Admissions

New ACT and SAT Concordance Tables - Released Summer 2018

SAT and ACT - New Concordance Chart
 

 SAT scores versus ACT scores - concordance chart displaying how scores compare to each other. Which test is better for you to take? ACT or SAT? Find out by taking one of each test!

Concordance tables bridge the gap between the ACT and SAT scales, providing a guide to link equivalent scores. They’re not only essential for admissions staff, but also for students and families to help decide which test is the best choice. The newest concordance tables were released this summer, replacing the contested tables that were posted by the College Board, without input from ACT, in 2016.

The range of possible SAT scores that a student can achieve is much wider than the range of possible ACT scores. There are only 36 distinct score possibilities on the ACT, whereas there are 120 possibilities for the SAT, a test which increments its scores by 10 points between 400 and 1600. This means that the concordance table needs to assign a range of SAT scores that match a given ACT score.

The official 2018 ACT/SAT concordance tables can be viewed here.

How Different Are the 2016 vs. 2018 Concordance Tables?  

The truth is, when comparing the 2016 and 2018 concordances, the adjustments are not very dramatic. Yet there are some important implications for students:

·         For the highest scores on the scale, the top SAT scores have become more valuable in comparison to ACT scores. For instance, a 1540 on the SAT is now considered equal to a 35 on the ACT. Previously, concordance charts had linked the SAT’s 1540 with a 34 on the ACT.

·         For the lowest scores on the scale, the bottom SAT scale scores have become less valuable in comparison to ACT scores. A clear example of this is at the SAT score of 590. While this was previously equated to an 11 on the ACT, this score is now linked to a 9, dropping its value by two points.

·         Near the middle of the score ranges, (21-24 for ACT, 1060-1190 for SAT) the concordances did not change at all.


What Does This Mean for Students? 

The new concordances do not change much for students when it comes to college admission, so this minor adjustment will not make waves.
 
However, the new concordance information does have the potential to affect minimum scores for merit scholarships or programs that require clear-cut SAT or ACT score ranges. It is likely that the response will be mixed: some institutions will adjust their required ranges, while others will just stick with their established status quo.
 
Our advice for students starting test prep does not change: if you are deciding between the ACT and SAT, it is still important to take a full-length practice test for each. When you have completed both tests, compare your scores against the 2018 concordance chart. If your SAT and ACT scores are comparable, you should choose whichever test you preferred. If one score is significantly higher, opt for that test instead. The new concordance tables do not change the process of selecting a test; however, they do help to standardize how students, guidance counselors, and admissions committees compare test scores.
 
If you would like to take a practice ACT or SAT to compare the exams and assess your testing skills, Vint Hill Educational Services offers mock tests in group, individual, and at-home formats. Along with the test booklets, you will receive testing instructions and full diagnostic reports showing score breakdowns in each of the test sections. For more information, please read on, or visit our Mock Testing webpage.

The SSAT: Planning, Preparation, and Practice

If you're interested in attending an independent school, you may have heard the term SSAT and may now be wondering how to study for the test. In this article, we'll briefly cover the basics of what the SSAT is and does and offer key SSAT prep strategies and tips. 


What Is the SSAT?

The SSAT, or Secondary School Admission Test, is a standardized test required by a number of independent schools worldwide as a part of any hopeful student's application.
It's offered at three levels:

  • Elementary, for students currently enrolled in Grades 3 or 4
  • Middle, for students currently enrolled in Grades 5 through 7
  • Upper, for students currently enrolled in Grades 8 through 11

What Does the SSAT Test?

The SSAT measures verbal, quantitative, and reading skills, all the while emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving.
The quantitative section tests things like basic operations, basic fractions, and ordering numbers (for the elementary-level students) and algebra, geometry, and data analysis (for the upper-level students). 

The verbal section consists of responding to synonym and analogy questions at an appropriate level for the student's age.

The reading section is focused on answering comprehension and analysis questions related to short passages from a variety of genres.

The test is almost entirely multiple-choice, with the exception of one 15-25 minute free-response writing exercise. Younger students will be asked to write a short story, while older students will have the choice of constructing an essay if they prefer.

The SSAT is designed to measures skills rather than achievement; in other words, it's not intended to rely on your mastery of specific material. This is supposed to help keep the test fair across all different backgrounds from which a student might originate.

How Is the SSAT Scored?

