SAT and ACT "Extras" That Are Worth Paying For
Should you pay for the SAT Student Response Service (SRS) or Question Answer Service (QAS) or ACT Test Information Release (TIR)? There are a lot of options to add to your cart when registering for the SAT or ACT. I skip over most of them, but there are a few items I consider essential. The other day I spent 20 minutes on the College Board website registering my daughter for another SAT. “Another” is important because most of her personal information was already saved in the system. But I had to click through page after page of classes taken, extracurricular, and potential college majors / activities before I could sign her up for the December exam. Once I made it to the screen where I could add the test, I was ready to finish and pay. Good thing I knew what to look for because there were a few extra items I needed to add to our order. When registering for the SAT or ACT there are so many add-on extras it is tempting to skip them all and complete your check out. But there are a few item you should get. Some are just good tools, while others could be essential.
+Writing (The Optional Essay)Starting in 2016 the written essays became optional on both the SAT and ACT. These “draft” writings completed at the end of the multiple-choice exams do not affect a student’s overall score on either test. So, why should you care? Some colleges and universities still require students to have the written portion of the exam. I’ll admit, these schools are in the minority. In the past couple years, more and more colleges have dropped the optional essay writing requirement. But if you want to apply to a school (or program) that requires the essay, they may choose to only evaluate scores from exams that have the written essay. My daughter is a junior. We have a tentative list of colleges, but nothing final. So far none of her schools require the written essay, but she may add a school in the next 12 months that does. It would be a shame for her to get the score improvement she desires from the December SAT and not be able to use those results at a particular school because she didn’t do the essay. So I added the essay to our order. I strongly recommend all juniors take the written essay with every SAT or ACT. Seniors who have a final list of colleges can skip the essay if they know that every single college, scholarship, or honors program does NOT require it.
Student AnswersStudents always receive scores, but will not know which questions they got right or wrong unless you pay extra. (Of course you have to pay extra for this! Sometimes it feels like the entire college admission process involves paying extra.) Why do you want student answers? Unless you have the rare student who is going to take the ACT or SAT once and be satisfied with his or her scores, you should expect this will not be the last testing attempt. Most students take their test of choice 2-3 times. Finding out which problems a student missed can go a long way for future score improvement. I have two students I helped prepare for the August SAT who got very similar scores on the math portion of the test– 670 and 680. Just looking at the scores you might think these students need to work on similar things (probably the hard questions) to make it to their goals of 700+ in math. But the Student Answer Service reports told two very different stories:
- One student missed only the difficult questions in both calculator and no-calculator math. She missed multiple-choice and grid-in questions– but only the hard problems.
- The other student got the hardest questions right. His errors came throughout the math section (easy, medium, and a few hard problems.) A majority of his errors were in the last section– calculator permitted math.