kitchen table math, the sequel: how many times should a junior take the SAT?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

how many times should a junior take the SAT?

Any thoughts?

22 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Once, unless they are sick on the day of the test or otherwise perform greatly different from expectations.

You can game the system a bit by taking it twice and reporting the better of the two scores, but there is not much expected gain from the random variation in test scores by taking it many times.

SteveH said...

Don't some colleges ask to see all scores? I thought that the idea now is to do all of the practice informally, but take the test once, unless you really score below your expected range. That brings up a question I have. Where are you getting all of these tests? How accurately do they reflect the real test?

What about the PSAT? Do some students skip that and just take the SAT?

Anonymous said...

Steve:

(1) I think you can pay extra to "superscore" and send only your best scores on the report. Not sure, though.

(2) They should all take the PSAT because it's also the NMQT.

Anonymous said...

that's what I get by being in too much of a hurry... a typo...

NMSQT: National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

SteveH said...

At my son's high school, the normal procedure is to take the PSAT in your junior year and SAT in your senior year. Some take the PSAT as a sophomore. I knew about the NMSQT, so I suppose that there is no reason not to take the PSAT.

However, I have heard that some colleges ask for and expect to get all of the official SAT test scores that are available. Does anyone know whether the PSAT scores get sent along with the SAT scores?

Anonymous said...

As long as folks are passing along urban myths about the PSAT/SAT, how about the notion that you get 200 points for getting your name right, or that you should always guess "C" if you're guessing, or that you should never guess?

Most of the questions being posed here can readily be answered by looking at the SAT site, or talking to a non-brain-damaged guidance counselor. Or contacting a local college admissions officer.

First, there is NO standard policy adhered to by all universities and colleges regarding how they view standardized test scores.

Second, the PSAT is a preliminary test, and its score are never reported to colleges. It IS used in lieu of the long-vanished NMSQT to determine qualification for the National Merit Scholarship (not exactly a king's ransom, but these days, every nickel really helps).

As for how many times someone "should" take the SAT or ACT (I'm in the midwest, where that test is more dominant, particularly as it's used by states such as Michigan as a mandatory test for NCLB and scholarship and high school graduation purposes), there's no one right answer. In the '60s, most students took it twice: once in spring of their junior year, once in fall of their senior year. Now, with early decision, some kids take it much sooner, some at the end of the sophomore year and many in fall of their junior year. But taking it three times never was considered a big deal for a long time. The military academies were amongst the first to officially announce that they were going to AVERAGE all scores submitted. So you need to do your homework to determine what's best for your kid.

I find it interesting to see so much speculation and disinformation posted here on something so important. A bright person might wonder what other empty speculation and disinformation makes their way here about, say, mathematics education reform.

Anonymous said...

Make that "make their way" ;^)

Jo in OKC said...

My daughter's high school has all juniors take the PSAT, the ACT (twice) and the SAT (once).

Then, all seniors take the ACT (once) and the SAT (once).

You can opt out of further testing on the ACT by scoring 34 or better.

You can opt out of further SAT testing by scoring 2300 or better.

My daughter goes to a state math & science boarding school, though.

Personally, I think their testing schedule is a little much.

I had a friend who asked about multiple testings when visiting colleges. They told her that if you took a test more than 3 times it became an extracurricular activity and they'd rather see other extracurricular activities than that one. :-)

SteveH said...

"I find it interesting to see so much speculation and disinformation posted here on something so important. A bright person might wonder what other empty speculation and disinformation makes their way here about, say, mathematics education reform."


Oh Ho! A hidden agenda.

Specifically, what part is speculation and what part is disinformation? A "bright person" would know the difference between the two. A "bright person" would also not resort to snide comments in place of cogent argument, unless there isn't any.

Jen said...

Yes, several of Anonymous' "facts" aren't quite true.

For instance: "Second, the PSAT is a preliminary test, and its score are never reported to colleges. It IS used in lieu of the long-vanished NMSQT "

I have my son's "2010 PSAT/NMSQT Score Report Plus" right beside me -- the NMSQT name at least hasn't vanished!

Similarly, saying that all schools treat scores their own way doesn't mean that discussing it is somehow silly. It just means you can't make blanket statements about "all schools..." which is something people here seem to understand!

I'd agree that more than 3 tries is silly. But, since colleges have to report average SAT scores to be ranked and rated, you can bet they report the best scores for that, even if they average for admissions.


My son's school makes everyone take the PSAT as a 10th grader (it doesn't count for National Merit) and again as a junior. He took take the January SAT as a junior. His older brother who ended up taking it twice (one score was lower than it should have been) did tell him to listen to mom and practice.

Although if he were in that boarding school and would have to look for 20 extra points, he'll not be taking it again.

The likelihood of someone in the 2200-2300 range increasing their score on a second try isn't that great, unless they have clear problems with one section. That is, they get 1600 points from two sections and then a 600 on the third for a 2200 -- well, they'll likely be able to improve that 600 some. All three over 700 (2100) -- I'm not sure I'd chance the second try.

His SAT score report doesn't list his PSAT results.

Catherine Johnson said...

They told her that if you took a test more than 3 times it became an extracurricular activity and they'd rather see other extracurricular activities than that one.

I love it!

Jo, if you're around, what is the reason for taking the ACT twice?

fyi: SAT sends out data on what kind of score changes students see -- score changes are minimal & go in both directions.

C. is suddenly wanting to take the SAT in May AND in June.

I don't see any reason why he should do that, but he wants to.

His big goal is not to have to take the test in October -- i.e. not to spend the summer working on math. (He doesn't see the May-June schedule as a way around this; I don't know why May suddenly popped up as a desirable thing. Maybe his friends are taking the test in May...)

