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celticroots
08-05-2015, 10:29 PM
In one WIP I am working on, my MC has started her senior year of high school. She's going to take the SATS again because her Dad wasn't happy with the score she got on them last year. She wasn't either, but she's a perfectionist and wants to make him happy. He's big into her getting into a prestigious college.

I searched online for how to prep for the SATS but only found the workbooks for those who are going to take the test. I've never taken the SAT/ACT, so any information on those would be appreciated. What is a prep class like? How long do you spend studying? I've also heard that you can go to tutoring for help with the test too-which MC does.

Does your location in the U.S. make a difference as to whether you take the SATS or the ACT? How are they different? How are they similar?

Does my MC getting stressed out by all this sound reasonable? I am looking for any info and it would be appreciated!

Thanks!

MythMonger
08-05-2015, 11:14 PM
http://studypoint.com/ed/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/SAT.ACT-test-takers-map.jpg

Map of more popular locations for the SAT vs. ACT.

It seems like there's more of an overlap now than when I was taking the SAT's in the 80s. As I remember it, most people either took the ACTs or the SATs, and that depended on where you were going to college. A Virginian going to a Virginia college would take the SATs, but a Virginian going to college in Iowa would take the ACTs.

Now I have a daughter going to college in a couple of years, and it seems to be totally up to her as what she wants to take (regardless of eventual college destination). Colleges seem to be more open to receiving either test. For some reason her skill sets point her to the ACT as being stronger, but I'm not entirely sure why.

ETA: and yes, your character should be very stressed by all this.

Hoplite
08-05-2015, 11:37 PM
In one WIP I am working on, my MC has started her senior year of high school. She's going to take the SATS again because her Dad wasn't happy with the score she got on them last year. She wasn't either, but she's a perfectionist and wants to make him happy. He's big into her getting into a prestigious college.

I searched online for how to prep for the SATS but only found the workbooks for those who are going to take the test. I've never taken the SAT/ACT, so any information on those would be appreciated. What is a prep class like? How long do you spend studying? I've also heard that you can go to tutoring for help with the test too-which MC does.

Does your location in the U.S. make a difference as to whether you take the SATS or the ACT? How are they different? How are they similar?

Does my MC getting stressed out by all this sound reasonable? I am looking for any info and it would be appreciated!

Thanks!

I took the SAT in Canada, cause I was applying to universities in the USA. I can't remember if ACTs were even offered, doesn't mean they weren't. It's been 9 years since I took SATs so my knowledge could be quite rusty.

Prep class was an hour long time block, and optional. It was highly recommended for anyone taking the SAT and everyone that did take the SAT, took the prep class. THe class was held in a regular class room and taught/overseen by a teacher, as were the tests themselves. Going through workbooks was the primary thing that happened in those classes, tips for test taking were also addressed. Such as knowing that a wrong answer on the SAT was a 1/4 point deduction from your total, a correct answer was worth 1 point, and "No answer" was worth 0. The takeaway being if you don't have a good guess to the answer, DON'T GUESS LEAVE IT BLANK.

lianna williamson
08-05-2015, 11:43 PM
I'm an SAT/ACT tutor, as well as being the Academic Coordinator for the company I tutor for. At my company, we recommend 10 one-hour sessions for Math and 14 for Reading/Writing. That's just a baseline, though-- many students need less instruction than that.

At my company, we have two "generalists"-- tutors who are equally qualified to tutor Math and
Reading/Writing. Most of our tutors are specialists, and do one or the other, which means most of the students who work with us have two tutors.

Our general policy is to assign no more than two hours a week total in homework, but some of our students choose to study more than that.

We get the full range of students, from those who are scoring in the 400's on sections and desperate for any improvement, to those scoring 750 on all three with massive pressure on them to do even better. For students who have a particular school in mind, who are being scouted for sports, or whose parents are very high-achieving and expect the kids to be the same, the stress can be intense.

chompers
08-06-2015, 12:05 AM
I took both the SATs and ACTs, although this was many years ago, and I know the SATs at least have changed in their scoring system. When I took it, it was out of 1600 points. I don't know what it is now. I think the ACT was out of 30 points. SAT scores are more commonly asked by universities, although some prefer the ACT, and some are either/or. I just borrowed a prep book from a friend and studied from that. A lot of people from my high school took prep classes though (overachieving high school). One girl got like a 1500 and she was complaining she did so poorly. Shut up. I knew one guy who just read the entire dictionary. He ended up going to Harvard.

