Category Archives: Test Prep

March 2024 didn’t mark the world’s first digital adaptive SAT–that took place in March 2023. This year’s first SAT was, however, the inaugural U.S administration, which meant that exponentially more eyes were on the exam and its implications. As the President of the National Test Prep Association, I facilitated a conference to bring 70 educators and counselors from around the globe to crowdsource observations from tens of thousands of students after March scores were released. Here are some of the major conclusions: 1. The official test is harder than the Bluebook tests. Based on reports from students who have been taking digital SATs outside the US, we anticipated that the Bluebook exams might not adequately prepare test takers for the highest difficulty items on the test. Even the newest additions to Bluebook–tests 5 & 6–more closely resemble the practice tests than the official tests. How did this disparity in difficulty…

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Despite the dream of going one and done on your admissions test of choice, ACT and SAT retakes often pay off handsomely. In fact, we’ve known for a long time just how worthwhile taking another SAT or ACT can be. In the interest of further quantifying the benefits of retakes, ACT parsed the data from students who took the ACT multiple times with the goal of improving their scores and postsecondary credentials. The October 2022 paper, Six Things You Should Know About ACT Score Gains From Retesting, drew significant conclusions: 1. Average score gains are modest (about 1 score point) Specifically, the average time from the first to the last test was 8.3 months and the average ACT Composite score gain was 1.14. 2. Score gains increase with more time between tests That said, ACT scores tend to increase more while students are in school and stagnate or even decline…

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No matter how much you’ve planned or prepped for your official SAT date, you can’t get in without an admission ticket. In the days of paper tests, you’d have a paper ticket to print and present. Getting your SAT admission ticket in the digital age is a bit more complicated but every bit as essential–those who don’t follow the right steps in advance will not be able to sit for their exams. Start the process 1–5 days before the test. We strongly recommend taking care of this on Monday or Tuesday for a Saturday exam: Log into your account on Bluebook, the same testing application you’ll use to take the SAT, on the device you’ll use on test day. Follow the prompts to complete a system check and exam setup. When you see a green check and “Your exam setup is complete,” you’ve done it. At the end of exam setup, the…

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When someone mentions “tests,” the emotion that flowers in our heads, hearts, or the pits of our stomachs rarely resembles love. Anxiety typically tops the list, but feelings range along an emotional spectrum that encompasses irritation, fear, and flat-out hate. Many become irrational at the very mention of tests; at least one infamous crank has made a cottage industry out of whining about standardized tests. So why do I love tests? I love the challenge of a well-designed test, both the methodical ingenuity behind each question and the inexorable gauntlet of the test as a whole. I love the opportunity to compete against a potential pool of millions of test takers, past, present, and future. And, because I’ve always been good at most tests, I love to win… nailing a particularly tough test feels like a profound victory. However, my personal reasons for appreciating oft-maligned assessments do not, in themselves,…

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Historically, the College Board hasn’t always favored the use of calculators on the SAT. Even when graphic calculators were permitted, many questions demanded the kind of math conceptual understanding and problem solving skills that no Texas Instruments device, no matter how advanced, could provide. The last version of the SAT even had a full Math section where calculators were prohibited. But new tests reflect new philosophies, and the digital SAT appears to embrace what it once shunned. Not only are calculators permitted on every math question, but the exam also currently includes a fully-functional Desmos graphing calculator. This calculator, as of the time of this writing, is robust and effective. The design of SAT math questions seems to have changed as well. While previous iterations of the SAT appeared to be written to punish dependence on calculators, the digital test rewards it to a surprising degree. Some colleagues I respect…

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Nobody performs their best on a complex challenge like the SAT without practice. When you really want to excel, not just any practice will do. As legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” So make sure that every practice SAT you take is perfect by following these steps: BEFORE THE TEST 1. Find a full-length digital adaptive SAT practice test. The ones offered through the College Board Bluebook app are the best possible tests, as they best represent official test content on the official test platform. However, since College Board has only released 4 (as of January 2024) official tests, you may have to use third party tests. PRO TIP: If you plan to take many practice tests, save the Bluebook tests for practice closer to your official exam. 2. Make sure you have your fully charged approved device ready and loaded…

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