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HOPE, higher test scores more important

Tennessee Lottery has complicated the college application process, making entrance test scores, in addition to grades, carry heavier weight.

High school students who graduated in 2005, and those after, are eligible for HOPE Scholarships, scholarship money raised from Tennessee Lottery established in January 2004, allowing more students the opportunity to attend college.

Bearden High School guidance counselor Janet Slabberkorn said this has caused colleges to raise acceptance standards, making tests scores more important now.

In addition to a grade point average, most colleges require students to submit test scores from either the ACT or the Scholastic Aptitude Test for admission.

Slabberkorn said, “Because colleges take a limited number of people, they raise standards, many have a good G-P-A and grades; tests are more important.”

The ACT is a comprehensive test, Slabberkorn said. It tests the information students learn in high school.

She added, the SAT uses more critical thinking skills. Students “apply knowledge to problems.”

While Slabberkorn said universities in most southern states – Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky – prefer the ACT, they will accept the SAT as well.

She added, most small, private colleges generally prefer the SAT but will accept the ACT.

“I don’t know of any school that will not take one or the other,” Slabberkorn said. “Some students are better at one than the other, choose the one they are more comfortable with.”

Slabberkorn said the more students prepare for the tests, the better their scores will be.

ACT and SAT prep courses are available, but Slabberkorn said, “We don’t suggest Kaplan or Sylvan because they are quite expensive. We have people who will pay seven or eight hundred dollars.”

Slabberkorn added students also can go to the SAT and ACT Web sites for practice tests or they can buy practice books, which include practice tests on CD, at local bookstores for about $40.

In preparation, students can also take the Pre-SAT at their high school.

BHS will administer the PSAT Wednesday, Oct. 12, and students can register in the guidance office for $13 until Sept. 30.

Farragut High School will also have a PSAT Saturday, Oct. 15. Students can register for $18 until Oct. 7.

FHS will have free study sessions for the PSAT. Students can sign up for these sessions in the guidance office.

Slabberkorn said she encourages juniors “big time” to take the PSAT.

She said not only is it good practice, but the test is also the qualifier for juniors to become National Merit Scholars.

Slabberkorn said she also recommends sophomores and honors-level freshman to take the PSAT.

“The more times you can practice at this, the better it gets,” she added.

The SAT is offered seven times each school year, and Slabberkorn said students should take the test by spring of their junior year.

“We encourage the juniors to take it late in their junior year, get in as much English and math before they take it,” she said, adding that it allows students time to take the test again in the fall of their senior year and receive their scores in time for college application deadlines, usually Jan. 1-Feb. 1.

The test costs $41.50. Students who register late pay an additional $21.

The SAT also offers subject tests in English, math, social studies and foreign languages, and, Slabberkorn said, some schools require these as placement tests.

Students can earn a possible 1,600 points on the SAT, 800 in English and 800 in math. Slabberkorn said “eventually” the test would have a possible 2,400 points with the addition of a required writing assessment.

She added, 1,000 is an average SAT score and students probably need 1,150 or 1,200 to get into the University of Tennessee and 50-100 points more to get into schools such as Vanderbilt and Sewanee.

The ACT is offered six times per year and Slabberkorn said students also should begin taking the ACT in the spring of their junior year.

Students can earn up to a 36 on the test, which costs $29.

Slabberkorn said last year, students who had a 3.5 GPA and scored 24, “a pretty good score,” were not accepted into UT.

She added, a 25 or 26 is “probably safe for Tennessee schools,” but would need to be closer to 30 for schools such as Vanderbilt and Sewanee.

Slabberkorn said students can take both tests “as often as [they] can pay for it,” but re-taking the tests will not significantly raise scores if students were prepared, got a good night’s rest and ate breakfast.

She added, a student might increase an ACT score by two or three points.

While many tests have become computerized, including testing for graduate school admissions, Slabberkorn said the ACT and SAT would not become computerized anytime soon.

With 300 to 400 students testing at once, Slabberkorn said, “There’s not enough computers available to get that going at one time.”

The following national test dates are available for the SAT: Saturdays, Oct. 8, Nov. 5, Dec. 3, Jan. 28, April 1, May 6 and June 3.

Available test dates for the ACT are: Saturdays, Oct. 22, Dec. 10, Feb. 11, April 8 and June 10.


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