A recent, oft addressed and well-documented push against the SAT and other standardized tests (for the purposes of college admissions evaluation) has been roiling based on claims of inequality and inequity. The argument brought against the testing by students and the general public is that the testing is biased against people already disadvantaged by society. There are some major flaws in this argument as a basis of ridding ourselves of standardized testing, but these arguments are not the main reason that college administrators might ride this wave.
Of course, there is the fact that there is good publicity in going along with what seems to be progressive social change. But as might be expected, there is a financial element to this situation as well.
The College Board’s Skin in the Game
The College Board gets its revenue from the administration of standardized tests. However, people often misidentify where exactly that revenue is coming from. Contrary to common understanding, the College Board does not get the bulk of its SAT profits from the $52 registration fee. Rather, it benefits from the names of the people who take the test.
And this is where the disgruntled colleges come in. What the College Board is threatened by is not the direct payments of people taking the tests, but the sale of lists of their names to colleges. The more people who take the tests, the more names there are to sell. The fewer people who take the tests, the fewer names there are to sell and the less money there is to make.
The reason that colleges are interested in buying these lists is that they provide the names of people to which colleges can advertise, especially colleges suffering from the crisis of enrollment. However, prestigious colleges have found that cutting out the standardized testing causes a spike in applications. These colleges can afford to cut the college board out of their sector of the higher education food chain, while schools that service the majority of the population cannot.
Clearly, this shift cuts into the College Board’s revenue. But what is the revenue being cut from? As it turns out, the College Board is able to make a profit of approximately $100 million per year off of selling lists of the names of high schoolers to colleges looking to recruit.
Imagine it’s the morning of test day. Your student wakes up fully rested, prepared and confident that their SAT/ACT preparation is going to pay off. They’ve done their due diligence. They’ve hit the books, found a tutor, and done seven practice tests, showing a consistent score increase. A lot is riding on this test, but they don’t fret. As they enter the test site, they trust the process and know they did everything they could to maximize their performance. Ten minutes after walking into their testing location, however, something doesn’t seem right. The reading section time constraints written on the board are incorrect, and when the student questions the proctor about the time constraints they know to be accurate, they are faced with backlash and ridicule. With no choice but to shrug off this display of incompetence, the student continues the section, focused on staying calm and doing their best.
Then comes the math section. Fifteen minutes in, the student is interrupted by the proctor harshly knocking on their desk, vaguely gesturing for them to exit the classroom. Shocked, the student walks outside, eyeing the time and hoping this interruption won’t affect their test score. The proctor berates the student for supposedly lifting their calculator during the section and tells the student they have no choice but to cancel their test. Absolutely befuddled by the baseless accusation, the student pleads with the proctor and the test director. After ten minutes of arguing, the test director agrees to let the student continue without the use of a calculator and without any time compensation. Understandably, the student’s anxiety from the math debacle stays with them during the other sections of the test and they can’t stop thinking about the obvious disadvantage they were unfairly handed. Further, the proctor is constantly knocking on other students desks subjecting them to baseless accusations as well. By the time the student finishes the test and walks out the door, they can’t even remember the confident student they were just a few hours earlier and they feel as if the dreaded “standardized test” has once again bested them.
Now you might have guessed by the specific details of the encounter that this hypothetical situation is not hypothetical at all. In fact, this was the experience of one of our very own students who took the June 8th ACT at Anne Arundel Community College. While this might seem like an anecdotal incident, it’s truly just the tip of the iceberg. Students from all over the country are faced with untrained, unprofessional proctors and unfair testing conditions. Standardized tests have standardized rules, regulations and time constraints that must be abided by in order to maintain fair testing conditions, but time and time again the ACT and the CollegeBoard fail to uphold their own standards. Some students only have one chance at this test, whether for financial or logistical reasons. It is absolutely unacceptable that proctor error and incompetence can potentially undermine a student’s only attempt. The real kicker is that most students won’t even know when the proctor sets the wrong time for a section, and even more students won’t have a team of tutors ready to fight for them. Sign this community petition to show the ACT and SAT that we are committed to ensuring that all students, from all backgrounds, are subject to a truly standardized testing experience.
Thinking about March usually conjures up images of spring, St. Patrick’s Day, and of course college basketball. Likewise, while college athletes prepare themselves for March Madness, we think that students should put just as much effort into preparing for the March SAT. Just as athletes do their hardest work in the offseason leading up to their games, high school students need to put in their best effort if they expect to succeed on test day.
What most don’t realize, though, is the sheer amount of time one needs to prepare for such big events. While athletes train for years just for the chance to make a play, high school students usually only need 5 months of prep before they’re ready for their chance to earn the score of their dreams. For the March SAT, this means beginning preparations in mid to late October.
However, preparing for the SAT is a little different than conditioning for a basketball game. Our “drills” start by reviewing a diagnostic test that lets students know what areas they need to focus on the most, and this usually takes place in the first few sessions. Next we move onto reviewing the “why” behind all of the question types that students will see on test day, which takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3 months. From there we transition towards taking and reviewing practice test which not only reinforces the “why” that we’ll have covered earlier but also allows students examples of what to expect on test day. This portion of the process takes about 2 months and extends as necessary until students have taken two actual SATs with us. Obviously, every individual is different: this timeline provides the most flexibility for students and gives them enough time to guarantee that they’ll improve on test day.
