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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Early Tests, A Look at the PreACT, PSAT, and CLT8&10

CLT8 & 10

The CLT8 is designed for 7th and 8th grade students and evaluates elementary mathematical, grammatical, and logical reasoning.  It shares the same format at the CLT and CLT10, which helps students become familiar with the style of these tests.  It is currently offered in March and May.  Some high schools use it as an entrance exam. The exam takes two hours and tests for grammar, literary comprehension, and mathematical and logical reasoning. Students take the CLT8 on school or home computers, and receive their scores the same day.

The CLT10 is an alternative to the PSAT10 and the ACT Aspire and is designed for freshmen and sophomores.  It is preparation for the CLT exam.  There is not trigonometry included on the CLT10.  The questions of the highest difficulty level are also not included on the CLT10.  Students who score in the top 1% are eligible for a $2,500 scholarship through the National Association of Scholars. Register here:  It is currently offered in February and April.

PSAT tests

All of the PSAT tests are only offered at and through institutional schools.  Homeschooling families must contact formal schools to arrange for your child(ren) to take the test on that campus.

The PSAT8/9 is a version of the PSAT for 8th and 9th graders.  The material covered is scaled down to the appropriate academic level for them.  This test familiarizes students with the PSAT/SAT style of test.  It is common Core aligned, like all of the PSAT/SAT related tests.  Like the PSAT10 and NMSQT, it includes a reading test, a writing and language test, and a math test.  While the PSAT8/9 is typically given in early spring, the date of this test is set by the school and can range from September to April.

PSAT 10 is the same test as the PSAT/NMSQT but is taken during October of the sophomore year.  It provides students the opportunity to take the PSAT and learn how their score stacks up in relation to other students across the country.  This score is also extremely helpful during the college list building and scholarship search processes.  Lastly, for many students, the sophomore PSAT score is a strong motivator for them to work at improving their scores during the junior year.

PSAT/NMSQT is taken in mid-October of the junior year and serves as the national merit scholarship program’s qualifying test.  The top 1% of students in each state will be semi-finalists. The PSAT is a Common Core aligned test which includes a reading test, a writing and language test, and a math test.  There is no penalty for wrong answers so skipping questions is not advised.  There is a practice test available on the site.  The student search service has an opt-in question on the PSAT registration page.  Information about the various affiliated scholarship programs is available on the College Board website.
            The 50,000 top scorers are acknowledged.  34,000 will be commended scholars, while 16,000 of the 1.6M students who take the test will be named National Merit Semi-Finalists. These students will be invited to apply to compete for National Merit Scholarships. In February of their senior year, 15,000 of them will be named National Merit Finalists.  In March, 7,600 of them will be named winners of National Merit $2,500 scholarships, corporate sponsored scholarships, or college sponsored scholarships. An additional 1,100 students will be special scholarship recipients.  They will be notified in March of their senior year.


The PreACT8/9 is a shortened version of the ACT.  It is now scored on a 1-36 scale and provides 8th and 9th grade students a short practice for the ACT. It also gives students some idea how they scored in relation to students across the country, thus pinpointing strengths and weaknesses in their academic program so far as well as feedback regarding how their grades correlate with their scores.

The PreACT is taken by sophomores and provides students the opportunity to take a shortened ACT and learn how their score stacks up in relation to other students across the country.  This score (1-36) is also extremely helpful during the college list building and scholarship search processes.  Lastly, for many students, the sophomore Pre-ACT score is a strong motivator for them to work at improving their scores during the junior year.  It can be administered on any date between September 1 and June 1 and is only offered through institutional schools.  Students also receive a personalized view of college and career possibilities based on their answers to the ACT interest inventory.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Major Shifts in the World of College Admissions Testing

With recently announced changes to the ACT, instability in SAT scores from one sitting to the next, and the strong showing of the new CLT, students need to re-think their approach to college admissions tests.


