The Edge Prep Blog
Ideally you have your final score by the end of your junior year.
When Should I take the SAT's?
Why not senior year? Because your first-semester senior year is likely going to be the most intense and stressful semester of your high school career. You will likely have your hardest classes, club leadership responsibilities, and college applications. During your senior year, getting enough sleep will be a big enough challenge, so why add pressure to perform well on the SAT? Also, if you procrastinated on your SAT studying, you will likely procrastinate on your personal statement writing as well. Take your SAT's early so you can procrastinate on something else!
We understand that most students don't plan ahead enough. Enrollment in SAT classes tends to peak during the summer between junior/senior year and fall of senior year. Despite encouraging high school juniors to start studying earlier, we often don't see these students until they are stressed out a year later. That's understandable. High school juniors are still teenagers and likely to perceive a year in the future as quite long.
One note about taking the SAT your senior year: if you think that you can improve your score by 100+ points, then definitely feel free to take the test again. That is a big enough improvement and worth your time.
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College Board, the makers of the SAT exam used in US university admissions, has announced some drastic changes to their SAT exam. The exam, which has seen its takers diminish to near zero amidst the pandemic has cited the need to be more flexible and less demanding for its students.
In their announcement, they stated they will make 3 profound changes to the way they handle and administer tests. All of which will have a great impact on students who are currently preparing to take the exam, as well as those who will take it in the future.
- Discontinuing SAT Subject Tests - Many universities have required these to supplement the SAT or even ACT scores, particularly the top 50 universities. College board has stated they feel the current SAT and academic profiles of students currently provides enough info to show achievements. The bad news here is that this appears to only impact US based students, so international students will need to keep taking the subject tests. Admissions requirements may change though, so keep checking with us to see if things change for international students.
- Removing the Optional SAT Essay - In the past 5 years the SAT has transformed from being the only exam to require an essay, to not even offering one. While we are sure this will make a lot of students happy, there is a good chance that we will see a more comprehensive replacement on a per university basis in the future. For now, though, this will considerably cut prep time for students.
- Changing the delivery mode of the exams - They do not have a lot of information on this one, but as far as we can tell it means they will be providing a digital format of the exam. If these means testing centers will receive a digital copy, if you will go to a prometric center, or if you will just take it at home, we are unsure. College board has promised more info to come this spring.
For more information, please see the official press release from College Board.
Find out why The Edge Prep is perfectly suited for these changes by starting a Free Trial(Freemium).
The SAT test dates for International students is subject to change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Please check with your local test center or refer back to this blog to see the latest status updates.
Preparing for the SAT starts with knowing your test date. Remember that if your in Asia, registering early is essential as spots fill up quickly.
Here are the dates for the 1st half of 2021.
SAT International Test Dates
SAT Subject Tests Available
Early Registration via Representation
Deadline for Changes
SAT Subject Tests not offered on this date
January 27, 2021
February 12, 2021
March 2, 2021
March 24, 2021
April 8, 2021
April 27, 2021
June 5, 2021
Source: Collegeboard.org. Dates in italics indicate estimated SAT international dates.
*The SAT test dates for International students is subject to change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Please check with your local test center or refer back to this blog to see the latest status updates.
When it comes to navigating American Test Prep, things are always a bit tricky. However, usually we can break things down into just "take the ACT/SAT, and if your not a native speaker, take the TOEFL."
However, when it comes to boarding schools, in particular the more prominent ones, students will need to take the SSAT or ISEE. While the ACT and SAT are rather straight forward, these tests can be a nightmare to navigate for both parents and students alike. In this article I will focus on the SSAT, its various versions, who should take them, and why its important to prepare for each of them.
How Many Levels are there?
There are 3 levels of SSAT, Elementary (Lower), Middle, and Upper levels. Unlike the past, all three of these levels now share a common direction, with the only difference being the difficulty level of the questions on the tests.
Who should take them?
This is actually a difficult question to answer. I often tell people that no one should really take any of them unless absolutely required, and the lower level test is almost never required.
The official guidance is as follows:
- Elementary - Grade 3-4
- Middle - Grade 5-7
- Upper - Grade 8-11
That said, its exceedingly rare for any boarding school to accept anything other than the upper level, so if your counselor is saying you need the middle level, you should double check.
What’s the difference between the different levels?
As mentioned above, there are 3 versions of the test with the primary difference being the level of difficulty. The Elementary test is quite a bit easier than the other two levels, but still includes the same core sections(Quantitative, Verbal(both synonyms and analogies), Essay, and Critical Reading) The Middle and Upper level tests share nearly all content, with the middle level test having a smaller range of overall content for the student to take. I have broken down the tests below.
- Math - Basic Algebra, Basic Geometry, Word Problems, and Arithmetic
- Reading - 30 questions in 1 passage-based section.
- Verbal - 15 Synonym and 15 Analogy questions
- Essay - On the elementary version of this test the essay involves writing a story about an image they provide. Only 15 minutes to write the essay.
For more information on the Elementary Level Test, you can read the SSAT's official breakdown of the test here.