I don't know if this is still the case, but the ACT and SAT are structured the same. Back then it was split into English and Math sections. The English sections covers your knowledge of vocabulary. The Math covered things like algebra and trigonometry? I don't remember. It was all multiple choice.

Also, you already were given some points just for filling in the sections about your name and stuff.

And yes, this is stressful, because you need the scores to get into universities.

lianna williamson
08-06-2015, 01:09 AM
The current SAT looks like:

Reading:
*fill-in-the-blanks vocabulary questions
*reading passages with questions about the passages that test both comprehension and reasoning abilities

Writing:
*writing an essay from a prompt
*two sections that test grammar skills
*one section that tests editing skills

Math:
not my area, but I know that some of the questions are computation rather than multiple choice

People over a certain age remember the analogies, but the test no longer includes them

And all of this is only relevant until March, when the revamped test is debuted.

atthebeach
08-06-2015, 03:25 PM
As you look into the format and review or study time frames, also consider the time frame in your story for applications and needing test scores available.

At least in the USA, most universities open their applications by November. Many Seniors work during summer on their application essays (and some do these in their junior year as preparation). Then they work on applications, and some universities even open up to actually apply, by August or earlier. Depending on what state the university is in, the student may be able to apply for an early applicant or quick decision, if ready to apply early, say by August or Seprember of high school Senior year. But at least they need to be ready to start an application by October, as many /most have due dates of November and December for the next fall. Now some allow spring applications for any remaining slots, and junior colleges (not 4-year universities) usually are open for applications still then.

All of this to say that SAT/ACT take maybe 6-8 weeks to reply with scores? So taking the test over for a higher grade/result would need to be done ideally by spring of junior year, or by the summer before senior year if possible, or at least as soon as possible that fall, especially if it is to meet admission requirements or to be selected to a prestigious school, as those results would need to be considered and available for these fall applications.

Again, universities vary, but this is just a general idea for you to consider whether the re-take and cram might need to be done earlier or if the time fits with where the person is applying for acceptance.

I might suspend belief or wonder what the author was thinking if I read that a student was planning to take the SAT/ACT again in senior year to improve chances of acceptance into a difficult-to-get-into school, if we were looking at any time after October (and that is pushing it). And also remember or check if the school takes the average of scores or the best score for consideration.

And, btw if end of junior year for real SAT/ACT scores seems early, which it certainly is earlier than when I was a student, my own 7th grader took the SAT already for "fun" to experience the format, as part of the gifted program he is in. I had mixed feelings, but overall I think it was good, as he is not "scared" of it, just knows what he is preparing for (and so far has not mentioned it at all -now two years later-so I guess it did not "scar" him- so I am still not sure about it, but the point is even schools are working on prep early these days...).

lianna williamson
08-06-2015, 03:52 PM
All of this to say that SAT/ACT take maybe 6-8 weeks to reply with scores?

It's not nearly that long-- more like 3 weeks. And you can't take the SAT in the summer, because it isn't offered then. If you bomb the May and/or June test in your jr. year, the next date is Oct., which means you are prepping all summer. Hence the stress.

Duncan J Macdonald
08-06-2015, 10:54 PM
Just to add that outlying point that skews the bell curve, I was still drunk when I started the SATs (1970s) and the hangover hit during the Verbal section. Scored 1390 combined, and never took them again.

I didn't do any extra studying, no prep-classes, nada.

Taejang
08-07-2015, 01:32 AM
I never took the SATs, but did take the ACT in... 2005, I believe. Since most of the folks have talked about SATs, I'll weigh in on ACT.

When I took it, most universities and colleges accepted either SAT or ACT, but there were some that only took one or the other. The top score was 36. There were four sections: English, Reading, Math, and Science. Each section has a different number of questions, but each will be calculated (somehow) into a 0-36 score, then combined (or averaged) into the 0-36 total score. My memory is hazy, but I believe I scored a 35 on Reading and like 26 on Math (or somewhere along those lines), so my Reading score significantly pulled up my overall score (I ended with a 30- that number I definitely remember).

