Thursday, February 11, 2016

5 Things You Need to Know About the PSAT, Redesigned SAT, and Revised ACT

5 Things You Need to Know About the PSAT, Redesigned SAT, and Revised ACT

9th, 10th, and 11th graders all take some version of the PSAT (whether it's the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, or PSAT/NMSQT), and 11th & 12th graders take the Redesigned SAT or Revised ACT. There is a lot of information out there. Some is good info. Some is bad info. Some use scare-tactics. Some info is wrong. Some info is boring. So let me keep this short, simple, and to the point, so you can get the information you need for your high-school student trying to make his way through standardized testing for his college admissions ambitions.

1. The PSAT 8/9 - What's the Point?

Glad you asked. The PSAT 8/9 is a version of the PSAT/NMSQT which is supposed to gauge an 8th or 9th grade students ability levels in math, reading, writing, and a little history and science, in order to determine what students need to work on during their high school careers in order to be college ready. Districts and schools pay for these exams, so they are free for students. 

Should Your Student Take It? Yes.
Will colleges care what you scored on it? No.

2. The PSAT 10 - What's the Deal?

The PSAT is another version of the PSAT/NMSQT but it is specifically geared toward sophomores. Almost every school I know offers their PSAT/NMSQT to their sophomores and juniors.

Should Your Student Take It? No.
Will colleges care what you scored on it? No.

3. The PSAT/NMSQT - Ok, now we're talking.

The PSAT/NMSQT is considered an introduction to the SAT for Sophomores and Juniors who are considering taking the SAT in the spring of their Junior year, or fall of their Senior year. The PSAT/NMSQT is offered in mid-october, and sophomores and juniors alike will take it.

However, sophomores are not eligible for the National Merit Scholarship that everyone loves talking about. 

Juniors are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship, which is a collection of scholarship funds created by public and private institutions and companies who want to provide scholarship money to students who score extremely well on the PSAT/NMSQT. Other factors play a role - some special interest groups may care about other factors, perhaps gender, ethnicity, location, or something else entirely.

The fact is, only an extremely small percentage of students will receive the National Merit Scholarship award. Although being even a "semi-finalist" will look good on a college resume, it is not critical to you achieving your goal of attending a highly-selective institution. Having said that, it is always a good idea for a junior to do his or her best on the exam for many reasons, more than going after this award.

The PSAT/NMSQT can be used as a decent indicator of how a student will perform on the real SAT. On a scale of 320-1520, students can expect to receive the same score on the real SAT as they did on the PSAT/NMSQT if they do not learn anything new between the time they took the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT exam.

I use the word "decent", because it is not a great indicator of how a student will perform on the SAT for so many reasons. Let's discuss these reasons in detail.
  1. The PSAT is much shorter than the SAT. Endurance does, in fact, play a significant role in student outcomes on the SAT. Want to know how you'll actually do on the SAT? Take a Full-Length, SAT Diagnostic. These are 4-hours, so do it on a weekend. They are free on our website and we'll e-mail you your score-report and analysis within 1-business day.
  2. The PSAT doesn't have the SAT essay. The SAT essay is said to be "optional", but the truth is, most universities "recommend" that students do the SAT essay. This means, do the essay.
  3. The PSAT concordance scales are skewed - there is too small of a sample size on the new PSAT for the College Board to make accurate predictions on what a student's score would be on the SAT. In fact, they won't even release SAT scores after the March administration, because they want the May SAT completed as well before they determine what students' scores should be based on their statistical analysis.
The point? The PSAT is great for students because it's free practice on campus. You can also get a National Merit Scholarship award as a junior, but don't count on it.

Should Your Student Take It? Yes.
Will colleges care what you scored on it? No.

4. The Redesigned SAT

The elephant in the room that everyone sees but no one wants to talk about. What is so scary about a redesigned test? Fear of the unknown, I guess, but good thing is everyone knows everything by now. So let's talk about it.

The College Board, creators of the SAT, is attempting to regain market share from the ACT with a new, Redesigned SAT promising to be the best predictor of college success at various universities. They claim it's unbiased. They claim it tests achievement over aptitude. They claim by reducing the number of questions, adding time to sections, incorporating more reading into the math section, making the essay an analysis rather than an opinion, focusing more an Algebra, reducing the amount of vocabulary, and the like, that they've created a test that will truly show if a student is college-ready or not. They claim that it is a better test than the old SAT, and a better test than the ACT. 

I agree with them.

This new SAT is really a great test for so many reasons. I could go on and on, but I'll tell you the basics. If your student is a strong reader, good writer, and knows his or her algebra concepts, he or she will do very well on this exam. I think that this test, since it's not so focused on timing and "tricks", it will be more fair for students in general.

