepping stone career for saving up money and then going back to get a 4-year degree, if that ends up being what the student really wants.

 

Or, straight into a field of work and work your way up, no college needed. Or, work and save and attend college later.

 

 

 

Just wanted to provide OP (and others who may be reading who don't have 99%-er students) with some ideas for if testing is not going to get your student all the financial aid needed. There are a LOT of us like that on these boards -- it's just that we don't tend to post that because it's a little intimidating next to the high amount of high performers on these boards. :)

 

Way to go top performer students! And in our different ways, way to go not-top performer students! :hurray:

Yes!! Thank you for pointing out that some kids may never reach those higher scores and sometimes you need to accept what you have got and move on. My second son maxed out at a 28. I think that is around 90th percentile and there is just no way he could improve it to big scholarship level. It is what it is- I am not going to turn senior year into a testing obsession that might land an extra point or two. I felt like he was where he was, and we had to select schools based on that and let it go. Know your child and your situation!

 

I had an IRL friend whose answer to any college financing question was "just study for the PSAT". Made me crazy. No amount of studying would have pushed my two oldest into National Merit range. But to her it was "easy" and if her kids wanted to go to college they would "just study for the PSAT". Ok, great. It worked for her kids but that is not an answer for most people.

 

Yes, you can prep for the ACT to get the max score for your particular child BUT I don't think a high score is just a question of putting in enough prep. My 90th percentile kid just could not prep his way to a 34+. But I'm not willing to act like my 90th percentile (!) kid is not smart or college worthy and spend his senior year trying to test him into something he is not.

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Yes!! Thank you for pointing out that some kids may never reach those higher scores and sometimes you need to accept what you have got and move on. My second son maxed out at a 28. I think that is around 90th percentile and there is just no way he could improve it to big scholarship level. It is what it is- I am not going to turn senior year into a testing obsession that might land an extra point or two. I felt like he was where he was, and we had to select schools based on that and let it go. Know your child and your situation!

 

I had an IRL friend whose answer to any college financing question was "just study for the PSAT". Made me crazy. No amount of studying would have pushed my two oldest into National Merit range. But to her it was "easy" and if her kids wanted to go to college they would "just study for the PSAT". Ok, great. It worked for her kids but that is not an answer for most people.

 

Yes, you can prep for the ACT to get the max score for your particular child BUT I don't think a high score is just a question of putting in enough prep. My 90th percentile kid just could not prep his way to a 34+. But I'm not willing to act like my 90th percentile (!) kid is not smart or college worthy and spend his senior year trying to test him into something he is not.

I agree with this. My son took the ACT twice and the second time his math score was a little lower than it should have been, but his overall score was in the 90th percentile and a reflection of where I believe his abilities are. I briefly considered having him take it again, but decided we’d already invested a reasonable amount of time in test prep and very little would have been gained by continuing to test. I’m pretty darned proud of him and his results and don’t care if he doesn’t have a perfect score. Also, while I don’t think there are any full rides out there for my son, there have been opportunities for substantial merit aid by participating in honors or leadership programs. A number of schools also offer automatic scholarships for his scores.

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Oldest DS got a 1570 combined on the new SAT and he qualified for NMSF. He's always done well on standardized tests and got a lot of practice at it while in ps til 8th grade. ;) For him I would say it's mostly his innate ability, but doing test prep that helped him with strategy (answer easy ones first, etc) and pacing (because he can be slow and methodical) really helped.

 

I agree with PPs that it's perfectly fine to be happy with a really great 90th percentile achievement! My other kids are all smart and wonderful and have strengths and abilities that this particular DS does not possess, but they're never going to be as high achieving at academics/standardized tests as he is. And that's ok. They are still going to have wonderful futures even if they have a different path than his that doesn't include big scholarships.

 

Read and discuss good books with meaty topics and talk about what they want out of life and brainstorm different paths to get there, and they'll be fine.

 

Sent from my Z988 using Tapatalk

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Nothing wrong at all with community colleges if there is a clear path to a "name brand" school.

 

My kid that missed National Merit by two points got into several "public Ivies," but chose community college. I can't say enough about how that was absolutely the right decision. He had small classes with professors who pushed him hard. We of course saved a lot of money. He graduated as the top student in his major and got admitted to a top-20 school in his field via guaranteed admission that he's commuting to. He's pulling all A's at the 4-year and is loving his classes.

