Not All A’s Are Equal: Grade Inflation and Standardized Testing with Dr. Jed Applerouth – College Bound Mentor Podcast #7

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This is Episode #7 and you’ll hear Dr. Jed Applerouth talk all things grade inflation and standardized testing. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re enjoying the show!

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College Bound Mentor Podcast Episode #7: Not All A’s Are Equal: Grade Inflation and Standardized Testing with Dr. Jed Applerouth

Grades are going up, and standardized test scores are going down. How should we handle this as students and parents? In this episode, we welcome special guest Dr. Jed Applerouth to talk all things grade inflation and standardized testing. Jed is a teacher, educational innovator, and the Founder and President of Applerouth, an expert college admissions tutoring business. Hear how grades and standardized tests have changed in recent years, what to think of colleges who say they’re test-optional, how many times you should take standardized tests, how to manage anxiety during standardized tests, and how to prepare for standardized tests. This episode covers everything from grades to standardized tests. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What are the trends in grade inflation?
  • How are schools dealing with grade inflation?
  • What will happen with testing requirements?
  • How much weight do schools put on testing?
  • What does Test-Optional mean?
  • How has standardized testing changed in recent years?
  • Who should take the Digital SAT?
  • How do you manage your anxiety during standardized tests?

Learn more about Jed at and on LinkedIn, and Subscribe to College Bound Mentor on your favorite podcast platform and learn more at

Check out the episode and show notes below for much more detail.

Show Notes

  • Not All A’s Are Equal: Grade Inflation and Standardized Testing with Dr. Jed Applerouth

What is the College Bound Mentor podcast?

Lisa, Abby, and Stefanie know college. They also know students. With over 30 years combined experience mentoring young people, they’ll show you why understanding yourself is the key to finding the right college. Each episode, hear trends, case studies, and interviews with students who have gone through it all – giving you valuable insight to survive the college application process and beyond. Hosted by Lisa Bleich, Abby Power, and Stefanie Forman, Partners of College Bound Mentor.


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Dr. Jed Applerouth 0:02
We’re gonna all have to perform in certain context of our lives and learning how to balance it’s only a positive being better at that

Lisa Bleich 0:07
Hey, CBMers. Welcome back to College Bound Mentor, where we help you survive the college application process and beyond. We are your co-hosts Lisa,

Stefanie Forman 0:27
and Stefanie.

Lisa Bleich 0:28
And today we’ll be discussing grade inflation and certain standardized testing with our guest, Dr. Jed Applerouth. Jed is a teacher, educational innovator, and founder of Applerouth, a leading test prep company, and nationally certified counselor with a PhD in educational psychology. Jed has Research Student cognition, memory, motivation and learning strategies to enhance Appleworks pedagogical strategy. So I have heard Jed speak a number of times over the years, and I’ve always found your insights really on target and really, really helpful. And it’s definitely you and I heard him speak right at ICA. Yeah.

Stefanie Forman 1:04
And you were, you really created some good fodder, because I think for the rest of that conference, your presentation, which we’ll get to came up over and over again, and how much insight you shared with everyone there so we can talk about it.

Lisa Bleich 1:21
Yeah, and it was great, because it was really about great inflation. And we thought it was super interesting. And of course, we thought it would make for a great podcast, which is why we invited you to join it. And then Abby had listened to another talk that you had. And she said, were super fan. And she listened to another webinar that you did on the difference between the SAT or the new SAT and the ACT. And I thought that would be super helpful for our listeners as well. Sure. So without further ado, welcome.

Dr. Jed Applerouth 1:45
Thank you. Thank you. Great to be here.

Lisa Bleich 1:48
Yeah, that’s great. So we’ll just start off talking a little bit about how you got interested in great inflation. And how you see that it’s changed. I know you did a study that looked at great inflation over I’m not sure was it five years, 10 years? Can you talk a little bit about that study and what you found? Well,