The SSAT is norm-referenced, meaning your final score is based on how well you do compared to other test takers. You will receive a scaled score and a percentile ranking. The scaled score's range will depend on the student's grade level:

  • For Elementary, the range is 300-600 per section, or 1200-1800.
  • For Middle, the range is 440-710 per section, or 1320-2130.
  • For Upper, the range is 500-800 per section, or 1500-2400.

The percentile ranking is always on a scale of 1-99, and it represents your performance as compared to students of the same grade who tested on the SSAT for the first time within the past three years in the US or Canada.

While the test is designed to be of "middle difficulty," this is a very competitive group of students against which you're being scored—these are the select students applying to the finest independent schools. 
 

SSAT Practice Tests

Use practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format, instructions, time constraints, and content. They're a great opportunity to practice as well as to ease the uncertainty you are likely to feel when facing a test of unknown characteristics.

Practice tests also provide the perfect opportunity to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can ask a tutor, teacher, or parent for help on the specific areas where you struggle.

VHES offers a free in-home baseline practice test to help students familiarize themselves with the SSAT and prepare for the official exam. Click here for more information about our SSAT Prep service and diagnostic reports.  
 

How to Study for the SSAT: 5 Steps

#1: Take an Official Practice Test 

You should start prepping at least three months before you plan to take the SSAT. The first step is to take a practice test and then analyze your performance: what are your strengths and weaknesses, and what growth will you need to see in order to reach your goal? Quantify where you are and where you want to be. Note your performance in each of the three scored content areas. 
 

#2: Study Regularly

Having a regular study schedule is vital to raising your score, since you need to put in real time and effort to improve. 

Are you way behind your goal—say, more than 200 points? Think about scheduling at least an hour or two a week for Elementary students or up to three or four hours a week for Upper students. 

Are you looking to make a more moderate score increase of 100 - 200 points? You'll still want to study regularly, but can cut down to an hour or less per week for Elementary-level or roughly two hours per week for Upper-level.

Are you right about where you need to be in your score? You don't need to put in quite the same level of sustained SSAT prep, but we still recommend taking one or two more practice tests to keep your scores stable (or even improve them!).
 

#3: Focus on Your Weaknesses

In your prep, focus in on the topics that were hardest for you, but don't forget to dust the ones you've mastered off pretty routinely, too.

For the quantitative section, pay close attention in your math class; especially review/practice the topics that are slated to come up on the test, according to the Official Guide.

For the verbal section, make a game of playing with synonyms and analogies in everyday life. Get your friends and family in on it, too, if you can!

For the reading section, the best thing you can do is actively engage with reading on a daily basis. Draw from multiple genres, and force yourself to answer questions (your own or someone else's) about the text you've read.

For all sections, complete practice problems as often as you can. 
 

#4: Take Another Practice Test—In Fact, Take a Few

Take a practice test every four weeks or so—more often if you are uncomfortable with the test and want a greater improvement, less often if you feel at ease testing and are near your goal score.

Use these practice tests as a time to increase your familiarity with the format and feel of the test. Also perform a check-in to see how your trouble areas are progressing. Ask where your focus needs to be at this point in time.
 

#5: Slow Down About a Week Before the Test

Give yourself plenty of time to relax; cut down on your study time, and get plenty of rest. Stop studying altogether a day or two before the test. You need to start storing up sleep for the big day!

 

Please let us know if you have any questions about the SSAT.

Email us at contact@vinthilles.com for a free SSAT diagnostic report. 

 

Private School Admissions: SSAT & ISEE

Throughout the Washington DC area, parents often ask us, “When should we take a practice SSAT or ISEE?” or “When should we start SSAT or ISEE prep?” Current 7th graders should take a practice upper level SSAT or ISEE in the spring or the summer going into 8th grade. That’s for students looking to apply for 9th grade entrance to a private high school. The official tests are usually taken during the fall or winter of 8th grade. Taking a full-length official SSAT or ISEE practice test beforehand, will let the student know where to focus. The student may need more math, verbal, or reading support. Furthermore, the practice test will reveal what types of questions the student is struggling with the most. For example, on the SSAT verbal section, the student may do really well on the synonyms, yet have problems with the analogies questions. 