I didn't study. I hated studying, but was actually pretty good about paying attention in class and doing my homework, so my grades and test abilities were alright. Now, an ACT score of 30 was plenty high for most folks, but if I had been gunning for Ivy League or prestigious big-name schools like MIT, Harvard, etc, I might not have made it (it would have come down to my GPA, essay, and any familial connections). I knew a girl who got a 35, and between that and her GPA she had her pick of schools (and plenty of scholarships, too). To clarify: a 30 may have been enough to land me in a place like Harvard, but only if my other 'stats' were better, whereas a 33 or better would be more normal for them.

There was a not-insignificant monetary cost to taking the test (something like $125, can't remember for sure), and I had to spend the better part of a Saturday in a classroom taking the thing. There were breaks between each portion. At that time, it was done with a scantron sheet (paper with circles on it) and a pencil; a machine graded the test. Results took about a month to come out, and had a full breakdown of your scores (but not individual questions/answers).

My mother wanted me to study, so I did look at study materials. There weren't tutors available in my small mid-west USA town, but there were quite a few books I could order and a lot of information online. All had two types of study materials: some that were designed to help you with tests in general (calming techniques, understanding how the test was scored, etc), and actual study materials. The study stuff took the form of practice problems, with some claiming to have actual problems used in previous versions of the test. Some study books had good explanations to help walk you through why this was the right answer and that wasn't, while others just had a list of questions and (in the back) their answers. There were shady places online where you could find supposed copies of the current test, complete with answers. Some of the legitimate study aids were free, while others cost some money (everything from $15 to $100 or more for really expansive, big books with lots of problems). The black-deal "copies" of the real test were never free, and most were probably scams.

While I didn't study and was pretty zen about the whole experience, even my laid-back self still had quite a bit of trepidation when actually taking the test, and I did worry about what my score would be during the month-long wait to get the scores back. I saw other students lose weight and sleep from stress induced by the studying, testing, and waiting process. I'm aware of a few who took the test multiple times in an attempt to improve their scores.

As a sidenote, the ASVAB test (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Services_Vocational_Aptitude_Battery) is issued by and for the US military. It is used not just for those enlisting, but can also be used when applying to military academies. More rarely, some universities or colleges will accept ASVAB scores in lieu of SAT or ACT scores. If your character may end up in any branch of the military, she would take this test. Even when I took it back in 2005, the ASVAB was administered digitally.

atthebeach
08-08-2015, 07:18 PM
It's not nearly that long-- more like 3 weeks. And you can't take the SAT in the summer, because it isn't offered then. If you bomb the May and/or June test in your jr. year, the next date is Oct., which means you are prepping all summer. Hence the stress.


I didn't realize they could get results out that fast- it sure seemed that long to us, but ours was 2 years ago. That "up to 6 weeks" timeframe is what our school officially tells students, but maybe this is just to encourage them not to delay the test, and I think it does say "up to", but that is misleading if most are out in 3 weeks, so should be updated.

On timing, that makes sense about no summer test. As a high school teacher, I know we encourage the spring test in the junior year to be the last chance to take test (so definitely stress too). Because, if you are going to stress that summer before senior year, it would be great if possible to do so over application essays and applications themselves. Waiting to take the test that fall can be risky, with early deadlines around that time (depending on which school). But it is possible to do, if they can do such a quick 3-week turnaround now, again depending on which college and their early admission deadlines (presuming your person plans to apply for first consideration if available).

Wow all this talk of SAT or ACT. I just hate that we put such weight on standardized tests for kids futures. Anyway I know that is a different topic, but underneath I am frustrated just thinking of how we do this to kids. I was talking to a colleague (from teaching at a university) about college admission. He is on the Board of admissions for one of the higher up schools, and told me that GPA alone is not what they seek, but also a well-rounded person, etc. But I realized that under all that, there is a minimum SAT or ACT score required to even be considered (or at least there was when I checked a couple of years ago).