Catherine Johnson said...

A "bright person" would also not resort to snide comments in place of cogent argument

ditto that!

Catherine Johnson said...

Jen -

I agree on the score issue. C's writing and reading scores (on practice tests) tend to be quite high: quite high meaning he breaks 700.

That's plenty, as far as I'm concerned. First of all, I'm still mulling over the question of whether the reading section can be tutored at all (although I **think** the writing multiple choice ought to be more tutorable...).

In any case, we're doing reading sections just 'cuz; I **think** C. learns something new each time he misses a Critical Reading or Writing question. But I don't expect practice to bump him up beyond 700 or 710 or so.

Our focus is math, which is the section that is apparently the most tutorable -- and obviously is his weak area, relatively speaking.

With math, I'm pushing him towards a 700. He would have no interest in doing that on his own.

At this point, I think SAT math prep is terrifically valuable period, so I'm glad the SAT is giving us this opportunity to practice.

But the big issue (I know I've mentioned this before) is that we have free tuition at NYU & C. needs high scores to get in.

We want him to have a 2100, which is an ambitious goal.

Since I'm skeptical that either of us has any idea how to bump his Reading/Writing scores much beyond 700, that means we need to go for a 700 on math - or close to.

At this point, given his sudden leap, I'm thinking we can more or less 'count on' a 650 - which may be good enough.

We'll see.

Catherine Johnson said...

C's school (Jesuit high school) has everyone take the PSAT sophomore year and junior year again. C. did quite well the second go-round.

Last summer he worked his way through...gosh, what book was it??

It was a PSAT book -- Barron's, I think.

His math score leaped up.

Let's see...I just found his scores.

Sophomore year he scored a 46 on math! That was the 60th percentile.

One year later, and after working through the Barron's book and taking a one-week PSAT course at his school, he scored a 63 (don't know what percentile that was).

Catherine Johnson said...

His math education has been so bad over the years that the test prep we're doing really functions as a kind of remedial work.

Very helpful.

Catherine Johnson said...

Speaking of remedial work, he's still scared of circles!

He sees a circle problem and blanks.

I told him last night: no more being scared of circles.

We both used to feel that way about function problems. I've barely studied functions at all, and C. has now spent quite a bit of time learning functions (albeit from yet another not-great teacher this year - arrrgh). So he got with the program on function problems before I did.

Lately he's been trying to solve SAT questions using trigonometry, which is what he's studying at school.

That is not a good idea as far as I can tell.

(teacher update: he's had two quite good math teachers at his parochial high school but this year we've got big trouble)

Anonymous said...

Catherine,

Last year I heard that some colleges were counting only the best subtest scores for the ACT. So, taking it more than once might be a good idea for some kids (like mine, I'm sure.)

Our school is having the sophomores take an old ACT test for practice. I think it's a good idea, but I had to contact his guidance counselor to get more info on exactly what the test would be used for or whether it would be sent to schools.

Schools across the country do different things regarding the SAT/ACT, which is apparent by the different comments here. We all have been to the College Board, so I have no idea what "urban legends" have to do with this thread.

After coming to this site daily for about 5-6 years, I've learned not to count on the schools to inform me of anything, not with any clarity.

And even good guidance counselors will omit important information if you don't ask the specific questions, which is one of the reasons we all have different ideas about college and test prep.

What I find helpful about a little test prep is that it can flush out the dumb mistakes. My son should make a 36 on the ACT math subtest with no problem, but he tends to miss easy questions, while getting the more difficult ones.

One time he just missed a few that were sitting in front of him on the page. He just didn't "see" them. That would have messed up his bubble filling big time. Another time he didn't finish even though it states in bold, "Go on to the next page." He just stopped. Just reminding him of these things could make a pretty significant difference in his scores.

SusanS

Catherine Johnson said...

After coming to this site daily for about 5-6 years, I've learned not to count on the schools to inform me of anything, not with any clarity.

That's for sure.

Besides which, we seem to have not-good guidance counseling at C's parochial high school. Doesn't seem good to us - and Ed said parents were complaining bitterly when he went to the last parent-teacher conferences.

Catherine Johnson said...

Another time he didn't finish even though it states in bold, "Go on to the next page."

So far I have NOT done that.

Jo in OKC said...

You asked why they take the ACT twice as a junior. I *think* it's because we're in an ACT area -- it's by far the most dominant test around here.

The schools are ranked in this state by their ACT average, so getting it up there is a big deal. Also, there are many scholarships and awards keyed to ACT score.

Also, since the kids are in a math & science boarding school, it's very likely that their math and science scores will go up (any kids who come in without pre-calc take it in the fall of junior year. Since there is some trig on the ACT, finishing that course should improve their math score.).

For certain kids, the ACT is a much better test -- they naturally score better on the ACT than the SAT. For others, the SAT is the better way to show their abilities.

OK tends to have a high SAT average because only the best kids in the state take the SAT.

Crimson Wife said...

I'm planning to have my DD take both the SAT and the ACT in 11th. Whichever one she does better upon she'll retake as a senior.

Bostonian said...

Catherine Johnson wrote "His math education has been so bad over the years that the test prep we're doing really functions as a kind of remedial work."

I have thought of using preparation for the math SAT is in a similar way for my kids. If your children have plenty of time before their scores have high stakes, they can focus on the math rather than test-taking strategies. One way to do this would be to transform the SAT multiple choice questions to short-answer questions by hiding the answer choices. (One could copy SAT questions and black out the answers.) I will want to see if my children can figure out the answer, not guess the answer.

As 11th grade, approaches, I would have my children practice in a more realistic format.