Can you still learn tricks and tactics to boost your score? Of course. What test have you ever heard of where you "can't prepare?" I even prepare for my blood tests (eat healthily for 2-weeks, watch those numbers drop, feel like $1,000,000 walking out of there). There is nothing wrong with preparing for tests. It reduces anxiety and increases achievement. I guess that's what prompted me to work for Tried & True Tutoring, the SAT & ACT test prep experts. We do 1-on-1, in-home private SAT for students who want to increase their scores significantly. Yes, we provide a score-boost, money-back guarantee. Yes we have the best tutors. Yes we are the most widely trusted tutoring company in Los Angeles and Ventura County. Opinion or fact, it's hard to say, but I'm confident in that statement. Shameless plug? Definitely. 

The new SAT beats the ACT in one way. The ACT science section is a real problem. 40 questions in 35 minutes, students are rushed to complete it. It is based too much on speed rather than comprehension and accuracy. When is the last time you saw a scientist racing a 35-minute clock to complete an experiment and come up with analysis? Maybe for that one student who forgot to do his lab and is trying to get it done outside of class during nutrition. However, the scientist I want working on the next cure for the cancer is the one who took his or her time to read the charts and graphs, identify trends, contemplate the results, and draw conclusions. Speed is too heavy a factor, and frankly, not a good predictor of college success, and I believe colleges will find that over the next few years and begin to favor the new SAT. At that point, the ACT will probably give a redesign to the Science section.

The new SAT is on a scale of 400-1600. The average score will fall somewhere around 1000. UCLA will want around a 1300. UCSB 1200. Ivy leagues, near perfect. Through 1-on-1 tutoring, a 200-point score increase will be average and part of our score boost guarantee.

Should Your Student Take It? Yes, if they aren't taking the ACT.
Will colleges care what you scored on it? Yes.

5. The Revised ACT

Want to know about the revised ACT? Check out our other post here. 

Should Your Student Take It? Yes, if they aren't taking the SAT.
Will colleges care what you scored on it? Yes.

So let's recap:

PSAT 8/9 - Sure, take it, why not
PSAT 10 - Does anyone actually take this?
PSAT/NMSQT - National Merit Scholarship is unlikely, but, good practice, decent predictor of SAT and college success
Redesigned SAT & Revised ACT - Take a practice test of the ACT through our website, compare it to your PSAT score or Mock SAT score and decide which test is right for you.

You need to finish one of these exams by October of your Senior year to be safely done in time to apply to the universities of your choice.

If you have any questions about the Redesigned SAT, Revised ACT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 8/9, or any college admissions related questions, give us a call at 747-444-9907 or e-mail us at

Here's to a successful SAT & ACT!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Changes to the ACT Writing Section

The ACT Writing Section is changing this Fall, starting with the September 12th, 2015 administration.  Unlike the coming changes to the SAT, which have been extensively covered in the media, this new ACT change is a bit of a surprise.  

Why is it changing?

The Common Core Curriculum, which has been adopted by the majority of U.S. states, calls for new writing standards.  The ACT prides itself in alignment with Common Core Standards.

Colleges consistently complain that high school graduate's writing is neither complex enough nor academic enough.  The ACT wants to remain a relevant tool to help college admissions officers avoid pulling their hair out.

How is it changing?

A spokesperson for the ACT says that the changes to the Writing section "allow students to more fully demonstrate their analytical writing ability."  

The new Writing assignments will have:
  • More Complex Prompts
  • Assignments that are Less Specific and More Open-Ended
  • New Scoring Guidelines

Longer, More-Complex Prompts

Thus far, the ACT has released only one sample prompt, so we must make all of our conclusions based on this prompt:

Intelligent Machines
Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.

This prompt is quite different from the old style of prompt.  There is no specific assignment.

  • The prompt first presents a General Statement that automation is replacing human labor.  
  • It then gives us specific examples supporting this statement.  
  • It then asks a Core Question: "what is lost when we replace humans with machines?"
  • Finally it gives us an Abstract Assignment:  "it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives."
After the prompt, the ACT then presents three Points of View.

Perspective One 
What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.
Perspective Two 
Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.
Perspective Three 
Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.

  • Perspective One tells us that automation is bad.  Culture is lost.
  • Perspective Two tells us that automation is good because it is efficient.
  • Perspective Three tells us that automation is good because it pushes the boundaries of human possibility.

Less Specific, More Open-Ended Assignments

After bombarding us with this dense prompt the ACT gives us some instructions.

