How to help your child cope with the stressors of college prep exams?

Every time we think of the word exam the next word that comes to mind is the word ‘stress.’ We have all been there. Everyone knows that the days of exam preparations are full of anxiety. In fact, exams bring along a package of the biggest stressors of student life. And, as a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure your kid doesn’t succumb to that stress.
Here’s how you can do your job well as a parent and help your kid cope with the anxiety and pressure that often comes tagged with days of prepping for the examination –

First off – recognize the stressors

• Not being ready to accept uncertainties/failure
• Unrealistic expectations set either by the parent or the student
• Procrastination
• Family issues making it difficult to focus on studies
• Negative self-talk or pessimism

Be their support system

We all want some form of support system. And, the biggest support system comes from parents. This is not just some fancy way of saying that your kids need you! It’s the truth. Do not distance yourself from your children when they are prepping for the exam. Be available to talk out any problems if you feel they are going through them. Express your willingness to help them and actually be there when they need you.

Do not remind them of your high expectations

Sometimes kids fear more not being able to live up to their parents’ expectations than their own. After all, we all know how disappointing it can be to let someone down. The situation becomes worse when that party is our own parents. It’s the first rule of parenting 101 – never express your high expectations from kids. Instead, show faith in them that they will do their job best. Even if they fail to, tell them you still love/accept them no matter how they perform in exams. This alone should make them feel lighter and less stressed out.

Give them a peaceful space to study from

Create a separate study room for them and make sure not to use it for any other activities. Make sure the environment is conducive of studying with full concentration. Do make sure there are no noises from the background or the television.

Try not to bring up family issues or raising them in first place

The human mind can only focus on one thing at a time. If students are preoccupied with family issues, they would never be able to concentrate on their studies. Do not give them negative things to think about. Try to maintain harmony in relationships when exams are nearing.

Avoid using negative words

Times of prepping for examination is when the kids need the dose of positivity the most! Therefore, parents need to be mindful of the words they use while around kids. Do not say stuff like ‘why haven’t you started prepping yet’? Or ‘there’s so little time left for the exams.’ Instead, give them encouragement. Do not put them down.
Kids take their parents words at face value. Therefore, everything you say should be positive, healthy, and full of encouragement. Ask them if you can help them out in any way possible.

Give them assurance

Sometimes kids set too high or unrealistic expectations for doing exceptionally well in the exams. And that can set into motion a series of prolonged anxiety and self-created pressure. We all know that things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to. Despite all the hard work, we sometimes fail to achieve the goal with which we set out.
With that said reassure your kid time and again that it’s okay if they don’t do that well in exam or even if they score a little less than their target.

7 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Tours

Are you thinking about college, wondering how to choose the one that’s best for you? Or maybe your parents are pushing you to schedule some college tours to get you acclimated to the atmosphere. Either way, knowing how to make the most of each tour is an essential part of choosing the college that is right for you. It will make starting out the next four years of your life on the right foot easier. Here are some ways we’ve found to be successful during college tours:

1. Get there a little early

Any concerns you have about the college itself or your ability to succeed there should be addressed before you start your tour. Take some time to talk to the people in charge before you go out and see the campus and the world you’ll soon be stepping into. Once you’re out on the tour you may forget some of the main concerns you had before.

2. Bring a pen and a notepad with you

Take notes on the pros and cons of the college, anything that interests you or that could be a potential disqualifier. These notes will come in handy when you are comparing choices for schools when you start applying, or even when you get your acceptance letters.

3. Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your guide is there to answer your questions, whatever they may be. Your questions make better tours for the next group of prospective students. While it may seem rude, don’t hesitate to ask how the school you are touring compares to another school you are interested in. It is important for your guide to explain what makes their school the one you should dream of getting accepted to.

4. Pay attention to everything

I’m sure you know those parts of any tour where you zone out for lack of anything better to do. Don’t! Even things that don’t pertain to your intended major or buildings you may not use, (i.e. the science lab) you should know about. Who knows, you may just end up changing majors and there may be some valuable information you might have missed.

