In This Issue
Preparing for the ACT/SAT in Fall 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered our daily activities, and finding information about the practical impact on so many areas of our lives can be challenging. With many students currently preparing for an all-virtual or hybrid school year, they may be unsure what other aspects of school may be changed because of the pandemic. For those graduating high school in 2021, Thinking Organized is happy to offer some information about COVID-19's impact on the SAT and the ACT and how students can begin their preparation for the big day.

To effectively prepare for either standardized exam, students should first take a full-length practice test, which can be found for free on the SAT and ACT websites. From there, they should assess their strengths and weaknesses in each of the content areas tested on the exam by comparing their performances on each question type. For example, if a student does very well on systems of equations but very poorly on quadratics, he should focus his study time on the latter. In addition to reviewing specific content areas and completing practice problems, students should also aim to improve their stamina and strategic thinking skills. The SAT and the ACT are both lengthy examinations that require students to concentrate for long periods of time, which can be particularly challenging for those with ADHD. As test day approaches, students should practice working for longer periods and taking full-length tests to build up their ability to sustain their attention for the entire length of the exam. 

If you're unsure whether your children are prepared for the SAT or ACT, Thinking Organized is here to help! Our SAT/ACT Prep program is designed specifically for students who struggle with ADHD and executive function weaknesses, as these students learn differently and require specific structures to thrive. In this multi-week program, our mentors will help your children identify their strengths and weaknesses, provide them with the instruction and practice required to improve content knowledge, and teach them strategies that will allow them to maximize their performance on test day. 

ACT for Fall 2020 
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT has expanded their available testing dates for fall 2020.

Beginning with the September 12th administration, the ACT will resume in-person testing at many of the same centers that they have traditionally used while offering additional test dates to accommodate social distancing. Students will be more spaced out, and PPE - including masks and gloves - will be allowed but not provided. Students will also be asked a series of questions to determine whether they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms; any student who appears to have the virus will be asked to leave and allowed to reschedule their testing date at no cost. For those who feel uncomfortable sending their child to a school for in-person administration of the exam, the ACT has announced plans to offer in-home administration of the test. Check out the ACT's website for more resources related to COVID-19.

SAT for Fall 2020
Much like the ACT, the SAT will soon resume in-person administration of the test, though it will be offered once per month for most of the fall and winter. Those administrations are contingent on the educational institutions the SAT partners with allowing testing to move forward at current capacity. 

The SAT will require a face mask or covering and will ensure that students are seated at least six feet apart. Additionally, the SAT has relaxed the restrictions placed on their educational partners, including allowing flexible start times and off-site administrations to ensure that proper social distancing is enforced. Unlike the ACT, the SAT does not currently have any plans to offer testing administration outside of their current partner institutions.
In light of the difficulties and potential safety issues for so many families in taking a standardized test this fall, many colleges and universities have dropped the SAT/ACT requirement for fall 2021 admission. A list of institutions that have dropped the SAT/ACT requirement can be found here.

For testing dates and to read more, click here.
August 2020
Executive Functioning Skills in Standardized Testing
Students with ADHD and executive functioning weaknesses tend to experience academics and testing differently than those without learning disabilities. It is important to remember that these challenges are not a sign of incompetence, nor are they suggestive of a student's intelligence. What these challenges do suggest is that these students learn differently and require specific structures to perform well in school. This is true not only for achieving high grades, but high scores on standardized tests as well. 

To effectively prepare for the SAT, students should seek to strengthen their executive functioning skills while simultaneously reviewing content.

In 2016, the SAT underwent radical changes that altered the content it included and the way it tested these concepts. Students must now quickly recognize which skills are being tested, as well as how to solve each problem in the least amount of time.
  • Less rote memorization. Instead of requiring students to memorize an exuberant amount of vocabulary words and complex formulas, the SAT now emphasizes evidence-based reading and writing, and vocabulary that hones critical thinking skills. No longer should students review flashcard after flashcard in an attempt to memorize individual words; now, they need to recognize those words in context, their connotations, and their denotations. 
  • Greater emphasis on executive functioning skills. Given the decreased focus on rote memorization and isolated skills, the new SAT places a heavy emphasis on key aspects of executive functioning skills. There are many, but crucial ones include time management, prioritizing, critical thinking, deductive reasoning, working memory, and management of test-taking anxiety. From learning how to spend appropriate amounts of time on each question to recalling information, executive functioning skills are front and center in the SAT.

With the changes to the SAT, students would benefit from strengthening their executive functioning skills in addition to content knowledge, as each of the tested skills involve many real-world applications. 
Mastering these skills has value beyond the college entrance exam because the principles on the test connect to practical, realistic scenarios.
  • Make a plan. Time management and organization are crucial components of preparing for the SAT. Your children should take a practice test to help them assess their strengths and weaknesses. After identifying the content areas they struggle with, they should make a plan for when they are going to study, how they want to review the material, and what concepts they should cover in each study period. 
  • Take practice tests. Consistently taking portions of practice tests enables students to conduct error analysis and determine whether they need to search out new resources to help clarify material. Sample tests are also a good way for students to practice completing the test within its timeframe; this can teach students how to prioritize certain questions and efficiently finish as much of the test as possible. 
  • Be flexible. An important part of test preparation is flexibility. Learning new studying strategies, reflecting upon practice performance, and revising tactics as circumstances change calls for students to effectively shift their approach so that they can maximize their performance. 

Executive functioning skills are also necessary on test day. The skills and strategies practiced during the preparation phase now need to be transferred to the actual testing phase, along with an application of new skills. 
  • Manage emotions. The SAT is a lengthy test, particularly for students with extended time, which can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. To mitigate these sorts of emotions, students should employ a variety of strategies, including taking deep breaths and using positive self-talk. If there are questions that seem overwhelming, students should circle them as a reminder to return to them later if there is time; that way, students can focus on questions that they better understand, which can increase their confidence. 
  • Wear a watch. It may sound simple, but wearing a watch is an easy way for students to keep track of how long they are spending on each question. This can help them better manage their time and ensure that they are not spending an inordinate amount of time on any one problem. If they wore a watch during their preparation phase, they will have a good sense of how long they should ideally devote to each question.
  • Be proactive. The SAT gives students a lot of information in its directions, and it can be difficult to remember what exactly a question is asking. Students should underline key words to help them remain focused and eliminate extraneous details. For tricky math questions, students can quickly sketch out the problem to better visualize it. 

At Thinking Organized, we specialize in working with students who learn differently, where we work one-on-one with them to help them discover how they learn best and the strategies they need to employ in order to foster success. With the introduction of our SAT/ACT Prep programwe teach students how to hone their time management, planning, prioritizing, deductive reasoning, and critical reading and thinking skills so that they feel confident as they strive to achieve their standardized testing goals. In this multi-week program, students focus on pre- and post-testing with ongoing progress tracking, weekly targeted and summative practice questions, and integrated standardized test preparation with executive functioning support.   

With the introduction of the new SAT came the need for strong executive functioning skills as opposed to the rote memorization skills that were needed in order to be successful in the previous version of the test. At Thinking Organized, we are here to help students navigate their way to success. Contact our office for more information about our new SAT/ACT Prep program!