Student View: How To Get Into UT Austin

The Daily Texan: “Current and former students who offer insight into UT admissions and campus life have become popular, unofficial faces of the University to prospective students on YouTube … Before her freshman year, marketing sophomore Julia Wezio made a YouTube video titled “How I got Into UT Austin Tips + Advice,” and today, Wezio’s video has over 33,000 views — more than any single video UT’s YouTube channel has made in about two years. Marketing junior Lynette Adkins also reached thousands of views on videos covering topics such as the cost of attending UT and study abroad.”

“Miguel Wasielewski, executive director of UT Admissions, said in an email the advice of current students is best when coupled with information provided by college representatives. Wezio, who watched YouTube videos from other UT students before applying, said she also thinks her success was partially driven by the authenticity of her content.”

Wezio comments: “It’s not so much that UT is trying to hide something from you, but it’s more so that they have to use that official language. They have to keep a certain image. When you’re talking to a student who can share their unfiltered voice and be honest with you, I think they’re going to be more honest, obviously about the negative things, but a lot more honest with the positive things too.”

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SAT vs. ACT: What’s The Difference?

US News: “The ACT and the SAT both assess arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, so much of the mathematical content will still apply if you switch exams. However, you should note that the SAT includes a distinct subsection for Problem Solving and Data Analysis, while the ACT includes Statistics and Probability instead … The ACT Writing prompt requires you to read a brief text that introduces an issue, followed by three distinctly different perspectives on the issue. In your response, you must draw upon the given perspectives to state and justify your own point of view.The SAT essay is different in that it is an exercise in rhetorical analysis. On the SAT, you must read a text and show which devices the author uses to build his or her argument.”

“Unlike the SAT, the ACT contains a dedicated science section. Despite its name, however, the ACT Science section primarily tests students’ critical thinking and reading skills, as well as their understanding of scientific skills like the scientific method … If you intend to switch from the SAT to the ACT, you should devote study time to reviewing skills from your science classes, but rest assured that you do not need to master every scientific concept and term. Similarly, the SAT Reading portion assesses vocabulary in context more heavily than does ACT Reading. Students transitioning to the SAT should address this difference by adding more vocabulary questions to their review regimen.

“In general, the ACT is a more fast-paced examination. The ACT contains more questions, although the questions are typically more straightforward than those on the SAT. On the ACT, you have approximately 36 seconds per English question, 60 seconds per math question, and 52.5 seconds per reading question. Compare these numbers to the SAT, on which you have about 48 seconds per writing and language question, 75 seconds per reading question, and roughly 83 seconds per math question. For the essay portion, you are allowed 40 minutes on the ACT, versus 50 minutes on the SAT.”

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Code Language: AP & SAT Re-think Knowledge

Thomas Friedman: “A few years ago, the leaders of the College Board, the folks who administer the SAT college entrance exam, asked themselves a radical question: Of all the skills and knowledge that we test young people for that we know are correlated with success in college and in life, which is the most important? Their answer: the ability to master ‘two codes’ — computer science and the U.S. Constitution. Since then they’ve been adapting the SATs and the College Board’s Advanced Placement program to inspire and measure knowledge of both.”

“So rather than have SAT exams and Advanced Placement courses based on things that you cram for and forget, they are shifting them, where they can, to promote the ‘two codes.’ In 2016, the College Board completely revamped its approach to A.P. computer science courses and exams … starting with the question: What is it that you’d like to do in the world? Music? Art? Science? Business? Great! Then come build an app in the furtherance of that interest and learn the principles of computer science, not just coding … The new course debuted in 2016. Enrollment was the largest for a new course in the history of Advanced Placement, with just over 44,000 students nationwide.”

“The A.P. U.S. Government and Politics course also was reworked” based on the premise that “it was essential that every student entering college actually have command of the First Amendment, which enshrines five freedoms, not just freedom of speech” but also of “assembly, petition, press and religion … So the new A.P. government course is built on an in-depth look at 15 Supreme Court cases as well as nine foundational documents that every young American should know. It shows how the words of the Constitution give rise to the structures of our government … That said to students and teachers something the SAT had never dared say before: Some content is disproportionately more powerful and important, and if you prepare for it you will be rewarded on the SAT.”

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Alt-SAT/ACT: The CLT (Classic Learning Test)

Real Clear Education: “Starting a company from scratch that’s able to compete with the long-entrenched SAT and ACT in the college-entrance testing business sounds like an impossible dream. However, a pair of Annapolis-based entrepreneurs, philosopher Jeremy Tate and businessman David Wagner, have proven with the Classic Learning Test (CLT) that a market does exist for an SAT/ACT alternative that is based on the works of the greatest minds of Western civilization … the CLT had won approval from 145 colleges and universities as a legitimate indicator of an applicant’s readiness for college-level studies.”

“The test calls on aspiring collegians to show they recognize ideas advanced by such thinkers as C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, Martin Luther King Jr., Plato, and Socrates, as well as that they understand the applicability of timeless lessons concerning truth, ethics, and morality. The CLT tests knowledge coupled with an unabashed devotion to values that have shaped culture and individual lives.”

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Admissions Tip: Making the Grade with GPA

Jeffrey J. Selingo: “A recent survey of college admissions officers found that nothing carries more weight in deciding which applicants to accept than high school grades. Why? Research shows that a student’s high school grade-point average is consistently a better predictor than test scores of a student’s likely performance in college. It’s not just about whether those students will get good grades in college.”

