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Risk of ACT/SAT score jumps

inthegardeninthegarden 1189 replies24 threads Senior Member
I've been cautioned not to let my daughter take the ACT cold/unprepped because of the risk of being accused of cheating if there are big score jumps in subsequent tests.

But what about the SAT? Has this issue been as problematic, with College Board looking askance at big score differences?

I'm asking because my junior daughter is suddenly thinking she should register for the December SAT (most of her friends are) and she has only prepped sporatically with Khan Academy. I'm telling her March is early enough, but she doesn't want to delay. I don't mind spending the money for the test (if it helps her to get serious about prepping) but I worry she won't have enough time and may have later scores forfeited if she improves a lot between tests.


It may be a moot point, anyway because she took the PSAT (and the PSAT 10 last year) so college board already has those baseline scores for her. I'm a little afraid because she did quite well in ER last year (for tenth grade) but really bombed the math section (almost 200 points lower!) While math is not her easiest subject, the score did not come close to her ability (high "A"s in honors math, now in pre-calc/trig) and I think she is a student who really needs to prep for math in order to do well.

Thanks in advance!
edited November 5
15 replies
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Replies to: Risk of ACT/SAT score jumps

  • skieuropeskieurope 39558 replies7171 threads Super Moderator
    I have not heard of the same issues with SAT scores being challenged. Obviously, there are cases, as a percentage, ACT seems higher. Not data,just based on gut.

    That said, I am not a fan of taking either to establish a baseline; that's what practice tests are for, IMO.
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1267 replies2 threads Senior Member
    If she's already taken a PSAT, I wouldn't worry about it. I also wouldn't really consider it a "baseline" for a junior who's already taken the PSAT. Prepping with Khan is fine.
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1189 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited November 5
    Thanks, @skieurope, @NJWrestlingmom, do you think a month is reasonable prep time if she does study a bit every day (30-60 minutes?) Her band season just finished so she has more time than usual.

    Don't expect her to be "one and done" but testing once might make her take prep more seriously for the March test. Hoping to be able to test only twice, max three times.
    edited November 5
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  • fencingmomfencingmom 156 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @inthegarden You can simulate official tests by taking them at a test prep company where they are proctored. Test prep companies usually let you sit for the first one free, and then of course try to sell you services. The prep services are often quite good, depending on your child's issues but do your homework beforehand.

    I don't think it's too early to start thinking about this. Ideally, your daughter could be done with testing before the conclusion of Junior year.
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1189 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited November 5
    Thanks, @fencingmom, I doubt we live anywhere near a test prep company, but that information may help someone else reading this. I can look into it, though.

    Really hope to be finished before senior year. Don't plan for her to be taking test after test in the hopes of getting it ever-higher (not looking at T20s). At least one of her favorite targets is test-optional. It would be a shame though, for her (likely) solid ER score not to be seen because of a lower math score, especially as she won't be majoring in STEM.

    She asked the GC for old paper tests to practice on but was told just to take the online practice tests.
    edited November 5
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  • fencingmomfencingmom 156 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited November 5
    @inthegarden If she's a shaky test taker, you could simulate it yourself by going to a library at 8am and acting as the "proctor" as your daughter takes the test. Taking it, at the time, in a new location, and on paper helps to mitigate those test morning jitters.

    If math is the issue, that's good news. Tips, tricks, and formulas go a long way here, nothing subjective. There's a Kahn academy study course that might be a good option. I would suggest getting a baseline and then creating a spreadsheet on what kinds of problems she's getting wrong. The more practice tests, the more data and patterns will emerge. This way she can study smarter by just practicing in areas where she has trouble. The "blanket approach" isn't very effective and can lead to study burn-out. No need to go over what you already know.

    Good Luck!
    edited November 5
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1189 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited November 5
    Thank you! She's sitting at the dining room table (as opposed to holing herself up in her room, as usual) doing Khan Academy right now. The best part is that she annnounced ""Mom, I'm starting my SAT practice tonight!" She's thorough when SHE decides to be...(hence fine grades) but it has to be on her terms. That's why I decided to go with her decision to test in December.

