Do Juniors Still Need to Take the SAT/ACT as Many Schools Become “Test-Optional”?

For decades, the college application process has begun with high school juniors taking college admissions tests. But with many colleges and universities becoming “test-optional” (meaning that they do not require SAT or ACT scores to be submitted with an application), many students with test anxiety are beginning to wonder if testing at all is really necessary.

While the “test-optional” movement is worth understanding as you apply for college, most students find that taking either the SAT or ACT is still a good idea. Read on to learn why.


Understanding Test-Optional Policies

As mentioned, colleges with test-optional programs still accept SAT/ACT scores but no longer require applicants to submit them. Instead, students are evaluated for admission based on their grades and other factors like letters of recommendation, essays, and extracurricular activities. Some schools even accept creative portfolios, video profiles, business plans, or scientific research projects as alternate evidence of a student’s potential. 

This trend is fairly new but gaining momentum. In fact, over 1,000 schools have some type of test-optional admission policy now. At first glance, this sounds fantastic, at least to kids that may not be great test-takers, but there are caveats.

For example, at George Mason University, you need to have a GPA above 3.5 for test-optional consideration, and not every department is included. The Computer Science and Engineering programs still require test scores. Home-school applicants and those applying as Division I athletes are also required to submit scores. These caveats vary by school, so it’s important for applicants to fully understand each school’s requirements before applying without test scores.


Why Testing Is Still a Good Idea

Even with a growing number of schools offering some sort of test-optional consideration, most schools are still not test-optional. Considering that students apply to between 5 and 8 schools, it’s highly unlikely that all the schools on a student’s list will be test-optional. For that reason, it’s still a good idea to take the SAT or ACT before applying to schools. 

It’s also important to remember that just because you take the test doesn’t mean you have to submit the scores to a test-optional school. If you have a strong application that can stand out from the masses without a test score—and you believe your test score will detract from rather than add to that application—you can always choose to submit an application without your scores to a test-optional school.

 

Important Dates for Rising Juniors & Seniors: Mock Tests

Is your child a rising junior or senior? If so, now’s the time to register for a mock SAT or ACT test.

For rising 11th graders, summer mock tests are the perfect opportunity to establish a baseline score and discover what kind of study support they’ll need in the year ahead. For rising 12th graders, summer mock tests are one last shot to practice with the content and pacing before sitting for the real deal.

Click any date below to get more details and sign up for a mock ACT or SAT test this summer.

Mock ACT on Saturday, June 29th

Mock SAT on Saturday, July 27th

Mock ACT on Saturday, August 3rd

Mock SAT on Saturday, August 17th

 

Not sure which test or timeline is right for your child? We can help! Just click below to schedule a free consult call with one of our test prep experts.

Get Free Advice

Test Prep Timeline: March 2019

Here’s what you should be thinking about this month.

Sophomores should be…

You guessed it: continuing to focus on their regular schoolwork. A practice test and some periodic exercises from an SAT or ACT workbook certainly won’t hurt, but now is the time to focus on school.

Juniors should be…

Just about finished with their paired set of SAT/ACT tests this spring. Depending on when you signed them up, most Juniors will have taken at least one of the two spring tests we recommend.

If they haven’t yet, or if they need another shot at the test, don’t worry. There’s one more opportunity for each test this spring, along with some summer options available as well:

  • The next available SAT test date is May 4th (the registration deadline is April 5th).
  • The next available ACT test date is April 13th (you can still register with a late fee).

Reminder #1: We offer SAT and ACT practice tests for free in the community. Our experience has been that this is the best possible way to help your child prepare for these exams and improve their score.

You can register for one of our upcoming Mock Tests here.

Reminder #2: If your junior doesn’t feel great about their most recent SAT or ACT performance, we have a Just for Juniors Test Prep Tune-Up package available.

Our tutors can use the test they just took to identify specific weaknesses, spend each session on targeted instruction aimed at boosting their score, and help them identify how to best use the limited study time they have left before their next try.

