Jump to content

Menu

Help me think through SAT/ACT, please


Recommended Posts

DD16/grade 11 is interested in genetics/molecular and cell biology/molecular biochemistry. She's very organized, motivated, very strong academically, and has taken all her science classes online and gotten straight A's (honors Physics, honors Chem, and this year - Chem AP and Bio AP). Other than a few writing courses and Latin, her other classes have been at home (so no DE, etc).

She has signed up to take the PSAT this fall and the SAT this spring. She's done well on the practice tests: SAT 1520 (math 770, r&w 750) and ACT 31-35 (science 31, math 33, english 35, reading 33). She did the practice ACT after hearing that a lot of kids in her Bio class took the ACT and not the SAT.

Would it make sense for her to take both the SAT and the ACT? I'd normally think it would be overkill, but the ACT does have the science section... Also, I'm not sure taking a bunch of tests is the right approach here, but my worry is that she doesn't really have much to show as far as extracurriculars and I guess my reasoning is that the tests would help highlight her academic strengths. I know many colleges have shifted their focus away from the SAT in the last year, and that subject tests are no longer available. 

I hope we can somehow demonstrate that she's a well-rounded person.There was a HS co-op for a number of years, and she played field hockey through 8th grade and danced from 1st through 9th, but with the pandemic, that all stopped. We have a high risk family member and we have a small business. For better or worse, for our family that has translated to hunkering down to avoid COVID as well as all hands on deck to keep the business afloat. Ugh. I'm kind of derailing my own question, but it's all related in my mind.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well the 'science' section on the ACT really does little to actually test scientific knowledge-- it is mostly reading and interpreting graphs and charts...

I'd just stick with the SAT test if that is what she has practiced. 

For college-- have your daughter spend quality time on the introductory essay-- have her tell WHY she wants to study those specific things. 

My youngest is a neuro-biology student at Colorado State University.  Her test scores were OK (small scholarship)-- but her essay is what got her in the program.

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does she want to take both?  I wanted my dd to take both to see if she scored better on one or the other, but she was just DONE after prepping for the SAT/PSAT.  She did well and I didn't see the point of putting her through more prep if she didn't want to.  It's not like the test prep is educational or anything like that on its own so it's just a waste of time if your child already did well on one test and doesn't want to take the other.

Edited by Kassia
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

25 minutes ago, pgr said:

There was a HS co-op for a number of years, and she played field hockey through 8th grade and danced from 1st through 9th, but with the pandemic, that all stopped.

 

Unfortunately, that is the case for so many students.  Covid has made it very challenging to do extra-curriculars, volunteering, jobs, etc.  

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dd is taking both, to see which one she does better at. There is an element of luck in there. She is doing prep for SAt, act and psat all together, a few hours a week and after the tests, she can decide if she wants to take them again or not depending on where she wants to go and what she scores. 
The science section on the act does not really test scientific knowledge but application. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My oldest did both but it was because I really didn't know what we were doing! He took the SAT twice...first time really just to see how it would work, then the second time for DE admissions. He did ok, not great but good enough. Then I had him take the ACT on a whim as his passion is biology and I thought maybe he'd do really well on the science section. He totally rocked it. He did really, really well on the ACT. Out of the two standardized tests, the ACT is clearly for him. He just took it again last weekend to see if he could bump his score up just a couple more points.

So in your case, I'd see which she prefers and is more comfortable with. Her scores look great for both so she's very lucky. It sounds like she'd have a good shot at doing well on the PSAT so go for it. My son didn't take the PSAT as I figured the odds were slim and with the pandemic and all the weariness that has accompanied it...eh, we just didn't go for it. For my son, the SAT was just not the best fit. In hindsight, I should have had him take a practice SAT and practice ACT at home and it would have been glaringly obvious as to where he needed to go. Oh well. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, everyone. The only prep she's done is taking practice tests and she actually enjoys taking tests. I think the only downside of the actual test-taking process in her mind would be the risk of potentially exposing her grandpa to COVID (though she'll be wearing an N95 and this is more of a theoretical risk, I'm just detailing her thought process and which part of it all would make her hesitate jumping to take all the tests she can).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Farrar said:

I often urge the possibility of test optional, but for a kid with a score like that in practice, going for the test is a no brainer if at all possible. Good luck. I'd also stick with the SAT. 

