Testing: The benefits of taking SAT Subject Tests

 SAT Subject Tests

College admissions officers want to get as clear a picture of each candidate as possible. An SAT Subject Test (formerly called an SAT 2) score can be helpful to colleges in seeing the complete picture of your academic background and interests, and a good addition to the set of data that brings you into focus.

If you’re interested in particular programs of study, taking the Subject Tests in those areas may help show colleges that you’re ready for certain majors or courses.

Subject Tests test you on your knowledge of subjects on a high school level. The best way to prepare is to take the relevant courses and work hard in them.

Because these are tests of your knowledge, many students find them less confounding than the regular SAT. Even students who find misery with the regular SATs will be happily surprised at the straight-forward nature of the Subject Tests.

Furthermore, some “test-flexible” schools will accept the SAT Subject test scores in place of the regular SATs.

The SAT Subject Tests that you take should be based on your interests and academic strengths. If you are a strong history student, for instance, you may want to take the U.S. History or the World History Subject Test soon after you complete an honors or AP class in one of those topics, while the material is still fresh in your mind. If you have a college engineering program in mind, take at least one math and one science SAT Subject Test.

Click here for 2019-20 SAT Test, including Subject Tests, Dates and Deadlines.

New Report Calls on Parents and High Schools to Put Ethical Character at the Center of College Admissions

Read this press release from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project:

As a widespread college admissions scandal continues to unfold, a leading voice in the movement to reshape college admissions today published a new report calling on parents and high schools to put young people’s ethical character at the center of the college admissions process. Three years in the making, Turning the Tide II: How Parents and High Schools Can Cultivate Ethical Character and Reduce Distress in The College Admissions Process, offers guidelines for high schools and parents in promoting ethical character and describes how some high schools and colleges are working to promote greater ethical engagement among high school students, level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students, and reduce excessive achievement pressure. It also includes a pioneering statement from college admissions deans seeking to advance Turning the Tide’s goals.

The report, published by the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, makes the case that an intense focus on academic achievement has squeezed out serious attention to ethical character in many high schools and families, especially in middle- and upper-income communities. With a narrow focus on high achievement and admission to selective colleges, parents in these communities often fail to help their teens develop the critical cognitive, social, and ethical capacities that are at the heart of both doing good and doing well in college and beyond. Many parents also fail to be ethical role models to their children by allowing a range of transgressions—from exaggerating achievements to outright cheating—in the admissions process.

“Many parents fail to focus on what really matters in the college admissions process. In an effort to give their kids everything, these parents often end up robbing them of what really counts,” said Richard Weissbourd, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Faculty Director of Making Caring Common. “College admissions may feel like a test for parents, but it shouldn’t be a test of status—it should be a test of character.”

Often following parents’ lead, many high schools in middle- and upper-income communities tend to focus too rigidly on highly selective colleges, don’t adequately nurture students’ interests and curiosity, and do little to challenge parents engaging in ethically troubling behavior.

“High schools have a much greater commitment to their students than just helping them achieve at a high level or get into a high-status college” says Brennan Barnard, College Admission Program Manager at Making Caring Common. “They also have an obligation to prepare students to be caring, ethical community members and citizens.”

The first Turning the Tide reportpublished in 2016, sought changes in admissions at the college level to advance three related goals: elevating ethical character, especially concern for others and the common good; increasing access and equity for economically disadvantaged students; and reducing excessive, damaging achievement pressure in many communities. The number of admissions deans endorsing Turning the Tide has grown from 50 to nearly 200 over the past three years.

This follow-up report shifts the focus to the role of families and high schools in college admissions. Turning the Tide II includes actionable guideposts for parents and high schools for shaping an admissions process that puts young people’s ethical character and well-being at the center of a healthier, more sane college admissions process. The report also details positive changes made by many colleges endorsing Turning the Tide, as well as Making Caring Common’s collaboration with the Common Application and Coalition for College to advance Turning the Tide’s goals. The report includes a new, pioneering statement endorsed by almost 140 college admissions deans that seeks to give high schools greater freedom in advancing Turning the Tide’s goals and to allay parents’ fears of short-changing their child if they don’t amass impressive achievements. Finally, the report describes a new campaign that has engaged 189 high schools and middle schools nationwide in promoting Turning the Tide’s goals and more broadly supporting high schools in developing students’ ethical character.

For the full report and additional information, visit Making Caring Common online at www.makingcaringcommon.org.



Rising Seniors: The Common App goes live on August 1st

Even though Common App isn’t updated for this application season until August 1, it's a great idea to get started on the Common App now. All the general info you add now will be “rolled over” into he 2019-20 Common App. You can even add the colleges you plan to apply to now. Just hold off on school-specific essays and information for now — this information won’t be up-to-date and anything you add to specific schools won’t roll over. http://www.commonapp.org/how-apply

If you don't yet have an account, create one today. A few minutes of your time will allow you to enter your basic info, and add the colleges that have risen to the top of the College List we've prepared. Not that you can't add more -- this is just the preliminary step and colleges may be added and taken off as you get the hang of the site and as you refine your plans over the coming months.

