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College Admissions Tips: SAT/ACT Preparation, Accommodations & Don’t Worry!

Don’t Worry!

We can all agree that the College Admissions process is complex and your application will most certainly be evaluated on several comprehensive criteria.  There are now more than 1000 Accredited Colleges and Universities  DE-EMPHASIZING ACT/SAT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor-Degree Programs.   This list can be found here at FAIRTEST
Let’s take a look at some important issues:
Super Scoring and Score Choice also relieve some of the stress.  Many colleges “Superscore” which allows you to form a composite score of the best sub-scores across different dates you’ve taken the exam.
The PSAT serves very little purpose beyond qualifying exceedingly few students as National Merit Finalists.  Please don’t fret about this exam either.

Testing Accommodations

The College Board received 157,000 requests for testing accommodations.  I recommend that students apply for their accommodation as soon as possible as this covers not only the SAT/ACT but your AP exams.
If you’re approved for a testing accommodation, it’s important that your tutor  (not all are created equally!) administer a diagnostic tool to determine which exam format is most suitable for you, as some exam formats align more effectively with specific learning disabilities.  Your test preparation should incorporate and adjust for your accommodations.  For example, if you have extra time, your tutor should be teaching you how to effectively leverage this accommodation to realize your full potential.
Please be aware that the ACT organization will only approve accommodations if the student has been professionally diagnosed and if the student receives the same  accommodations at high school.  ACT also requires students to register for a specific test date contemporaneous with applying for the accommodations.  The College Board requires accommodation requests to be submitted seven weeks in advance of your test date. Please start the process early allowing for time for appeals if necessary.  While having your high school support (if not handle the entirety of the submission) your accommodation request is extremely helpful, it isn’t necessary. Parents can do so independent of the high school if necessary. There is no stigma with requesting accommodations and this information is NOT shared with college admissions records.

TESTING ANXIETY

Testing anxiety is a genuine concern.  For some students, an accommodation can be invaluable to addressing and resolving. Please speak to your family physician for a referral to a licensed psychologist specializing in evaluation and providing the support you need to create the appropriate accommodations not only for testing but for success throughout high school.
Accommodations such as extended time, isolated test taking or keyboarding are provided for a variety of situations including ADHD, executive function disorders, physical disabilities such as visual processing or handwriting, and mood/anxiety disorders including test taking anxiety.
It’s certainly not uncommon for students to feel uneasy at exam time; but some students have experienced actual test anxiety which inhibits the student from performing to the best of their abilities as a result of cognitive and/or physiological responses to their anxiety. A licensed psychologist should be consulted to diagnose testing anxiety and create a plan for treatment allowing the student to feel empowered about the outcome and situation.  Preparing for exams and relaxation strategies will help students with test anxiety. Your psychologist should and can coordinate with your tutor.
All students should of course take practice exams regularly as this provides information about what needs further work and creates a setting for continued improvement on specific targets. Test preparation can be undertaken in many time and cost effective ways including:
  • Independent student directed practice at home through books or self-paced online programs (some free of charge such as Khan Academy offered through the College Board are effective).
  • Small group classes – buyer beware. The curriculum leaves little room for personalized attention and a self-motivated student would do better on their own.
  • Individual Tutoring – focused on the content areas requiring the most attention.  Expect a 6 -8 week time period for maximum results including assignments between weekly sessions for maximum results.
Whether you’re ready to write your college essays or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized summer reading plan to explore or deepen an academic/personal interest, I invite you to contact me to schedule your Educational and College Planning Assessment available for rising seniors and all middle and high school students.
Best wishes for a restful and joyful summer!
Bonnie R. Rabin, PhD
Educational and College Admissions Consultant