So back to the stress, which is definitely realistic, for the kid and parents. Grrr.

atthebeach
08-08-2015, 07:31 PM
On test prep, to the OP, our school has students take the PSAT beginning in freshman year, and results are very detailed, and allow them to view content they missed online, and know what areas to study.

Then they recommend some paid review places (such as Kaplan), but also our school offers at least a few nights of review free, and a low cost all-day Saturday prep day as well.

So on test prep, you really have a lot of choices on what is or is not done nowadays.

kuwisdelu
08-08-2015, 07:40 PM
Just to add that outlying point that skews the bell curve, I was still drunk when I started the SATs (1970s) and the hangover hit during the Verbal section. Scored 1390 combined, and never took them again.

I didn't do any extra studying, no prep-classes, nada.

I never studied for the SAT or ACT either (took them either in late 2006 or early 2007). In fact, I don't really understand how it's possible to study for them.

They never stressed me out. They were just one more thing to check of the list of things to do if I wanted to go to college.

Now my PhD qualifying exams... those nearly killed me.

cornflake
08-08-2015, 08:39 PM
I didn't realize they could get results out that fast- it sure seemed that long to us, but ours was 2 years ago. That "up to 6 weeks" timeframe is what our school officially tells students, but maybe this is just to encourage them not to delay the test, and I think it does say "up to", but that is misleading if most are out in 3 weeks, so should be updated.

On timing, that makes sense about no summer test. As a high school teacher, I know we encourage the spring test in the junior year to be the last chance to take test (so definitely stress too). Because, if you are going to stress that summer before senior year, it would be great if possible to do so over application essays and applications themselves. Waiting to take the test that fall can be risky, with early deadlines around that time (depending on which school). But it is possible to do, if they can do such a quick 3-week turnaround now, again depending on which college and their early admission deadlines (presuming your person plans to apply for first consideration if available).

Wow all this talk of SAT or ACT. I just hate that we put such weight on standardized tests for kids futures. Anyway I know that is a different topic, but underneath I am frustrated just thinking of how we do this to kids. I was talking to a colleague (from teaching at a university) about college admission. He is on the Board of admissions for one of the higher up schools, and told me that GPA alone is not what they seek, but also a well-rounded person, etc. But I realized that under all that, there is a minimum SAT or ACT score required to even be considered (or at least there was when I checked a couple of years ago).

So back to the stress, which is definitely realistic, for the kid and parents. Grrr.

It's a little under three weeks usually, and has been for years. If you want them by mail it'd take longer, or if you take the test under special conditions it can be longer, but it's like 2 1/2 weeks for most everyone I've heard of.

There are a lot of test-optional schools - GW just went test-optional I think - but while every school says they're interested in holistic measures and the real people and yada yada, despite standardized testing's many flaws, it remains the only somewhat subjective measure available to compare kids across the board.

King Neptune
08-08-2015, 09:52 PM
I never studied for the SAT or ACT either (took them either in late 2006 or early 2007). In fact, I don't really understand how it's possible to study for them.

It isn't possible to study for the Scholastic Aptitude Tests, but it is possible to study for the achievement tests. But some companies make good money scamming the parents of high school students.

Mclesh
08-08-2015, 10:18 PM
celticroots, I just went through all of the SAT and college application process last year with my son, who is leaving for college next month. Something to think about in your timelines is that SAT scores can be sent in later. Meeting the school's application deadline is the most important thing. So a student could potentially take the SAT in December and maybe even push it to January of senior year and still have those scores forwarded on to the school(s) of their choice.

The SAT/ACT prep is stressful enough. As others said, it's not as if there is a way to study for them other than buying a workbook for the particular subject and/or taking prep classes. The thing my son found most frustrating about the testing process was that the test didn't measure what he had learned in school, and the school really didn't prep for the test. He felt his SAT score really measured how well he had been prepped to take the test. And unless you pay for the workbooks or the test prep courses, you're kind of screwed. It's a big win for the test manufacturer, College Board.