Essay Task
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the increasing presence of intelligent machines. In your essay, be sure to:
  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given
Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.
This will most likely be similar on all Writing Sections.

Students will have to pick their own perspective, write about each of the presented perspectives, and discuss how their perspective relates to the given perspectives.

Then, the ACT gives us even more.

Planning Your Essay
Your work on these prewriting pages will not be scored. 
Use the space below and on the back cover to generate ideas and plan your essay. You may wish to consider the following as you think critically about the task:
Strengths and weaknesses of the three given perspectives
  • What insights do they offer, and what do they fail to consider?
  • Why might they be persuasive to others, or why might they fail to persuade?
Your own knowledge experience and values
  • What is your perspective on this issue, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will you support your perspective in your essay?

New Scoring Guidelines

This chart discusses the new criteria:

Old ACT Writing, Score of 6 New ACT Skill NameEnhanced ACT Writingadds...
The essay takes a position on the issue and may offer a critical context for discussion. The essay addresses complexity by examining different perspectives on the issue, or by evaluating the implications and/or complications of the issue, or by fully responding to counterarguments to the writer's position.Generate ideas (Judgment, Analysis, Narration and Reflection)
> multiple perspectives
> articulate insight/depth of understanding
> situated perspectives (context)
Development of ideas is ample, specific, and logical. Most ideas are fully elaborated.Develop Ideas (Develop a Position, Support an Explanation, Give an Account)
> appeals to emotion/feeling
> identify and explore relevant underlying assumptions, ideas, or values
> arrive at insight/deeper understanding through thoughtful consideration
A clear focus on the specific issue in the prompt is maintained.Sustain ideas (Focus)> Nothing New
The organization of the essay is clear: the organization may be somewhat predictable or it may grow from the writer's purpose.  Ideas are logically sequenced. Most transitions reflect the writer's logic and are usually integrated into the essay. The introduction and conclusion are effective, clear, and well developed.Organize ideas (Organization)> Sequence narrative elements effectively
The essay shows a good command of language. Sentences are varied and word choice is varied and precise. There are few, if any, errors to distract the reader.Communicate Ideas (Language Use)
> Use appropriate voice and tone
> Use narrative techniques
> Use descriptive vocabulary

This is what the ACT has to say about these enhancements.

The new Writing test is obviously much more complex than the old one, but the ACT is also giving students 40-minutes, instead of 30 as on the old Writing test.

Colleges are aware of the coming changes and will probably not weight the writing scores as heavily on the first few administrations of the test.

As always, here at Tried & True Tutoring, we will keep you updated about coming SAT & ACT changes, and of course provide private tutoring and classes for SAT Prep and ACT Prep.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

College of the Day: The University of Texas - Austin

The University of Texas at Austin
Quick Facts:

Location: Austin, TX
Students Enrolled: 47,630
Applicants: 35,431
Male/Female Ratio: 48/52

 The University of Texas (UT) is located in Texas's state capital, Austin on a 400-acre campus.  UT is consistently on lists for the top 10 public universities in the U.S. and is considered a best buy university. The university is large with over 46,000 students, but students say they feel connected to the student body through the success of the sports' teams.

The strongest programs at UT consist of engineering, business, law, education, and pharmacy.  The English department is also very successful; it is a tremendous department with over 100 tenure-track professors.  The liberal arts honors program is a national model and one of the oldest honors programs in the country.

Students at UT say that the academic climate is competitive and demanding, but the university offers help through courses such as University 101, which helps prepare freshmen student for college life.  UT also offers students a plethora of study abroad opportunities in more than 80 different countries. 

 Student Life:

The majority of UT students hail from Texas; about eighty percent are from Texas.  The campus is diverse with Hispanics counting for 22 percent, Asian Americans for 19 percent, and African Americans for 5 percent. Students say that there is not a dominant political pattern on campus, even if Texas is known for it's conservatism.

On campus housing at UT is limited; only 19 percent of students live on campus.  The majority of students live in off campus apartments and condos, but they can be quite pricey. A free bus shuttle is offered for students that live off campus.

Austin is not a typical college town, but it offers students many opportunities for social life. The area has a great live music scene with plenty of bars, pubs, and restaurants for students to enjoy.  The Texas student union offers many events for students on campus.  There are also over 950 different student organizations for students to participate in.


