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Did your kids get high SAT/ACT scores?


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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.

 

 

This is me to a T. Man, I remember taking my Qualifying and Comprehensive exams in grad school, even, and deliberately choosing my seat off in a back corner so that it'd be less obvious to those around me when I inevitably started crying during the exams. I remember thinking - if only my own students could see me now! lol. You would think 20+ years of school would've gotten me over test anxiety, right? lol. I memorized hundreds of proofs (wrote sketches of the proofs on notecards and walked for hours on end while re-working them), making sure I knew how to prove every major theorem I'd ever seen, and every. single. past exam question. Often, I did well, but it was never enough to ease my nerves on the next exam. In my case, stressing over exams didn't help - I'd usually stop studying the day before and just relax the day of. However, having studied so much helped me be *more* relaxed than I was otherwise (though that's a pretty relative term for someone with serious test anxiety). 

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My kids and I love taking tests.  At my dd's urging I took one of the posted SATs.  I was surprised by the reading comprehension selections.  They are challenging!  In taking the test I learned that I can spend more time really trying to understand what is going on in the reading selection instead of rushing through it because I ended up using less time than I expected.  This is the kind of analysis that can really help with strategy.  

 

Dd spent some focused time studying how to maximize your score on the essay.  She's convinced that a longer essay correlates with a higher score.  I'm not convinced, but time will tell.  She also says there's a certain vocabulary you need to memorize and use in your essay to earn a high score.  

 

Other than some internet research and taking the posted practice exams, she didn't do any other prep.  

 

But ask us again in a couple of weeks.  Dd16 only took the SAT last weekend, then I can let you know if she's a high SAT scorer.  

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One of my twins scored very high on the ACT. He is a great test-taker but he also did an online prep course that helped. 

 

My other twin did everything she could to improve her score but with test anxiety nothing seemed to help. Test anxiety can really get in the way when it comes to the ACT or SAT. 

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I didn't have my kids take standardized tests in elementary school, nor did I give them any type of tests at home.  I felt in their situation, it would be a good idea for them to begin taking the SAT in late elementary so they would have some exposure to timed testing and filling in bubbles when there was zero pressure.

 

I signed my elementary-aged kids up for the SAT directly with the College Board saving myself the additional fees of going through one of the Talent Searches.  (This also had the added benefit of them not having to take a different test just to quality to take the SAT through the Talent Search.)

 

When my kids hit high school age, they switch from the SAT to the PSAT and only take the SAT when they are ready to have that score stay on their records.

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Just a caution to know your kids.  Some love the challenge of doing tests before they've had the material.  They enjoy seeing their knowledge increase and have no issue with missed problems.  Others get discouraged that they don't know it and start to feel dumb lessening their desire to put effort in to learn things.  That's a difficult idea to overcome once they have it.

 

Be wary before just deciding taking the SAT/ACT early is a good idea.

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Just a caution to know your kids.  Some love the challenge of doing tests before they've had the material.  They enjoy seeing their knowledge increase and have no issue with missed problems.  Others get discouraged that they don't know it and start to feel dumb lessening their desire to put effort in to learn things.  That's a difficult idea to overcome once they have it.

 

Be wary before just deciding taking the SAT/ACT early is a good idea.

This is a good point.  I also think it helps to set expectations ahead of time.  My kids knew that they were taking a high school test and there was zero pressure to score well.  They knew that the purpose of the test was just to get used to a testing environment before it mattered.  I referred to it as a scrimmage.  They didn't do any prep ahead of time, either.  We kept it very low-key.

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My oldest dd (Public schooled) got a 1540 on the new SAT (after three tries).  Her Verbal score stayed high (800 on one test) and she never studied for that. She read almost non-stop since she learned how -- usually 2-3 hours a day.  Her math was much harder to bring up -- she struggled in math until her last two years when she got a really good teacher who was able to reach her. (she never accepted help from us - she's a pretty strong willed kid). She used khan academy and SAT practice books to work on her math, and raised it from a 590 to a 770.  It took a lot of work, but spread out over a year and a half. 

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My oldest dd (Public schooled) got a 1540 on the new SAT (after three tries). Her Verbal score stayed high (800 on one test) and she never studied for that. She read almost non-stop since she learned how -- usually 2-3 hours a day. Her math was much harder to bring up -- she struggled in math until her last two years when she got a really good teacher who was able to reach her. (she never accepted help from us - she's a pretty strong willed kid). She used khan academy and SAT practice books to work on her math, and raised it from a 590 to a 770. It took a lot of work, but spread out over a year and a half.