5. Make friends with your tour-mates

It’s always odd going to a school where you have to make all new friends. If you have at least one friend from your tour it won’t be as frightening of a change. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your tour-mates are probably just as apprehensive as you are. Even if you don’t end up going to that school, making a new friend is hardly ever a bad thing.

6. Don’t forget the contact information

What if you think of a question a few days after your tour? Having the contact information of the offices best suited to help incoming students is a valuable tool. It decreases the time you have to sit on hold, being transferred from one office to another in hopes of someone being able to answer your question.

7. Have Fun

College tours aren’t meant to be a boring experience. They are supposed to be a way for you to get even more excited about choosing the school of your dreams. Just relax and chime into the conversation every now and then. Your tour guide might even have a fun group game for you to play as you go around the campus.

What have we learned?

You are your own best resource toward success. Only you can decide which school is the best option for you. Making the most out of college tours is one of the easiest ways to gain the most information about a school in order to make the best possible decision for your future. Never forget that the best decision for you may not be the best decision for someone else.

6 Steps for Earning Scholarships Based on Test Scores

Have you taken your ACT or SAT yet? Have your guidance counselors been pestering you about the importance of those scores? Well, they’re right. Your scores can land you some sweet scholarships based if you are ready to put in some coffee-fueled, sugar-crammed, study hours.With these tips, you may just be able to test your way to some large-summed scholarships.

#1 Study

This is generally a given for any type of test. To do well you should study at least a little bit. With tests changing every year and the exam creators seeking to find new concepts to challenge students with, knowing how to apply your knowledge to different problems is essential. Most would say studying is the key to success and this is certainly the easiest way to help yourself score high.

#2 Do your college research

Different colleges have different standards when it comes to scores on different test types. Researching your colleges will help you determine the minimum scores you need to be accepted there. If you score higher, which we hope you do, colleges often offer scholarships and occasionally even full rides. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go to college without having to worry about student loans?

#3 Take some practice tests

Practice tests will give you an idea of what to expect. While there may be different concepts on the actual exam, at least you have a little bit of knowledge about the way the exam is supposed to be proctored and the sections that you will be required to take. It will also allow you to see how you currently would fare on that specific test so you can figure out which sections you should focus on studying in order to get a better score.

#4 Browse scholarships

Certain scholarships require you to have a minimum score according to the test you take, as each test is scored differently. The larger the scholarship, the more likely it is that the required test score will be higher as well. Simply put, the more successful they think you will do in college, the more money they will be willing to give you.

#5 Plan ahead

While you may want to put off taking your tests until you feel adequately prepared, don’t. You can take a majority of these tests more than once. It may be of use to take them multiple times so you can see what they are more likely to test on this year. Hopefully you will also see yourself improving with each time. By planning ahead you don’t have to worry about getting the best test score in one shot before submitting your college applications.

#6 Don’t sweat it

Tests can be scary and the thought of not getting a scholarship because of them can be even more frightening. Don’t worry though. Let yourself relax a bit and just study as much as you can to prepare. Worrying generally won’t make you do any better. It may even make you do worse. College is definitely important but don’t stress yourself out about it. Success comes in many different forms from many different places.
Are you ready to take your exams now? Hopefully these steps will help you land the scholarship you need to go where you want.

What to Do When Placed on the Dreaded College Waitlist?

We all wish to get college level education from one of the best institutes to propel our career to greater horizons. For that, we don’t hesitate to strive hard and leave no stone unturned to get enrolled. On this journey called education, we come across many obstacles, and we try our best to overcome them.
But once in a while, we come across a gap that makes us feel our dreams taking a nosedive right in front of us. After doing everything right, we hope to hear a “yes” from the college we dreamed of going to, and also prepare ourselves to embrace an out and out “no”. But what about the fine line between the two, the gray area, what about the “maybe”? Yes, we are talking about the Waitlist.
Waitlist is a dreaded area which can put students and their families through emotional torture that is really hard to deal with. On one side, you have some of the “safe choices” where you (or your kid) can go to study. On the other hand, there is your dream college, the one that has put you on hold.
This is where the road bifurcates for you, and you need to take one road, and that will define your future. And you feel all you can do is waiting for a few months and see what your dream college will inform you. Choosing between your dream and the safe bet puts you on a spot often known as the college decision limbo.
So now the question comes, how to deal with this limbo, what to do when your (or your kid’s) career is in question? Read along to get to the answers…