Dr. Jed Applerouth 2:06
I got interested in this topic, I think it was 2009 2010. And I was in touch with my favorite high school teacher, Helen Smith over at pace. And we were talking about the grading culture at my high school, which has changed dramatically. And also I went over to Westminster, a really strong private school in Atlanta where my sister went to school. And I was speaking with the you know, the head of college advising, and talking about just how grades have been moving and shifting. And my teacher, Helen, like, you have to really work hard in her class to get anything resembling an A, the average grade was was a B, but then she began, you know, there was there was pressure, pressure from parents pressure from the administration, like, we have to give higher A’s. Because in the competitive world, if you’re getting kids at eights, you know, the colleagues over there giving their kids 90 fives, our kids are going to be at a disadvantage in the admissions process. And so you’re really tough grading culture, which was about accountability, and demanding more and really pushing kids. The educators got pressure all around to begin laying off. And also one of my colleagues I worked with here in Atlanta, Marshall Finley, he was a high school teacher before he came to Apple, Ruth. And he was watching and observing how in Georgia, we had this thing called the Hope Scholarship. And where if you have a certain GPA threshold, college essentially is a vastly reduced priced or free with his annual scholarship. And so the he said that the teachers he was working with in the school system, and then on the Fulton County public school, they were pressure, they were being pressured to give kids bees don’t give C’s and definitely don’t fail kids. He’s saying like language was Diem up, don’t don’t don’t fail these kids. And the idea was, if I give a kid a C, I’m taking money out of his parents pocket and have her parents pocket. So suddenly grades became something very different than let me evaluate someone’s performance. So it became about am I depriving this family of resources, and I’m going to make them pay more for college. And so the whole, the whole meaning of the grades changed, grades began to rise. So it became about competitive dynamics. And like, in my high school, like I was very, very close to I’m friendly with the the college counseling office, I learned the average the average grade in my high school was a 92.8. Let me like that was the that was the average, like, average, how was that average? That’s an A, and what you know, as decent as the middle grade is it’s decent a and over at Westminster, like the getting to get honors. My sister was come Laude like that was like a 91. Back when she graduated, and like, you know, 30 years ago now it became like a 9798 to get us. I’m like, Oh, wow. So things are really moving that the private schools gotten the game first. And then the public schools caught on, and then the low income schools so like the affluence, you know, the affluent Publix and the privates figured it out, and they had game theory wise, but now everyone’s playing it. So grades across the country. Just they’ve been run Ising you know, for decades now, and the pandemic didn’t help any, because kids weren’t in the same learning environment, they couldn’t figure they couldn’t finish all the material based on their long line, then they began getting more A’s out more easily for less performance. And that became a thing which is kind of stuck. So grades are higher now than they’ve ever been for as performance on standardized measures like the nape. The national study, the progress for the country, and the PISA all these standardized measures of performance, the AC scores are down as these scores are down, nape scores are down, grades are up. And so and then also, all this research was coming out of, you know, the Raj Chetty research came out opportunity insights at Harvard, even the University of California there on research show that, hey, the high school GPA is becoming a weaker predictor of performance once kids get on campus and get into college. And so you know, grades are just less predictive than they were 20 years ago. And that’s across the country. Right.

Lisa Bleich 6:00
And it’s so interesting, because so much of when everything went test, optional, was saying that the transcript is going to carry so much more weight, and that it has been carrying so much more weight before. And earlier, we talked about we describe what the school profile is. And that’s how high schools put students in the context of other kids in their high school. So how are colleges dealing with grade inflation if they don’t have the same metric that they had in the past? So

Dr. Jed Applerouth 6:30
what’s happening when you have more and more kids looking so similar? From a grade standpoint, there’s so many A’s and parents like, my kid has all A’s like, yeah, you and more than half the class has always that one metric, I think it was an ACT 55% of student take needs to have A’s have an average. So it’s like that doesn’t make you special anymore. So the question is, how do I stand out with everyone has A’s? And it’s putting more pressure on academic rigor for one? Where the you know, it’s A’s, what kind of A’s and in what classes? And are you pushing to more advanced, more rigorous classes more APs more dual enrollment, more IVs. So it’s putting more pressure on kids to really push the academic rigor Because just having A’s doesn’t make you stand out anymore. Now, it makes you your middle of the pack having all A’s, and that really is different. And so and also it is one of the driving factors and the return to test requirements. I just read in you know, in May, I learned that the Georgia Georgia Regents met. And not only are Georgia Tech and UGA test required, but and after a year, Georgia State, Georgia Southern like all the sudden, the Georgia system is you know, all the schools are more selective, they’re returning, but I expect this trend to continue. As across the country grades themselves are it’s getting harder to to to predict how will the kids do once they get in and they’re going to be on academic probation. And that was the same research out of UT Austin, that they’re the kids, a lot of the kids get in through auto admit based on where they are, you know, top percent of their high school. But those who weren’t part of that topic, you know, we had kids who applied with test scores, and those without, and the kids without test scores, you probably know this. They were point eight, six grade points below at the first year, mid level. And they were more than twice as likely, you know, they were much more likely to be on probation to have under a 2.0. Because of that, like you t said we we need test scores to make sure we are going to protect the kids who are coming here the same thing with MIT, Stuart Mill said, just having AIDS doesn’t tell me are you ready for MIT? I need more than that. And that’s where we’re trying to protect kids. Otherwise, the kids coming in with low scores are the ones who are failing out of MIT. So we need scores to protect the students and make sure they’re going to succeed here and not come in here and be unable to handle the work. Because grades. They’ve just been diluted. That’s that’s the nature of it. Yeah.

