Fall 2015: Senior and Junior Year Testing To-Do's

My students in the South will be heading back to school next week!  Before you get too bogged down in new classes, homework assignments, and study plans (oh, and sports, arts, service, and all the fun stuff), take a second to make sure you have a plan for where you should be with your college admissions testing in fall 2015:

Seniors

By now, you have taken the SAT and/or ACT at least once.  [If you're college bound and this is not true, stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and register for at least one of these tests: SAT registration or ACT registration.]

Now you need to consider your scores in connection with your List (with a capital "L": your list of colleges to apply to).  Do you think you have scored your very best already?  If so, you're done.  Great work!  Now go get to work on those applications!  If not, consider retesting.  Most early decision/early action deadlines accept the September ACT and the October SAT.  Some may also accept the October ACT and November SAT, but check with the admissions office to be sure.  Regular decision applications typically use the December ACT and SAT as the last available test dates; again, check to be sure for your List.  Check your calendar for the best date to test, check median accepted score ranges for your List, check score requirements for any scholarships you're hoping to receive.

Once you've picked a date, brush up on the test content and any strategies, either on your own or with an experienced tutor.  I offer private tutoring via Skype to students across the country and around the world: contact me at elease.layman@gmail.com for details about this service.  If you're in the Augusta, Georgia, area, I'm also offering an ACT course in August (for the September ACT) and an SAT course in September (for the October SAT; seniors only in this class).

Juniors

Ah, the special class of 2017, bless your heart.  You guys get to bear the brunt of the College Board's SAT and PSAT redesign!  Some nuggets for you to chew on:

  • The Redesigned PSAT debuts this October!  In your junior year!  The year you test for National Merit recognition!  HOORAY!  No, not really.  There are nice accolades and scholarships to be had with National Merit, and it's unfortunate that you're in the class that sees the Redesigned PSAT for the very first time.  But take heart!  Every other junior is in the same boat with you.  If you think you might be a National Merit contender, read up on my blog posts about the new test and contact me about private tutoring to get ready (again, I tutor with Skype anywhere! elease.layman@gmail.com).
  • The Redesigned SAT debuts in March 2016.  The students (and, let's face it, thousands of test prep tutors like me) who take the March 2016 SAT will be the norming group for the scoring scale.  The College Board then plans to verify the March scores with the scores from the May 2016 SAT before releasing scores for either of these test dates.  This means that students taking the test in March 2016 will not see scores back until mid/late May at the earliest.  This delay also means that we will not have an official SAT-ACT score conversion scale until late June or early July!  SAT test-takers will really be flying blind this spring.  This fact may not bother some of you, which is great.  For the rest of you, take heart!  Every other junior is in the same boat with you.
  • The ACT's changes are minimal.  They're tweaking the essay and adding a paired passage to the reading.  If the SAT overhaul is total reconstructive surgery, the ACT adjustment is a fresh manicure.

After chewing on all those nuggets (some of which were quite chewy, huh?), perhaps you'll understand why I am encouraging rising juniors to take the ACT this fall/winter if you want to get started on testing.  Juniors are welcome in my ACT prep class in Augusta, Georgia.  Students who are in honors courses should seriously consider this route.  Students in regular-track courses might consider waiting until late winter/early spring to test.  I foresee a huge increase in ACT-only students in the class of 2017.  If you want to take the SAT, please just wait until the new test comes out in March rather than spending time, money, and energy to take the current test.  I've rarely seen students get their best scores by January of their junior years, and January is the last time this current SAT will be offered. 

Bottom line for juniors in fall 2015: prep for the PSAT if you think National Merit recognition is possible and sit for the ACT this fall if you are in an honors track in school.

Good luck with wherever you are in this testing process.  Don't forget to check out the increasing number of test-optional schools, too, if all of this business makes you want to pull your hair out: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional (make sure you note any footnotes! and always verify information for yourself!).