Thank you! (As an aside, our entire family absolutely loves the quote in your signature 😊). 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, pgr said:

Thank you, everyone. The only prep she's done is taking practice tests and she actually enjoys taking tests. I think the only downside of the actual test-taking process in her mind would be the risk of potentially exposing her grandpa to COVID (though she'll be wearing an N95 and this is more of a theoretical risk, I'm just detailing her thought process and which part of it all would make her hesitate jumping to take all the tests she can).

Just to give you an idea of the amount of risk:

My dd just recently took the SAT.  All students were masked; they were separated into different rooms for the testing and there were only about 10 students in her room.

All snacks (with masks off, obviously) had to be eaten in a different part of the building.

I was really pleased with their protocols.

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, shelleysboys said:

There are schools that are test optional for homeschoolers?  Any examples?  I thought homeschoolers needed to take the SAT/ACT period.

A lot has changed because of covid. Of the schools my son is applying to this year, I know that Oberlin, Bard, and Vanderbilt are all test optional for everyone, including homeschoolers. There's only one he's applying to (out of 6) that's test optional for most but not for homeschoolers. The other two require scores from everyone. So that's a small sample size, of course, but definitely plenty of schools out there that have extended test optional to homeschoolers. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

My dd is a terrible test taker so our plan may not be for everyone. She took the SAT in August and will take the ACT in December -- whichever she ends up doing better on, we will do significant prep in the spring for her preferred test and take that test end of spring/early summer. And then again in Fall. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am musing what the best approach is for testing as well. I wonder if there is a value in taking it as late as possible (Fall of senior year) to maximize the scores. Also is it better to prep for an hour per week for an year or do an intensive month prep before the exam? 
I think we have pretty much decided to give it three tries. Now it’s the question of how to space those out and how to approach prepping. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Roadrunner said:

I am musing what the best approach is for testing as well. I wonder if there is a value in taking it as late as possible (Fall of senior year) to maximize the scores. Also is it better to prep for an hour per week for an year or do an intensive month prep before the exam? 
I think we have pretty much decided to give it three tries. Now it’s the question of how to space those out and how to approach prepping. 

I think prepping intensively for 4-6 weeks before first exam with continued prep (less intensively) between tests 2 and 3 would be most effective. This is assuming you can make that work with your schedule. My 3rd DD did this with the intensive prep during the summer of ‘20 when not much else was going on! My older DDs did less intensive prep over a full semester and neither achieved as much of a score gain. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/14/2021 at 6:18 PM, shelleysboys said:

There are schools that are test optional for homeschoolers?  Any examples?  I thought homeschoolers needed to take the SAT/ACT period.

There are many colleges that are also test optional for homeschoolers. In the conversations I have with college admissions reps, it seems to run about 75% test optional for everyone and 25% would like to see scores from homeschoolers. That said, test optional isn't test blind and homeschoolers can often benefit from providing test scores.

All of the University of California and California State University campuses are currently test blind for all. Worcester PI is also test blind.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/4/2021 at 7:07 AM, ByGrace3 said:

My dd is a terrible test taker so our plan may not be for everyone. She took the SAT in August and will take the ACT in December -- whichever she ends up doing better on, we will do significant prep in the spring for her preferred test and take that test end of spring/early summer. And then again in Fall. 

Yikes! WHY put a terrible test-taker through so much torture! (Esp. the bolded!) 😵

I get doing 1 of each of the ACT/SAT, and if neither score is in scholarship range. Then, sure: either take a test-taking prep course or work with a tutor who specializes in help for ACT/SAT... But DO be aware that even with tutoring or test-prep class help, neither of those options guarantee up front more than a 2-point increase (ACT) or about 150-point increase (SAT).

So I'd wait until you have a test score from each ACT and SAT in hand before deciding if it is really WORTH the extra money, and time--and that time is time which has to come out of the time and brain energy she would be putting in to excelling in her courses--which might be sacrificing course grades or stellar extracurriculars, to yet more testing and prepping for tests that might only yield a tiny score increase that doesn't add to the student's overall profile the way the GPA, honors/AP/DE, and extracurriculars would.

I'd be looking hard at what colleges she is interested in starting now, and seeing what would best help her land scholarships there -- and it might NOT be ACT/SAT test scores...

I say that especially because so many schools are going test-optional. That way she can focus on standing out with extracurriculars, and earning high scores on any AP tests or high grades in any DE courses -- all of which would be much more likely to show her true abilities than a mediocre/"poor test taker" score would... JMO!