Stefanie Forman 8:50
So I mean, you just were talking about it. So I would love to hear more about your particular predictions for testing going forward. You know, which schools if any, will stay test optional? What do you think the rollout will look like for that? Or, you know, do it sounds like you do anticipate more schools requiring standardized testing,

Dr. Jed Applerouth 9:10
test requirements are going to increase, but we’re balancing the pressure of making a better prediction. And also the better, you know, to predict yield, having testing information that also helps you determine who’s actually going to come here. And that’s one of the things with some of the Ivy’s turning back, like what their yield models. So you have the the force of you want better information to make better predictions. But the countervailing pressure this is we are facing this demographic cliff, we’re already falling down. We have more full pay kids in the pipeline. colleges need, you know, they’re they’re watching the discount rates. And they’re looking at how many kids can actually give us the money we need. And test scores are one impediment. And so it’s like we want to make it easier for you to come here and test score requirements, make it harder. And so if you want to increase As application number is you want to make sure you have as few roadblocks as possible, while testing is a roadblock. And so they’re balancing this desire to make sure that they meet their institutional needs, which is enough students with enough money to to make their budgets work. And so test scores don’t actually help there, which is one of the reasons why you’re seeing schools that are more flush with students who aren’t worried about hitting their numbers going test required, because they’re not concerned, you know, the Ivy’s and you know, and Stanford and Caltech and MIT, they’re not worried about hitting their numbers, and having the budget and they’re deeply endowed. And the schools like, you know, like tech, and UGA. And you know, the Tennessee system, we’re gonna see, the schools were very selective, they’re not worried about schools who are less selective, who are worried about hitting their targets, they may be less inclined to go back to test requirements, because, again, they’re trying to make it as easy as possible to apply, and to matriculate, and testing can be a roadblock. Well,

Lisa Bleich 10:54
it’s interesting that you bring up Georgia Tech, because when we when we’ve gone to conferences, and we’ve spoken with Rick Clark, and we spoke with other people at Georgia Tech, even at University of Georgia, they have always said that, yes, testing is required for Georgia for the state of Georgia, that’s we don’t have jurisdiction over that. But we don’t really put that much weight on testing.

Dr. Jed Applerouth 11:14
So they don’t really put that much weight on testing. One thing that’s interesting was for the one year that they were test optional, before they went through required, the the rate of students getting into Georgia Tech, with test scores was 120%, higher than those that test scores. And that’s not totally causal. That’s not test scores was that the difference? The Delta, but it does, you know, part of it is there’s correlation that kids who have a 1450 on the LSAT or 34, ac T, typically those kids also have more academic rigor. Typically, those kids also have higher grades. And so there are those things do move frequently together, there’s sometimes you have the kid with a 1480 as a C average. But that’s relatively rare. Often as things move in lockstep testing and grade. So it’s like, for about two thirds of the kids, those things go together. For 1/3 of the kids, it diverges some of that sometimes you have students with super high GPAs, low testing, sometimes you have that’s about 160 Kids, other times, it’s about really high testing low, low grades. And so there are, you know, those those kinds of students, there’s more nuance in that conversation. But when Rick said, you know, testing is not as important, they are looking at other things as well. And, you know, what we’re finding additionally is things that predict performance, like fives on AP exams, kids applying to tech, if they have fives on physics fives on basic calculus, sure, then we’re getting we don’t need as much from your aid as t score, because we have these other standardized measures. And they’re gonna give us lots of information. That’s one of the reasons why Yale went test flexible, because they’re like, hey, you know, if you can get testing, California, essentially, and as long as you give us all your APS or all your IBS, or you know, then that’s enough information to pull from because they know also the correlations of kids getting fives on Calc and language. And, you know, it’s that also is a strong predictor. It’s not just testing, because part of it is you may be saying, kids who have you know, 1500s, but then we grades and make rigor, then yeah, testing, but it’s all part of the picture. And clearly, kids were getting in at more than double the rate. So testing played some part of the conversation that attack.

Stefanie Forman 13:20
Yeah. And Jed, just for our listeners, can you explain what test optional really means? Especially since COVID, and I feel like, you know, certain colleges, universities have different definitions of what test that really is. And, you know, it sounds like what you’re saying at the most select, or what we’re seeing at the most select schools that you might not have this same chance of getting in, if you don’t submit, you don’t