If you’re interested, click the link below to contact us:

Contact us about our Test Prep Tune-Up Package

Test Prep Timeline: February 2019

Here’s what you should be thinking about as your child prepares for the SAT or ACT this year.

Sophomores should be…

Continuing to focus on grades. Although you can be thinking ahead about what your sophomore will need to do to get ready for the SAT/ACT next year, the best thing you can do right now is to focus on supporting them as they learn and earn high marks in their classes.

Juniors should be…

(1) Registered for a paired set of SAT/ACT tests this spring. Because most kids end up taking two tests, we recommend scheduling them one after another.

As a reminder, if you’re interested in taking the March 9th SAT, the late registration deadline is February 27th.

Or if you’re taking the ACT, the April 13th test deadline to register is March 8th.

(2) Taking a mock test. Practice tests tend to be an afterthought for most families, but in our experience it’s the number one way for kids to improve their SAT/ACT scores.

Not only will it help your child identify their weaknesses and learn where they need to improve, it’ll also help them reduce test anxiety on the day of the actual test, because they know what to expect.

We offer these for free in the community. You can register for one of our upcoming Mock Tests here

Register Here

Also, if you haven’t picked whether you’re going to take the SAT or the ACT, now’s also the time to do that. Feel free to contact us or call (703-934-8282) and we can help you determine which one would be best based on your child’s practice test scores.

Just for Juniors: An SAT/ACT Tune-Up

Have a Junior that feels “so-so” about their first SAT or ACT performance this spring?

Chances are, they’re registered for a second test coming up soon, and now is that critical time in-between tests where they can improve their score before sending in their applications.

We’ve put together a short 4-session Test Prep Tune-Up package for this exact scenario, where our tutors work with Juniors to:
  • Use the test they just took to identify specific weaknesses
  • Spend each session on targeted instruction aimed at boosting their score in those areas
  • Identify how to best use the limited study time they have left leading up to their next SAT or ACT test
If you’re interested, click the link below to contact us about this “Just for Juniors” test prep option:
“Upon completion of the tutoring sessions, Morgan scored a 1300 on her SAT… Those scores not only are fabulous, but they really helped Morgan’s self-esteem and her self-confidence”  ~ EllenSAT Test Prep Parent

Test Prep Timeline: January 2019

Here’s what you should be thinking about as your child prepares for the SAT or ACT this year.

Sophomores should be…

(1) Reviewing PSAT scores (if they took it) as well as any practice test scores to determine areas of strength and weakness. Ask questions like:

  • Did they have enough time to finish?
  • Did they score particularly well in any of the four areas (reading, writing, math no calculator, math with calculator)?
  • Did they do poorly in any area?

(2) Thinking ahead about what type of test preparation they’ll need moving into Junior year. Mostly though, just continue to focus on grades.

Juniors should be…

(1) Taking a mock test. We offer these for free in the community. It’s the best way to get prepared to “peak” in the mid-to-late spring, which is historically the best time for students to take either test.

You can register for one of our upcoming Mock Tests here:

Also, if you haven’t picked whether you’re going to take the SAT or the ACT, now’s also the time to do that.

Feel free to contact us or call (703-934-8282) and we can help you determine which one would be best based on your child’s practice test scores.

(2) Registering for a “paired” set of tests in the spring if you haven’t already. Because most kids end up taking two tests, we recommend scheduling them one after another (for example, registering for the March 9th SAT followed by the May 4th SAT).

As a reminder, if you’re interested in taking, for example, the March 9th SAT, make sure you’ve registered by the February 8th deadline.

Or if you’re taking the ACT, the February 9th test deadline to register is this week on Friday, January 11th.

After you’ve knocked those items off the list, if you’re looking for a systematic, one-on-one program to get your child as prepared as possible to maximize their score this spring, our Test Prep Program might be right for you.

Click the link below to reach out and let us know, and we’ll walk you through the process, step-by-step.