Parents and students alike should recognize that taking the March SAT is ideal for a host of reasons. First and foremost, if you’re a junior in high school and don’t do as well as you wanted on the March SAT, you’ll still have an opportunity to retake the SAT in May, guaranteeing that you’ll have the best score moving into your senior year when you’ll need it for college applications. Additionally, the holiday season is the best time to prepare because the only other tests that students will have to worry about are midterms. Contrast this to the test dates in May or June in which SAT prep coincides with preparing for final exams, and the March advantage becomes clear. Furthermore, if you take the March SAT, you’ll have a holiday break to capitalize on. The break offers a change of pace in the middle of preparation, allowing for additional reflection as well as an opportunity to address weak areas before it’s too late.
Navigating these timelines can be tricky, and every situation is different. This is why we at Streamline Tutors recommend a free phone consultation to discuss each student’s individual needs and determine the best overall gameplan to guarantee success. With proper planning, you can ensure that all the madness in March is relegated to your bracket.
It seems that college admission boards are finally realizing what students knew all along: essay questions on tests are more hassle than they’re worth. As a recent article in the Washington Post points out, Princeton and Stanford have finally joined a long list of schools that have made the essay on the SAT and ACT optional. It’s as though they’ve realized that good writing requires thinking, reflecting, and discussing ideas, and that measuring a student’s writing ability based off of an essay written in under an hour may not be the best way to do so. Yet this is exactly what the ACT and SAT try to do with their essay sections, and colleges are waking up to how little skill this essay reflects: the same Washington Post article noted that “Fewer than 25 schools now require the essay scores, according to some tallies, including nine in the University of California system. Brown University, as of Friday, was the lone holdout in the Ivy League”. While more schools are removing the essay as a requirement, schools like Stanford still strongly recommend students take and submit the essay section.
So what does that mean for students? Until the essay sections go the way of the dodo, we recommend that students still take it, but spend less time preparing and worrying about it. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: a bad score won’t hurt you, and a good score can only help you; an extra $15 and 50 minutes on a Saturday is a small price to pay if it means the difference between an acceptance or rejection letter. However, if students now think that they don’t need to worry about their writing skills to get into college, they need to think again.
If fewer and fewer colleges are measuring a student’s writing aptitude using ACT and SAT essay sections, then how are admissions teams determining who the superior writers are? Well, by scrutinizing other writing samples that students provide: personal essays, essays completed for english classes, and even their teachers’ letters of recommendation. Admissions boards believe that this approach offers a more holistic view of a student’s writing abilities than an essay written in under an hour ever could. This means that the time students don’t spend preparing for the essay section should be focused on these other aspects of their application as well as improving their overall writing abilities.
Yet knowing what type of writing admissions boards prefer is perhaps more challenging than the essay section on the SAT. While the ACT and SAT spit out a number that scores the essay on a discrete scale, personal essays and teacher recommendation letters are much more open to interpretation. This is why we also recommend that students stop by our offices and sign up for college counseling, as we can assist you in every step of the application process. From essay editing, helping students think of which teachers they should ask for letters, as well as determining the right programs to apply to, Streamline’s team of experts will eliminate the hassle of students getting into the college of their dreams.
March 10th — it came and went. Maybe you took a prep class with your friends, maybe your mom ordered you one of those big scary workbooks. You did what everyone told you to do. But now, here we are. It’s March of your junior year, and your SAT score isn’t where it needs to be.
Don’t panic. There is a good news. For the first time in recent history, the ACT has opened up a July test date. For the second year running, the SAT has an August date. While some students prefer to have their standardized prep done and dusted before breaking out the air conditioners, many find they need to wait until spring before the machine is fully in gear.
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve thought about your test scores, but one thing is certain: what you were doing wasn’t working. That’s okay! You don’t need to start over. What you need is someone to sit down with you — someone who doesn’t just know the test like the back of their hand, but someone who will get to know you. Someone with the insight and expertise to hone in on your weaknesses and capitalize on your organic strengths. What you need is a Streamline Tutor.
You haven’t missed the opportunity to land your dream score, but now is the time to commit. You need to hit the three T’s of test prep:
First, you need to decide what test to prep for. We can help. Sign up for one of our free diagnostics, and you’ll receive a comprehensive consultation along with your scores.
You’ve got the July ACT, the June SAT, and the August SAT. If you start in April, you’ll have between two and four months of prep.
You need a tutor that best suits your learning style and schedule. Make sure your tutor knows you. Don’t hide things you don’t understand. Great tutors will tease out the rest.
In short, don’t freak out. Just make sure the steps you take next are carefully considered. And if you need a free consultation, just visit our website at www.streamlinetutors.com and click the tab “learn more.”
Anthony was a middle of the road Park student starting at an 1120 on his diagnostic SAT. He had great grades, but his performance on the SAT didn’t seem to match. Parents were struggling to come up with an explanation, but Streamline knew exactly what to do.
From the start, Anthony came in very nervous. He was freezing up and running out of time. On some problems, he felt like he had no idea how to get started. His confidence was draining away. Was the content the main challenge, or was it insecurity? If he was doing so well in school, where was all this coming from?
Students exposed to Park’s unusual curriculum have pronounced strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the SAT. The humanities focus advances reading comprehension, but the lack of emphasis on certain math and grammar concepts can leave students up the creek. In addition, Park doesn’t ask it’s students to take many formal tests, and when they do, they aren’t timed in most cases. As a result, many are unaccustomed to managing the performance anxiety that comes with a standardized testing environment.
From the start, the score breakdown told the whole story. Anthony’s reading score was much higher than his grammar score. His math was predictably mixed. He could tackle the hardest problems on concepts he had learned in school. His challenges were with the material he had never been exposed to. We saw enormous potential for growth. It wasn’t a mystery — Streamline has seen enough Park students to recognize the pattern right away.
Anthony shed the “bad test-taker” image and earned a 1360 on the SAT!
If you think your student could benefit from the same targeted approach, reach out to us today or sign your child up to take a free diagnostic.
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