    The spreadsheet is a great idea. We'll try a practice test this weekend. She's done consistently well in yearly state and PARCC testing (even in math) and does fine on school tests, so she doesn't have a real testing disability. I hope the PSAT10 was more of a fluke than anything. However, I do think she has a hard time when many different math problems/concepts/formulas are thrown at her all at once, since she isn't intuitively a math person. She really has to put her mind to reviewing everything again that she learned in school. She HAS always been intuitively verbal (taught herself to read at age three) and a voracious reader.
    edited November 5
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 26882 replies175 threads Senior Member
    absolutely, CB will challenge score jumps. But regardless, one should only take the SAT/ACT when one is fully prepared. Taking it as a practice is both a waste of $ and a good Saturday morning, which could be better used for sleeping.

    The correct and only answer is to take a practice test at home under timed conditions and see how she does.
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  • fencingmomfencingmom 156 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @inthegarden
    However, I do think she has a hard time when many different math problems/concepts/formulas are thrown at her all at once

    This is where the target practice comes into play. The more of these problems you do, the more familiar they become. When she sees them the day of the test she'll say -- oh yeah, I remember this kind of problem, I know this. This is what's so promising, if you will, about an initial low math score. There are only so many types of problems, a specific amount of formulas, certain knowledge covered with clear answers. Not so in the reading portion of the test.

    It's great your daughter has initiative. She's starting with enough buffer to give even the most stubborn math learners enough time to not only master the math but the topography of the test (which frankly is most of it).
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  • hokiemama24hokiemama24 28 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Out of curiosity, what "increase" is considered too big of a jump that it would garner a red flag for ACT or CB? My junior child is taking the tests for the first time officially in Dec also, and like @inthegarden I suspect it will be what lights a fire to finally start using all of the test prep I've made available to her for the past year that she hasn't fully explored. But I also wouldn't say she's taking it to establish a baseline either, she's taken practice tests at school since freshman year and is pretty familiar with what score range she is likely going to fall within. Its just that I expect her competitive nature to kick in once she gets that official first score. No clue if she *will* or *could* achieve higher after that but think she'll probably want to try. But now I'm curious what level of increase would cause us to have to worry about scrutiny.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2344 replies43 threads Senior Member
    "Out of curiosity, what "increase" is considered too big of a jump that it would garner a red flag for ACT"

    5 points seems to be the magic number for ACT.

    For admittance purposes only, however, I wouldn't worry too much about it, especially if you're full pay or nearly so. I haven't heard of anyone whose acceptance has been rescinded over a disputed ACT score. Scholarships and possibly athletic eligibility, OTOH, have been put at risk for some students. Plan accordingly, and when in doubt, prepare for the test ahead of time. There's lots of time and money savings to be had for getting a "one and done" score.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1107 replies16 threads Senior Member
    bluebayou wrote: »
    absolutely, CB will challenge score jumps. .
    I didn’t realize it was this absolute. Please share the exact conditions and cutoffs. And how my D got away with increasing her score.
    bluebayou wrote: »
    The correct and only answer is

    I guess there’s no point for me or anyone else to add anything based on our experiences...
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  • sushirittosushiritto 4130 replies12 threads Senior Member
    The CB states:
    Student scores are never placed under review or cancelled simply because of score gains.
    Let us be more than clear. We celebrate score gains by students and have dedicated scholarships for students who improve.

    However, there are other reasons for the CB reviewing an SAT score.

    https://www.collegeboard.org/membership/all-access/counseling-admissions-academic/clarifying-college-board-s-score-review-process
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39558 replies7171 threads Super Moderator
    sushiritto wrote: »
    The CB states:

    Well, that settles it then. Because the CB has never been anything but straightforward. :)
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  • taverngirltaverngirl 1010 replies29 threads Senior Member
    S jumped from 26 to 32. If CB is going to challenge the score jump, when would that happen? He did have a few tutoring sessions, learning some tips and tricks on how to avoid silly mistakes.
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