Contact Us

The Roadmap To College

Helping high school students prepare for the SAT and ACT so that they have the most options available to them when it comes time to apply to college is one of the cornerstones of our business here at Educational Connections.

But regardless of whether you work with a tutor or through a test prep program, all parents and students should at least know what the process entails.

So I decided to take one of my most popular parent workshops, and condense it down into a webinar you can watch at your convenience.

In this webinar, I aim to answer 3 questions for you:
  • Which test should my child (is the SAT or ACT better)?
  • When should my child take it?
  • What’s the best way to prepare?

I also cover some important information on what college admissions counselors are looking for in 2018/2019, how your child’s combination of grades and scores impacts their application, and what to do if they’ve already taken a test or two.

Click the video above or click the link below to learn more.

Watch The Webinar

Then, if you’re interested in getting your high-schooler set up with a test prep plan that lines up with the roadmap I outlined, click here to learn more about our Test Prep Program.
Our highly credentialed test prep tutors help both you and your high schooler navigate the entire SAT/ACT process and develop a customized plan that will ensure they have the best chance of earning the score they need to get into their college of choice.
“We are so thrilled! Maddie’s ACT score went from a 29 to 34! Before, UVA was a big stretch, but now it’s a real possibility. We couldn’t be happier. Michael was an amazing tutor and really connected with Maddie and motivated her. We also love her new AP Stats tutor. You’ve really helped both my girls throughout high school. Thank you!” ~ ECT Test Prep Parent

Testimonial: Morgan Improves Her SAT Score, AP History Score, and Self-Confidence

“I cannot stress how wonderful the entire experience was. They took what was a very stressful year, and made it much more bearable… to the point where she enjoyed learning.”

Ellen’s daughter Morgan came to Educational Connections as a Junior because she was struggling… and understandably so. Junior year is, for most kids, the most stressful year of high school.

She was taking her first AP class (U.S. History) and wasn’t getting the grades she knew she could.

She had also previously taken an 8-week group SAT/ACT prep class, but took a practice test and didn’t do well.

She wanted to do better.

We got the chance to talk to Ellen about her experience with our tutoring and test prep programs, and asked her:

  • Why did you first reach out to Educational Connections?
  • What was your experience like working with your tutors?
  • What kind of results did you and your daughter experience?
  • What advice do you have for other parents in a similar situation?

Our test prep tutors are committed to helping both you and your high-schooler navigate the entire SAT/ACT process and develop a tailored plan that suits your student’s needs.

And that’s exactly what we were able to do with Morgan:

“Upon completion of the tutoring sessions, Morgan scored a 1300 on her SAT and a 4 out of 5 on her AP History exam… Those two scores not only are fabulous, but they really helped Morgan’s self-esteem and her self-confidence, and you can’t put a price on that.”

If you’re in the process of figuring out your child’s test prep plan, but think they could benefit from a customized, one-on-one program, I encourage you to contact us about our SAT/ACT Test Prep Program today.

Categories SAT

What Is Test Optional? (Tips for Your High-Schooler)

test optional image 1

As you’re working with your son or daughter to get ready to apply for colleges, you may have come across the term “test optional.”

In this video interview with our founder Ann, we explore answers to the most common questions we get about this “test optional” trend and what it means for your high-schooler, including:

  1. What does Test Optional mean?
  2. Why are many schools choosing to go Test Optional?
  3. Will it negatively impact my child’s application to not submit test scores?
  4. What’s the bottom line (what should we do)?

What does Test Optional mean?

Test optional is a policy that many colleges and universities have adopted so that students don’t have to submit an SAT or ACT score with their application.

In fact, it’s growing in popularity. Seven-hundred schools across the country are now “test optional.”

But keep in mind, just because the school is test optional does not mean that every department in the school doesn’t require a test.

For example, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the school is test optional but the engineering department still requires students to submit an SAT or ACT score.

Why are many schools choosing to go Test Optional?

Many schools are going test optional so that they can diversify their pool of applicants.

test optional image 1

For example, if an applicant is outstanding in every way – an excellent GPA, but low test scores – they still want that student to apply and not be dissuaded from looking at that college.