 

My younger one had no interest in applying elsewhere, so community college as well. I'm now a single parent, so money is more than ever an issue. She's also loving it and has a straight path to the same 4-year and a program that is only offered at a handful of schools in the U.S. 

 

I know that it's still money that some may not have, but there are affordable options. If mine have to take out loans down the road, it's still not going to be too bad for them. My older one is in the process of joining the National Guard, and that will pay for his school, and he will be able to help some with his sibling's expenses. Down the road we may qualify for need-based help.

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For my daughter, it was both. She scored in the 90th+ percentile on the Iowa Basic Skills test that was administered to her in the 6th grade. This allowed her to join the Duke Talent Search Program, starting in 7th grade. One of the benefits of the Duke Program is that she was allowed to start taking her SAT test in the 7th grade.  The first year, I didn't have her practice for it.  She still did very well, considering that she took it at only 11 years old.  She took it the following years, with practice books and the Khan Academy practice program and her scores jumped up each year.  I would say the practice definitely helped improve her "already very good" scores!

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In our house, the jump from spring of junior year to fall of senior year (the two times we test) is dramatic. Same study effort both times. With more maturity and perspective under their belt, as well as application deadline looming, they have always seen an improvement that made a senior year attempt worthwhile.

 

ETA Believer in good literature (audio and reading) influencing vocabulary acquisition.

This! Ds scored a 1370 junior year and a 1490 senior year on the SAT. His math score jumped 110 points. And the only test prep he does is one practice test prior to each. Test prep stresses him out and he does poorly so he pretty much takes them cold.

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I believe that much of the foundation for doing well on the ACT/SAT is laid in K-8.  Here are some things that I believe were helpful here:

 

Making sure that arithmetic, Algebra I, and geometry were rock solid.

 

Reading aloud with a focus on books containing complex language and elevated vocabulary.  This included classics and also nonfiction written for educated adults.  Assigning/encouraging these sorts of books as soon as they were ready to read them themselves.

 

Speaking standard English in the home.

 

Discussing the reasons for the edits I made to their writing and having the vocabulary myself to express the reasons.

 

Having them take a standardized test each year starting when they can read well enough to take one (for my kids this was grade 3 and K).

 

These are many of the things that come to my mind too. 

 

The right mix of nature/nurture will be different for every student.

 

We did a brief, shallow nod to Latin and decided it wasn't worth the time. No regrets for dropping it. (Well, no more than the wistful regret I have wishing we could do everything.) 

Other students have found Latin to be a huge help on tests and in life in general.

 

For some students testing every year would be a bad idea.

For other students it's a chance to develop coping mechanisms for stress. Yearly testing might even begin to dull test anxiety because of repeated exposure. 

 

There is no one right formula. There is no path that guarantees every student will obtain a high score. Nature will always have a say.

Edited by Woodland Mist Academy
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Nothing wrong at all with community colleges if there is a clear path to a "name brand" school.

 

My kid that missed National Merit by two points got into several "public Ivies," but chose community college. I can't say enough about how that was absolutely the right decision. He had small classes with professors who pushed him hard. We of course saved a lot of money. He graduated as the top student in his major and got admitted to a top-20 school in his field via guaranteed admission that he's commuting to. He's pulling all A's at the 4-year and is loving his classes.

 

My younger one had no interest in applying elsewhere, so community college as well. I'm now a single parent, so money is more than ever an issue. She's also loving it and has a straight path to the same 4-year and a program that is only offered at a handful of schools in the U.S.

 

I know that it's still money that some may not have, but there are affordable options. If mine have to take out loans down the road, it's still not going to be too bad for them. My older one is in the process of joining the National Guard, and that will pay for his school, and he will be able to help some with his sibling's expenses. Down the road we may qualify for need-based help.

I agree that there are some good options out there, especially where we live.

 

This child planning to do about 3 DE courses per semester next year. We’ll see how he does there and see if he gets any merit help with tuition before we decide whether or not to move forward with a 4-year school or start at a CC.