1. Take Time To Process The News

Although waitlist is nowhere close to what we call an acceptance, please do understand that it’s not a straightaway rejection either. The news of being put on waitlist brings disappointment along with it. And it’s ok for you, and your child to feel disappointed. Give yourself time to feel disappointment. Once you have accepted the reality, it’s time for you to start thinking about what you really want.

2. Give It One Final Shot

But make sure you do it whole heartedly. We have seen times and again that things that we do half heartedly will only fetch you half results, which can’t be termed good, not even in remote sense. If you decide to go with the waitlist, you must, rather, you have to follow all the instructions given to you by the college to claim the spot. When you are so passionate to follow your dream, you need to do what needs to be done.
But don’t overdo things, and don’t do any of these”
• Making the case in person until or unless asked to.
• Emailing anything if college waitlist procedure dictates you can’t send anything via email
• Be pushy
• Repeating any information that you’ve already mentioned in the original application

3. Have A Backup Plan By The First Of May

You should not wait for the last date to get the answer from your dream college. What if it turns out to be a “no”, what will you do then? Don’t let your dreams get better of you. Getting rejected without a backup plan is worse than getting rejected. Got out point?
Yes, you won’t get the refund, but it surely gives a sense of security knowing that you will get your education, which is nice.
Above all make sure you make the most of what’s left of your high school life. Lighten up, and have some fun.

How ACT Math is Getting More Difficult

Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT continue to evolve, trying to capture how well prepared today’s students are for the academic challenges of 21st century higher education.  While some of these changes are widely publicized, some are quietly adopted with little fanfare.  Anyone familiar with the ACT math section has likely noticed one of these silent shifts in the last couple years as the test has become noticeably more difficult.

Breaking Down the ACT

The ACT Math test consists of 60 questions in 60 minutes, allowing the test-taker approximately one minute per question.  These questions are broken down into eight sub-scores as follows:

1. Preparing for Higher Mathematics — Using algebra as a general tool for dealing with equations. Five sub-sections:57-60%
2. Number and Quantity — Working with different kinds of number systems and number forms, including real, complex, integer, matrices, vectors, exponents, etc.7-10%
3. Algebra — Working with many different kinds of equations to solve, graph, and model different situations. May include linear, polynomial, exponential, and radical expressions, as well as systems of equations and matrices.12-15%
4. Functions — Being able to represent and apply various functions.12-15%
5. Geometry — Applying the math of shapes and solids, including questions related to congruence, trigonometric ratios, understanding conic sections, etc.12-15%
6. Statistics and Probability — Analyzing data collection, understanding relationships within data, describing the center and spread of distributing, and calculating probabilities8-12%
7. Integrating Essential Skills — Application of fundamental skills, most of which were probably learned before high school. (Percentages, basic geometry, different ways to express numbers, averages, etc.) While information being tested may be more basic than that found in other questions, it may be combined and applied in more complex, less obvious, ways.40-43%
8. Modeling — Modeling questions are pulled from the various other categories (and are counted in at least one of the other categories for scoring purposes) and test the ability to produce, understand, and improve various models.+25%

Questions in all of the sections are becoming steadily more difficult, with matrices, conic sections, permutations, vectors, and other advanced concepts making more frequent appearances.
Going Broad
While the latest revision to the SAT sharpened its focus with a heavy emphasis on algebra (~60% of the test), the most recent changes to the ACT seem to move the other direction, broadening the types of questions covered by the test. This appears to be especially true for the hardest level of questions. In fact, the range of content covered in the ACT in many ways more closely resembles the types of material included in the SAT Math II subject test than either the SAT or SAT Math I tests.
Strategies for Success
While it’s impossible to predict exactly what will appear on any specific ACT exam, there are a few tactics that can help you successfully tackle the more difficult math section. First, consider delaying when you take the ACT slightly, if possible, to make sure you have completed at least Algebra II before the exam. The very best test preparation is a solid understanding of mathematics gained over time through coursework.