“Grades matter in college admissions because they are a signal of a student’s effort, grit and determination … But it’s not only applications with all A’s that rise to the top of a pile in an admissions office. Officers look for students who challenge themselves by taking courses outside academic areas where they are strongest. They want applicants who are interested in studying engineering to also have taken a full slate of English courses in high school, even if they struggled at times.”

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Stress Test: How Brain Chemistry Affects Scores

The Washington Post: “Many a student has looked on in dismay as some ‘slacker’ who seems to barely engage in school rocks the SAT, leaving more-studious and high-achieving classmates slack-jawed or teary … As it turns out, some people underperform with more pressure, while others overperform. Depending on how the brains of different students process stress and brain chemicals such as dopamine, it is indeed like taking different tests.”

“… One of the best solutions for worriers is as simple as more practice, with some stress … Moreover, both the SAT and ACT allow kids to know and control their scores. The College Board allows score choice, which nearly all colleges follow, permitting kids to submit just what they want. And many colleges ‘super-score,’ giving kids the benefit of their best score and sweeping aside scores from an off day. Similarly, the ACT even allows students to delete scores permanently from their record, giving students ultimate control of their scores.”

“Another way to decrease a sense of threat is to visit FairTest, the website of the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, to see the more than 1,000 colleges that are test-optional.”

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Holy Polynomials: SAT Advanced Math Tips

US News: “The Passport to Advanced Math subsection of the SAT, which includes 16 questions out of 58 total, or 28 percent, is perhaps the most complex part of the math section. While this can be intimidating to students, taking the time to study and ensuring you know your formulas will help you greatly … One thing worth noting about Passport to Advanced Math is its emphasis on equation simplification … For success on Passport to Advanced Math, you must know how to move variables within an equation without making errors, as well as the rules for the quadratic equation. You should also be comfortable with factoring before you sit for the SAT.”

“While you may be very comfortable solving equations or expressions in certain forms, you should also be prepared to move between different forms fluidly. To practice this fluidity, you can do something as simple as setting aside 10 minutes each day to work with equations and expressions in multiple forms … Get comfortable adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing polynomial expressions. The addition or subtraction of polynomial expressions is relatively easy – you simply combine like terms, such as 2x and 5x or -1 and 3. When dealing with subtraction, it is important to remember to reverse the sign in each term prior to adding the expressions; for example, -10y would become 10y.”

“For multiplication, remember to use the FOIL method – first, outside, inside, last. You should also ensure that you multiply each term in the second polynomial by each term in the first polynomial … When working with exponents in Passport to Advanced Math, remember that when simplifying expressions, you either need the same base or the same exponent in most cases. It can be helpful to recall that the ‘core’ exponent rules follow a similar pattern … For division, if the bases to be divided are different, but the exponent is the same, you divide the bases before raising them to the exponent. If the bases and the exponents are different, you calculate each term separately and then divide the results.”

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Dis-SAT-isfaction: More Schools Go Test Optional

Money: “If standardized tests fill you with fear, you’re in luck. Students are no longer required to submit SAT and ACT scores to apply to a growing number of colleges — and not just ones you’ve never heard of. In the past few years, high-profile schools like the University of Chicago have joined test-optional mainstays like Bates College in changing their admissions policies to favor a more holistic review process.”

“Test-optional advocates argue that the exams aren’t good measures of students’ college readiness, can unnecessarily increase the stress around college applications, and don’t accurately predict success. And colleges that have nixed their SAT and ACT requirements benefit, too. They typically get more applicants and become more diverse after going test optional.”

“FairTest keeps a running list of more than 1,000 test-optional schools. In most cases, applicants can choose to submit their SAT and ACT scores if they think it will improve their applications — they’re simply not forced to.”

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ACT & SAT Math Scores Don’t Add Up

The Washington Post: “Scores on college admission tests for the Class of 2018 are sending warning signs about math achievement in the nation’s high schools.Forty-nine percent of students in this year’s graduating class who took the SAT received a math score indicating they had a strong chance of earning at least a C in a college-level math class, according to data made public Thursday. That was significantly lower than on the reading and writing portion of the tests: 70 percent of SAT-takers reached a similar benchmark in that area.”

“Among those who took the ACT, the share showing readiness for college-level math fell to the lowest level in 14 years — 40 percent. That was down from a recent high of 46 percent, according to ACT data made public last week.”

“The SAT scores gave the fullest picture to date of results from the revised version of the test launched in 2016 … The average score on the SAT was 1068 out of a maximum 1600, up slightly from the previous mark of 1060. This year’s national average for the reading and writing section was 536 out of 800, and for math it was 531.”

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How to Manage Time on ACT Math

US News: “Students taking the ACT have just 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the math section. It is therefore understandable that test-takers may fail to answer all the questions in the allotted time frame, or that they might feel compelled to unwisely rush through them. For this reason, it is key for students to understand how to successfully manage their time on the ACT’s math section. Here are tips on how you can make the most of your 60 minutes.”

“Identify weak areas via practice tests and determine how much time to allot to each concept. Your most problematic concepts should be identified as you use ACT practice tests. Some online practice tests even categorize questions by concept, so it should be simple to maintain a list of which areas you struggle with most … Predetermine which functions to complete by hand vs. on a calculator. When used wisely, a calculator can save you valuable time on ACT math problems and serve as a quick way to verify your answers. When overused, however, dependence on a calculator can waste time and cause careless mistakes.”

“Develop a system for marking questions. Students should immediately fill in the corresponding answer bubble when they feel confident about their solutions. While some students may wait until the end of a section to fill in their answer sheets, this method can result in more mistakes. However, when students are unsure about a question and would like to return to it later, they should mark that question with a symbol.”

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