Long Island Parent Talk

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Helping kids manage SAT stress

A student takes a sample SAT test during

A student takes a sample SAT test during prep class in Newton, Mass. (March 3, 2005) (Credit: Getty Images)

OK teens, what does SAT stand for? Nothing. Really. SAT was initially called the Scholastic Aptitude Test but now it is an empty acronym. Still, year after year, high school students stress over SAT scores, an important factor for college admissions, and parents fork over their savings for private courses so teens can get higher scores.

From Princeton Review, Kaplan, TestTakers to courses offered at school and off site, there are a plethora of choices available for juniors and seniors preparing to take the SAT. Some courses come at a cost (for example, TestTakers charges Half Hollow Hills Students $1495, a discounted rate) while others offered through schools may be free.

Linda Bergson, coordinating chairperson of guidance in the Three Village school district, said Ward Melville High School offers a free, five-week course after school four times a year leading up to the tests in November, January, March and June. Some students use private tutors, others study on their own using review books or use a combination of resources.

One student, she said, uses a mobile app. Such offerings include Princeton Review’s SAT Score Quest for iPad and Kaplan SAT Flashcubes.

Many kids start taking prep courses the summer after 10th grade and in 11th grade take the tests beginning January, Bergson said.

“It’s not necessary to take a course if the child is disciplined and they have the right material to work from,” Bergson said. “You can go to a course but if you don’t do the follow-up work” it’s no use.

Some schools use ACT test scores, another college admissions and placement test. Students may want to check out FairTest, which lists colleges that do not use SAT or ACT scores for admissions.

A perfect SAT score is 2400. It has three sections: writing, math and critical reading, with 800 the maximum score for each section.

While SAT scores are important, Bergson says the transcript and the courses the students have taken and how they’ve done and challenged themselves is the most important part of the college admissions committee’s decision. "Try not to stress too much because you just do the best you can,” she adds.

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