Wow, that is amazing! Excellent job!!!

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Really? I've always thought this was a bit of a joke. (genuine question)

 

ETA: So I went to one of those "test your reading speed" sort of websites, and I find the results very confusing. And maybe it comes down that whole idea of hanging pegs during the grammar stage of your education so you can hang stuff on them later. But some of the topics, I can read and get something like 450 wpm with 100% accuracy, and others I only get 290 with 50-75% accuracy. I take a little bit of issue with the "accuracy" being measured by a question about if somebody won a certain award 6 times or 7 though - is reading comprehension really supposed to include remembering every small detail like that, vs. just remembering that somebody won a certain award a lot of times (certainly more than others did, in that day)? I don't really know what they're actually looking to measure here anymore.

Edited by 4kookiekids
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My oldest started taking the ACT in middle school through a talent search.  He has hit the ceiling of some tests.  Like he hit the ceiling of an oral untimed K-12 test in 5th grade.  But timed, bubble test accuracy has not been a natural skill for him even though he has always been ahead academically.   He has steadily come up with his score every year and this year as a junior he will take it for the last time.  His sophomore score was in range for competititive colleges, but I'm hoping for another point or two (we're chasing merit money). 

 

So at the end of the day, he will show strong on the ACT.  But had he not tried at early to give us a sense of strengths and weaknesses on it, I don't think his score would be as good.  I took the ACT one and done with no prep and test anxiety and not feeling well the day of the test.  I did FINE on the ACT but really no where near where I should have been an my high school achievement level.   And my subsequent college achievement in a competitive tech program. 

 

Taking the ACT early was a GREAT decision in this house.    Our state requires annual testing and this is an easy way to check that box for older kids anyway.

 

And to be clear, my son has really not done much standardized prep test to this point.  The ACT taught us we needed to keep rolling math review going which we have.  His math score came up 7 points the year we did that.  It also taught us the Science section is challenging for him, just because it's last and he's fried.  He'd built up tolerance for that but trying it multiple times.  His Science score went up 5 points last year.  His English and Reading doesn't have much room for improvement any more but what he really needed to learn there was not to over think the questions and just keep moving.  He will do a bit of fine tuning prep for this final go around next spring. 

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Really? I've always thought this was a bit of a joke. (genuine question)

 

ETA: So I went to one of those "test your reading speed" sort of websites, and I find the results very confusing. And maybe it comes down that whole idea of hanging pegs during the grammar stage of your education so you can hang stuff on them later. But some of the topics, I can read and get something like 450 wpm with 100% accuracy, and others I only get 290 with 50-75% accuracy. I take a little bit of issue with the "accuracy" being measured by a question about if somebody won a certain award 6 times or 7 though - is reading comprehension really supposed to include remembering every small detail like that, vs. just remembering that somebody won a certain award a lot of times (certainly more than others did, in that day)? I don't really know what they're actually looking to measure here anymore.

 

Most reading speed programs focus on skipping and skimming, this work with nonsense words and syllables and over learning sounds is based on the science of how we read and what I have seen work with my students. I have seem small but significant increases in reading speed, even with my students reading at or above grade level.  

 

Your reading speed varies based on the type of material you are reading.  To get a true feel for any improvement, you have to read a different passage from the same book each time.  Most people read harder texts or more scientific type texts slower than fiction, and would read a classic slower than a "fluff" fiction book.

 

Accuracy to me is not remembering every small detail, but making sure your are reading the whole thing and not skipping and getting a general idea of the subject.  With my reading passages, I just ask my students to tell me a few things about the passage to make sure they read without skipping anything.

 

With the ACT and SAT passages, you are trying to find small details, and if you read faster, you are more likely to be able to read the questions twice, once before and once after the passage, and still have time to finish.

Edited by ElizabethB
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Really? I've always thought this was a bit of a joke. (genuine question)

 

ETA: So I went to one of those "test your reading speed" sort of websites,

 

It might help. 

 

But in my case, when I took a practice test for fun, I found that I was so afraid of running out of time, I read too fast and not carefully enough.  It turned out I had plenty of time left over after I finished all the questions.  If I had to do it again, I'd read more slowly and carefully to get the answers right the first time, while keeping an eye on the clock.  

 

ETA: the value of speed reading programs might be a good topic for a new thread.  

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Any chance the English class you are referring to can be found online? It sounds like a great way to spend a high school year of English.

 

Thanks!

 

 

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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  • 3 weeks later...

Would you mind sharing what English class this was?

 

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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