Parents and students, we all know it’s coming. Senior year. College applications. The mere thought of college applications can make high school students feel anxiety and dread.
Parents, give your students the gift of foresight. With a little bit of smart planning, you can create a manageable and realistic schedule for your overworked student. You can help your student work productively. You can help your student maximize his or her college admissions chances. How?
Start early! Specifically, start standardized test prep during January of sophomore year. (Even earlier for advanced and motivated freshmen.)
FLEX can make this recommendation with a great deal of confidence because our tutors–who come from the top 25 universities across the nation and rank in the top 1% of test scorers–have worked with nearly 10,000 students on test prep since 2001. If we take a look at the data, we find that sophomores who begin studying for the SAT in January and study continuously for the August exam (September for the ACT) have the best rate of success. In fact, nearly 75% of FLEX test prep students achieve their target score within this 16-20 week cycle. Few (if any) test prep companies can boast the same significant score increase within the same span of time.
It is important for parents to keep that 16-20 week timeframe in mind because research shows that students need a certain amount of time to develop the speed, accuracy, and practice necessary to succeed on a standardized test. When we look at the statistics for FLEX students who study on an 8-12 week cycle, we find that a smaller percentage achieves target scores: approximately 23%. Now that is not an impossible statistic. An academically strong student can certainly achieve target scores on a shorter prep cycle. However, this is not the norm for the average student, or for the student who does not take tests well, or for the student who is strong in one area (say math) but weak in others (reading/writing).
Let’s put it this way: most students need to find–that is, create–a 16-20 week timeframe in their schedules to achieve their target standardized test scores. However, we have seen a trend toward shorter and later test prep. Most commonly, students try to cram in test prep during the summer before their junior year. This is considered last minute prep.
Consider what junior year will look like for your student.
Students will have to maintain high GPAs in Honors and AP classes; they will have to participate in meaningful extracurriculars; they will have to assume leadership positions in their activities. Now consider the available SAT test dates for a rising junior. They are: August, October, November, December, March, May, June.
If that looks like a lot of options, see what this list really looks like in the context of the academic year:
- August: Back to school
- October: First semester quarter grades
- November: Focus on fall semester GPA
- December: FIRST SEMESTER FINALS
- March: Focus on spring semester GPA
- May: AP and SAT Subject Tests
- June: SECOND SEMESTER FINALS and remaining SAT Subject Tests
And those are just academic commitments. Think what this list would look like if we were to input sports schedules, music performances and other activities!
Parents also keep in mind the fact that many students have to take the SAT or ACT more than once. A good standardized test prep schedule should leave time for a re-test. If a re-test isn’t necessary, then all the better! But it is smart to make room for that possibility. Should a student need to take a test again, be aware that schools do not consider marginal increases in standardized test scores to be meaningful. Students should have sufficient prep time before a re-test to achieve a significantly higher score. This means that a student who takes the SAT or ACT for the first time late in their junior year–say in May–will have to retake the test during senior year–while filling out college applications!
When you take all those factors into consideration, you can see that students who complete their standardized testing before junior year are at a huge advantage. If a sophomore can achieve his target score by the August before junior year, he will basically have freed up that much time to invest in other aspects of the college preparation process! And even if that sophomore does not achieve his target score in August, he is still already far ahead of the game. He can reinforce strategies and techniques he has already acquired throughout the school year and re-take the test in March of junior year or August of senior year.
The FLEX Score Guarantee (FSG) program is designed to help current sophomores work toward that significant August test date (September for the ACT). The program provides a consistent, predictable, and manageable test prep schedule for sophomores–while helping them to make significant gains in their scores. The program consists of the following:
- Class Hours: 2 hours per week per subject (16-20 weeks per year)
- English TA Review: 2 hours per week per subject (16-20 weeks per year)
- Intensive Workshops: ~15 hours per week (2x per year)
Granted, this is a commitment. But it is a manageable commitment. Students who follow this program have the benefit of a consistent and efficient practice schedule that ramps up during certain key points of the school year. They use curriculum designed by a FLEX team of experts. Their progress is monitored through regular diagnostic tests written by the College Board (makers of the SAT).
A final note for parents considering the FSG program. Sooner or later, high school students will have to make the time for standardized test prep. Considering that students’ busy schedules only get busier during junior and senior years, forward-thinking parents should opt for “sooner.”