Archive for the ‘Test Prep’ Category

Juniors, Here Is A List of What To Expect When You Are Expecting to Go To College

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Most college admission officers will tell you, from the spring semester of a student’s junior year through the fall semester of that student’s senior year, they should be heading full tilt towards college.  What does that mean?  It means this is the time for students to get serious about the college selection process.  Here is a timeline, to help you know what to expect when you are expecting to go to college.


If possible, start visiting colleges.  In order to do that, you need to speak with your guidance counselor or college adviser and craft an initial list of schools.  Possibly take the ACT for the first time, if you haven’t yet.  Register for the March SAT.  Prepare for both tests.


Most high schools begin their course selection for senior year.  Remember to take a challenging curriculum.  Register for the April ACT.  Continue studying for both tests.  College Visits!  If you want to play sports in college, start contacting coaches.


Register for the May SAT or SAT II’s.  You will need to take the SAT II Subject Tests if you are applying to some colleges.  If you are taking an AP test that correlates with an SAT II test, then I recommend you take the SAT II in May, as the May test date is right in the middle of AP Exams, and all the content will be fresh in your head.  If you have registered for it, take the ACT test.  Continue your college visits and start to narrow down your list of schools.


Take the SAT or SAT II’s, if you have registered for the test.  Register for the June SAT or SAT II, or ACT.  Study for the tests!  Get your results back from the April ACT or the May SAT.  Decide if you need to take the test again, and what you need to study.  Start studying for your final exams.  Junior year is the last full year of classes that the colleges will see.  Your grades are always the primary factor in the decision whether to admit you to college or deny you.  Start planning what you are going to do over the summer.  If you think might want to have one of your current teachers write you a letter of recommendation, ask now, so he or she can write the letter over the Summer.


Take your high school exams, if you haven’t yet.  Take the SAT or SAT II, or the ACT.  Most colleges are out of session now, so visits might not be as effective as when classes are in session.  But, it is better to visit in the Summer than to never visit at all.  Review your test results and plan which tests you need to retake in the Fall and how you are going to prepare.  Contact college coaches again to let them know which camps, tournaments, etcetera you will be attending over the Summer.


Have a little fun!  OK, now back to work.  Review your of schools and start narrowing it down to the final schools to which you are going to apply.  Start writing your personal statement or college essay.  Work a summer job, go to a summer program, or perform some community service.  Make certain to stay active.


The Common Application becomes available.  Start an account online, and start filling out your application.  Work on your college essay!  The best writing takes abundant rewriting, so be sure to give yourself enough time to write a good essay.  Get a list together of all school requirements for the schools to which you are applying (how many teacher recommendations, extra essays, interviews, et cetera).  Touch base with any teachers you have asked to write a letter of recommendation for you.  You can now provide them with the Common Application’s Teacher Evaluation form.  Visit colleges.  Interview for college.  Decide if and where you will apply Early Decision and or Early Action.  Study for standardized tests.  Register for September ACT.


Keep up your grades.  Put finishing touches on applications.  Continue college interviews.  Request teacher recommendations.  Finalize your college list.  Review the list to make sure you have at least one admission “safe” school and one financial “safe” school.  If you do not have a financial “safety”, use to find one.  Take ACT again if necessary. Register for October SAT, if necessary.  Study for standardized tests.


Take SAT and ACT if necessary.  Request transcripts from your guidance office.  Finalize and submit applications for your Early Action and Early Decision schools.  Continue visits and interviews.  Send thank you notes to anyone you had interviewed with previously.  Make certain you have requested your letters of recommendation.  Send thank you letters to teachers who have written you recommendations.  Check on financial aid deadlines to the schools to which you are applying.  Register for November SAT, if necessary.

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Juniors, Don’t Wait Till Senior Year for the College Onslaught

Monday, February 14th, 2011

It is hard to believe, but we are already in the middle of February.  Most college admission officers will tell juniors that from now on they should be completely focused on college.  But, what does that mean?  First, you need to prepare for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and SAT II if required by target colleges).  Ideally you would have all standardized tests completed by the end of junior year, so you can devote the summer to drafting your essays and completing applications. 

Second, continue to compile a transcript with rigorous courses and participate in meaningful activities.  The most important piece of the college admission puzzle is your transcript.  So, keep getting good grades and make sure to choose your classes wisely for next year.  Colleges do not want to see you taking it easy in your senior year.  In fact, a recent study corroborated what guidance counselors have been telling students for years: taking harder classes improves your chances of getting in more than improving your grades or your SAT/ACT scores. 

Third, visit target colleges to create “demonstrated interest” and learn about schools.  This is invaluable.  You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first, so you shouldn’t attend a college without thoroughly evaluating it.  In additon to visiting the campus to show demonstrated interest, you can also find local college fairs that the colleges youa re interested in will be attending.  The NACAC college fairs are great, as you get a large number of colleges in one place, and typically they are attended by members of the college’s admission staff and not just local alumni recruiters.

Finally, as we near the end of the year start to approach teachers who know you best to request letters of recommendation. If they seem excited, get contact information so you can send the recommendation forms when they become available in July.

Buckle up, you are in for a wild ride.  But, if you take the time to plan carefully, you will have a number of great options and it will all be worth it in the end.