The whole thing--prepping for the SAT/ACT, while having to write personal statements for the college apps and studying for your regular coursework (and not letting your grades slide throughout the process because the universities can rescind if you don't keep up your GPA)--is all very stressful. Since my son's school offered the International Baccalaureate program, I know the students like my son who went full IB often were only able to manage three or four hours of sleep a night. His friend who just graduated from a different HS had a similar experience with being full IB and getting very little sleep.

theninjkaymarie
08-09-2015, 12:52 AM
I just finished my first year of college, so I went through all of this a couple of years ago. I know that they are supposedly changing things up in the next year or two (if they didn't make the changes this year) to make the tests easier, so you might want to look into it.

Basic Info about the tests:
Both tests are different as far as what they test on. The ACT has a "science" section, but it's more of a can you read graphs and scientific papers sort of section, testing reading skills more than scientific knowledge. It also goes to a higher level of math. The ACT also has a reading section, a grammar section, and an optional writing section. It is divided into the writing, which is done first and takes a shorter amount of time (can't remember how long), and then the math, grammar, science, and reading sections, which are each an hour long. The SAT has a writing section (which is mandatory), reading, grammar, and math. In the case of the SAT, each subject is divided into multiple sections and mixed together, where you might spend 25 minutes on math, then 25 on reading, then 20 on grammar, then go back to math for 20 minutes--I believe there are ten sections total. The grammar sections are very similar in both tests, the math is more difficult in the ACT, and the reading is more difficult on the SAT (as in, the ACT has an extremely easy reading section).

Also, the SAT tends to be a slightly more stressful test, in my opinion. Since there are a bunch of short sections, it makes you feel more rushed for time. Also, on the SAT, if you answer a question incorrectly, you get 1/4 of a point deducted, you get 1 point for each correct answer, and you get no points added or deducted for not answering a question. On the ACT, you only get points for correct answers, and no penalty for incorrect answers, so if you don't know the answer to a question, it's better to guess.

The SAT goes from scores of 800-2400, with each subject--writing/grammar, reading, and math-- being given a score from 200-800, then added up to get the composite score. Some schools only take the math and reading scores added together (and there used to only be math and reading, so people who took the SAT further back will only have a possibility of 1600 points). The ACT is on a scale of 1-36, with each subject being scored on a scale of 1-36 and then the average of the scores is taken for the total score. The essay section does not count towards the ACT composite score, but it does count towards the SAT composite score.

Regional Preferences on SAT vs ACT:
I know that the SAT and ACT used to be more regionalized, but when I was applying, all of the colleges seemed to accept both the SAT and the ACT. There was one school in Chicago, DePaul, which preferred the ACT, but that was the only one that I saw that mentioned a preference. Also, for scholarships, many colleges will post SAT scores that will automatically give a student a certain amount of money. Some also post ACT scores as well, but because there is a greater range/more accuracy in the SAT scores vs the ACT, the SAT is more commonly used for scholarship tiers.

What I have figured out from various sources is that it's best to take both of the tests during your junior year without really worrying about studying to see which one you do better on, then focusing on the test you do better on, studying for that one, and then taking it again if you need to increase your score from what it was the first time.

Prep Classes, Tutoring, and Studying:
Although there are many people who advocate that you can't study for the SAT or ACT, I don't think that's true. Although I didn't do a lot of studying for the tests (i took a couple of practice tests and did a little bit of vocab study), I know kids who greatly improved their scores from going to classes. My sister took a class, and based on what she said and did, and for the most part, it's just taking practice tests with some supplements about different things covered on each test. It's mostly about getting comfortable with the tests and the kinds of questions they ask--the SAT often words things really weird, and tries to trick you, whereas the ACT is much more straightforward. So on top of practice tests, they'll typically go back over mathematical concepts--which are usually things students have learned in class and just need to refresh their memories, do a lot of vocabulary practice (especially for the SAT, which is incredibly vocabulary intensive), and learn strategies such as time management and what to guess if you don't have any idea (like apparently it's more likely to be B or D than A, C, or E on a five answer question).


Stress Levels:
For a perfectionist trying to improve her score, realistically she would sign up for a summer course on whichever test she prefers. The one my sister took was 3-4 hours a day, four days in a row, and had probably about 1 hour of "homework". There are also once-a-week courses that are 1-2 hours after school during the school year, or she could hire a private tutor to help her with whatever she needs, depending on her investment level on increasing the scores. Typically, will only increase an SAT score by 100-200 points, or an ACT scores by 1 or maybe 2 points, but students can see SAT scores increase by 300, and possibly even 400 points, or maybe up to 3 or 4 points on the ACT. Anything higher would probably be unrealistic.

