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The Redesign of the SAT Test: What It Means for You and Your Child

Posted by Julia Wasson

Jul 22, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Recently, the College Board announced that the SAT test is receiving a major overhaul for spring of 2016. The College Board claims that the SAT format redesign is aimed at leveling the playing field for students and aligning the testing material more closely with what students actually learn in high school.

The important theme to note, one that’s threaded throughout these changes to the SAT test, is that while there is a continued emphasis on reasoning, the new format focuses on the knowledge, skills and understanding most important for college and career readiness. This shift will ultimately affect how you and your child handle SAT prep.

Here are the eight key ways the SAT test is changing in 2016:

1. Relevant Words in Context

The redesign of the SAT test will focus on students’ understanding of high-utility words. Students will be tested on interpreting the meaning of words “in the context of extended prose passages.” What this means is that your child should build SAT vocabulary skills for words that they’re likely to encounter in college and the workforce and pay attention to alternate meanings of familiar words. After all, the SAT may use high utility words, but it will still be a challenging test.

This also means that all those “highly obscure” SAT vocab words that most adults don’t even know are gone.

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Topics: SAT test

What Kind of Public School Qualifies as “Exemplary?”

Posted by Douglas J. Paul, Ph.D.

Jul 14, 2014 2:01:00 PM

Over the past 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with public schools from coast to coast, assisting teachers, administrators, and state departments with a variety of academic challenges. Recently, quite to my surprise, I visited one of those rare “pockets of excellence,” where the lights are on and everybody is home.

As a 1970 graduate of Tremper High School, I have maintained a connection with Kenosha friends and family. But I never expected to find in Kenosha an exemplary educational program equal to the very best in the country.
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3 Fun and Effective Ways to Improve Your Child’s SAT Vocabulary Skills

Posted by Julia Wasson

Jul 8, 2014 10:11:00 AM

In the spring of 2016, two big changes will affect SAT vocabulary questions as we now know them. First, the SAT test will no longer include those pesky, obscure words that aren’t used by most mortals in a lifetime. Instead, the new SAT test will place focus on “high utility” words that students should encounter in school and everyday life.

Second, instead of testing words in the context of a single sentence, the SAT will begin to test vocabulary words in the richer context of reading passages. Your child will find them in the new 65-minute critical reading section and 35-minute written language test.

One caution is important, though. The SAT isn’t going make the test easy for students who only know the most common meaning of a word. Even high utility words may have obscure meanings. This is why understanding context is so important.

What this means for students is that when the SAT test changes, it will no longer be necessary to spend time memorizing arcane SAT vocabulary words that they can’t pronounce, let alone spell. We’re 100% positive this news won’t make your child lachrymose (an SAT vocab word for “tearful or sad”). However, that change has not yet taken place, and students who will be taking the PSAT or SAT test this fall will need to know the meanings of college-level vocabulary words. Of course, it's always a good idea to improve vocabulary, whether or not it's "on the test."

Instead of drilling your child with vocabulary flashcards, help her learn the meanings of both difficult and high utility SAT vocabulary words in these fun ways:

1. Encourage your child to read challenging material.

One of the easiest ways for anyone to build a college vocabulary is to read challenging material every day. The key is to choose reading material that is both complex and comprehensible. Go to the library together and ask your child to look for books that contain one or two unfamiliar words per page. Two words per page is considered just right for learning new words in context. More than that and your student will likely get discouraged.

The point isn’t to frustrate your child but to teach him how to use context to unlock meaning. It can help to have a dictionary at hand (printed or online), but encourage him to predict the word’s meaning before looking it up.

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Studying for the SAT/PSAT & ACT Tests

Posted by Julia Wasson

Jul 3, 2014 6:00:00 AM

As the parent of a student who is preparing for college, you'll find many challenges ahead for you and your child, including college entrance exams. These college admissions tests — the SAT and ACT tests — each have unique questions and scoring systems that allow colleges to assess your student’s readiness for rigorous academic work and qualification for scholarship awards. The PSAT is used in determining eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It's also often used as a practice for the SAT test.

Why PSAT, SAT & ACT Scores Matter

  • Most four-year schools require either ACT or SAT college entrance exam scores. Your child’s score will be a prominent consideration for colleges in determining admission.
  • PSAT, SAT, and ACT scores also help determine scholarship awards. Even a small increase in your student’s college entrance exam scores can make a difference in thousands of scholarship dollars.

Because these standardized test scores are so significant to your child’s college future, it's important to help your student develop a plan for studying for the PSAT, SAT and ACT tests.

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Topics: standardized testing, ACT test, SAT test

ACT & SAT Test-Taking Strategies: 3 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Performance

Posted by Julia Wasson

Jun 24, 2014 6:00:00 AM

We’ve all been there. Test day comes and so do our worries about whether we’ve studied the right materials and practiced our test-taking strategies enough to score well. Then, test-taking anxiety and self-doubt start to creep in as multiple-choice answers for the first question all seem to be kind of correct.

Throughout elementary school, junior high and high school, your child has endured standardized testing. But college entrance exams are a different beast altogether. The SAT, for example, is a massive set of subtests that take four hours to complete (let alone complete well). That can be daunting.

As your child prepares for the SAT, ACT or PSAT, he or she is — maybe for the first time ever — tasked with getting ready for a singular test that directly determines the course of the future. Those are high stakes, indeed.

Fortunately, by learning effective test-taking strategies, your child can feel confident and conquer the ACT or SAT test. Help your child avoid being one of the many fear-stricken students who let the pressure get the best of them with the following SAT and ACT test-taking strategies and ACT/SAT test-anxiety tips. They’re proven ways to improve your child’s performance on either college entrance exam:

Test-Taking Strategy #1: Ensure Your Child Has Adequate Content Knowledge

The SAT and the ACT test are designed to determine your child’s readiness to handle a college academic workload. These college entrance exams require relatively high levels of content knowledge, core academic skills and cognitive ability.

Encourage your student to sign up for challenging courses early in high school. By taking the regular sequence of classes, your child will gain the knowledge necessary to score well on an ACT or SAT test.

The only way to truly know if your child has adequate content knowledge is to take an ACT or SAT practice test. But just practicing isn’t enough; it’s also important to examine the answer explanations to understand the reason for any mistakes.

Side note: When colleges consider a student’s readiness, they take into account the student’s college entrance exam scores, grades, and coursework. If the student’s coursework reflects college preparatory classes, this is one of three central indicators that he is prepared to be successful in his college curriculum.

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Topics: test taking strategies, standardized testing

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