Dr. Jed Applerouth 13:44
have the same chance of getting in at this school is your most selective use don’t. And that’s not on their promotional materials. And part of it, one of the things the balancing point is when they when schools went test optional, their application numbers skyrocketed, like schools, like Yale went up 55%, you know, like, really massive and do because now at 5%, they were at 10% admission, like it’s tremendous gains in application numbers. One of the balancing points, though, is like a Yale, you know, Jeremiah Quinlan is like, hey, what we’re getting, actually was one of his colleagues in the podcast, and he said, well, our numbers are really spiked. We have somebody that has more applications, but it’s a lot of international kids who you know, and it’s also a lot of kids domestically, you don’t have the academic chops to get into Yale. And they thought, well, I don’t have a test score in that range. But now let me apply anyway. Because why not? It’s Yale. And they said, who they were admitting didn’t really change at all. Going optional. That’s why they went back to required because he weren’t getting quality. The kids who weren’t should have been applying to Yale, were applying to Yale in 2019. And it didn’t dramatically change who was applying and getting in and so forth. And so, you know, that is definitely you know, part of it. I think that’s part of the conversation right there. Let me Make sure I answer your question. The specifics of it that’s looking at, you know, different schools and was optional really mean, for the schools. And you know, there is that was you asked me about, you know, to a myth about testing for a couple of years, one of the myths was that test optional means test scores don’t matter. And that that couldn’t be farther from the truth, they matter to a varying degree at different colleges. And in part of it, we’ve seen a little bit of data that some schools, they they matter tremendously, like, you know, the Boston College, they finally are going to recommend it, because they were admitting students at such a higher rate. But then we learned like after, you know, Gail went test required. And then also we learned like Dartmouth, that Yale is admitting kids 3321, with test scores versus without, and they came out and said, we feel like our, they weren’t marketing that they weren’t sharing that information that kids with high scores got in three times to one. And they said, our language feels somewhat disingenuous, like we’re not being authentic, we’re not being, you know, very truthful with people. And so the same thing, looking at the admin rates, like for Dartmouth, when they when they finally said, we’re going back, they share some of the data and it was like, holy cow, we didn’t know this, kids applying thinking I had an equal shot with scores and without scores. That’s not the case at a lot of schools are very selective. That may be the case that other schools, like, you know, looking at schools, where it’s in part of it is they don’t share the differential admin rates. It’s not collected on the common data set, it’s not on their website, because they’re trying to drive them on applications. They like having more applications, you know, a bigger range of get to choose from, but we’re learning that schools who are saying, hey, it really is optional, apply with or without, when it came down to it on the inside of the admissions office, it made a real difference. So it’s hard to tell people applying to schools are selective, that test scores really don’t matter. Even when, you know, the admission reps are saying that looking at when they finally are revealing, here’s some of our differential data. It’s like, whoa, they matter a ton. And you didn’t share that you were not forthright about that.

Lisa Bleich 17:03
Do you think that that changed also, because we have anecdotal examples of students who applied they in 2020 2021, who apply test optionals to Dartmouth to other schools and didn’t get in? And so I’m wondering, do you think it’s changed now for like, the classes where you were testing was widely available? Do you think there was a difference between those very few couple of years,

Dr. Jed Applerouth 17:29
when testing was really challenged, and kids all over the country couldn’t get testing access? And especially that our West Coast, you know, students like they, they had no chance. They’re traveling five hours to find a test center, and it’s stupid stuff like that. And so do I feel like now testing has returned to somewhat more normalcy, except for California, maybe Washington State, I do think, like, watching the numbers, testing is increasing, like the College Board, it went from, like 1.4 million kids 1.9, Lincoln’s testing is more normalized now. And so access is more and that was part of the also the colleges are like, you think it was cow, a Stanford, they said, like 95% of our students who applied had test scores, and this didn’t send them. And so it’s like, access is becoming less of the issue. So I do think that may have shifted as the cohorts of kids with test scores, keep getting bigger. And the potential is a you know, so now it’s like testing. It’s going to be something now that you have this, you know, you have a certain number of strong schools who are test required every kid with ambition and really good grades and and you know, an academic rigor is going to take a test, because otherwise I’m eliminating all the schools from my list like off the bat, any part of it, you don’t know which ones are going to be adding next slide. Next slide. Exactly. Yeah, we had this incredible series of popcorn, Yale, Cornell. And then is Penn next is like they’ve an MIT and Caltech and Stanford, it’s like, we know they’re more coming. And the question is, before you build your list, Are you certain that these strong schools your list are not going to go required in a matter of four months? Because for sure, we’re done with for this cycle, because it would be totally unfair because you know, kids are applying their their apps are due in October, they can’t require it now. But then come November, December, January, I guarantee it, we’re gonna have more schools. I’m personally waiting for UNC Chapel Hill to come back. I’m waiting for USC and California and waiting for a number of schools questioning maybe UVA, you know, and, of course, Penn, they’re going to I mean, I’d be amazed at Penn didn’t go back. This based on what I’m

Lisa Bleich 19:37
saying. And it’s interesting because UVA and UNC, University of Virginia and university UNC Chapel Hill testing used to be so important, particularly for if you were from out of state. That’s it was a pretty clear line. If you didn’t have a certain test score, it was gonna be really hard for you to get in. So let’s talk a little bit about the new LSAT, the digital LSAT. I know Abby spoke a lot about how Interesting, it wasn’t new talked about the differences. So do you think it’s a good fit for that type of student? You