Beginning with the September, 2020 national ACT test date, students who have taken the ACT will have the option to retake individual sections of the test, rather than the entire exam.This new option will enable students to fine tune their scores, especially combined with the new policy to begin superscoring the ACT, thus providing students with the highest possible ACT composite score.

In September of 2020, students will also begin to have the option to take the ACT online, with faster test results, but only on national test dates.    At first this will only be available at selected test centers.  Eventually all testing centers will offer students the option to take the test on paper or online.  Online testers will also see their scores in two days, rather than the typical two weeks.

For further information, see the ACT's announcement here.

The Newcomer, the CLT or Classic Learning Test

The CLT (Classic Learning Test) is in its 5th year.  It has a verbal section and a math section (no calculator).  The test is roughly 2/3 verbal and 1/3 math.  Since the top score of 120 is 5 points higher than the CLT score that correlates with a 36 or 1600, top students can (and are!) differentiate themselves from the others also scoring perfect scores on the ACT or SAT.

The CLT has doubled the number of test sites for the December 7, 2019 test date.  Many of the sites are colleges – and many of those are offering lunch and a campus tour after the test! During the test, students have 40 minutes for the Verbal Reasoning section, 35 minutes for Grammar/Writing, and 45 minutes for Quantitative Reasoning, for a total test-taking time of 120 minutes, not including the optional 30-minute essay. There is a 10-minute restroom break between the Grammar/Writing and Quantitative Reasoning sections. Students take the exam on their own laptop or tablet, and receive their scores the same day, which they can then share with colleges of their choice at no charge. Register here. (The deadline is 12/3). The CLT also offers an optional 30 minute essay (admissions will be able to read the essay, thus offering them a glimpse at a writing sample which is unedited and untouched by anyone other than the student).  There are over 400 testing sites all across the US.

The classic in Classic Learning Test refers to its use of the greatest and most enduring texts that have informed and shaped society. Although these texts are featured prominently in a classical education, the CLT instead emphasizes intellectual aptitude and achievement, by no means limiting itself simply to a classical curriculum. All students are welcome to take the CLT, whether for self-evaluation or to send results to colleges. The list of authors whose work is cited on the CLT is available on the CLT website ( and includes Christian, pagan, Muslim, and other authors.

At the moment, the CLT is accepted in lieu of the ACT or SAT at over 170 colleges and universities.  Top students are submitting their CLT score along with their ACT or SAT score to set themselves apart from other top scoring applicants.


The CLT offers free practice tests for the CLT and the CLT10 exams.  Test examples can be downloaded from  A practice CLT8 test is also available on that page.


The SAT hasn’t been as consistent from sitting to sitting as the ACT has been over the years.  The recent dip in scores after the August 2019 sitting has left students unsure of whether their scores will accurately reflect their abilities.  For full information, see the article here.
The SAT and ACT are standardized; students are held to the same standards and compared to each other, which is what college admissions officers want to see. However, that also means that raw scores are converted to that 1600-pt scale using a curve that depends on the difficulty level and performance of students on that particular test administration. 

Here's how Jed Applerouth explains it: "On the scales that the College Board provides for their official practice tests, a student who missed one question in the Math section would normally expect to score 790, a student who missed two would score 770-780, and so forth; on most practice tests the College Board provides, a student could miss as many as eight questions and still score in the low 700’s. The August test was different. From what we could find out from our own students, a student who missed one question dropped to 770 and a student who missed two dropped to 750. Missing eight questions dropped a student to 660, rather than the low 700’s." 

That sort of anomoly has understandably made many students concerned about what will happen in future administrations.  After all, thousands and thousands of scholarship dollars, as well as admissions decisions, are tied to these scores.

With all of these changes happening, it's time to re-think testing strategies.  I'd be happy to help discuss this as well as all your college prep questions.  Schedule your one hour private (via Skype or FaceTime) consultation (normally $250, recently reduced to $100) here.