Edited by Jazzy

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This! Ds scored a 1370 junior year and a 1490 senior year on the SAT. His math score jumped 110 points. And the only test prep he does is one practice test prior to each. Test prep stresses him out and he does poorly so he pretty much takes them cold.

Thanks for sharing this. I’ve heard others say this, and it makes me think that maybe he should try again next year. I have seen some growth in his schoolwork and maturity this year. I’ll just discuss it with him this summer and see what he wants to do.

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We use very public school stuff and my kids were in public school. So I doubt my curriculum choices would help. We didn’t do anything for Reading or Critical thinking unless anything I listed below for Language Arts counts.

 

Language Arts:

Vocabulary Workshop (school and then we continued with the series)

Reading Detective (home enrichment, helped with reading comprehension test prep)

K12 LA (public charter school, I felt their LA materials were good for K-5th which my kids completed before we left public school)

 

Math:

Singapore primary math standard edition SM2A to SM6B (after school, standard edition because it follows California’s standard, we skip SM1A/B)

AoPS prealgebra to intermediate algebra (at time of ACT and SAT tests, after school then continued when homeschooling, oldest has finished the Calculus book this spring)

 

My oldest didn’t do test prep but he is a seasoned state test taker. All the California state testing he did was enough for color the bubbles practice and educated guessing practice. As well as translating test English and Math to layman English and Math (if the test question says this, it is asking for that).

 

My youngest did not have state testing experience when we started homeschooling. He did the practice tests in paper form because this kid is slower on paper so his Khan Academy practice test scores were high but paper scores were lower. So after his first SAT test, we stuck to paper only for test prep. We also used Barron’s SAT book the second time round since we ran out of practice tests as he did the first six practice test from CollegeBoard before he took the new SAT the first time. He didn’t like McGraw Hill SAT book and did a practice test from Princeton Review SAT book which he was neutral about. He basically need test prep to boost his speed by improving his pacing. If he is stuck he move on and come back to those after the last question so that he can maximize the number of correct answers. No penalty for guessing so he guess those he is uncertain about.

 

We are a pro test prep family though and don’t believe in going to an exam without doing a practice test for familiarity. Then it is strategizing test prep for each child and each exam. While I don’t expect my younger to get as high as my older the first time around, not doing test prep would be a disaster for this kid as in his scores would be way below ability. We “sacrifice†some time two weeks before a test for test prep because that is the optimum for our kids. It is something you have to decide for each kid, how much time for how much returns (score improvement) on investment (time).

I think Reading Detective and Vocabulary Workshop would be great for the next two dc I have in line.

 

How did you use these? One lesson a week? A certain number of minutes per day?

 

My oldest did not take any tests at all (even at home) until taking the Stanford at the end of 8th grade. He did really well so I thought we were all good.

 

Then he took the PSAT 8/9 in spring of 9th grade and the results were not good. He brought his score up 200 points on the PSAT 10 in 10th grade without doing anything extra, and *may* have gone up another 100 points after our work this summer. Going up another 100 would make it highly likely he could get some tuition money. But he still might get a little help with the scores he has now.

 

I do feel the lack of early test-taking experience may have hurt this particular child because he has such an issue with speed. I thought more practice and exposure would naturally increase his speed, but that hasn’t happened.

 

On one of the practice tests, I said, just go a little faster than makes you feel comfortable, and the results were awful. On another test, I suggested skipping certain types of problems so he can get to more of the ones on the end that he typically gets right. Again, disaster. Any type of strategy other than his slow, methodical way did not work out.

 

Once, I analyzed his movements. He takes a long time to turn the page and a long time to fill in the bubble once he’s decided on an answer. I said, “Don’t pause like that, just fill it in and flip the page.†He said he was still thinking, lol. He really is kind of a slow thinker. I think speeding up causes anxiety and poor results.

 

I messaged Jean Burke of College Prep Genius and techniques to improve speed are part of that program. If he wants to take it again, I’ll encourage him to do her online course.

 

ETA: Our practice sessions were in no way drill sergeant type sessions. We would either study in my room after he got off work (his sister sat in on these so they were really goofy together). Or, we went to the library on a Saturday morning followed by lunch with just the 2 of us. It was fun for both of us since he does so much of his work independently now.

Edited by Jazzy

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I think Reading Detective and Vocabulary Workshop would be great for the next two dc I have in line.

