Our Newport Beach Branch is in a sweet, new location :)

We are excited to announce that we have moved our Newport Beach branch to a new location.  We had to move in order to accommodate our growth, and we are very excited about the new upgraded digs! 

23 Corporate Plaza Drive, Suite 150, Newport Beach, CA 92660

(Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/kZzBakCQXbN2

We look forward to meeting with you at our new spot!

Thank you,

The TPG Team

2018 PSAT National Merit Cutoff is... 223 (+1 from last year)

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We've received a lot of emails lately asking what the PSAT national merit scholarship semi-finalist cutoff score would be for California this year. The results are in. The semi-finalist cutoff is 223. This is an increase of +1 from last year.

This places California among the toughest states in the country to qualify as a national merit scholarship semi-finalist. Due to that fact that semi-finalists are chosen on a state-by-state basis, it is generally much more difficult to qualify as a semi-finalist in states with large populations. In such states, more students take the PSAT exam, which tends to mean more high-scoring students, which pushes up the cut-off scores for said states. 

If you just missed the cutoff this year (one of our students was in tears yesterday with her PSAT score of 222), try not to worry too much. Any score in the neighborhood of 222 is an incredible achievement.  You might have missed the distinction of being a national merit scholar, but on the other hand, we can state with an extremely high level of confidence that you will score very high on your official SAT or ACT exams. Those high scores will undoubtedly open many doors for you in the college admissions process. So whether or not you can add "national merit scholar" to your resume, your future is extremely bright!

Is the ACT curved?

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Is the ACT curved?  Yes, but not the same way that a test in your geometry or history class might be. It works like this...

The ACT "curve" is designed to correct for minor fluctuations in the difficulty of the test. In essence, when an exam contains a few more difficult questions, students can actually miss a few more problems to achieve a certain score. Likewise, when an exam contains a few more easy questions, students need to answer more of them correctly to achieve the same score. In this way, there is no advantage to taking a test with easier questions (again, you'd have to answer more of them correctly), and no disadvantage to taking a test with harder questions (because you'd be able to miss a few questions).

Before we look at an example, let's define some terms. A "scaled score" is the one you're most likely familiar with. It's the score for each section that ranges from 1-36.

The scaled score is derived from your "raw score", which is the number of questions answered correctly.

Example: suppose that on the ACT math section, you answer 31 questions correctly out of the 60 total. With a raw score of 31, you might receive any one of three different scaled scores: 19, 20, or 21. The scaled score you receive would be determined by how difficult the exam was.

  • For instance, on the April administration of the ACT, you would have received a math score of 19 because the test was a little easier than average. 
  • On the June ACT, you would have received a 20 because the June test was close to average
  • On the December ACT, you would have received a 21 because the December test was harder than average.

Another way to look at it: in order to score a 20 in math, you would need a raw score of 31 on the easier test (April), 30 on the average test (June), and only 29 on the harder test (December).

Please note that the months used in the above example were picked at random. The difficulty of any month's exam is not released to the public ahead of time. A common myth about the ACT curve is that the average test taker should avoid a particular test month if a large group of strong students will be taking the ACT that month, and instead take the test when a large group of weaker students will take the test. The (mistaken) assumption here is that the curve will push down the average student's score in the first situation (large group of strong students) and pull it up in the second situation (large group of weak students). The reality is that the curve is set before the exam is administered because it is based on the difficulty of the questions, not the quality of students taking the test. So even if in a particular month, a large group of strong students all earned perfect 36s, your score would be the same as it would have been if they not taken the test at all. In the same way, a large group of weaker students taking the test will not affect your score.

Bottom line: Take the ACT when it best suits your schedule and you have ample time to concentrate on your preparation for the exam. Don't worry about other students. Their scores will not affect your scores or vice versa. Instead, focus on yourself and what you need to do to reach your scoring potential.  

New Table to Translate ACT to SAT Scores, and SAT scores to ACT scores

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ACT and SAT have adjusted their concordance table (the chart used for translating scores between the two exams).

The biggest change affects scores on the higher end of the scale (1270 and up on the SAT, 28 and higher on the ACT).

In most instances, the change resulted in a slight downward movement for SAT scores. For example, 1360 on the SAT used to be considered equivalent to 29 on the ACT; on the new table, 1360 is equal to 30. 

 

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5 Things to Consider Before Your Child With Learning Differences Jumps on the Early PSAT Bandwagon

This is a special guest blog post by Marci Miller of the Miller Advocacy Group in Newport Beach, California.  

