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Carrie12345

What in the world? (Surprising SAT scores)

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So, my kids took a practice SAT.  9th grader hasn't done any SAT prep at all. 10th grader has had a tiny bit of prep in math only.  The friend who facilitated that prep also proctored and graded this group practice exam.

 

Neither dd has covered the scope of SAT math, but the older one is ahead of the younger one, who is struggling.

 

The younger one's math score was low, as expected.  

The older one's math score was lower.  110 points lower.  :huh:

 

Proctor hasn't been able to find any problems with the grading, no patterns to suggest getting lost on the bubble sheet.  Based on the work done in prep, she knows this isn't "right".  Based on our home instruction, I know the younger one's grade should be significantly lower than the older's.

 

The only conclusion I can come up with is that dd threw the test. But I can't bring myself to believe that she would. She wants to do some DE at our local cc.  She's done well on previous standardized tests, including acceptable scores on math.  But what other possibilities are there???

 

Oh, her reading and writing scores were decent for someone who hasn't prepped, so zero evidence of throwing it there.

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Can you get a copy of the test and review the answers that were missed? I tutor quite a few students to help them prepare for the SAT. Here is a list of issues that I commonly see:

 

1. The student has trouble with the non-calculator section. Typically, these students have been using a calculator in their classes since elementary school and have a difficult time arriving at an answer without the aid of a calculator.

 

2. The student doesn't read the question carefully enough. The math on the new SAT requires quite a bit of reading. I have quite a few students who can perform the math, but misread the question.

 

3. Careless mistakes. The most common one I see is forgetting a negative sign somewhere.

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Can you get a copy of the test and review the answers that were missed? I tutor quite a few students to help them prepare for the SAT. Here is a list of issues that I commonly see:

 

1. The student has trouble with the non-calculator section. Typically, these students have been using a calculator in their classes since elementary school and have a difficult time arriving at an answer without the aid of a calculator.

 

2. The student doesn't read the question carefully enough. The math on the new SAT requires quite a bit of reading. I have quite a few students who can perform the math, but misread the question.

 

3. Careless mistakes. The most common one I see is forgetting a negative sign somewhere.

 

Yes, we will be getting a copy.

 

If anything, the calculator could have thrown her.  We don't use them much, though the plan has always been to get around to adapting before taking the test "for real".

 

She's definitely not great at reading directions carefully, so that's something to consider.

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Has your daughter sat through the entire all four sections during prep? We prep my DS12 and he was tired after the two English sections so we did the two math sections the next day. The Thursday before the actual SAT, he did all four sections of a practice test at one sitting and was tired but did okay. DS13 was exhausted for the science (last) section of ACT and ACT was the first 3hr test he took. When he took the SAT months later he was able to finish the SAT without exhaustion and did as expected.

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I know this is not going to be much help, but some kids are just better at standardized tests than others. Your younger just might be one of the "better" ones.

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I know this is not going to be much help, but some kids are just better at standardized tests than others. Your younger just might be one of the "better" ones.

 

Yep. Youngest might be more of a natural, oldest might need more exposure and experience. 

 

And, there are a million reasons a test score can deviate from the expected. Test fatigue for the inexperience is definitely one of them. 

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Did they only answer questions they felt they knew? (I have no SAT experience, so I don't know if that is a possibility.) If they both guessed on some of them, the younger one may have just been luckier.

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The math sections are after both the EBRW (reading) section as well as the Writing & Language section, so maybe she was just tired by that time? 

 

I also sometimes help tutor kids to prepare for the test, and have noticed that sometimes my poorer math students *ARE* actually much better guessers, because they have often been guessing for years (and often well enough to get by in school).

 

It's quite common for straight-A kids to have mediocre SAT scores, and that is almost universally surprising (understandably so).

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No, this was her first full-length experience.

 

You may find that some tutoring help with taking the test and several more practice tests can raise their scores. It's not all that uncommon for a student's first score to be lower than expected.