 

How did you use these? One lesson a week? A certain number of minutes per day?

My oldest boy’s 2nd grade state testing results shows a weakness in reading comprehension. He overthinks and ended up choosing the second best answer instead of what the test writer wants. So we used Reading Detective to shore up reading comprehension test taking skills. He did a passage daily and that takes 10 to 15 mins as he is a fast reader. My younger boy probably took 30 mins but that includes daydreaming and looking out of the window. The passages are short, similar in length to common standardized tests.

(ETA: a teacher put up some passages on her webpage so you could see the format https://sites.google.com/a/gx.camden.k12.ga.us/mcintosh-s-english-language-arts/reading-detective-handouts )

 

For vocabulary workshop, my kids did an average of four pages each time. They didn’t do that workbook daily. My kids prefer to read non-fiction so the vocabulary workshop was useful to increase vocabulary in fictional writings. It also help reading comprehension as kids learn to infer meaning in context.

 

You can see the word list and resources for Vocabulary Workshop online. E.g.

“Level A = Grade 6; Level B = Grade 7; Level C = Grade 8; Level D = Grade 9;Level E = Grade 10; Level F = Grade 11â€

Level F https://www.sadlierconnect.com/anonymous/product.html?productId=9

Level E https://www.sadlierconnect.com/anonymous/product.html?productId=8

Level D https://www.sadlierconnect.com/anonymous/product.html?productId=7

Level C https://www.sadlierconnect.com/anonymous/product.html?productId=6

Level B https://www.sadlierconnect.com/anonymous/product.html?productId=5

Level A https://www.sadlierconnect.com/anonymous/product.html?productId=4

 

Once, I analyzed his movements. He takes a long time to turn the page and a long time to fill in the bubble once he’s decided on an answer. I said, “Don’t pause like that, just fill it in and flip the page.†He said he was still thinking, lol. He really is kind of a slow thinker. I think speeding up causes anxiety and poor results.

My DS11 is my slow poke and would tell me he is still thinking. The Stanford 10 tests are untimed while the PSAT is timed which might be where you see the difference.

 

DS11 doesn’t have test anxiety and he really wanted to boost his SAT scores to over 700 per section. So his test prep was drill sergeant style because it suits him. I would not recommend what we did for a child with test anxiety because it would very likely put that child in a panic mode. For him, we set the timer app to a minute a question which includes coloring that bubble. It gives a short beep when a minute is up. When the minute is up, he moves on to the next question. I think it helped for his AP Computer Science A exam and his SAT math 2 subject test (50 multiple choice in an hour) because he managed to finish all the questions. As in he kind of internalized the a minute a multiple choice question pacing.

 

His SAT math section score went up by 140 from start of intermediate algebra (November) to soon after finishing intermediate algebra (June). His English section went up by 110. Both sections scores are over 700.

 

My DS11 is slow but not slow enough to be classified as a learning disability. So to us it is a long haul process to improve his efficiency on timed tests for high school and college needs so that his timed test scores aren’t too far below his abilities.

 

I’m half awake and not very coherent. Just ask if anything is unclear.

Edited by Arcadia

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I tutor students in SAT/ACT test prep.  As a general rule, the private schooled kids have a higher baseline score than the public schooled kids.  I attribute this difference in scores to a couple of factors:

 

1.  The private school kids were taught grammar in elementary school, which is a big advantage on the ACT English and SAT Writing sections.  It is difficult for the public school kids to choose the correct verb, for example, when they were never taught the parts of speech and can't identify the subject of the sentence.

 

2. The private school kids have developed a much better sense for numbers and can perform basic math without a calculator.  The public school kids have been using a calculator since 3rd grade.  Many of these kids, despite getting A's every year in math, can not perform basic math operations without the use of a calculator, which is a major problem on the non-calculator section of the SAT.

 

In my experience, studying grammar and developing a sense for numbers in elementary school will help lay an excellent foundation, for the SAT/ACT and college.

