I struck up a conversation with a home-schooling mom the other day. Parent of a middle-school student, she told me I should talk to middle school parents about this topic because, as she put it, “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
In my blog post “Test Prep Students 1: Before Our First Session, Please,” I mentioned planning ahead to give yourself more time to prepare. Since then, I’ve come to believe that you can’t have too much time to prepare, regardless of what you are testing for
* High school graduation (Minnesota GRAD)
* College National Merit Scholarships (PSAT/NMSQ)
* Advance college credit (AP, CLEP)
* College admission (ACT, SAT, TOEFL, IELTS)
* Professional licensure (such as the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Exam—MTLE)
* Graduate school admission (GRE, GMAT, and again TOEFL or IELTS).
What you don't know that you don't know
First, you have an excellent reason to encourage your student to dig into challenging reading from the moment they learn how to read. Now, I'm not advocating that you give your second-grader The New Yorker magazine or War and Peace to read. However, my experience as a tutor convinces me that no student can gulp down unfamiliar vocabulary words in just a few months that will have any meaningful impact on college admission test scores.
Vocabulary acquisition aside, students cannot cram for these tests—and it breaks my heart when I first hear from a test prep parent less than a month before their student’s test date. The same goes for you college students pursuing a professional license or admission to graduate school. I have a nice heart. Don’t break it.
Students as young as 12 or 13 can successfully answer many of the ACT Questions of the Day (QOTD) http://www.act.org/qotd/ and SAT QOTD http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day. Students and their supporters may also receive the SAT QOTD by email or by downloading an iTunes cell phone app.) Making these QOTDs a daily part of your online activities is a great, low-impact way (for even the busiest students) to prepare for those specific tests and many others. If you are reading this, it is time to start doing this. To add a competitive edge to the activity, dare your parents, siblings, or friends to compete against you for a prize.
The next element to consider when selecting a test date for the budget-conscious or the schedule-conscious student or parent, is my advice that less-frequent lessons and independent test prep work spread out over a longer period of time are more effective than fewer weeks of more frequent test prep work. For example, see me weekly for one two-hour session for three months (12 weeks) rather than two 2-hour sessions for 6 weeks. Students need time to absorb what they are learning on a proverbial back burner while their conscious minds are doing other things—or sleeping. (The science is in that teens need almost as much sleep as infants do. Do any of them?)
So, what are my test date options, you ask? As of today:
ACT (United States, US Territories, and Canada)
2015–2016 school year
SAT (United States, Saturdays during the 2015–2016 school year)
SAT Subject Test Dates
For subject test dates go here: http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-subject-test-dates
PSAT/NMSQ (United States, 2015–2016 school year)
Wednesday, October 14 (Preferred Test Date)
Wednesday, October 28 (Alternate Test Date)
The PSAT/NMSQ is offered on just two days each autumn. Individual schools offering the test choose just one of these two test dates. No test centers offer the test. [The College Board advises home-schooling parents to reach out in June (or as soon as possible thereafter) for permission to test at a nearby high school in the autumn. [For test day, the Wisconsin home school code is 995099.]GMAT (Administered on demand all year long)
The counsel at the Official GMAT® Web Site is to identify your intended school(s)’s application deadline(s) prior to scheduling an appointment to take the test. Students find out what dates and times the test is offered at their chosen test center when they initiate the registration process.
The Madison GMAT test site is Pearson Professional Centers; 8517 Excelsior Drive, Suite 202; Prairie Trail Office Suites II; Madison, Wisconsin 53717. (Pearson also administers the GMAT in Brookfield, Milwaukee, and Kenosha, WI, and in Schaumberg, IL.)
GRE (Administered all year long)*
Test centers in Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area include: Edina (0064 and 0065) and Woodbury (9056). Out-state test centers are Duluth (0087), Rochester (5404) and St. Cloud (7517).
* Students find out what dates and times the test is offered at their chosen test center when they initiate the registration process.
TOEFL (iBT) , Madison, Wisconsin, remainder of 2015
Academic IELTS (Madison, WI), remaining 2015 test dates
University of Wisconsin–Madison hosts this British English ESL test. 5114 Helen C. White Hall; 600 North Park Street; Madison, WI 53706.
Register online: ieltsregistration.org
(1) Some US universities do not accept any IELTS scores in lieu of TOEFL results. Make sure your target schools do!
(2) General IELTS is offered on test dates marked with an asterisk (*) in Madison. Other locations offer a General IELTS as well, but this version is rarely accepted for college admission.
August 1, 2015*
October 10, 2015
November 7, 2015*
November 14, 015*
December 12, 2015*
Please, write me if you find any inaccuracies or to suggest other tests to include on my next update.