Dr. Jed Applerouth 20:06
know, I think the digital LSAT is a strong test and is a better test for a lot of students. I think before you decide, you know, am I this kind of kid, I would go ahead and use two hours, you can take it today on the blue book app, it’s two hours, 24 minutes, make sure you take test for five or six, the first three are too easy to help you calibrate, and then you know, having a practice a CT and then comparing it to, there are so many things that are improved, having a shorter test, with more time for question. And, you know, I feel like it’s just it’s simply a superior test. And in so many ways, I was grappling and first with, you know, the short form passages, where everything is just one little paragraph, and that’s it, then, you know, I’m used to, for, you know, 20 plus years of teaching these longer form, reading comprehension, but I’ve, you know, made it made the shift, I’ve adapted. And I feel like the things that are really nice, always having a calculator, this, the Desmos Graphing Calculator is very powerful, and really helps students, it’s always there, there’s no more, you know, when they went to, to this, some mental math, and they had no calc section, I didn’t fully understand that because we live in a world where everybody has calculator on them at all times, and be able to do like long division, and you’re like, what, what’s the value of that? Versus now this is a tool you will always have throughout your life? And can you apply and use this tool, and we’re actually going to give you a built in Desmos calculator for graphing for Algebra Two for all these different things in there. I liked that I looked at the math is much less wordy. That was a that was the Common Core shift in 2016. They went hard to Common Core, and then they pulled back from that in this new iteration. So math is more pure math, I liked that. I liked the fact that you know, grammar has decreased some and reading comp has increased, which I think really is more valuable for going to college, can you read critically versus if your grammar is not perfect, we all have grammar checks and spell checks these days. And we use them and we run ourselves through check GPT and fix the common errors. But can you actually read and understand what’s happening with this topic that’s more important than ever going to college. So I feel like the test and also given kids, you know, you have 59% more time per question, compared to AC T. And you’re going to need some of that time because the the reading level is higher. It’s an 11th grade reading level. You know, some of the reading level on average, some of the reading level is actually college level. They’re giving you some passages, they throw out some Shakespeare, they throw out some you know, Jane Austen, they’re going to be some more advanced passages. But that’s getting you ready for college. So I feel like for so many kids like is there, there’s not really a profile, I mean, kids who need more time kids, you do have to be able to handle higher level of reading. But that really is the only challenging part compared to the AC T. It has not changed substantially in a long time. It really is fairly true to the forum, you know that every link was put together. And if you’re not, it hasn’t changed that much. The creator of the Iowa Test of Basic skills. And it was it was designed to be an academic test to test science and test math and reading, and so forth. And it’s a faster test. It’s always been speedy, I began teaching this test in like 2003, and it’s still very speedy, hasn’t changed, the reading level is lower. It’s about a ninth grade reading level. There is more science that was by design, that there are 40 questions, science passage, 35 minutes, and you have to be able to read and interpret graphs and charts and tables and have some background in what’s a, you know, independent variable or dependent variable, understanding some of the basics, you know, what’s mitosis, meiosis, you know, all these things, experimental design. And so I think kids who are more stem oriented kids who want to showcase some of their science chops, some of the math because the math also is harder. Now we have more advanced math, you’re gonna have more advanced trigonometry, you’re gonna have matrices, you’re gonna have logarithms. There’s always harder math on AC T, whereas the st it goes much deeper into functions and graphing and function notation and intersection exponents. But it’s doesn’t go as broad like are the number of chapters we have for teaching math on these two years is a lot broader than on the STSD. Math is just deeper in a few a few key areas.

Lisa Bleich 24:21
We always get this question and I know it depends on the student but when do you think is the ideal time to take standardized tests?

Dr. Jed Applerouth 24:29
So I love junior year that you know that to me, when you finish off four year you are ready to go we do have a 5% of our kids take it at late in sophomore year because they’re in very advanced math and very advanced language and they’re onto the APS and so they they’re you know it’s true that you know, the test is a lot of algebra one and Algebra Two geometry. And although there’s not very much geometry anymore on the SATs, there is about you know, it’s if three questions of geometry maybe, but there’s a lot more Geometry about 15 questions or so on a on ACT. So but it really is algebra, Algebra One, algebra one. Now it’s to some graphing a tiny bit of trig. And so the timing of it, as long as you’ve had Algebra Two, you’re good to go with the math. And so if you’re in Algebra Two as a junior, then I would wait until the spring, I wait until the February ACT or until the march SATs for your first test. But if you’ve taken them as a sophomore, you’re good. Once you’re in calculus, they don’t do any of that on the SATs ACTs. That’s, that’s not relevant. So you’re onto Rotella math. And then in terms of the grammar, you know, that’s most of it some middle school, the grammar you learned, most kids aren’t getting explicit grammar instruction in high school, very rarely is someone doing a grammar unit when they’re in 10th 11th grade. So that’s typically let’s refresh it, you know, and so forth. And the reading level, for students who has reading challenges, you might want to wait until they’ve been exposed to some more advanced content as a junior because their reading level of SAT is 11th grade reading level, you have harder passages, so but there are kids who were at least a good readers, they’re good to go at the end of you know, when they start junior year, I like doing some prep, some of our kids who are really hyper scheduled as juniors, some of them knock out their first real test in August, they’ll take the August essay, which is totally fine. Some of them will finish testing, you know, before December, which totally fine, you asked you know about a myth. There’s some myth that you know, it’s maturation and development that kids are doing better when they’re seniors on this, but I have tons of data that shows what matters is taking it three times as taking. So it’s a testing effect, not not a maturation effect. Again, with a few exceptions of kids who are ESL students, or have you know, some disabilities or you know, whether it’s still, the reading level is a little bit slower, and they’re, they’re catching up. So for those kids, maybe waiting to be better. But for kids who are neurotypical, we’ve already been exposed to the advanced content. When you’re an early early junior year, you’re good to go. In my experience, I