Next, make sure you are using up-to-date test prep materials. A study guide put together even just a couple of years ago will be unlikely to include sufficiently challenging questions to adequately prepare. Even if your test prep materials are new, if they are based exclusively on questions that have appeared on previous tests (rather than incorporating original questions that match the current level of difficulty on the test) they are also unlikely to be appropriately difficult.

Finally, during the actual test be strategic with how you use your time. Questions typically increase in difficulty as the section progresses, so, if possible, work through the earlier questions as quickly as possible to leave more time for more complex questions later in the section. While you don’t want to overthink questions that appear early on, do be wary of seemingly “too easy” questions further in.
The Bright Side
While nobody looks forward to more challenging math, there is a bright side to the changes. As the difficulty has increased, the math scoring has also started to become a little more forgiving. The increased breadth and difficulty seems to be spreading out the distribution of scores at the top, meaning instead of dropping straight from, say, 36 to 32 after missing a single question, intermediate high score (like 33, 34, and 35) are more likely to occur.

The SAT’s Latest Efforts to Prevent Cheating

In late February, the College Board (makers of the SAT), announced it would be taking additional steps to crack down on cheating. Organized efforts to buy your way to a better score have become big business globally, and after a slew of cheating-related cancellations in 2016 the College Board is hopeful their latest round of security updates will help keep the playing field level for everyone. And while many of the changes will happen behind the scenes, some will have a notable impact on test-takers, especially those located outside the United States.

How Cheating Happens on the SAT

Overall, cheating on the SAT is extremely rare. When it does happen, though, it tends to occur along three primary pathways–falsified identities, unauthorized materials in the testing location, and inappropriate access to questions. An increased emphasis on the test’s ID procedures has helped minimize the frequency of the first form cheating, and most proctors are quick to hone in on the presence of anything that shouldn’t be used during the actual test. The third problem–students gaining early access to question content–has been harder to address.

Rather that producing entirely new questions for every test around the world, the SAT often recycles content from tests given in the United States for inclusion in exams given elsewhere. With a thriving black market for used test booklets, unscrupulous individuals and organizations can then gain an unfair preview of specific questions likely to appear on upcoming exams. This problem is particularly pronounced in Asia and resulted in the cancellation of tests throughout the region in 2016.

Limiting Access

To preserve the integrity of the SAT, the College Board is taking a three-pronged approach to prevent cheating: increasing the amount of unique content, emphasizing security and prevention, and reducing access to test materials by decreasing the frequency of international tests.

Specific Changes

The College Board has adopted several specific changes to accomplish these goals. For example, they are increasing the number of test center audits they perform and are making it easier to report suspected cheating anonymously. They will also seek to more proactively prevent suspected cheaters from gaining access to the test by reporting them to applicable government and law enforcement agencies, developing ways to inform schools if students or individuals associated with them are suspected of gaining an unfair advantage, and tightening restrictions on taking the SAT for reasons outside of its specified purposes.

Perhaps the most obvious change is the reduction of international test dates. Rather than offering the SAT six times a year, there will only be four test dates for at least the next two school years. As part of the new schedule, the previously announced international June 2017 test has been cancelled.

Why Cheating on the SAT Doesn’t Pay

With so much riding on standardized tests like the SAT, it’s no surprise some students try to find a shortcut. With the increasingly vigilant work of testing companies, however, the likelihood of success is low and the risk is high–your entire score could be canceled and, worse, while current policy doesn’t include notifying schools of suspected cheating, the latest security announcement may signal an upcoming shift in that policy meaning your reputation and entire application could end up on the line.

The biggest reason to play it clean with the SAT, though, is to create a merit-based representation of yourself. An accurate SAT will help ensure you are properly prepared for the coursework at the school that ultimately accepts you and should give you a sense of personal accomplishment. Given how much work is required to successfully outsmart the system, you’ll be much better served by investing in legitimate test preparation. Curvebreakers tutors are intimately familiar with the ever-changing testing landscape and can help you get the most out of studying for the SAT.

