Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Works for me Wednesday --Backwards Day

Today is Backwards Day on Works for Me Wednesday. Instead of me giving you a piece of advice or telling you a tip that works for me, I'm here to ask for some help. Gulp.

Tonight I attended the first of many parents of Juniors nights at the high school. The topic is college entrance. The crowd was thick with neurotic parents. I count myself amongst them.

One of the big questions I had was whether my son should take both the ACT and the SAT, or should we choose amongst them? He's already taken the PSAT, and we're waiting for the results, which should arrive after Thanksgiving.

The thing is, I don't know a thing about the ACT except what they said, that it is easier for more literal kids, as it doesn't have trick questions like the SAT. They implied that the ACT is a better test for kids with special needs. But I don't know what schools take the ACT. It was said that it's more of a midwestern test, and not used much on the east coast. They also said that unlike the new SAT, you could send your BEST score to colleges, so you could take the ACT more than once but only have one score reported. I liked that a lot.

Have any of your kids taken both? Did you find it worthwhile to have them take both?

And, if you've used the prep courses, did you find them worth the money, and did your kid's scores improve dramatically after the prep course?

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Blogger Kathy in WA said...

Great questions! I can't wait to hear what people suggest. I took both the ACT and the SAT myself (I grew up in Michigan). I think taking an additional test is almost always beneficial - helps them practice their test taking skills, gives them confidence on their strengths and awareness of their weaknesses, and opens up the possibility to other colleges (in case you don't stay on the East Coast).

I have a friend who is a consultant to homeschoolers. She has tons of information and advice to parents as they point their children toward college. I know she did major prep work with her two sons for the SAT. Here's the url for her website.

Home Scholar

Duckabush Blog

7/11/07 1:55 AM  
Blogger Dave2 said...

ACT is also scored quite differently, as you are not penalized for wrong answers... so, unlike the SAT where wild guessing is not advised because it could lower your overall score if you get it wrong, guessing on ACT when you don't know the answer can only benefit you. Thought, as you say, all the benefits of ACT disappear if the college you're wanting to get into doesn't accept it.

7/11/07 2:48 AM  
Blogger Clemntine said...

#1 Are you certain that your child is college-bound? Taking the test is fruitless if your child is going into an apprenticeship, to trade school, or right into the workforce.

#2 Check with the top colleges on your list. Many colleges will accept both tests, but there are those who only take one or the other. Take the test that the preferred colleges require.

#3 Test-taking is a skill. It can be learned, honed and improved upon. Take advantage of test prep courses.

#4 Both tests can be taken multiple times. The ACT will let you choose which score is submitted to prospective colleges, and, last time I checked, the SAT would only send the most recent score. Keep that in mind if your child is considering taking more than one whack at the test(s).

7/11/07 4:39 AM  
Blogger Playful Professional said...

I took both tests in high school and I lived in Washington DC, and I was definitely grateful. It's kind of like playing soccer and playing football, they're very different tests and some kids will be good at one and other kids will be good at the other. I've heard the SAT is harder, and I agreed.

7/11/07 7:36 AM  
Blogger Sechakecha said...

I only ever took the SAT. Mainly, because we weren't sure what I was going to do, or where I was going to go. And I ended up just going to the community college.

I never took an SAT Prep Class, but I did get a book from the store ~ I believe it was the Princeton Reviews SAT Prep book. It esentially teaches you how to take the test, and it has a bunch of sample tests from years prior in it. It teaches you how to make an educated guess on the SATs. And it greatly helped me. It also helped my now-ex, get a better grade on his.

Some of my friends swore by the prep course, but I was involved in Saturday Morning sports, and that's the only time it was given in my area.

Good luck to you! =)

7/11/07 8:04 AM  
Anonymous MissMeliss said...

As well as some colleges preferring one or the other of the tests, there are some scholarship funds that use the test scores to offer merit scholarships (National Merit Society uses PSAT scores, for example.)

I remember taking both, and I remember having have both, but I was also one of the last classes of high school students to take the OLD SAT.

I'd say the advice above about checking with the top schools on your list is the best.

7/11/07 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SAT sends EVERY score, you can't pick one to send. If the college you are applying to requires SAT II subject tests, those scores will be sent along with all of your SAT scores. Also, every school now accepts the ACT, although there is endless discussion about which score is preferred by the elite schools. We live in the midwest so most kids take the ACT. I got my information from the collegeconfidential.com forums and if you interested in completely obsessing over your children's future, that is the place for you. My son is a senior this year and has been accepted to his first choice college which has rolling admissions so all the hours I have spent obsessing over him getting into college have been a bit of a waste of time, but oh, well. He's always liked to keep things simple. One application, online, with no essays is all he put into it. Things are way easier here in the midwest.

7/11/07 10:20 AM  
Blogger Randall said...

I worked in college admissions through college and graduate school in the State of Florida. First, I think it is really important to point out that this is going to vary based on the schools that they are applying to. Florida state schools may say one thing, Illinois may say another and a private school in Ohio another. You really need to check out what the expectations are for each option.

But from my personal point of view (Florida state colleges/universities influenced) I would recommend for a student to take both. Admissions officers are going to look at the entire package. I would take both the ACT and SAT. Prep classes that don't cost an arm & a leg are available for both as well as some great study software and books.

I would take each test at least twice because statistically students do better the second time around. It also shows that even if you don't do better the second time you are putting forth the effort of "hey, I'm trying my best here on these darn tests, please don't take my stinky scores to seriously... have you seen my fabulous grades in my honors courses?!)

I also agree that students usually do better on the ACT or the SAT - not both. I personally aced the ACT (I'm much more English, literature, grammer inclined) and did so-so on the SAT. But my high school grades were good so it all balanced out in the end.

Based on my college admissions work, really, a student needs to be good in one of those areas to even everything out. Great grades? Then maybe the tests aren't going to be a deal breaker. Lousy grades? They better do very well on the tests.

Okay, I wrote a lot. But I hope it was of some help :o)

7/11/07 10:26 AM  
Blogger Rhiannon said...

I took only the ACT (I graduated from high school 10 years ago). My guidance counselor recommended it to me because I was very strong in English and social sciences, but not so much in math. I did very well on my first attempt - so I only took it once.

If only I could say the same about my GRE score :)

7/11/07 11:50 AM  
Anonymous LeeAnn said...

I took the ACT, but I knew my two picks for college. I think you definitely need to know what schools you are interested in or else you need to take both.

7/11/07 1:34 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

My kids aren't there yet, but I took both. My scores on both were fine but I FAR preferred the ACT. Sadly, no school back then (20 years ago) took it.

Using My Words

7/11/07 4:26 PM  
Blogger kadusey said...

I took both the SAT and the ACT. I actually took the ACT twice, but ended up with precisely the same score each time, and an equivalent score on the SAT. Ended up getting my college scholarship due to the PSAT, but I think taking both tests definitely helped with getting into my top choice school.

I also recommend some of the prep stuff. I used a Princeton Review computer prep program, if I remember right, that I thought helped immensely for learning some of the more unusual vocabulary and with math review for the SAT. I wouldn't have remembered any of my math without it.

7/11/07 10:07 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

In the MidWest, the ACT is preferred. My daughter did not take the SAT. She also did not re-take the ACT. Her scores were high enough for entrance into the colleges she wanted, and we didn't think it was worth the stress to retake it to get higher. Prep course? We didn't. I bought the prep-course-on-CD software, she tried it, pronounced it "boring", and did fine on the test.
Do your research, but then Go with your gut. You know your child.

10/11/07 10:59 AM  

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