Here’s how the private high school admissions process works:  

1)    Create a school list during 7th grade year. Look over: 
o    Academic programs
o    Co-ed or single gender
o    Class size
o    Leadership opportunities
o    Location
o    Athletics
o    Safety procedures
o    Learning center
o    Matriculation list
o    Tips:
          Don’t have too many schools on your list
          Have reach schools, middle of the road schools, and safety schools

2)    Other factors:
•    Schools accept SSAT or ISEE
•    Financial aid and payment plans
•    Fine arts program
•    Student body diversity
•    Faculty background
•    Test scores
•    Campus facilities
•    Technology
•    STEAM

3)    Application criteria:
•    SSAT or ISEE scores
•    Student grades
•    Interview
•    Essays
•    Campus tour
•    Extracurricular activities
•    Volunteer work
•    Community involvement

4)    How to start:
•    Attend campus open houses
•    Research school websites
•    Call admissions offices
•    Look at a various schools
•    Take a baseline SSAT or ISEE
•    Plan for 2 months – 6 months of test prep
•    Review admissions deadlines for paperwork and test scores (usually, January or February due dates). 

5)    SSAT: 
•    Offered 8 times per year on predetermined national testing dates.
•    Students can also take a flex test one-to-one or in a small group setting (usually setup through an IECA member).
•    Students can take all national testing dates and a flex test (meaning they can take the SSAT more than once).

6)    ISEE: 
•    All students will have the option to test once in each of three four-month long testing windows; meaning, students can test up to three times in a 12-month admission cycle.
•    There are no national testing dates. Tests are setup through approved testing site member schools.
•    Students may take the ISEE at approved ERB member school test sites, Prometric locations worldwide, or at ERB’s main New York City office.

We can help you get prepared for the SSAT and ISEE. Get started with your customized test prep program today! 
 

FREE College Planning & SAT Prep Workshops

For Parents and Students

Your College Planning Coach and Vint Hill Educational Services will hold workshops on Saturday, April 1st (Richmond VA) and Saturday, April 29th (Manassas Park VA), from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Both parents and students are welcome to attend. The parent workshop will go over college planning information. The student workshop will focus on SAT prep for the math and reading/writing sections. 

FREE Parent Workshop
- Help with scholarships and financial aid
- When to start planning for college
- How school selection can save you money
- Proven tools to guide career and school choice
- How to navigate through the application process
- And much more!

FREE Student Workshop
- Learn SAT tips, tricks, and strategies
- Understand the SAT format, timing, and structure
- Introduction to the SAT math, SAT reading, and SAT writing sections
- Work through sample problems with the teacher
- Comparison to ACT

Registration
Online: Manassas VA - http://tinyurl.com/znnv47d  Richmond VA -  https://tinyurl.com/hs44xhh
Phone: 703-928-9036 / 540-428-5379
Email: luanne@yourcollegeplanningcoach.com / michael@vinthilles.com 

Determine Your Match Schools

Match schools make great choices because you'll be among peers who have academic abilities that are similar to your own. A match school is a college or university that is more than likely to admit the applicant as a student. The reason for this is because grades, along with ACT or SAT test scores, are similar to average students at the school. When applying to undergraduate institutions, it's important to choose schools wisely.  

Is the school a match for you? 
If you know your high school GPA, and you've taken either the ACT or SAT, it's simple to figure out if your GPA and ACT or SAT test scores are average for a specific school. There’s two ways for finding out this information:
Find schools that interest you and go to the admissions department page on their website. ACT and SAT data for matriculated students is usually posted. For most schools, the posted information represents the 25th and 75th percentile of students who enrolled. If your ACT or SAT scores are above the 25th percentile number, you're a possible match for the school. Though, the ultimate goal is to be at the middle 50th percentile. If you cannot find the data on the school’s website then give the admissions office a phone call. It doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone and ask! 

View a sample student body profile (Princeton University).

Your match school choices
You must understand that there is no guarantee of admission. Perhaps, many students with grades and ACT or SAT test scores similar to yours were offered a spot to attend next year. It’s very likely that students with comparable portfolios to yours were not admitted. This is a good reason to apply to safety schools. Try to have a few of these because it can be a shock to find out the spring of senior year that you've received nothing.

Top reasons for why you may not have been admitted to a match school:
•    The application was incomplete or had careless errors. 
•    You failed to show your interest in the school. 
•    The college has a holistic admissions process. Meaning, your essay or extracurricular activities weren't as impressive as other students.
•    You may have been knocked out by applicants who applied early action or early decision. 
•    Your letters of recommendation contradicted or drew suspicion compared to the rest of your application. 
•    The school wasn't able to meet family financial needs.
•    Many schools believe that a diverse student body benefits the campus environment.

