As if the mid-term exam and holiday frenzy isn't enough, our friends at College Board released the PSAT scores for 9th-11th graders on December 13th. Thanks to the overly connected world we live in, posts, shares, emails and texts seemed to sound off simultaneously saying "Ding Ding - Your first glimpse into your child's future success is here. Please click for added anxiety."
Now what? What exactly are these scores and are they useful?
Consider this a holiday gift to decrease the level of stress that goes hand in hand with standardized testing....or at least a bit of information so that the anxiety is at least informed ...
Let's start with what this test is NOT.....
Overall this test (as well as the SAT & ACT) is designed to produce a spectrum of scores. This means that students are not supposed to be able to score high. The inherent design of the tests plays to patterns of thinking. This is often referred to as a "typewriter test".
In a nutshell, the keyboard we use now is not the most optimized layout. When typewriters were developed, an optimized keyboard would have jammed the machines. Technology has taken us so far beyond this worry....so why then do we still use the same, old, non-optimized keyboard? People don't like change. People like easy. Standardized tests play to the idea that people will choose the easiest answer, which is not always the correct answer. It is as simple (and complex) as that. This is at the heart of why strategic test preparation can improve scores.
The overall PSAT score is a window into how a student scores relative to the students in the same grade across the US who also took the test this fall. It also indicates "college readiness". Below the scores you can see the percentile. In the picture above the overall score is 860 which puts this student in the 28th percentile. This means that 72% of students scored higher. It is also broken down to the specific parts of the test and the percentiles for both. Below the individual scores is an indicator for college readiness for this point in time.
You may be tempted to stop here, but the real value of the test, the part that can inform steps moving forward, is in the details.
On this page, a takeaway is the best type of support in preparation for the SAT. When sub scores are clustered, as above, the student will benefit most from test-taking strategy support. If the scores are scattered, content area remediation should be layered in. Next Step suggestions & Question Level Feedback are the hidden gems of the scoring report. Far too often parents (and tutors) stop at the high level data without using the details to highlight specific strengths and areas for growth opportunity.
For parents of 11th graders, the test does present an opportunity to be considered for National Merit Scholarship awards. 1% of all juniors will receives an award, and results are based on state-level performance. The notifications will come next September....so exhale. Nothing to do or worry about in the meantime.
At the end of it all, the PSAT is, at best, practice for future stadardized tests and a vauable piece of data for startegic test preparation. At worst, it is only a small glimpse into your student and his/her abilities and value. Try not to escalate the anxiety just yet....
Katie Garrett and Trish Rohr will be hosting our first Coffee & Collaboration event in early January to talk about the PSAT/SAT/ACT tests, as well as test prep if you would like to know more about what comes next. Click here for more infornation and to register for our event on Thursday, January 5th from 8-9:30 am.
It can be overwhelming - stepping onto a college campus can feel like you are crossing over into another world. In many ways you are.... Student Unions seem immense, maps are hard to follow and information sessions feel packed with numbers and statistics. Plus, the bookstores. Wow. The sheer number of designs on the t-shirts can make anyone's head spin.
In order to not only make the most of your time dipping your toe into the world of higher education, but to also enjoy a few moments, here are 5 tips for college visits ::
1. Charge that iPhone
No really. Let your iPhone do the heavy lifting during your trip. Snap pictures of the campus, your tour guide, cool events happening when you are there. It will be so much easier to remember your time at the future school of your dreams if you have a little visual reminder.
2. Eat like a student
Grab a snack or a bite to eat somewhere among the current students. It's like taking an African safari and being able to see the animals up close and in their natural habitat. What's the vibe? Are students hanging out? Working on laptops? Do you see posters for upcoming events that sound interesting? Any professor looking types doing a little mixing and mingling?
3. Register for the info sessions and tours
Trying to figure out if schools track demonstrated interest is like trying to crack the code of a bank vault. Why not assume that every school cares if you take an interest in them? Sign up, sit back and enjoy. Don't worry about keeping up with the number and stats - that's what websites and brochures are for. Instead look around and see who is joining you. Make friends with another family in your tour group. Listen to your tour guide and ask about their involvement in groups on campus.
4 & 5. Reflect and Record
This last tip is so important I think it warrants 2 slots on the list. Within 24 hours of the visit, write down your impressions of your time spent on that campus. Save it in a file folder on your laptop or write it in a journal - record your thoughts any place that you will be able to find them in 6 months when you are writing your college essays. You may think you will be able to recall which professor spoke about that cool project or the campus that had the food trucks but chances are at some point it will all run together.
Remember - you are in charge of this process! It isn't easy to decide where to spend the next four years of your life. Ask what you need to know and see what you need to see - then head over to the bookstore and grab a cool t-shirt.