Although over 600 schools use the Common App, you may find a few schools on your list that do not. MIT, for example, has it's own unique application at https://my.mit.edu/uaweb/login.htm

But wait, there's more! Most schools that accept the Common App also accept the Coalition App http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org

 

Summer Plans for Juniors

Seven great, unusual things to do this summer

All Vox students receive recommendations on summer activities that nurture their interests and abilities. At application time, colleges will look to your summers to see how you’ve invested yourself in your true interests. Now is the time to be thinking about and applying for academic, music, language, leadership, research and other enriching summer activities. Let us know your interests, and we can help. Here are a few you might not have heard about:

• Great Books Summer Program https://www.greatbookssummer.com/

Summer 2018, Amherst, Stanford, Dublin, Oxford, UChicago, Beijing

• Cambridge Summer Academy

http://cambridgesummeracademy.com/

This may be hard to believe, but this isn’t run by some company…this is actually Magdalene College’s own summer program for high school students! Truly gorgeous ancient college at the heart of the University of Cambridge, where Samuel Pepys and Alex Plumtree went to university/graduate school. Programs in Business and Management, International Relations, Medicine, and History.

• Summer at Smith https://www.smith.edu/sites/default/files/media/Documents/Precollege-Programs/Smith-Precollege-Programs.pdf

Summer Science and Engineering Program, July 8-August 4

Young Women’s Writing Workshop, July 8-21

• Rassias Language Programs, Dartmouth College http://www.rassias.com/

Language immersion in Arles, France; Gijón, Spain; and Trujillo, Peru

• UCLA Summer Sessions https://www.summer.ucla.edu/ushsstudent

For-credit sessions in Nanoscience, Acting, Dance, Digital Filmmaking, Model UN, Mock Trial, Nanoscale Microscopy, Game Lab; also shorter academic courses (list doesn’t seem to be available yet, registration opens Feb. 15)

• Health Careers Institute At Dartmouth: Mentoring Future Leaders in Health Care http://tdi.dartmouth.edu/health-careers-institute

Summer 2018, four sessions, one week. Dartmouth has a med school, and also the Dartmouth Institute For Health Policy and Clinical Practice, which offers degrees such as MPH (Master of Public Health), MS, Ph.D., MHCDS (Master of Health Care Delivery Science), MBA/MPH, MD/MPH, MD/MS…so lots of resources

• Savannah College Of Art and Design (SCAD) http://www.scad.edu/academics/pre-college-summer-programs/rising-star

Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah, and eLearning, four sessions, five weeks each, Summer 2018

 

 

Good News: Colleges Say They Are Looking for You, Kind People

During college visits over the past few months, we've heard admissions officers say it again and again: colleges are looking for students who are kind.

“Too often, today’s culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good,” said Richard Weissbourd, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Co-director of the Making Caring Common (MCC) project. “As a rite of passage, college admissions plays a powerful role in shaping student attitudes and behaviors. Admissions deans are stepping up collectively to underscore the importance of meaningful engagement in communities and greater equity for economically diverse students.”

Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern For Others And The Common Good Through College Admissions, is a report arising out of the MCC project and contains “concrete recommendations to reshape the college admissions process and promote greater ethical engagement among aspiring students, reduce excessive achievement pressure, and level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students,“ says Weissbourd, who wrote the report in collaboration with Lloyd Acker, Executive Director of the Education Conservancy.     

The Making Caring Common project’s mission is to help educators, parents, and communities raise children who are caring, responsible to their communities, and committed to justice. According to MCC’s press release, The goals of the report are to harness the collective influence of college admissions to send a unified message that both ethical engagement and intellectual engagement are highly important and to more fairly capture the strengths of students across race, class and culture.”        

According to Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions, Interim Executive Director of Student Financial Services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an endorser of Turning the Tide, “This report communicates our expectations much more clearly to applicants. We don’t want students who do things just because they think they have to in order to get into college. To the contrary: we want students who lead balanced lives, who pursue their interests with energy and enthusiasm, and who work cooperatively with others, all of which will help them be successful in and after college.”

The University of Virginia’s Dean of Admissions Gregory Roberts says UVA is also in agreement with the report. “We support Turning the Tide because we philosophically agree with many of the principal points in the document” says Roberts, such as “promoting, encouraging, and developing good citizenship, strong character, personal responsibility, [and] civic engagement in high school students.”        

