As a 20 year veteran of test preparation, I’ve been enamored with the FairTest list of SAT/ACT optional schools for what seems like a decade now. I am sure many of you as parents, educators and students have also been impressed with such a list; it’s seemingly a harbinger of a radical shift in admission policy that will minimize the impact of standardized tests which have historically put low income and minority students at a disadvantage. I’ve seen the good and bad of testing for years and find it commendable that a school would be brave enough to defy convention when it comes to standardized test scores, forgoing both the benefits and the drawbacks, to weigh students on their broader merits.
Visiting colleges and universities in person is one of the most important – and fun – parts of the admissions process. At this step in the process you don’t have to study for exams, write essays or do paperwork. You simply get to visit a beautiful campus, talk to faculty, eat in the dining hall with students, and learn more about a college and your place in it.
Today’s guest post is from Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD Candidate at Emory University, an expert in for profit education and a former admissions and financial aid counselor in two for-profit schools. Ms McMillian Cottom took some time to share with our readers some insight into her research and insights on the growing for-profit college industry.
There are a lot of factors to consider your sophomore and junior year of high school when you embark upon your college application planning. Do you want to move as far away from home as possible or be close enough for Sunday dinners? Do you want the intimate environment of small, liberal arts colleges or the rush of a large, urban campus? What fields of study should your dream college offer? What kind of social life can you build once you get there? The list goes on and on.
One thing rarely considered but, perhaps, equally important to those other considerations is the institutional type of your dream school. Institutional type refers to the mission of the college. By college mission I don’t mean “to live and serve” but “to profit or not to profit.” If you don’t know the difference between a for-profit college and a not-for-profit college don’t feel badly. You’re not alone. A new research report found that among adults enrolled in online college degree programs, 17 percent had no idea if their school was for-profit or not-for-profit. More importantly, the question you might be asking is why you should care about the institutional type of your college.
On Friday July 20, two exciting things happened in the Bell Curves office; first, we received our copy of the May 2012 SAT and were able to peruse it for lot of fun vocabulary words and second, we went as an office to see the the Dark Knight save Gotham City. What was especially exciting was that in both the May SAT and Dark Knight Rises, bane played a prominent role! In DNK, Bane is the archenemy of our beleaguered hero and on the May SAT bane was one of the beguiling answers maliciously offered to hoodwink unwary test-takers! As we’ve often told our students, most superhero and villain names are English words that reflect their powers or character. As you enjoy your summer movies remember that there are lots of new words to learn which will help your SAT preparation.
To help you get started here are 100 words from the May 2012 SAT that you should learn. Words which have appeared once on the SAT are very likely to appear again.
Selecting a tutor is not unlike the process of choosing someone to date. It seems like there are thousands of options out there, but finding the right one be both difficult and overwhelming – not to mention a serious cash investment! We want to try to alleviate the stress a bit by providing you with a basic list of questions to ask of a tutor before making the final (and hopefully great) decision:
1. What is your experience with this particular test?
With experience comes an increasing amount of knowledge about not only how to do each question but more importantly how to effectively teach the test to students of different skill levels, backgrounds, and learning styles. Generally, the more experienced the tutor, the more likely you are to get a carefully crafted study plan that will allow you to reach your goals. Tutoring college-level Calculus for years does not automatically qualify someone as to be a stellar SAT or ACT tutor. These tests, particularly the SAT, are filled with similar “tricks” year in and year out that experienced test prep teachers will be familiar with and have the ability to explain to students.
The question I am asked the most often after revealing that I’m a professional standardized test tutor is, “How should I study for Test X?” The reply is always invariably a petition for more information such as the materials being used, past testing history, study habits, and anticipated testing schedule, all of which is just a baseline amount of information that I would then use to offer the most basic and topical plan of action. The reason for such a skeletal plan is because of a very simple reason: every student’s needs are different and if I haven’t spent any time observing a student’s habits and logical process then I can’t say what he or she needs. The effectiveness of tutoring lies in the customization and personalized guidance. A large part of a tutor’s job is identifying where in the process of answering a question, between reading it to choosing the correct answer, is there a disconnect. The tutor then formulates a way for that particular student to most effectively bridge that gap. With that said, here are three of the most common issues many of my students face across different tests have.
1. Lacking the fundamental knowledge base that is being tested.
2. Having difficulty recognizing the topics being tested by the questions.
3. Executing a strategy for specific question types consistently.
The first issue is usually the easiest to diagnose. This issue is most notable with math questions but can manifest with verbal questions (albeit less alarmingly and thus usually more ignored, unfortunately). My opinion on this issue, shared by the pedagogy of Bell Curves, is that regardless of how much test-taking savvy you have, if you don’t know the base content (e.g. geometry formulas, grammar rules, argument structure, etc.) there is absolutely no way to consistently answer questions correctly. The solution is pretty straightforward – study the material until you understand the rules and their applications.
One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT essay is to read and write SAT essays. After every SAT, many of our students give us permission to use their actual essays to help others learn from what they did. We’ve posted and discussed this essay to hopefully help you prepare.
A few quick points about the SAT essay for those of you a bit newer to the test:
- The essay is the very first section of the test.
- The essay is handwritten in 25 minutes with a pencil on 2 sides of 8.5″x 11″ paper.
- The essay is worth up to 180 points of the total SAT Writing score.
- Your full essay will be available on collegeboard.com about 4 weeks after your test date.
- Each SAT essay consists of a Prompt, which gives some background discussion and context, and an Assignment, which gives the specific assignment they have to complete.
Without further ado, here is a January 2011 SAT essay transcribed for your reading pleasure:
Recently the College Board again stuck its foot in its proverbial mouth and for me has reopened the never-ending debate about its role in higher education (I’ll be blogging more on this soon). But the latest flub from CB makes us wonder if they need to just put Olivia Pope on retainer to rescue them from a seemingly infinite string of blunders. The latest, which has yet to be named but I’ll call “Summergate,” again starkly raises questions from “What role does the College Board play?” and “Is the College Board a self-appointed gatekeeper to higher education?” to “Is the College Board driving elitism and bias in education?” and “Is the College Board biased against low income, urban, and minority students?”
Many test-takers have told us that they chose the SAT over the ACT because they were uncertain/cautious/leery/petrified of the science part of the test. But never fear, here I come to save the day! (cue Mighty Mouse theme)
The truth of the matter is that the Science Test is a misnomer – instead it should be called the ACT Science-y Test, the ACT Science-Lite Test, or maybe the ACT Loosely-Related-to-Scientific-Thinking Test.
Since the SAT cheating ring debacle in 2011, the makers of the SAT and ACT college entrance exams have been wracking their brains about how to tighten security. They are so serious and committed to dealing with this issue that they have even hired a former Director of the FBI to help them develop these new security measures. We’ve been watching events unfold and here is the summary of the changes coming to the September 2012 ACT and October 2012 SAT.