If you are interested in applying to the University of Texas - Austin you should have a Critical Reading SAT score of 550-670 and a Math SAT Score of 580-710. ACT scores for all sections should be from 25-31. UT typically has at least 35,000 applicants each year with only 47% of applicants being accepted.  
Interested in applying to the University of Texas, but need to boost your testing scores? Click here to access our various 1-on-1 tutoring and college admissions consulting packages.
 Source: Fiske, Edward B. "University of Texas - Austin.Fiske Guide to Colleges. Vol. 2015. N.p: 692-694. Print

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

College of the Day: Duke University

Duke University

Quick Facts:

Location: Durham, NC
Students Enrolled: 14,591
Applicants: 30,374
Male/Female Ratio: 50/50

Duke University is a top private university located in the lush forest of Durham, North Carolina. The university's campus is known for it's Gothic-styled residential and class buildings. The area offers students many outdoor opportunities on and around campus.

Duke is a prestigious university that is competitive with the Ivy League schools.  Students choose between two undergraduate schools when applying: the Pratt School of Engineering and the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. The engineer programs are national standouts, especially the electrical and biomedical programs.  Other strong programs include biology, ecology, neuroscience, public policy, economics, and literary studies. 

Student Life:

The majority of Duke students come from out of state, particularly the northeast and California. Only ten percent of students are from North Carolina.  Students are required to live on campus for their first three years.  Students can choose to in either residence halls or on campus fraternities/sororities. Freshmen all live on the east campus with each dorm led by a faculty member.  Seniors are allowed to live off campus in near by apartments. 

The majority of social life at Duke takes place through the Greek system.  Twenty-nine percent of the men and forty-two percent of the students choose to join either a fraternity or sorority. Fraternity parties are open to everyone. Alcohol is easy to find on campus, even for those who are not 21.  The university has been attempting to tailer it's policies to deal with underage drinking.

Duke is known for it's men's basketball team. Each basketball season, students camp out for the prized tickets for each game.  Students at the games are called "Cameron Crazies" because of their intense passion for the game. Student spirit is at all time high during the rivalry games with nearby University of North Carolina. 


If you are interested in applying to Duke University you should have a Critical Reading SAT score of 660-750 and a Math SAT Score of 690-780. ACT scores for all sections should be from 30-34. Duke typically has at least 30,000 applicants each year with only 13% of applicants being accepted.  
Interested in applying to Duke University, but need to boost your testing scores? Click here to access our various 1-on-1 tutoring and college admissions consulting packages.
 Source: Fiske, Edward B. "Duke University.Fiske Guide to Colleges. Vol. 2015. N.p: 221-225. Print

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

College of the Day: Davidson

Davidson College

Quick Facts:

Location: Davidson, NC
Students Enrolled: 1,790
Applicants: 4,770
Male/Female Ratio: 50/50

Davidson College is a private, liberal arts college located 20 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina in Davidson. The college has been called the "Dartmouth of the South" because of it's success as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the area.  

The honor code at Davidson is prevalent feature. Students take a majority of their tests and assignments from home, but must sign them with the word "pledged".  Because of the honor code, students feel safe on campus and are not afraid to leave their belongings around without them being stolen.  

Davidson's academics are quite rigorous, but not unmanageable. The strongest programs at Davidson are biology, psychology, english, political science, chemistry, international studies, theater, and history. Professors are known to be easily accessible and very friendly. Because there are no graduate students at Davidson, many students have the opportunity to work on research directly with their professors. Class size is always small and intimate with no class having over 35 students. 

Student Life:

Only 22 percent of Davidson students come from North Carolina; the majority of students are from out of state, and six percent of students are international. Ninety-two percent of students live on campus in either co-ed or single-sex dorms.  Dorms are centrally-located and generally very nice.  Seniors get housing with private bedrooms that are more like apartments than dorms. 

There is great food served on campus, but many upper classmen choose to eat a fraternity or at one of the eating clubs.  The eating clubs charge dues which cover food and parties, as well as campus events. The eating clubs and fraternities provide most of the social life on campus. Ten percent of Davidson men join a fraternity with only one percent of women joining the one sorority on campus. 

Davidson Wildcats have twenty-one sports teams that compete in Division I.  Because of it's small size, twenty percent of Davidson students are varsity athletes.  Davidson has been brought to the spotlight in recent years because of the success of it's star basketball player, Stephen Curry.


If you are interested in applying to Davidson College you should have a Critical Reading SAT score of 625-720 and a Math SAT Score of 635-720. ACT scores for all sections should be from 29-32. Davidson typically has at least 4,500 applicants each year with only 25% of applicants being accepted.  

Interested in applying to Davidson College, but need to boost your testing scores? Click here to access our various 1-on-1 tutoring and college admissions consulting packages.

