balancing time/training and academic prep

<p>I know many of you may see this question as more appropriate in the general forum but the PSAT and SAT threads there seem to be filled with folks "discussing" how to get merit scholarship, top scores and such. So I apologize but hope some of you here with experience can help.</p>

<p>DD just got her PSAT scores back and they are solid and probably better than we expected given that we have seen her as a "poor" test-taker. Her overall score is just at the 80th percentile and total combined of 170. If I use the equation ETS gives to predict SAT's this puts her pretty safely in the acceptance range of the schools she is interested in. So one question is - how closely do the scores on PSATs and SATs correlate? </p>

<p>DD is most interested in smaller liberal arts schools that have an arts/theatre administration program or similar. Most of these will keep her in some training and attached to theatre/MT/ or dance (she is not too concerned which of these three) while picking up the administration and business parts. BUT for us to be able to afford to send her to these schools she must get solid academic scholarships. As I look at most of the schools scholarship cut-offs, she is around the lowest end. (Her GPA and class rank are all fine but it is not exactly a whiz-bang academic school.)</p>

<p>DD will maintain a full training and performing schedule in her senior year (she is at a PA so it isn't really an option not too, but is also less burdensome than picking them all up out of school.) But even with this her time is very limited so we would like to use it well. So the question is, are some of the SAT prep courses worth the time even if it means overloading?</p>

<p>DD had intended to work professionally away from home this summer, but this is not essential so she could do a summer prep if they are valuable.</p>

<p>So to make the questions more clear and general
1. How well do PSAT scores equate to latter SATs or ACTS?
2. How helpful are prep courses?
3. Given MT kids limited time and stress budgets, are they worth it?</p>

<p>It is hard to say how the PSAT will predict SAT scores as I see it is a preliminary baseline score and even with the passage of time, a student's score on the SAT should increase over the PSAT. But students should do some PREP for the SAT and so that is another way the score would increase. Think of the PSAT as a starting point and the score may go up (I suppose it could go down but students shoud do some prep and the score should be the same or go up on the SAT). </p>

<p>There are no hard and fast rules about what I just posted above, however. That may just be more typical, that's all. But here is an example of how you can't predict it necessarily. I have a student who is a current college applicant and she is graduating HS a year early. She took her PSAT in Oct. and her SAT in Nov. Her PSAT score is 160 points higher than her SAT score, though she just retook the SAT in Dec. She is unusual a both the PSAT and SAT were taken back to back, unlike most students. MOST of my students tend to go up on the SAT from how they did earlier on the PSAT. There is often a good six months in junior year betwee the PSAT and SAT. </p>

<p>On a personal note, my youngest D never took the PSAT as she had to nix it in tenth grade due to a family emergency and then took her SATs in spring of tenth grade and graduated a year early and so did not bother with the PSAT in 11th as she was already done her SATs in tenth. My older D who took the PSATs in tenth and eleventh, did WAY better on the SATs but due to prep (which she did not prep for the PSATs) which leads me to the next question you have. </p>

<p>I am not too keen on SAT prep courses. I think they have limited value and do not always end with results. I would not change summer plans to do SAT prep courses! These courses are more suitable to a low to average student. But they are not geared toward individuals and are less useful for an above average student. HOWEVER, I think all kids should do SAT prep. The best prep is taking practice tests that are timed using REAL past SAT tests put out by the College Board and then reviewing the answers. Do this for a few months and your score should go up. My kids raised their CR/M scores (back then the Writing was not part of the regular SAT and they took the SAT Subject Tests too) 200 points with some prep. </p>

<p>It is also free and can be worked around one's busy schedule. You don't need 3 1/2 hours at a crack to take a practice test. Do timed practice sections and go over the answers. </p>

<p>If you are going to spend money on prep, a private tutor is more helpful than a prep class as the tutor can gear the help to the areas on the test you are weakest in. But the student should still be doing practice timed tests. </p>