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5 Study Techniques To Ace Your Next Test

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Studying for a test can be an overwhelming task, especially if it is one you know that you have to perform well on. Some tests can cover so much information it’s hard to even know what to even begin studying, much less how to actually go about doing it. When it comes to studying there is no right or wrong way to go about it, but there are a few techniques that can help you along the way.

1. Active Reading

Rather than just skimming over your textbook you should take the time to actively read it. This means never beginning a reading assignment without a writing utensil in your hand. Active reading involves highlighting important vocabulary, underlining main concepts, and writing notes in the margins. This technique not only helps to emphasize information in your mind, it enables you to stay focused on the material so that you actually understand what you are reading.

2. Note Taking

It may seem like a no brainer, but taking notes is not just something you do to look busy in class, it’s something you do to prepare for a test. Actively taking notes while listening to a lecture, helps you to better process what your professor is saying and understand what is being discussed. Try to put the information in your own words and be sure to write down anything you find significant or intriguing. Remember to not get so carried away with writing notes that you actually stop listening to what the professor is saying. You don’t have to write down everything that comes out of his mouth, just the main points, concepts, and definitions.

3. Regular Review

Take the time to review your lecture notes while the information is still fresh on your mind. This will make you more likely to remember it, as well as understand upcoming information that might build upon previously discussed concepts. You don’t have to spend a lot of time reviewing either, you can glance over the notes that you just took in one class while walking to your next one, or you can spend some time that night reviewing all of the lecture notes from your classes that day. Getting into the habit of reviewing your notes on a regular basis will make it a lot easier when it comes to test time, as you won’t have to cram information from 12 different lectures into your head all at once.

4. Chunking

When the typical college exam covers multiple chapters, the amount if information you need to study can really add up. By breaking it down this information and “chunking” it into smaller parts, you will find that is more manageable. Separate exam content into categories, such as topics, theories, chapters, or methods, and then chunk information into each category. You can then take a day to focus on each of these categories and study the content within each one. It won’t take long for you to realize that by mentally associating information with particular categories, you are not only able to learn information faster but recall it easier.

5. Mnemonics

Mnemonics are memory techniques that help you learn and remember important information. Some popular types of mnemonics involve creating words or phrases. You can make up acronyms, which are words that are formed from a combination of the initial letters in a phrase or series of words. For example, the acronym PEMDAS stands for the sequence of steps involved in solving a math equation; parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. You can use acrostics to help you recall larger amounts of information. An acrostic is a sentence or phrase that is made up of the first letter of each word that symbolizes what you need to remember. For example, the popular phrase “Every Good Boy Does Fine” is an acrostic to help one recall the treble clef notes, which are the notes of E, G, B, D, and F.


This guest post is contributed by Olivia Coleman, who writes on the topics of online colleges and universities.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: olivia.coleman33

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Understanding SAT Score Choice

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

After talking with parents this week and reading a number of blog posts, it appears that there is still a great deal of confusion about the SAT Score Choice policy. Nancy Griesemer does a great job of detailing the problems created by score choice in her College Exploration blog. In fact, you can here is a link to her most recent blog post, “More Headaches From Score Choice.” You can also visit the College Board’s web page to get more information on their policy. In this post I would like to tackle the common questions I receive and misconceptions that I have overheard.

What is Score Choice?

Score Choice is a new policy by the College Board that allows you to choose the scores that you send to the colleges. This differs by the test type. For the basic SAT Reasoning test, you can choose to send only the scores from your best “sitting” or, you can send all the scores. Well, what does this really mean? Many people are under the impression that y ou can choose your best reading, math, and writing scores from any sitting and the colleges will only see them. No. That is not the case. You can choose to send all the scores from one day, or time you took the test, but not individual scores. This policy is different for the SAT II’s, or subject tests. There, if you use score choice you can elect to have the colleges only see certain scores.

Why did they offer Score Choice?

Ostensibly, they are offering Score Choice as an option that will help relieve stress for students, since they do not have to worry about “bombing” the test. Some have theorized that they offered it to help stem the loss in market share to the ACT, which has always offered score choice. I do think that it does help some students since they know they do not have to worry, since if they bomb it, they can opt not to have anyone see those scores, however, it has also added more confusion.

What are the down sides to Score Choice?

Most colleges do not parse your SAT scores in great detail. That is, they do not care how many times you have taken the test. In fact, many schools like to see that you are trying to improve your score and trying to take it more than once. The only schools that seem to care how many times you have taken the test and look down on your scores if you have taken it too many times are the Ivy League schools and other similar highly competitive institutions. The problem with these schools is that if you opt to use school choice (well, that is if they accept score choice, since schools do not have to subscribe to the program. For a list of individual school policies click here) then they will assume you took the test more than twice and you bombed it at least once, negating the perceived benefit of using score choice.

O.K., so now you opened a new can of worms. How many times is too many to take the SAT?

As with most issues related to college admissions, the answer to that question is, it depends. For the highly selective colleges, one application reader for an Ivy League school told me that more than twice she frowns on (she also said that if she sees a student from the north who submits an ACT, she assumes he or she bombed the SAT). However, many schools like to see that a student takes the test more than once because it demonstrates that the student is trying to improve his score.

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