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I don’t have answers because I haven’t been in the situation where both kids took the test at the same time and one scored better than the other.

 

But maybe a little reassurance: my oldest took the PSAT last year at the local high school and did worse than I expected. I mean, we had done no prep and he hadn’t yet studied some of the math, but I expected him to just naturally get a touch higher than he had. I started to worry just a tiny bit. The only goal for him to take the test was to have practice working in a new location surrounded by strangers...but of course I wanted to see him do well naturally. But the score was very meh.

 

Fast forward to this year (10th), and still with no prep, I sent him to the school to take the PSAT, still not officially caring about the score, but sending him only to give him practice in sitting in a room with strangers filling out bubbles. This time around, he got a score that was 110 points higher than the last time. I was very pleased. It’s not what I would want him to have as a final score once he takes the test for real with another year of math completed and some test prep, but I could see that taking the test in 9th and maturing a bit had helped.

 

All that to say that sometimes they just flub the test the first time around because it’s a new situation and they feel a bit stressed or they misread the questions because they know they’re timed or they get sloppy or they get fatigued. I agree with others that some people just naturally know how to test well and don’t even know why they can. There could be so many reasons why the younger did better than the older due to so many factors.

 

For this first time around, I would do my best not to offically worry about the score, though part of you will worry anyway, because that’s how we are as homeschooling parents. Absolutely go over the questions together to see what happened, but do your best to keep this light and happy so you don’t worry the student. You don’t want her getting test anxiety. Let her know it’s normal to improve with subsequent takings. I would *not* use the words, “It’s usual to get a lower score than expected the first time.†I would use a more positive spin, “It’s usual to improve your score after you get the first practice or two under your belt.†If she knows her sister’s score and is worried that something is wrong with her, I‘d say, “Isn’t that crazy how that works!? These test score are always a little nutty the first time or two you take them. You just never know what will happen! But that’s why we get a few practice ones out of the way before taking it for real.â€

Edited by Garga
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For this first time around, I would do my best not to offically worry about the score, though part of you will worry anyway, because that’s how we are as homeschooling parents. 

 

Yeah, I did NOT expect to have to deal with my own feelings about this!!!  That has me pretty thrown, lol. I've spent more than 13 years preaching "<Expletive> the test!" to my kids, and now I'm in the "OMG, what did I do?" stage.  :huh:

 

On the positive side, neither kid outwardly seems all that phased. Older dd did ask me for help with a math problem the other day, which is unlike her. She usually prefers to ask The Google or wait to meet with her student tutor. I can't tell yet if that's a sign of maturity or her version of freaking out.

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You have to take a creative approach to some of the math problems on the SAT. I've been working through the Math Workbook for the new SAT and it gives several tips and ways to think about the problems. I particularly dislike the tip that says plug in the answers until you see the one that works, but it does save quite a bit of time.

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I agree that practice tests are the way to go. Also, I've looked at the Khan Academy prep, and it is quite good. And if you are looking for test-taking strategies (rather than help with the content), type "SAT strategies" into Amazon, and you'll find quite a few books that can help with things like time management and tips for the best ways to approach the questions.

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If you have access to the test, I would go through the whole thing again with each of them, doing each problem and talking about how they approached it, what their reasoning was for choosing the answer they chose, etc.  It really is the best way to get at their thought processes, and thus unearth any misunderstandings or ineffective strategies. 

 

Taking bubble tests is a skill in an of itself, and while homeschoolers tend to lean on the "tests aren't particularly useful in telling me anything about my child," "high-stakes tests are bad in so many ways" side of things, there is an argument to be made that being good at bubble tests can open doors that otherwise would not be open, and thus spending some time learning and practicing this skill may be time well spent.  Just make sure they understand that doing math on a standardized test often requires a different approach than doing math in real life, and go from there to teach all the little tricks of the trade that can help raise their score.  

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