Stefanie Forman 27:02
feel what Lisa said, these are the questions we get from our students and parents a lot. So three times do you suggest that the amount that that every student should take it if they’re not happy with their first or second,

Dr. Jed Applerouth 27:16
I like having a plan for three times, okay? Know what portion of our kids are one and done. It’s some four, which is under 20%, take it once got scores in that in a practice testing, and they didn’t get that score they need we’re finished. I love that, that’s great, you know, a large portion or two and done, they take it they prep some more to take it again. But looking at you know, the total height increases across you know, kids see gains, they see a nice jump from one to two in a more marginal, smaller jump sectional jump from two to three. And then most kids have plateaued. And so I like having a testing plan, which has three official tests in the plan. And at any point you can be finished. But I want to have a plan with three. Because typically, and some kids have a bad day, some kids, you know, I’m part of it, the majority of school superscore, the SAT and more are doing the ACT. And so part of it is just even the way I guess randomly on three questions can be a swing of 30 points on a section. And so I’m guessing between being seen and this time, I guess right or wrong, happens three times in a row, that’s the difference between any of 1413 or 1460, or whatever. So it’s like giving yourself the benefit of the doubt of every testing. Because knowing that even if your math is staying constant, but your verbal pops a little bit, that’s going to affect your super score. So super scoring also makes me think that taking it several times is to your advantage. And some parents are afraid, you know, if I take it more than once it’s not as good as being one and done colleges care. Colleges really don’t care if you’re one and done. And that’s not what matters no matter is it the number that you get. Is that is that number competitive for their incoming freshman class, no profile. Are you on target as a student academically? knots in the cage, it takes three times there’s one time they really don’t care, taking it 10 times, like in college is there. I mean, sometimes they don’t even see it. And all they see is in committee, here’s your score testing is 1370 GPA here academic rigor, six, whatever it is not, you’ve taken it all these times and sub scores, they don’t have time for that, especially as applications have skyrocketed. They’re reading these things pretty quickly. It’s just what number do you have, but in my experience after the third time, rarely, the kids do better. And many of them they get burnt out or they hit a plateau. Sometimes something dramatic changes that there’s this big release of anxiety or I’ve seen some kids take medication or beta blocker or something and they go in and have a different outcome or but typically kids who are taking it and there’s not huge anxiety. The third and fourth times are very similar if not kids even not doing as well and the fourth time because they’re they’re getting done with testing and like I’ve heard kids say I’m finished like I believe you and we’re finished like he could push into 1450 Unlike Brian, we could push for 1480. I’m finished, I’m done. Like Good, good, that totally fine. I want to optimize but also optimize around your mental health and your and your sanity. Because sometimes you’ve went through it and you prepped and you went in there with integrity. I saw that especially, because like the march Ste, some kids didn’t do as well, in March, there was a calibration issue, that some kids were calibrating their performance based on the first three tests in the blue book, which are too easy that they went and took March and then March dipped, and they were unhappy, then they prep again, took May, or June, got the score they needed. And they’re like, I’m done. I’m over it, like good, good for you. Next. Next, you have your essays and extra applications and everything else, because testing, it also will only get you so far. Like once you’ve hit the testing is one piece of this algorithm. And I can’t keep hitting it. Parents are like, what if I submit a strong SAT and ACT like, they don’t care, or what if it knows, like, once you what if I go from a 1530 to a 1580s, like, you’ve already crossed a threshold, you’re in their top quartile, you’ve already impressed upon them, and you’re a good test taker. So putting any more energy here, you are wasting your resources, your time your money, move on, write a better essay, do some activities over the summer, don’t put more a once you’ve checked the box for testing, they know you have the academic chops next. And that’s part of maybe where Rick says, testing doesn’t matter as much. Once you’re over a threshold of you could handle the work here at Tech, then beyond that threshold, the difference between a 1520 and 1590. It’s like your you can handle the work. And we know that like it’s not Wow, 1590 it’s you know, it’s making sure it wasn’t a 1310. Because you might fail out of you know, engineering or whatever, you know, mechanical it’s they want to make sure you have the wherewithal and beyond that threshold. It’s kind of a so what beyond that point? That makes sense? Not Wow, it’s a really good fire, you’re more qualified to do well here. That’s not what it’s about. Yeah, yeah,

Lisa Bleich 31:58
that’s a really good point. We always tell clients that with their academics and test scores, the question that colleges are asking is, can you do the work? Can you do the work and be successful? And once you satisfy that, yes, you can do the work based on your classes, the rigor your test scores, then, as you say, 10 points more 20 points more, it’s not going to make trivial.