SAT vs. ACT Reading Tests

In the last few years, both the SAT and the ACT have revised their sections designed to test reading comprehension. Although both tests are intended to measure a student’s ability to interact with text and “read between the lines” there exist subtle-yet-significant differences between how each approaches the task. Because these differences can impact what tactics will be most successful on each test, we’ve broken down some of the specific similarities and differences of the ACT and SAT reading sections.

Sequential or Random

The SAT reading test organizes questions sequentially relative to the passage, while the ACT does not. That means that on the SAT a question about something in the first paragraph will appear before questions related to the second or third paragraph. Consequently, one of the challenges on the ACT is the need to use time “hunting and pecking” for the right portion of a passage before answering. From a strategic standpoint, that makes reading the full passage before beginning to answer questions more important for the ACT than the SAT (where some students choose to simply skim before reading more closely as necessary to answer the questions.)


Not only is the ACT reading section not sequential, it also allows less time per question. While the SAT asks 52 questions in 65 minutes (~75 sec/question), the ACT covers 40 questions in 35 minutes (~53 sec/question). Thankfully, there is some compensation for ACT takers–their questions are pulled from only 4 passages while the SAT requires students to work through 5 passages.


ACT takers may also have a slight advantage when it comes to the content of their passages. Because the SAT is intended to mimic classroom materials, it has a tendency to include language that feels more formal or even dated compared to the ACT. This may be especially true for the US/World Literature and History/Social Sciences passages. The ACT on the other hand, tends to use more modern sources resulting in passages that feel more familiar to many high school students.

Graphs and Charts

Both the SAT and ACT have placed an increased emphasis on being able to interpret information presented graphically, although they take slightly different approaches. The SAT includes two “science” passages which generally include charts or graphs to analyze. While the ACT doesn’t have a science section, it does include at least two passages somewhere in the reading test that include visual information to analyze and interpret.

While the increased prominence of visual data may seem intimidating, on both tests there is no need for prior topic-specific knowledge and no math required.

Paired Questions

Another difference is the presence of so-called “paired questions” on the SAT. Every question on the ACT is independent of the other questions around it–getting on questions wrong isn’t likely to influence how whether you get the next one correct or not. On the SAT, however, that isn’t the case. Throughout the reading section there will be questions that require test-takers to provide evidence from the passage to support the answer to a previous question–the question are “paired.” That means that getting the first question incorrect means likely getting the second one incorrect as well. To make things more difficult, the test-writers frequently include examples in the second half of a question pair that could support multiple answers to the first question.

Words in Context

The way the tests approach vocabulary is also slightly different. While the ACT tends to focus on things like what the use of a particular, generally familiar, word implies about the author’s intent or message, the SAT is more likely to expect the test-taker to provide a definition of a given word. While historically the SAT placed a lot of weight on evaluating vocabulary in a vacuum, the newest incarnation of the test uses reading passages to determine how well students can understand college-level words when they are used in context.

Compare and Contrast

One area where both tests are the same is that they both include at least one section composed of two written passages that the reader must then compare and contrast to successfully answer the question.


To help keep these differences straight, the chart below summarizes the key characteristics of both tests:

Time allowed for Reading Test65 minutes35 minutes
Number of questions52 questions40 questions
Time per questions75 seconds53 seconds
Number of passages5 passages4 passages
Subject of passages1 – US/World Lit
2 – History/Soc. Studies
2 – Science
1 – Prose Fiction/Literary Narrative
1 – Soc. Studies
1 – Humanities
1 – Natural Sciences
Has paired questions.YESNO
Questions are sequential.YESNO
Includes charts and graphsYES (typically in science section)YES (at least two passages)
Has sections requiring the reader to compare and contrast two different textsYESYES
Length of passages600-750 words450-800 words

Regardless of which test you choose to take, the best preparation is to develop a habit of reading material from multiple sources early on and practicing drawing conclusions based on what you’ve read. To find out more specifics about each test, including practice questions, you can visit the College Board (SAT) and the ACT websites.