It's definitely reasonable for your MC to be stressed--especially with the added stress of college applications, moving away from home, etc, there is tons of stress to be had, especially if you aren't a particularly good test-taker. The stress (or the notoriousnsenioritus) can also make taking a test your senior year more difficult than in your junior year as well. I scored a 2090 on a SAT test I took during the fall of my junior year, and when applying for colleges I realized that to reach a scholarship level I needed to increase my math section score by about 20 points. When I took the test during my senior year, I focused on math (many schools will "superscore" the SAT, where you can add up the points from different tests, so if you got a better score on English on a test you took in november, but had a better score on math and writing on a test you took in january, you could take the November reading and the january math and writing, add them up, and get a composite "superscore"). However, my math only increased by ten points, and although I didn't specifically study for english or writing, I still tried on them, but they dropped by over 50 points each. I was so nervous because this was my last chance to take the test that I ended up doing very poorly on it.

Also, as a final note about high-tier schools:
Many prestigious schools like Yale and Stanford have an extra requirement that I didn't realize until it was too late: You either have to submit the ACT WITH Writing or submit the SAT with 2 subject tests. Subject tests are basically 1 hour tests that focus on other subjects (there's a list on the college board website) that you can submit to prove advanced ability in a subject that isn't tested on the normal SAT. Having taken the writing section on the SAT, I decided not to take it on the ACT. So, although I got a 34 on the ACT which is a score high enough that I had a small shot at getting in, they wouldn't accept it without writing. At that point it was too late for me to take the ACT again so I quickly signed up for the subject tests. I took Spanish and US history, because I was going to be an art major and had no clue what to take (as they suggest you submit subject tests in the field of your major), and ended up bombing the Spanish test. I was so embarrassed by my score I ended up not applying to any schools that required it. Basically, if there's a particular school or two she's applying to, check to make sure she doesn't have to take subject tests as well.

Hopefully that helped, it's a lot, but I'm sure it can help lend to how stressed your MC probably feels about juggling all of it! They definitely make things way too complicated as far as the tests go--I feel I've probably left loads out that might be useful.

Mclesh
08-09-2015, 06:16 AM
theninjkaymarie: That's right, the subject tests! We didn't find out about them until my son visited one of the schools he was interested in the summer before his senior year. That adds a whole new layer of stress, especially if you're retaking your SAT in the fall.

I'm getting anxious reliving all of this. :)

wendymarlowe
08-11-2015, 09:01 AM
Worth mentioning: this may have changed in recent years, but when I took them (SAT and ACT both), the SAT didn't allow you to "erase" a score - if you retook the test, prospective colleges saw both scores. The ACT allowed you to only send the highest one (or to choose which set of scores to send, if you did better one time with some subjects and better the other time with others).

Prep involves drilling some of the more common vocabulary words which show up on the test, getting used to the formats of math problems used, and practicing things like analogies and critical reading. I worked for a company which produced SAT and ACT prep books, so I got to do a LOT of this in detail for several years :-P

cornflake
08-11-2015, 09:06 AM
Worth mentioning: this may have changed in recent years, but when I took them (SAT and ACT both), the SAT didn't allow you to "erase" a score - if you retook the test, prospective colleges saw both scores. The ACT allowed you to only send the highest one (or to choose which set of scores to send, if you did better one time with some subjects and better the other time with others).

Prep involves drilling some of the more common vocabulary words which show up on the test, getting used to the formats of math problems used, and practicing things like analogies and critical reading. I worked for a company which produced SAT and ACT prep books, so I got to do a LOT of this in detail for several years :-P

The SAT does have score choice now, which lets you send only the scores you want, same as the ACT. Neither allows you to only send certain sections alone - you send the whole score.

Cyia
08-11-2015, 09:12 AM
SAT's had score choice since at least the late 90's, and while you can't break the test apart to send the best scores from different attempts, many schools do exactly that on their end. High tier schools get bragging rights from their scores, so it's in their interest to take the best lit scores and add them to the best math, and now the best essay, too.