Contact us if you need help determining your match schools.

Make Your College Application Essay Stand out in 5 Easy Steps!

Colleges and universities receive thousands of applications each year.  Your college application needs to impress them and sell yourself.  What is unique about you and your experiences? It is important to put across what will make YOU an excellent fit within that college’s community.

1. Select the Best Topic for You

Many colleges provide suggested topics that you can choose from. Typically, they’re broad and designed to offer some direction and guidance.  They should only be considered as a starting point and not where your application essay begins.  A top mistake students make when it comes to college application essays is not really giving careful consideration when thinking about their prompt choice.

It happens quite frequently; students jump straight to the prompt that appears the easiest. However, just because an essay seems easy to write doesn’t mean it’s the essay you should choose to write. Students should ask the following question, “Which of these essays allows for me to talk about myself in a way that the admission counselor hasn’t already heard before?” Also ask yourself, “Which one of these prompts would all of my friends choose to write on?” You may not want to write on the same prompt that every one of your friends would write on.

2. Bring on the Brainstorming  

Set aside enough time for brainstorming. Application essays that are well written and thought out take time. You cannot sit down at your computer and in three hours type up your best work. That may have worked fine in your History class, but this is a college application essay.

Once you’ve chosen a prompt, don’t just write an essay on the first idea that pops into your head. Set aside enough time and brainstorm everything. Just because you write an idea down, doesn’t mean it will end up being the topic you select. Brainstorming is an important step to writing a really engaging story. All your ideas are now down on paper and you can now spend the time reviewing each of them.

You should now have a long list of ideas. The question to ask is: Which of these ideas helps demonstrate my personality traits? Usually, the more specific you are, the more engaging your story will be.  If you are having a really hard time choosing a topic, pick your top two or three ideas and write outlines for each.

3. Develop a Clear Outline  

An outline is an important step in the essay writing process. Architects use blue prints and computer programmers use code; a good outline is like having a roadmap for your essay. Writing a successful essay is much easier once you have a clear outline.

Your essay is like telling a story. You should write your outline with a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. When writing your outline, it is also a great time to begin thinking about some of the important parts of the essay. A hook is the most important part of the college admission essay. By the time the admissions officer gets to the end of the second line, he or she has likely decided if they are invested or if they will passively read the essay. You want something that will make the admissions department employee choose the first option.

An essay that takes a circle format is a good choice. Meaning, that where you start is where you end. This can be achieved by opening with a quote that comes in later, or by telling the ending before you get to it and backing up.

4. Writing Your Essay

Once you’ve invested in the time necessary for the first three steps, then writing the actual essay should be the easiest part of the process. Your outline will guide you through the writing part. The most important thing you can do during the writing process is to engage the reader’s imagination. Writing specific descriptions that allow the reader to visualize your story will help keep the reader’s interest.

While writing your essay, try to avoid grammatical and spelling mistakes.  But don’t worry too much, you’ve still got one final step.

5. Proof-Read Your Essay, and Then Proof-Read It Again

Students tend to want to just finish their essay and be done with it. However, proof-reading and reviewing plays a crucial role. We all know the nightmare stories that can play out due to not reviewing one’s essay before that final submission. One of the most common mistakes: sending an essay to a school with another school’s name on it. That’s what can happen when you don’t proof-read. So learn from mistakes of others and proof-read your essay. After all, you’ve put so much work into it.

If you find proof-reading to be a difficult task, try reading the essay out loud. A lot of times you’ll catch common mistakes that you may have missed by reading it silently. Then, give it to people whose opinion you trust. This may be a parent (but it doesn’t have to be), a friend, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a tutor. It never hurts to give it to someone who is really familiar with college admissions, but the most important thing is that the reader will give you honest feedback. Important questions to ask include: Does this interest you? Did you think it accurately reflected my personality? Was there anything you would change? Do you think the essay answers the original question? Did the introduction interest you?

Once you get this feedback, go back to your essay and make any changes necessary. Repeat this step until you are completely satisfied.

The last thing you need to do is have someone check your essay for grammar and spelling. The person you choose should not read your essay for content, but solely to provide feedback on the basics. Once you get any changes, make them and review one last time. 

Do you need help writing an essay? Let us know you're looking for a writing tutor!