So for that reason, schools are now taking applications without a test score so that they can evaluate students on their other merits.

Will it negatively impact my child’s application to not submit test scores?

Many colleges say that not submitting test scores will not have a negative impact on their admissions.

But consider a scenario where two kids have a similar GPA and similar outside interests and extracurricular activities, and one student has very good SAT scores and the other doesn’t submit a score.

They may wonder, “Why didn’t this student submit a score? Is it that they just don’t care? Or did they get an exceptionally low score?”

So if your student has the score within that mid-50th percentile range that the college is looking for (you can find this on each school’s individual website), they should submit their score because it can help to buoy their application.

What’s the bottom line (what should we do)?

The bottom line is that your child should absolutely still prepare for either the SAT or ACT (it doesn’t have to be both).

Because it’s likely that, for example, if they applied to eight schools, very few of those schools will not want to see a test score.

For that reason, you want to be prepared.

You want to have all your options available so that if you do need to test score you have it there and waiting.

In fact, my younger son even said to me the other day, “Hey mom, I heard that JMU is test optional, so I don’t have to take the test, right?”

I said, “Is JMU the only school you’re going to apply to? If not, then you still need to take the test.”

You want a lot of options for your child, so make sure they prepare appropriately and get the very best score they can to make their application stand out.

Next Steps for Test Prep

If you do decide taking the SAT or ACT is going to be the right move for you and your child, we highly recommend taking a practice test first.

If you’re local to VA and DC, click here to view our free SAT/ACT Mock Test schedule, where you can register for a full-length, professionally-administered exam.

New SAT-ACT Concordance Tables Released

New SAT-ACT Concordance Tables Released

In the DC metro area, the SAT is the better known of the two college entrance exams, but nationally, more students now take the ACT than the SAT. With colleges accepting both the SAT and the ACT, a natural question to ask is: “how do SAT and ACT scores compare”?

Back in 2016, the College Board (the makers of the SAT) released a concordance table that allowed students, families, and educators to equate their SAT score with an ACT score and vice versa. Recently, the College Board and ACT jointly released new concordance tables with updated data from recent test takers.

Here are a few key insights related to the update:

A perfect score

Under the old concordance tables, a score of 36 on the ACT was equivalent to a score of 1600 on the SAT. Logically, that made sense because those are the highest possible scores for each test. Under the new tables released in 2018, however, a 36 on the ACT is equivalent to the 1570-1600 range of scores on the SAT, with the “most appropriate” score equivalent listed as 1590.

Upper and lower range shifts

When comparing the 2016 and 2018 concordance tables we find that there is a larger discrepancy on the outer ends of the score spectrum than in the middle portion. To illustrate this point, see the chart I made below which plots an SAT score and the old and new concorded ACT score. Blue points with an orange ring remain unchanged between the two tables.

(Chart made using 2016 and 2018 College Board and ACT concordance table data)

For example, a score of 1180 equated to an ACT score of 24 under the 2016 standards and still equates to a 24 under the 2018 standards, while a score of 1470 equated to an ACT score of 32 under the 2016 standards and now equates to an ACT score of 33 under the 2018 standards. A similar trend is true with the lower end of the score range.

A key note about superscoring

With more and more colleges superscoring, or considering the highest combined score of individual sections across multiple test attempts, the updated document shares a key note about this practice. On page 5 of the linked document, the final bullet under limitations reads: “Institutions should not superscore across the SAT and ACT tests.”

 

These updates were announced June 14, 2018 and both the College Board and ACT have updated their websites with the new tables.

For the full guide on the 2018 concordance update please visit: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/ACT-SAT-Concordance-Information.pdf

So what does this mean for students? One of the best things you can do is sit for a full-length practice test of each type and use the updated concordance tables to compare your scores. Educational Connections offers free practice tests, register for one here.

If you have any questions or would like to get started with test prep contact us today!