Dr. Jed Applerouth 32:19
And honestly, I’m guessing right or wrong a few times, colleges don’t think you’re the kind of student getting that 1490 versus 1520. They know on a given day, there’s there’s 30 points of error and every test. So it’s like, you know, you that’s baked in?

Stefanie Forman 32:33
Yeah, are there any student profiles, who you feel like should just not take standardized tests. I’ve

Dr. Jed Applerouth 32:40
known students over the years, and I’ve had friends who they quote, weren’t good test takers, there was a disconnect. Something wasn’t happening again, these kids work hard. Their academics are strong, got good grades, I want my friends, the doctor, she was always having a hard time with testing. And spite of you know, she’s a great, great physician and all these things. But for some reason, there was probably tied to anxiety, versus some kids, their secret sauce is they they grind and they work and they’re gonna put the hours and hours, they’re gonna get the A and organic chemistry. And they’re gonna, you know, whatever it takes, they’re in, which is I have my niece staying with me, she’s organic, oh, my god, I didn’t realize just how much memorization and how hard I until I went through her like exams like, dear lord, this is why this is what we do at school. But again, she’s like, I’m going to put in an extra 12 hours, I’m going to put in for the exit. So some students, they have crazy talents with learning and working, when it’s not time constrained, like a standardized test, and they can put it next to the 20 extra hours. And they’re gonna help perform kids who don’t put in those 20 extra hours. But you can’t do that on standardized tests, you don’t have a limited time. And maybe if I gave them eight more hours, they would get a crushing score, but they don’t have it. So they have some issues with processing speed, or issues with ages, you know, however, the brain works, that they’re going to be outstanding students academically, but so for those kids, their test scores may not be a reflection of what they can do academically. And so and that’s one of the challenges. Unfortunately, for high schools with tests required, they’re going to have to explain that, that I have rate academic rates of 4.4 all the all the rigor in the world, but I struggle on some of these timed assessments. And it’s just the way my brain works. And so you have to tell that story. Or get an accommodation if you can, if you have a diagnosed disability, you have processes the deficits or you can show you know, when you get evaluated on a psych eval, like here, this is actual difference, you know, and I have a super high IQ and this is what I struggle with this area. And that’s why my test scores are not a reflection of my academic abilities. And so for those kids who have seen kids that beat their heads against a wall, all the best grades, all the rigor but they come in at a 1050 or 1100. That is a massive disconnect. We have a Foro, but you’re the 48th percentile On terms of testing, and then like, well, we could apply some some real, you know, effort here and resources. But can I get you to a 13? Is that 13 going to even be competitive or meaningful to score? Is that where you want to go? And that’s the one trick, the one thing I don’t love, is those kids who versus can I help them, and I can I find a way to work with them and help them get past either their anxiety, or help them get past their processing speed issues and give them techniques and tricks to work faster. And you know, if they tend to work more slowly, so I do want to help those kids and maybe, but then sometimes we’re looking at like, I’m looking at schools where the average SAT score the 1550, you know, I have 1000. And like, wow, that’s a massive disconnect, maybe you need to look at your list, in bold, because even if I get to do a 1350, which is a nice jump from 1000, you’re still not going to be at the level that these top schools want. And that that is an area where I would say for those kids, let’s try to build a list where testing is optional, because they stand on the merits of your everything else, because you are a great student, but your test scores for some reason, it’s a small minority of kids that think they just don’t align for so many kids do test scores online, for a lot of reasons,

Lisa Bleich 36:15
right. And that’s another thing, we always tell students, that testing can complement where you already are, if it’s going to help support where your grades are, then it definitely makes sense for you to submit them and to take them but if it’s going to either, if it’s going to be way below that it doesn’t enhance your application, it just it looks like you said there’s a disconnect, you talked a little bit about anxiety, do you have tips that you can share that you’ve seen students be successful managing their anxiety, because that is a huge factor.