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DS raised the language half of the SAT from 710 to 780 in 3 weeks.  And all of it came from the reading comprehension portion, on which he got a perfect mark.  There was one simple idea that raised his score so much so quickly, and it goes like this:  the test is objective; the writers must be able to defend that there is only one answer to any reading comprehension question or they would get arguments and complaints; therefore there must be an *objective* way to exclude every answer but the right one.  And we were soon to find out that it is often a single word.  So ds practiced thinking like a lawyer.  He never went with a gut feeling as to the right answer, instead he searched for the single word or phrase that would *prove* an answer wrong.  

 

DS's natural talent is in math, but he also reads for 3 hours every night - The Economist, Scientific American, and high level literature like Crime and Punishment. I credit this reading and his innate speed for his high language score.

 

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
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Yes!! Thank you for pointing out that some kids may never reach those higher scores and sometimes you need to accept what you have got and move on. My second son maxed out at a 28. I think that is around 90th percentile and there is just no way he could improve it to big scholarship level. It is what it is- I am not going to turn senior year into a testing obsession that might land an extra point or two. I felt like he was where he was, and we had to select schools based on that and let it go. Know your child and your situation!

 

I had an IRL friend whose answer to any college financing question was "just study for the PSAT". Made me crazy. No amount of studying would have pushed my two oldest into National Merit range. But to her it was "easy" and if her kids wanted to go to college they would "just study for the PSAT". Ok, great. It worked for her kids but that is not an answer for most people.

 

Yes, you can prep for the ACT to get the max score for your particular child BUT I don't think a high score is just a question of putting in enough prep. My 90th percentile kid just could not prep his way to a 34+. But I'm not willing to act like my 90th percentile (!) kid is not smart or college worthy and spend his senior year trying to test him into something he is not.

 

Totally agree, teachermom2834. :)

 

Test prep can help boost scores a bit by teaching the student the tips and tricks about testing. But I do find it interesting to note that, at best, the ACT/SAT tutors only *guarantee* up to a 2 point increase (ACT) or a 100-150 point increase (SAT).

 

 

In the end, every family knows their student the best, and knows when to say "enough testing" -- and to figure out options from there, based on the best scores that *this individual student* can achieve.

 

BEST of luck to everyone in determining how to think about tests and prep for tests in the way that is best for YOUR family! :) Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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My DS11 is my slow poke and would tell me he is still thinking. The Stanford 10 tests are untimed while the PSAT is timed which might be where you see the difference.

 

DS11 doesn’t have test anxiety and he really wanted to boost his SAT scores to over 700 per section. So his test prep was drill sergeant style because it suits him. I would not recommend what we did for a child with test anxiety because it would very likely put that child in a panic mode. For him, we set the timer app to a minute a question which includes coloring that bubble. It gives a short beep when a minute is up. When the minute is up, he moves on to the next question. I think it helped for his AP Computer Science A exam and his SAT math 2 subject test (50 multiple choice in an hour) because he managed to finish all the questions. As in he kind of internalized the a minute a multiple choice question pacing.

 

His SAT math section score went up by 140 from start of intermediate algebra (November) to soon after finishing intermediate algebra (June). His English section went up by 110. Both sections scores are over 700.

 

My DS11 is slow but not slow enough to be classified as a learning disability. So to us it is a long haul process to improve his efficiency on timed tests for high school and college needs so that his timed test scores aren’t too far below his abilities.

 

I’m half awake and not very coherent. Just ask if anything is unclear.

Thank you for the links!

 

It’s interesting that doing the timer that way helped your son. The one time my son finished the reading section in time during our practice session was when I broke the test down into 5 parts with 12 min per section. (Or whatever it works out to be...) I knew I wouldn’t be there with a timer for the actual test, though, so I didn’t keep practicing that way.

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It’s interesting that doing the timer that way helped your son. The one time my son finished the reading section in time during our practice session was when I broke the test down into 5 parts with 12 min per section. (Or whatever it works out to be...)

My this child has no sense of time. He had to watch the hour glass many times as a young child to figure out time duration. He had to look at an analog watch and literally see the second hand and minute hand move to have a sense of how long a minute is. My husband is similarly bad at time estimations. So for him, pacing is something we have to work on in test prep and for daily homework. Or else this poor child won’t have free time to play. For him, it’s not so much about test scores but an executive function skill he needs in general day to day living (as in brushing teeth takes forever if we didn’t set a timer for 2 minutes :P )

Edited by Arcadia
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