 Source: Fiske, Edward B. "Davidson College.Fiske Guide to Colleges. Vol. 2015. N.p: 193-196. Print

Friday, May 15, 2015

College of the Day: Florida State University

Florida State University

Quick Facts:

Location: Tallahassee, FL
Students Enrolled: 34,469
Applicants: 30,040
Male/Female Ratio: 44/56

Florida State University (FSU) is located on 450-acres in the panhandle of Florida. The university is compact in size, and students can make it across campus in ten minutes. The campus location is located in Florida's state capitol of Tallahassee; because of it's location students are able to participate in political internships and jobs.  

FSU has top programs in music, drama, art, and dance. The School of Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts has won an array of international and national awards. Sciences are also very strong programs, especially ecology, evolutionary biology, chemistry, and physics. The strongest program at FSU is accounting in the business program. 

Students say that courses are fairly rigorous, but the academic climate is still laid-back.  The majority of students hail from Florida; only ten percent of students come from out of state. The campus is fairly diverse with sixteen percent of students being Hispanic, nine percent African American, and three percent Asian American. 

Student Life:

Only twenty percent of undergraduate students choose to live on FSU's campus.  Rooms are assigned on a first come, first serve basis.  Students have mixed reviews on the dorms. The older dorms are larger than the newer dorms, but all contain air conditioning, a must in Florida. Most students choose to live off campus in the many apartment complexes surrounding the campus. 

Tallahassee is not particularly a college town, but students do have access to plenty of concerts, theaters, shops, and restaurants. Greek life is fairly popular at FSU with sixteen percent of men and nineteen percent of women choosing to join a fraternity or sorority. Besides Greek life, students enjoy having dorm parties, which aren't strictly monitored. 

Football is a major sporting event for students at FSU.  The rivalry with the University of Florida sets students into a spirited frenzy each football season.  Many students participate in FSU's recreational activities; the university has over forty intramural sports and fifty sports clubs. 


If you are interested in applying to Florida State University you should have a Critical Reading SAT score of 560-640 and a Math SAT Score of 560-640. ACT scores for all sections should be from 25-29. FSU typically has at least 30,000 applicants each year with only 54% of applicants being accepted.  

Interested in applying to Florida State University, but need to boost your testing scores? Click here to access our various 1-on-1 tutoring and college admissions consulting packages.

 Source: Fiske, Edward B. "Florida State University.Fiske Guide to Colleges. Vol. 2015. N.p: 253-254. Print

Thursday, May 14, 2015

College of the Day: Chapman Univeristy

Chapman University

Quick Facts:

Location: Orange, CA 
Students Enrolled: 6,798
Applicants: 10,489
Male/Female Ratio: 42/58

Chapman University, founded in 1861, is one of the oldest private colleges in California.  The campus is located on 75-acres in Orange, California, which is about forty minutes from Los Angeles. The university's location is ideal; it offers students access to the beach, Disneyland, Orange County, and Los Angeles. 

The university is most well-known for it's film, television, and performing arts programs.  Through these programs students have access to countless internships in the industry.  Also popular at Chapman are the business and economics programs. The Economic Science Institute at Chapman has students studying under Nobel laureate Dr. Vernan Smith. 

Chapman University is a fairly small institution, which allows for smaller class sizes and a more personal teaching experience.  Forty-two percent of classes at Chapman have fewer than nineteen students. There are no TAs at Chapman, so all teaching is done by professors.  

Student Life:

Almost two-thirds of Chapman's students are from California. The university's students pride themselves on being leaders; many participate in many internships and organizations through the campus. Only thirty-four percent of students choose to live on campus, but those who do say that rooms are large and comfortable.  

Greek life is popular at Chapman; twenty-six percent of men and thirty percent of women join fraternities and sororities.  Alcohol is readily available for students on campus, but RAs do monitor underage students.  Most social life at Chapman takes place off-campus, but the university does host several events on campus. 

Old Towne in Orange provides students with restaurants and shops.  Students also spend time up in Los Angeles due to Orange being a smaller, sleepier city.  Chapman also offers students many intramural sports to participate in with ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and soccer being very popular.


If you are interested in applying to Chapman University you should have a Critical Reading SAT score of 550-650 and a Math SAT Score of 560-660. ACT scores for all sections should be from 25-29. Chapman typically has at least 10,000 applicants each year with only 44% of applicants being accepted.  

Interested in applying to Chapman University, but need to boost your testing scores? Click here to access our various 1-on-1 tutoring and college admissions consulting packages.

 Source: Fiske, Edward B. "Chapman University.Fiske Guide to Colleges. Vol. 2015. N.p: 128-130. Print