Some of you will consider distance learning programs. Obviously these alternatives are growing very popular. With good reason. More and more of them are accredited. But be careful. Not all are accredited and some are actually more expensive than resident education. You should contact several graduate schools and ask them how they feel about admitting online students from your preferred undergraduate school.

There are four major components to college admission:

  • An SAT or ACT score
  • A Completed Transcript
  • References
  • An Admission Essay(s)

By far the most important component to college admission is the SAT/ACT tests.

It is important to understand that the SAT I is an aptitude test, not an achievement test (like the Iowa Basics or Stanford Tests). The SAT II or Subject Area Exams are achievement tests. The SAT I is a math and English test—there is no history, science, or any otheer subjects on the exam (although students will need these other subject for college admission).

The College Board® claims that almost 4 out of every 5 American colleges require the SAT I. That is not bad news. Christian students in general, home schooled Christian students in particular, are doing very well on the SAT I. Evangelical Christians should view preparation for the SAT I as an opportunity to grapple with an important question: Can they become what God is calling them to be? They won’t have the whole answer to this vital question at the end of their SAT preparation, but this can be a first step.

Students usually take the SAT I during the second semester of their junior year or first semester of their senior year. It measures their potential success in college, but it does not necessarily measure their information acquisition and assimilation skills. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with a student’s worth or esteem in God’s eyes.

The math portion and the verbal portion of the SAT are much different from the SAT some of us took several decades ago. There are more analysis questions, vocabulary is understood almost entirely in context, and there will be exercises requiring students to compare two reading passages. They will even have to write in some answers, instead of just picking a letter! There will be no antonyms on the SAT I, but double the number of reading comprehension questions. Finally, students will be allowed to use a calculator to help them with the math portion of the exam.
Vocabulary development is critical. As a matter of fact, I judge that 40 percent of the questions on the 2004 verbal portion of the SAT are related to vocabulary. Since analogies will be dropped and vocabulary problems will be increased, there are indications that that percentage will decrease on the 2005 exam. But that does not mean that students should ignore vocabulary development. Therefore, more than ever, it is vital that students learn the Latin/Greek roots of words. Also they should learn to define words in context. It is a waste of time for students to memorize the 500 most frequently used words on the SAT I. A better approach is to read good books (a list is included in the back of The SAT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student).

Higher level critical thinking is important to high SAT I scores. The SAT I is a cognitive, developmentally-based exam which assumes that students learn in stages. Bloom’s Taxonomy is frequently a reference resource for cognitive developmental thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy argues that students learn in six stages. Most of the questions on the SAT I are based on the bottom and most challenging three levels: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As a matter of fact, unless students are able to function at these higher thinking levels, they are doomed to manifest scores below 1000.
Sixty percent of the 2004 SAT I concerns critical reading exercises. That percentage will increase to eighty percent with the 2005 exam. In fact, the College Board is renaming the verbal section of the SAT I “Critical Reading Section.” This change in titling shows how serious the College Board folks are about critical reading. The verbal section will no longer include analogies. Instead, short reading passages will be added to existing long reading passages. A new section called the SAT writing section will be added. It will contain multiple-choice grammar questions as well as a written essay. That is good news to most classical-educated students who have spent years studying grammar and writing.

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