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by Marci Lerner Miller

Miller Advocacy Group

www.milleradvocacy.com

The PSAT/NMSQT, is a preliminary version of the SAT that can prepare students for the real event. Since 1955, high schools have been offering this test to juniors once a year, and the highest scoring students have been eligible to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. There is good reason to prepare for this test early and prepare well – over $180 million dollars in scholarship funds are given out each year to some of the top 1% of the PSAT test-takers.

You may have noticed that the PSAT isn’t just for high school juniors anymore. After the ACT overtook the SAT as the most popular college admissions test, College Board reacted, in part, by offering a new “Suite of Assessments,” including a PSAT 10 for sophomores and a PSAT 8/9 for even younger students.

Given the high stakes of the SAT and the scholarship potential for those scoring well on the official PSAT, students should take every opportunity to practice, right?  

Not so fast!! If you have a student with learning differences or disabilities who will be taking one of these early assessments, there are a few things you need to know first:

 

1.  Make Sure Testing Accommodations Are Approved by College Board

BEFORE the PSAT 10

Even if your child has an IEP or a 504 Plan, do not assume that he or she will automatically have accommodations on the PSAT. This requires your school counselor to submit a request to College Board, and many high school counselors wait until students are in 11th grade to make these requests, because the high school counselors have not adjusted their timelines to reflect College Board’s changes.

You may hear from your school that there is no rush, because the PSAT 10 test “does not count.” For some students with disabilities, this is simply incorrect.

Although the PSAT 10 results are not reported to colleges or used for National Merit consideration, the results are still reported to College Board, and this can have some unintended and unfortunate implications for some students who have waited too long to secure their accommodations, or for those who do not yet know they need them.

To be eligible for accommodations, a student has to demonstrate a disability and ALSO a need for the requested accommodations. If your child takes the PSAT (or any College Board exam) without accommodations, and scores in the average or above average range, College Board may decide that your child’s disability does not impact his or her test-taking ability enough to allow accommodations on later testing.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (which applies to College Board), a student with a documented disability who has a history of academic success can still be entitled to testing accommodations. However, this is no guarantee that College Board will grant accommodations so that that your child’s SAT score matches his or her school performance or “potential” – depending on the circumstances, they may not.

To be safe, and to avoid what could have a serious impact on the college admissions process, make sure that your son or daughter’s school counselor has all College Board accommodations requests submitted and approved before any testing.

The good news… once accommodations are approved, they can be used on the PSAT, the SAT, the SAT Subject Tests, and AP Exams. There is no need to request accommodations again.

 

2.  If you suspect a disability or learning issue, WAIT!

Often times, learning issues don’t present themselves until a student begins studying for standardized testing. Bright kids can compensate for ADHD, anxiety, even dyslexia all the way through high school by hard work and short cuts, but when faced with timed testing, their issues surface for the first time. While a determined kid can stay up all night to finish the work that other kids skate through, this same strategy does not work under timed conditions.

A skilled test tutor is often the first person to recognize learning issues and may refer a student for educational testing. For the same reasons stated above, wait until any assessments or evaluations have been completed, school accommodations have been put into place, and College Board approvals have been granted before having your child take the PSAT. After all, these students, in particular, are very bright and hard-working, and deserve the best possible opportunities.

 

3. Early Test Anxiety – Is it Worth it?

On the other end of the scale, your student may not perform as hoped, and this may introduce test anxiety to the picture long before it is necessary. More and more teenagers are suffering from anxiety, and it may not be a coincidence that these same teenagers have been subjected to earlier and more standardized testing than ever before. It is not uncommon for students who struggle with learning disorders and ADHD to also suffer from depression or anxiety. While the angst is expected in high school, maybe middle school is just too early for your child to begin the college admissions journey.

All students must eventually learn strategies to manage their test anxiety, but make sure that your child with learning issues is mature enough before taking the early PSAT, or when the real thing comes along, he or she may suffer more.

 

4. Work with The School Counselor for PSAT 8/9 Accommodations

If your child has school accommodations, he or she can use those accommodations on the PSAT 8/9 without requesting prior approval from College Board. However, you must confirm these accommodations in advance, and certain accommodations like large-type or Braille test books must be ordered by the school before the firm deadline.

 

5. Plenty of Other Opportunities to Practice the PSAT

For many students, becoming engaged in the testing process early will keep them on target for college and career readiness. However, for parents of students with disabilities or suspected learning differences, taking advantage of College Board’s early testing may not be worth the potential risks.

This should not stop you from making sure your child is just as prepared for the PSAT and SAT when the time arrives! There are other ways to practice for the PSAT and SAT, and other college entrance exams. Test prep companies (such as Test Prep Gurus) regularly administer practice tests. The College Board also offers free sample tests through its website.