 

Edited by Lori D.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The SAT/ACT conversion chart shows that her scores are roughly compatible:

SAT of 1520 ---> ACT of 33

ACT of 31 ---> SAT of 1420-1440
ACT of 35 ---> SAT of 1560-1590

Also, you might just wait and see what she gets on the SAT, and see at that point if you think she would score higher on the ACT. And another thought: if she scores in the finalist range on the PSAT, she will have to take a confirmation SAT in the spring, and that finalist PSAT score would likely do more for opening doors than taking an ACT... 

Edited by Lori D.
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

13 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Yikes! WHY put a terrible test-taker through so much torture! (Esp. the bolded!) 😵

I get doing 1 of each of the ACT/SAT, and if neither score is in scholarship range. Then, sure: either take a test-taking prep course or work with a tutor who specializes in help for ACT/SAT... But DO be aware that even with tutoring or test-prep class help, neither of those options guarantee up front more than a 2-point increase (ACT) or about 150-point increase (SAT).

So I'd wait until you have a test score from each ACT and SAT in hand before deciding if it is really WORTH the extra money, and time--and that time is time which has to come out of the time and brain energy she would be putting in to excelling in her courses--which might be sacrificing course grades or stellar extracurriculars, to yet more testing and prepping for tests that might only yield a tiny score increase that doesn't add to the student's overall profile the way the GPA, honors/AP/DE, and extracurriculars would.

I'd be looking hard at what colleges she is interested in starting now, and seeing what would best help her land scholarships there -- and it might NOT be ACT/SAT test scores...

I say that especially because so many schools are going test-optional. That way she can focus on standing out with extracurriculars, and earning high scores on any AP tests or high grades in any DE courses -- all of which would be much more likely to show her true abilities than a mediocre/"poor test taker" score would... JMO!

 

In our situation the SAT/ACT test is key. We live in Florida and desperately need her to qualify for Florida Bright Futures. We have our eyes set on the lower level scholarship which covers 75% of tuition. My dd needs about a 200 pt increase on the SAT to qualify. Great effort to make that happen will be very worth it in the end. We did take it at the end of summer after 3 months off of school and she tested poorly on math which was very surprising to me because in the past she has tested strongly in math with a weakness in LA. I think testing after the school year this year before summer will make a big difference. As soon as she hits that minimum score we are done. I just anticipate she will need to take it a total of 3 times to give her the best chances. I have heard 3 times is not abnormal. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, ByGrace3 said:

In our situation the SAT/ACT test is key. We live in Florida and desperately need her to qualify for Florida Bright Futures. We have our eyes set on the lower level scholarship which covers 75% of tuition. My dd needs about a 200 pt increase on the SAT to qualify. Great effort to make that happen will be very worth it in the end. We did take it at the end of summer after 3 months off of school and she tested poorly on math which was very surprising to me because in the past she has tested strongly in math with a weakness in LA. I think testing after the school year this year before summer will make a big difference. As soon as she hits that minimum score we are done. I just anticipate she will need to take it a total of 3 times to give her the best chances. I have heard 3 times is not abnormal. 

Wow, 200 points is a very big jump to clear. I'd also suggest researching what the back-up plan B and plan C could be just in case that score increase turns out to be too high of a hurdle to clear, and if the Bright Futures scholarship is the only way to attend her school of choice. Back up plans could be anything from alternate colleges that provide scholarships for lower ACT/SAT scores or that are test-optional and will only look at her high GPA, to possible community college to start with for the first 2 years, and transfer for just the last 2 years, to online college with something like ASU's Universal Learner program.

You might check out some of these threads, all linked on PAGE 3 of the pinned thread "College Motherlode" at the top of the College Board:
s/o Cautionary Tale/high college costs — a brainstorm $$ ideas thread! 
How are YOU managing to pay for college? (lots of real-life creative ideas)
College as cheap as possible: need advice
College breaking the piggy bank? (how are homeschoolers affording college?) 

 

For improving ACT/SAT test scores...
Your best bet might be to have her work with a tutor who specializes in SAT test prep (or one of the test prep classes) -- esp. to help her with the tips/tricks of test-taking -- which is what sounds like the issue, rather than actual knowledge/academics (since her math working is solid).

Good luck! 

Edited by Lori D.
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...