Avoid SAT Test Prep Scams

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to standardized test scores, including college admissions and access to scholarships. With what may feel like the entire future on the line, it’s no wonder many parents and students are willing to do whatever it takes to help raise test scores and potentially open doors. And while there are many legitimate test preparation companies out there that can provide valuable tutoring and coaching through this often-stressful experience, there are also unscrupulous individuals and organizations eager to take advantage of unwary families.

Example of an SAT Test Prep Scam

Although test prep scams can take different forms, many follow the same pattern highlighted in a news report from Washington State. In this case, a phone caller identified themselves as part of a special program partnered with the school’s guidance office. The victim’s son had supposedly been identified to participate in special test preparation and had already agreed to take part at school, so now all that remained was to get the parent’s credit card number for a deposit for supplies. If the “borrowed” supplies were returned, the charges would be refunded.

Of course, that never happened. While the family did receive DVD’s related to the SAT, when they returned them no money was returned. In fact, additional charges worth hundreds of dollars were made using the family’s now-compromised credit card number.

The Test Prep Scam M.O.

Most test prep scams include some variation on the pattern experienced by the family from Washington–personal information and credit card numbers are exchanged either over the phone or over a website, with a promise of a guaranteed refund either for returning supplies or for an unimproved score.

So, how can you weed out legitimate testing/tutoring programs from those simply looking to capitalize on your college preparation efforts? Here’s some simple tips to keep yourself safe:

Get a Recommendation

One of the very best ways to avoid disappointment is to get a recommendation from someone you know and trust. Ask friends, neighbors, and school officials which companies they’ve had good experiences with. Also check the Better Business Bureau for possible concerns and complaints. Other social media review sites may also be able to provide helpful insight into a company, but remember it generally isn’t hard for a company to write their own “reviews” and post them.

Confirm “Special Programs” with the School

If someone mentions a special program in an email or phone call and says it’s been sanctioned by the school, don’t automatically assume that’s a gold seal of approval. Before handing over any money, call up the guidance office at your high school and confirm the information.

Be Wary of “Borrowing” Expensive Test Prep Materials

The most successful (and respectable) test preparation companies offer more than a mail-order video to help students prepare. While paying for supplies, such as a good test prep book or the opportunity to take practice tests, isn’t unreasonable, be careful around any group that wants a large deposit for supposedly returnable materials.

Read the Fine Print

Even when dealing with a legitimate company, failure to read the fine print can leave you feeling taken advantage of. Pay especially close attention to details surrounding any supposed guarantees or reimbursements. Improve your score or get your money back? Double-check that there isn’t a specific range your initial score has to be in. Also, understand exactly what they mean by “money back”…is it an actual refund, or something more like vouchers for additional test prep courses?

While anxiety over test scores can leave any family feeling vulnerable, taking time to research and select a test prep company that meets your specific needs (rather than responding to a “special offer” over the phone or email) isn’t difficult and can have a long-lasting impact on your testing experience. For more information about different test preparation options and how to avoid ones that will waste your time (and money), feel free to contact Curvebreakers. With decades of combined experience helping students through the college admissions process, our tutors are experts at cutting through the hype and honing in on things that actually work.

SAT II Subject Tests

Who in their right mind would choose to sign up for extra standardized tests? In the case of the SAT II Subject Tests, the answer is lots of students, for lots of different reasons.

What are the SAT II Subject Tests?

The SAT II Subject Tests are an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding in specific subjects. While AP tests measure college-level mastery, SAT II tests focus on high school-level material, making them an accessible way to showcase subject-matter strength. There are twenty different tests to choose from, broken into the five broad categories of English, mathematics, science, history, and languages. (You can see the full list of individual tests here.) Each test takes an hour to complete, is made up exclusively of multiple-choice questions, and is scored on a 200-800 point scale.

When are the SAT II Subject Tests Offered?

In general, SAT II’s are available six times a year, but it’s important to check the schedule carefully since not every test is available on every date. For example, the Language with Listening test is only offered on the November test dates. Although you can’t take an SAT II Subject Test on the same day you take the SAT, you can take up to three subject tests on the same day.

