Today Bonsall High School students took the Khan Academy practice PSAT. Because of the length and number of sections in the PSAT, the test took the entire day. While we know this test is long, we provide the practice twice a year because we strongly believe that every student should have the choice to go straight to college until some may develop alternative plans.
The majority of high schools leave it up to students to find the time and resources to practice and take college entrance exams independently of their regular school experience. This approach severely limits opportunities and can inadvertently prevent possible career pathways. Some families might not be familiar with the testing system, cannot afford the test, or, perhaps like my own family, in spite of knowing what needs to be done, have busy schedules and can accidentally miss flyers or deadlines. We hope that by providing the PSAT to your student at no additional cost to you and embedded within the school day, it reassures you that BHS is attending to college readiness and your student's future.
For students who do not choose to go directly to a 4-year college right after high school, standardized tests will still matter to them. Instead of the SAT students might take one of 40 ASE certifications in the automobile industry or PHCC assessments for plumbing among thousands of other professional exams. These tests are not required for all fields but there are few industries today in which assessment doesn't drive pay increases and promotional opportunities.
It was exciting to see students celebrate their own personal growth and watch our juniors become laser focused on improving their chances at college success. I am so grateful to work in a district that allows us to make this resource available to all students and watch our students' advantages in the college applicant pool grow as a direct result.
We consider providing so many opportunities for SAT practice prior to the actual test in spring of 11th grade fairly rigorous test preparation. When students ask how to improve their scores, we recommend focusing on academic preparation by getting good grades in 9th and 10th grade. Focusing on scores may detract from much more important factors like academic excellence, community service, and extra-curricular participation.
What Matters Most to Colleges?
Probably not the SAT. Research increasingly indicates that the most important factor for success in college is high school GPA. Students who work hard, turn in assignments, and overcome even potential deficiencies in test-taking tend to be successful in college. While colleges use entrance exam scores as a guide to help offset imbalances in high school variations, universities recognize that the score is only part of a complex whole person and there is increasing demand to change the admissions process in general from within admissions departments just as much as external pressures.
Understanding Your Scores
The redesigned SAT is out of a possible 1600. The College Board designates 1000 as a score indicating "readiness" for college, a number that we expect to start to see by 10th grade. Scores above 1200 are in the top 25% of all students nationally and generally considered competitive. For 11th graders who score below 1000 we recommend test preparation through Khan Academy and the College Board Daily Practice app after our fall administration.
Customized Practice Resources
Technology has vastly changed practice tools for students. Students can login through Khan Academy and track progress on both official and unofficial practice tests. Additionally, as they record their scores and connect their account to their College Board results, they will be guided to practice specifically in areas they missed on the test. If you need help in finding these tools for your students, please contact the BHS office for assistance.
Information for 11th graders
BHS provides PSAT practice in the fall on Khan and then the formal test on paper through College Board in the spring. However, for students who score well above average range (1200+), we recommend an additional test formally through College Board in order to help them qualify through NMSQT. See here for further information on the NMSQT. BHS will provide tests for the 15 top scoring juniors from the Khan practice for an October administration. If you would like to make sure your child has a chance to take the exam but you aren't sure if they are in the top scoring group, please notify the front office.
SAT Subject Tests
For students who already have interest in a specific field, taking an SAT subject test can help highlight skill in that field. While BHS does not provide practice or assist specifically in registering for this test, students can practice and register through the College Board website.