U Rochester Goes Test Optional

Inside Higher Ed: “Recent months have seen a surge in the number of colleges dropping requirements that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores … four colleges that recently went test optional are Carthage College, Marquette University, the University of Rochester and the University of Southern Maine. While none of those colleges are as competitive as the University of Chicago, which dropped its SAT requirement a year ago, their decisions are consistent with the predictions of many admissions expert that Chicago’s move would lead more colleges that are competitive in admissions and that have national reputations to follow suit.”

“The University of Rochester admits only 29 percent of applicants and is a member of the Association of American Universities. Rochester also acted after attracting a record high 21,300 applicants to enroll in the fall, up 6 percent from what had been a record the previous year. Rochester, since 2011, has been ‘test flexible,’ meaning that applicants were not required to submit SAT or ACT scores but did need to submit one standardized test score. The most common submission was an Advanced Placement test, but applicants could also submit International Baccalaureate or other exams.”

“In announcing the change, Rochester officials said that the test-flexible period made evident that little was added to admissions decisions by having any test scores … Marquette’s decision to go test optional may also be noteworthy. Marquette is a nationally known university, and it is extending to international applicants the option not to submit SAT or ACT scores … Marquette is also extending test-optional admissions to homeschooled students … The only group of applicants for whom the SAT or ACT is still required are those seeking to play Division I athletics on a Marquette team, per National Collegiate Athletic Association requirements.”


Perfect 36: Is the ACT Like Blackjack?

Cincinnati Enquirer: “Turns out, the number of perfect ACT scores nationwide has more than doubled since 2015 and is six times higher today than it was eight years ago. In 2010, 1 of every 2,600 students nailed a perfect score. In 2018, it was 1 of every 500 … ACT officials say the test, which more than 1.9 million students took last year, hasn’t changed in any meaningful way since 1989 … The average test scores haven’t changed much, either. Those have hovered around 21 for at least the past five years … If the test is essentially the same, why are so many more students acing it? The most likely answer is a booming test-preparation industry that’s built on the hopes and fears of students and parents who are willing to work – and pay – to get an edge.”

“Schools are on board with more aggressive preparation because they increasingly are measured by student performance on standardized tests. And parents are all-in because they see the financial benefits a higher score can bring … Those factors came together in the past decade to create a test preparation industry that did about $25 billion of business in 2016, according to the Journal, a magazine for school administrators.”

“Mark Treas, whose company focuses on the ACT, said he takes a practical approach to the tests. A former blackjack player and card counter, Treas said his goal is to give students better odds of scoring well by teaching them to practice and to understand the test’s structure. A card counter has a system to beat the house. A test taker needs a system to beat the test. ‘Generally, gamblers sit down at a table and hope to win,’ Treas said. ‘You need to think of it more like a card counter than a gambler’…. Research on test prep still is in its infancy, but studies suggest the kind of practice and repetition students get from test preparation are among the best ways to improve scores. Confidence also is a factor: If students feel prepared, they tend to do better.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”