Middle Level Test
- Only a Narrative style essay, 2 choices of topic. 25 minutes to write the essay.
- Math - Algebra, Geometry, Arithmetic, and more.
- Reading - 1 section with passage-based questions. These questions are very formulaic, and the strategies applied here will apply to any reading exam in the future. (Such as the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT)
- Verbal - 30 Synonym and 30 Analogy questions
For more information on the Middle Level Test, you can read the SSAT's official breakdown of the test here.
Upper Level Test
- A choice of a narrative or personal essay, 1 of each to choose from. 25 minutes to write the essay.
- Math is the same as the Middle Level Test, but offers a few more difficult question types
- Reading - Same as the Middle Level Test, but the passages are usually a bit longer and the questions more obscure.
- Verbal - Same as the Middle Level Test.
For more information on the Upper Level Test, you can read the SSAT's official breakdown of the test here.
Which schools currently require them?
This changes from time to time and the best advice anyone can give you is to check with the admissions team at that particular school. However, as of this writing, here are some of the schools which require the SSAT and which level is required for each.
- Hotchkiss School - Upper Level
- Blue Ridge School - Upper Level
- Cheshire Academy - Upper Level
- Concord Academy - Upper Level
- Cushing Academy - Upper Level
- Deerfield Academy - Upper Level
- Milton Academy - Upper Level
- Monteverde Academy - Upper Level
- Phillips Exeter Academy - Upper Level
- Salisbury School - Upper Level
For more schools that require the SSAT, you can go over to the SSAT's school search engine.
In a future article, I will write up more details on what type of preparation you should do for each of these tests. For this article though, I will only go into why its important to prep for any of these SSAT tests, something I can really sum up in just a few words.
The Verbal Section of this Test is Terrible!
That is all there is to it. This test forces kids to memorize hundreds to thousands of vocabulary words which are almost certainly never going to be used in any form of real-world context. It then requires them to be able to classify these words and identify relationships between second and third definitions for these obscure words. In short, the Verbal section is an absolute nightmare. The other sections of the test are actually quite good indicators of comprehension and ability and are very similar to what we've seen the ACT and SAT become over the years.
However the inclusion of the Verbal section essentially mandates that students start studying at least 6 months prior to the exam. Please note this only applies to the Middle and Upper Level versions of this exam, as the Elementary version of this test is, as described above, a very different test. Preparation for the Elementary version of the test should you need or want to take it for some reason, can be limited to a small amount of time, usually 5 hours or less, in order to get a good understanding of the framework and practice some questions.
So thats about it for this section, if you have further questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If your looking for help on the test The Edge Prep has an AI powered self-learning program available. If its more live help your in need of, The Edge Tutors has dozens of available SSAT tutors for you to choose from.
About the Author
Chris Fuller has been teaching since 2006, and the SSAT for over 10 years. He has an MBA from The University of South Dakota, a B.A. in Economics from Temple University Japan Campus, and holds multiple teaching and technical certificates.
College Admissions Advice
Given the current worldwide lockdown, I've been asked about what steps I think need to be taken to mitigate COVID-19's impact on the college admissions process. Let me give you a checklist and themes to consider:
GPA - Some high schools are moving to pass/fail to not penalize students during this difficult time. Keep track of what would have been your grade so that you can either self report or ask your high school counselor to report on your teacher's behalf.
SAT/ACT/AP - With the cancellation of the SAT/ACT/AP until further notice, you should continue to study for those exams as if they were going to resume in the summer or fall, and concentrate on improving your GPA since that will get even higher weighting as the academic portion of your application.
Extracurricular Activities - ECAs are being canceled since schools are not in physical session. Last and this semester is dead, but the summer may be salvageable. Search and plan to upskill yourself in your ECAs through community organizations, summer programs, etc.
Summer Activities - In the likelihood that summer programs are canceled, look for online replacements for your summer programs. Were you planning on learning a skill or course at Harvard or UCLA summer school? Do they have a summer alternative? Do other programs have an alternative? Go hunting and welcome to online learning!
Online Learning - Yes, its here. It's been here for a while. At The Edge, we installed our online system The Edge Prep a couple years ago to facilitate our courses online. Right now all our students are learning on that system during the Hong Kong/China quarantines. I'm grateful that we planned ahead. You should too! Are there AP courses you planned to take in the fall that you could pre-study online? Are there test prep courses (at The Edge!) that you can take online rather than going to a physical center? Are there sports training apps or online courses you can take to improve your skill set within the safety of your home? Enroll now!
College Application Season & College Essays - Since we expect to lose some GPA semesters and ECA activities in our college profile by fall, we should expect that college will need to de-weight those and weight more heavily towards other factors such as college essays and possibly interviews. So its time to sharpen up your essay writing skills and collect your life stories to make sure you're ready to share the real you! Also, you may want to avoid the "My Life under COVID" as a main essay as I'm sure we're going to have a TON of those essays!
Need more advice? Contact me for an Initial Meeting!
CEO/Admissions Consultant - The Edge Learning Centers
CSO - RISE Education