 

College Admissions Advice: "Relax"

Wise words from Dean Deb Shaver, Smith College:

“When I talk to prospective students and parents, I often quote Frank Sachs, former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling: ‘College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.’ The ideal pairs a student with the school that best fulfills that student’s academic, social and aspirational needs.

The best fit is where a student will thrive and be happy.”

Read Smith College’s Dean of Admission’s entire letter here.

 

Deciding between the SAT and the ACT

Your school may be SAT-focused or it may be ACT-focused, and you may choose to go with that flow-that's absolutely fine. Increasingly, students are given a choice between the two tests. We don't recommend officially taking them both to see on which you have a higher score - that's too much testing. It's a good idea to compare your performance on the two, though. You should do a diagnostics test (a practice test, that is, with no studying in advance) for each, to get a benchmark score and to see whether you have a clear advantage taking one over the other. You can take the diagnostic tests at your school if they're offered, or for free through one of the following sources. Alternatively, if you need the structure of an official testing experience, sign up and take one of the two tests officially but take the other on your own. Then compare. Some students do better on one one the other. The ACT, some students find, allows you to show off what you actually know a bit more than the SAT.

For the ACT, free diagnostics are offered by ArborBridge and RevolutionPrep (or any test prep company you like). 

For the SAT, you can take a FREE practice diagnostic test through Khan Academy. Khan Academy is only test prep organization that has access to real practice questions written by the College Board (the College Board makes the SAT).

Another plus for Khan Academy is that the College Board links your PSAT scores directly to Khan Academy. Khan Academy (we mentioned that it's FREE, right?) then selects videos for you based on areas in which you've performed less well.

Once you've taken the diagnostics tests, chose the test you feel more comfortable with, and stick with it.

SAT and ACT: The Comparison

Why Take It - Personal preference. No difference from a college's perspective between the two: colleges use the SAT and the ACT results for the same reason-to have data about the applicant.

SAT: Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

ACT: Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

Test Structure

SAT:

  • Math

  • Reading

  • Writing and Language

Essay (Optional)

ACT:

  • Math

  • Reading

  • English

  • Science

Essay (Optional) 

Length

SAT

  • 3 hours (without essay)

  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)

ACT

  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)

  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)

Reading

SAT: 5 reading passages

ACT: 4 reading passages

Science

SAT: None

ACT: 1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)

Math

SAT Covers:

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis

ACT Covers:

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry and Trigonometry

Tools

SAT: Some math questions don't allow you to use a calculator.

ACT: You can use a calculator on all math questions.

Essays

SAT: Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.

ACT: Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.

How It's Scored

SAT: Scored on a scale of 400–1600

ACT: Scored on a scale of 1–36

Test Registration and Dates 2018-19

ACT: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html

SAT: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines

Testing: Which to take, the SAT or the ACT?

Your school may be SAT-focused or it may be ACT-focused, and you may choose to go with that flow-that's absolutely sensible! Increasingly, students are given a choice between the two tests. We recommend against taking them both to see on which you have a higher score - that's too much testing. It's a good idea to compare your performance on the two, though. You should do a diagnostics test (a practice test, that is, with no studying in advance) for each, to get a benchmark score and to see whether you have a clear advantage taking one over the other. You can take the diagnostic tests at your school if they're offered, or for free through one of the following sources.

For the ACT, free diagnostics are offered by ArborBridge and RevolutionPrep (or any test prep company you like). 

For the SAT, you can take a FREE practice diagnostic test through Khan Academy. Khan Academy is only test prep organization that has access to real practice questions written by the College Board (the College Board makes the SAT).

Another plus for Khan Academy is that the College Board links your PSAT scores directly to Khan Academy. Khan Academy (we mentioned that it's FREE, right?) then selects videos for you based on areas in which you've performed less well.

Once you've taken the diagnostics tests, chose the test you feel more comfortable with, and stick with it.

SAT and ACT: The Comparison

Why Take It - No difference between the reason to take them: colleges use the SAT and the ACT results for the same reason -to have data about the applicant.

SAT: Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

ACT: Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

Test Structure

SAT:

  • Math

  • Reading

  • Writing and Language

Essay (Optional)

ACT:

  • Math

  • Reading

  • English

  • Science

Essay (Optional) 

Length

SAT

  • 3 hours (without essay)

  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)

ACT

  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)

  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)

Reading

SAT: 5 reading passages

ACT: 4 reading passages

Science

SAT: None

ACT: 1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)

Math

SAT Covers:

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis

ACT Covers:

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry and Trigonometry

Tools

SAT: Some math questions don't allow you to use a calculator.

ACT: You can use a calculator on all math questions.

Essays

SAT: Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.

ACT: Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.

How It's Scored

SAT: Scored on a scale of 400–1600

ACT: Scored on a scale of 1–36

Test Dates

2017-18 SAT registration and dates: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines

2017-18 ACT registration and dates: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html