Archive for the “Standardized Tests” Category


For those of you who aren’t anxiously awaiting emails and fat envelopes, you’re probably thinking about, studying for, or perhaps even procrastinating (like I did) for the SAT or ACT.  But there’s an awesome little site that just might make learning vocab fun, or at least give you a warm, fuzzy feeling for helping out some people in need.

Check out FreeRice.com where your correct answers to questions on a variety of subjects will result in the donation of 10 grains of rice to a family in need.  That may not seem like a lot, but if you spend an hour on the site flexing your amazing vocab skills you just might get the brush-up you need to ace that SAT and feed a family in need.  And all it costs is a little time and brainpower.  Just watch out–it’s a little addictive.

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Q: “Do all colleges make you take both the ACT and the SAT?”

–Annie, 17, New Orleans, LA

A: Most colleges require either the ACT or the SAT, but it’s a good idea to take both in order to see which of your results are better. Once the results are in you can choose which schools you want to receive your scores. More selective colleges, like the University of California system, also require the SAT Subject Tests in addition to either the ACT or SAT, so make sure you give yourself enough time to sign up and study for all the tests required by the schools where you’ll be applying.

And if all this talk of standardized testing has you a little stressed out, there are many colleges that don’t require standardized testing, and instead offer alternative admission requirements like additional essays or a minimum grade point average. A list of those colleges and their requirements is available at The National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

For more of my answers to your college questions, visit my college and career Q&A on Seventeen.com!

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Looking for a little extra help with the SAT or maybe AP History or Algebra II? Brightstorm is a new online learning destination for teens that boasts some awesome teachers breaking down some of the tougher academic subjects.  It’s not meant to replace your high school courses but supplement what you’re learning in the classroom.  Think tutoring…wherever, whenever, and at an affordable price: a 12-month course subscription is just $49!  Brightstorm was recently featured in the New York Times and seems like an exciting and cost-effective alternative to some of the pricier test prep or tutoring.  Try it out for free at www.brightstorm.com

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With all the controversy swirling about colleges and universities misusing the SAT (thanks, Baylor), it would seem the last thing a standardized testing firm would want to do is introduce a new test, but that’s exactly what the College Board (makers and suppliers of the SAT, PSAT, and Subject Tests) did today.  The test called ReadiStep is targeted for 8th graders–it’s 2 hours long and has the same sections as the SAT & PSAT, math, critical reading, and writing.  The makers of the test assure us that it’s not another measuring stick for college admission, but rather a tool to understand how to prepare high school students for college.

I think the intent is all well and good, but the bottomline is that the College Board is a business, not a non-profit, and the test prep industry has been growing by unprecedented leaps and bounds in recent years.  To me this seems like another opportunity to earn a profit, add another test prep course to the slew of offerings, and raise the hysteria that students already feel about the college admission process and testing in particular.

But what do you think?  Is a pre-pre-SAT in eighth grade a good idea?  How do you feel about the recent controversies around standardized testing?

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Q: “What should I do if I have a low PSAT score?”

–Kristi, 16, Corinth, TX
A: The good thing about the PSAT is that it’s practice, so don’t freak out if your score is lower than you would have liked. Colleges aren’t going to see that score, and knowing how well you did on the PSAT is just going to help you get ready for the real deal: the SAT.

Take a look at your PSAT score breakdown. Did you do better in one section or is it pretty much even? If you aced one section but didn’t do so well on another, then you’ll still want to study for the entire test but really focus more on improving testing skills in your weakest section. Take practice tests online, buy a study guide, or enroll in a test prep class. There are several testing dates in the spring, so don’t just sign up for the first one available. Give yourself enough time to study and prepare for the test.

You may also want to consider taking the ACT, which is widely accepted by most colleges and universities, and is a different testing format from the SAT. It’s a good idea to take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring of junior year, and then take them again in the fall of senior year. Your scores may improve considerably the second time simply because you’re more familiar with the testing format and material, not to mention you won’t have the first-time test jitters.

And always keep in mind that test scores are just one of many factors that are considered in your college application; they aren’t nearly as important as the grades you’ve maintained throughout all four years of high school!

To read more of my answers to your college and career questions, visit Seventeen’s College & Career Q&A!

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If you’re taking the SAT this fall and you’re like most high school students, you’ll not only need a pencil but a whole lot of test preparation.  If you don’t have the money to pay for a fancy test prep course but still want to get the highest score possible, then check out INeedAPencil.com–a free SAT Prep Course started by a current student at Harvard.

Here’s what Jason Shah, the founder of INAP has to say, “INeedAPencil.com is completely free and should be used as a comprehensive program to prepare for the SAT. I have made hundreds of original lessons and practice questions available (that I and a team of SAT tutors created from scratch) along with a number of cool tools that I believe will make test prep more interesting and effective in raising test scores.”

To get started, visit INeedAPencil.com to register for online courses, practice questions, and score projections, and studying tips…

And speaking of tips, what helped you prepare for the SAT?

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The first fall SAT date is right around the corner on October 8th–if you haven’t taken the test yet, are trying to raise your score, or need to complete the Subject Tests, then don’t forget to register by September 9th to avoid late registration fees.  For more information about the SAT and Subject Tests, visit the College Board website.  And…good luck!!!

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In Outsmarting the SAT, private tutor Elizabeth King provides fresh and down-to-earth guidance for acing the SAT. If you’re looking to brush up on a few basic skills or don’t know where to start, then check out this book which reads like an at-your-side coach–even the math problems are handwritten!  “The SAT is not a test of everything a student is taught in high school; instead, it tests a relatively short list of specific skills,” says King.  “Students can see incredible score gains if they master these specific skills and become familiar with the different types of questions on the test.”

Breaking down basic test strategies in an easy to read format, King’s book is a comprehensive yet unintimidating addition to your Official SAT guide. Just don’t forget to take a few practice tests (not included) before the big day…

For more information about Elizabeth King and Outsmarting the SAT visit elizabethonline.com.

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A lazy August weekend is not exactly the time you want to be thinking about exams, but…the next ACT Test date is just around the corner on September 13th, 2008. If you haven’t taken it yet or you want to improve a previous score, you must register for the test by August 12th to avoid late fees. Click here for more information and to register.

Also note that the Sept 13th test is only available in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. Best of luck!

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