<p>Doing NO prep is a bad idea. The tests are a necessary evil but it makes no sense to do NOTHING to prepare. I would not make it a major focus but through some practice, one can do better usually on the test. I think doing two SAT (or ACT) sittings by the end of junior year gets the testing out of the way so that senior year can focus on the applications and audition prep. i think putting four months of junior year into some test prep is a good idea while not making it the major focus.</p>

<p>Agree if you can afford it private tutor is the way to be most time efficient. Did you order the Student Answer Service? Just got my d's results but (maybe dumb question) they only sent the answer sheet. Doesn't she need the test actual questions to figure out what she did wrong? Telling her question 8 on cr was wrong tells us very little. Can't believe I had to pay extra for such limited info.</p>

<p>Just have to chime in here and mildly disagree with my friend soozievt: I know many good-to-outstanding students who have benefitted from certain SAT prep courses. Good SAT prep courses can help a student learn some very handy and effective test-taking skills, such as how to tackle various sections, essay-writing tips and so on. The school that my older daughter (now at Tisch) attended for 9th grade, in fact, has as part of its curriculum an SAT prep course (contracted to an outside firm -- not Kaplan or Princeton ... a local outfit) that the kids took once a week. If this school didn't think it was a benefit, it wouldn't waste the kids' time. (Research shows that female students, in particular, do better when they have practice on things like test taking.) </p>

<p>I think the benefit of the prep classes vary from program to program and student to student.</p>

<p>^^I agree that the results from the SAT prep courses vary from program to program and from student to student. They CAN have value. The results are uneven. </p>

<p>I ENTIRELY agree that PRACTICE is needed. </p>

<p>If given a choice, I would ideally pick either a tutor or taking timed practice tests on one's own and analyzing the answers (or both). My third choice would be test prep classes (if one also still takes practice timed tests). All these are options to consider. My last choice would be NO prep (and tied with that would be to focus too much on the SATs over other I would not make it the summer plan over something in theater, but would fit prep in over many months at one's convenience).</p>

<p>"DD is most interested in smaller liberal arts schools that have an arts/theatre administration program or similar."</p>

<p>keepingcalm, is your daughter looking primarily at BA programs? If so, then test scores as well as academic record will be of particular importance not only for scholarships but of course for admissions purposes as compared to BFA programs. I agree with soozie to the extent that most commercial SAT prep courses are large group affairs that are poorly suited to focusing on individual student needs. (This, I think, is different than the prep classes within one's own school that NMR mentions.) soozie is absolutely right that taking timed practice tests using past tests available from the College Board is essential, but I also think that individual tutoring can be an invaluable way to identify areas of weakness, remediate them and learn important test taking technique and would strongly urge it if it is within your budget for what can be an expensive college application process. We used a husband and wife team of teachers who did tutoring at night and on weekends at a cost comparable to most commercial courses and my daughter found it to be very beneficial. Individual tutoring also permits flexibility in scheduling that can be very important given your daughter's other commitments.</p>

<p>Thanks so much. During my college application life the no prep route was pretty much what everyone took, so it is hard for me to get my head around the shifts in college admissions. I had not really thought about a tutor but this is something I will look into. DD's writing scores were lowest and as a college professor I know that writing ability has become a huge issue. THus hopefully a strong tutor can help build all around writing ability as well as work on test prep.</p>

<p>DD does need to practice with the timed tests because she only finished 1 of the 3 sections of the PSAT and test taking speed has always been an issue. The hint about girls doing better knowing the test probably fits DD to a tee.</p>

<p>Some of my concern for all of this, but particularly the test prep courses is that it seems like punishment on one level. But some coaching to build speed and conifidence is what sounds most effective.
I would like DD to do well enough on the SATs and PSATs this spring so we don't have to do them at all next year. As i said, we are not shooting for the Ivy league or highly selective academics so smarter strategies not remediation is how I will go about looking. Oddly enough, I teach test prep classes for some of my students, but I have never been an advocate of tutoring your own child if it can be avoided.</p>