Unlike most standardized tests, the SAT II offers a unique degree of flexibility on test day. You can actually change which subject tests you wish to take once you arrive. With the exception of the Language with Listening tests (which require additional equipment), you can add, delete, or switch which tests to take from those being offered on any particular test date. Note, though, that you’ll be charged for any extra tests you choose to take.

Why Take an SAT II?

Many colleges require SAT II Subject Tests as part of their admissions process, but even when not strictly necessary including these extra scores can be an advantage. By focusing on subjects not explored in other standardized tests, the SAT II is a great opportunity to play to your strengths and demonstrate your interest and readiness in a particular field of study. Some colleges even award credit or waive other requirements based on SAT II performance. Subject matter tests can also help provide information that goes beyond your report card, such as demonstrating skills learned at special summer classes or programs and potentially helping to balance out a lower grade in a particular subject.

Groups That Should Especially Consider the SAT II Subject Tests

While almost everyone’s application can be strengthened by including solid SAT II scores, certain groups of students may especially benefit from taking the tests. For example, students who speak English as a second language may be able to use subject tests that rely less on language (such as mathematics or science) to more clearly show their capabilities. Students who have been homeschooled may also find advantages in taking SAT II’s to help demonstrate their college readiness and provide a standardized comparison of their qualifications in different subjects. Finally, students who speak multiple languages or are looking to attend international schools should especially consider SAT II tests in foreign languages to demonstrate how their abilities rate compared to other students from around the world.

While spending an extra Saturday sitting for a standardized exam might not be anyone’s idea of fun, the SAT II Subject Tests are a unique opportunity to provide colleges with information above and beyond the basics. And with more flexibility and choices than any other nationally available admissions exam, it’s one of the best ways for you to shape the conversation when it comes to test scores.

Understanding Your PSAT Score

If you’re a junior in high school, it’s likely you took the PSAT this past fall. Scores for those tests will be arriving soon, and here’s what you need to know about them:

When Will You Get Your Score

Unlike the SAT and other standardized tests you may take, scores for the PSAT are delivered first to your school and then your school passes the information along to you. Typically, schools can expect to receive score reports by the first week in December, although when you’ll see those numbers may vary by several weeks depending on your school. By mid-January you should definitely have your score in hand, but if you need it sooner it’s worth talking to your guidance counselor and seeing if they would be willing to release it to you ahead of time.  

What Your Score Means

Your score report will contain several different numbers. The first is a raw score: it tells you exactly how many questions you got correct. This number is used to generate what’s known as a scaled score.

Starting in 2015, the PSAT has been revamped to match the format for the SAT scheduled to debut in 2016. Like the new SAT, your scaled score will now include a combined Reading and Writing score and a Math score, each worth 160 – 760 points. The scaled scores are meant to give an indication of you might do on the actual SAT if you were to take it today. (You’ll notice that the highest possible score is 1520, 80 points lower than the coveted 1600 on the new SAT. This is to account for the fact that the PSAT is a slightly easier test than the actual SAT).

Finally, you will also receive a percentile. This number helps you understand how your performance on the test compares to others who took the test. For example, say you got 29 questions correct on the math section and a scaled score of 580. Your percentile would then probably be around 86, meaning that if 100 students took the test, you did better than approximately 86.  

What To Do Next

The PSAT is a useful tool to help you prepare for taking the SAT test next year and you can use your results to shape your test preparation strategy. To begin, look up what scores are required for the colleges you want to apply to. You may also want to find out what the average scores are for students who are accepted.  Compare this information with your PSAT score to determine how much you will need to improve when you take the SAT “for real” next year. When planning your test preparation, don’t only focus on the composite score: look at the score for each subsection to identify areas of weakness and strength. For example, if you did well on the math section, but struggled with the passage-based reading section then you know that area needs more of your time.  

The PSAT is a relatively inexpensive, low-stakes, way to get a jump on preparing for next year’s standardized tests. Take advantage of this information by sharing your score report with one of Curvebreakers’ experienced tutors. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the scores and will help you develop a customized plan to improve your performance on the normal SAT next year.