<p>Keepingcalm, </p>

<p>For my older D, one of her issues was being able to finish the test in the allotted time. She was a top student (straight As, hardest classes, valedictorian, yadda yadda) but her PSAT score was not in range with her other "stats" and a lot of it was due to her losing points by not finishing the test. She did about six or so private tutoring sessions and about six practice timed tests as well. From fall of junior year to spring of junior year, her CR/ M (again, Writing was not part of the SAT at that time) went up 200 points. She finally was able to finish the test on time through some practice.</p>

<p>For D2, she did not bother with a tutor. She took about four or so timed practice tests over the winter of tenth grade (was an early graduate) and raised her baseline score 200 points by her final test in May of tenth grade. My kids also did the Subject Tests (including Writing) and got all testing out of the way prior to the application season. </p>

<p>So, I agree with Michael that a private tutor is very useful as indeed for a few months, my older D used one. It is just that it is expensive and so I also think taking timed practice tests which is free is very useful and that even if using a tutor to hone in on weak spots, one should still take timed practice tests.</p>

<p>Taking practice tests is a great way to prepare for the SAT. Make sure to take them under time conditions. </p>

<p>One thing to note is that a number of schools do not weight the writing/essay section as heavily as they do the other two. It seems that the scoring of the writing section is controversial, mainly because (and this is the way it was at least last year) kids can use (and I know this is an oxymoron!) "erroneous facts" in their essays and as long as those untruths are written well, they don't get points off. For instance, a kid could write that Columbus discovered America in the 1600s, and not have points deducted. Some educators believe this is wrong: what the kids write should be factual, etc.</p>

<p>My D definitely benefited and raised her points taking a course on SAT/ACT prep in school. That said I have never liked the tests of the ETS now College Board finding them more akin to "Guess which answer we think is right" rather than true logic, knowledge and reasoning. (Think I feel a bit strongly on this subject?). The ACT on the other hand is a test geared more towards accumulated knowledge. Many times, my daughter and I are examples, one does much better on one test than the other. My daughter concentrated on the ACT because she did much better on it and it reflected more closely her grades and achievement. It was accepted at all the colleges she applied including Ivies. I would really encourage everyone to take both tests and find out which one is your strength.</p>

<p>HoosierMom, good suggestion! One reason that some kids find that certain SAT prep classes are helpful is that the SAT does, indeed, seem to try to trip kids up by asking questions that can be confusing or for which there seems to be more than one right answer. For the heck of it, I took a section of a practice SAT in reading comprehension (one of my absolute strong suits ... I was a very successful English major in college and have made my living reading and writing) and was shocked that I didn't do better, mainly because my assessment of "the main idea of this paragraph" differed from that of the test makers. Some good SAT prep courses and or tutors can help kids learn how to answer those questions best. </p>

<p>As HM said, the ACT is more a real "achievement" test, because it is more straightforward and test accumulated knowledge. Be aware, however, that the ACT includes a science section that some kids find troublesome and challenging. </p>

<p>Remember, too, that though doing well on these standardized tests is important, they are only one piece of the admissions puzzle, especially for performers.</p>

<p>When doing the practice tests, I recommend to actually practice them at the same time of day that your test may be administered, such as early Saturday morning (after being out late at a football game Friday night!) Most of us perform differently at different times of the day. Some kids (mine especially) are night owls and can sail through things late in the day/evening, but struggle to comprehend in the early morning. Of course, some are the opposite and do their best work early, but I do think it is important to practice at least once or twice at the exam time.</p>

<p>My D, who is a junior, just took her first SAT last Saturday. She has spent this fall doing practice tests out of the College Board SAT book. She will receive her scores later this month and I am forwarding them to a friend of mine that teaches SAT prep classes and also does private tutoring. My D is one that has the straight A's in all AP and honors classes, but does not test as well on standardized tests.</p>

<p>She will have some private sessions in January and February then take the SAT again. After that she will take the ACT in the spring and see how she scores and then we will decide if she needs more tutoring and needs to attempt the SAT's once again before school is out for the summer.</p>