Dr. Jed Applerouth 36:45
It’s real anxiety is real and post-pandemic, I think, you know, I’ve been taught my background was counseling before that. So thinking about anxiety and work with those students with anxiety. Part of it, you know, it’s self regulation, which is the name of the game of you know, so much of being successful in the adult world is can I regulate myself, regulate my behaviors inhibit, you know, impulses to go and do this? Can I regulate also my emotions kind of regulate, you know, my feelings, the things I, you know, in terms of for a job interview, we’re going to have areas of our life we have to perform, and in a stress condition, that’s just part and parcel of life, you know, there are certain times, you may have to make an impression. And can I bring to bear what I know, can I bring my calm centered self can I center myself, which is a very important life skill to have, can I be good in a crisis, but also going to be good in, in this performance, whether I’m performing on a stage, something theatrical something debate, we have so many students who have to perform on a field of play on a lacrosse game, and a wrestling match in the team sport, and they’re going to be sometimes to stretch their stakes, things are on the line. And so the people who are able to better self regulate are going to have an advantage. And so teaching self regulation skills, I think, is a definitely generalizes out way beyond testing, to so many areas of life. And students should practice. This is one area, because again, you’re this is a high stakes test, it does count it matters, but most kids are going to have some other high stakes assessment in their lives, whether it’s a professional assessment, whether it’s an interview, whether it’s some kind of performance they’re gonna have to perform. And so how do you get yourself back to come back to centered? And so kids have to learn and it’s, versus if I’m going to write off testing well, then you you may have grad school challenges and maybe some other high stakes tests, you know, you’re going to have a it could be for AP exam, something where it matters and performance matters. But obviously, they you know, APS don’t matter as much as SATs because this this one test can keep you out of you know, versus for most schools, APs are optional, whether you send send them or not versus this is now a required some schools. So tips for kids, it’s learning one of the first things I talked to students are there any because we have other domains we have to perform. Have you found other techniques or tricks, other strengths that have worked for you in other domains that you can port over to this one. And some kids, you know, I have to go for a run before I have a lacrosse match to calm myself down, where I have to go and play certain music or say certain things or take a bath or do these things. Or maybe I go in advance and check out the field of play before I have the event. If I’m going to run a cross country match, let me check. Let me get familiar and comfortable. So it’s not novel or new, then maybe you might go to the test center before and play it through mentally do cognitive rehearsal, which my cross country coach used to walk us through the course. Turn By Turn, eyes closed, imagining yourself, you’re doing good your passes and how you feel learning about yourself talk. There are kids who have very negative self talk and they miss a question. They miss a thing. And they go into a negative spiral. I had a kid that he was playing, actually on the PGA Tour. This guy was looking for Got Rob years and years ago applying, he’s going back back to business school. And he could manage his anxiety on the course. But then he would go through this thing where he would miss a couple questions and then start blinking. And he was starts, he would read a passage. And then he could just forget what he read. And for the GMAT, and it was like, because part of it when you have too high levels of cortisol, stress hormone, which is when our stress condition fight or flight that affects working memory, and it squeezes out so it does impairs cognitive obstruction. So part of it for Rob is teaching him how do I get you to you know, do breathing and self talk? And you miss a question? What do you make that mean? And versus like, what do you tell yourself? That means? It’s only a question. You practice, you practice, you prep, you’re ready for this thing. You’ve got this, close your eyes, take a breath, only a question, you’re okay, you’re on this versus, oh, my god. And then suddenly, you go to this place where your imagination is being hijacked. And now your manager testifies, you spy early on this test, you’re imagining not getting into grad school, you’re imagining the shame, you’re suddenly your imagination is being used for very negative ends. And it’s getting in the way, versus like, let me clear all that. Let me focus myself. And so it could be you put your hands on your heart, you take a deep breath, you put your pencil down, or whatever, you know, now it’s computer down, take it, take a minute, take a breath, say something positive, learning how to do that. And again, that’s gonna be helpful before you walk into the interview, for applying for the scholarship or applying for this internship, which you have to perform when you’re looking for an internship. Yeah, so all these to me, practicing managing anxiety, doing self regulation practice is good for adolescents or teenagers and for adults, who, because we’re going to all have to perform in certain context of our lives and learning how to balance. It’s only a positive being better at that. Yeah,

Stefanie Forman 41:49
totally true. Yeah. And I love that visual, I’m gonna use that anecdote with your cross country coach, right guiding you through, you know, every turn, I really love that we Yeah, I take that for granted. Sometimes. I mean, with what we do, the

Dr. Jed Applerouth 42:04
one tiny little thing we throw out there. There’s a guy who I really like researcher out of Michigan, he has a book called to think Chatter. And one of the things I like to take from him is when you’re doing self talk and trying to calm yourself down, going towards them, you statements, creating a little bit of psychological of cognitive dissonance. So it’s Stefanie, you’ve got this. Lisa, you’ve got this and speaking to yourself from the you voice is actually more centering. Then I’ve got this. And like trying to pull trying to bootstrap like making the separate the Wiser centered part of you saying you’ve got this slow down, you’re okay, you’re okay. So shifting to the you voice is beneficial. It’s a tiny little hack for kids trying to self regulate, going to

Lisa Bleich 42:52
do that on a tennis court. You got this big guy.

Dr. Jed Applerouth 42:56
His name is Ethan Kross, you’ve got this. You’ve got this. It’s very saturated.

Lisa Bleich 43:02
That’s actually our say you’ve got that. But

Stefanie Forman 43:06
yeah, that’s right, sir. And if it is, what’s one thing students can do this summer to help prepare for their tests? And how long do you suggest they do prepare?

Dr. Jed Applerouth 43:17
You know, like the best preparation? Because there’s a lot of advanced reading, making sure you’re reading, reading good books, any kind of practice with language skills, understanding what I’m learning stuff stopping, like, what did I actually just read the measuring comprehension? That’s helpful, I believe in focused prep, when you’re in the Windows taking the actual test, like but I, to me, that’s helpful. Or it could be that you’re going to be facing a really incredibly hard schedule in the fall. And you want to do some practice now and then just kind of bank it for later. And then even taking it March. Let me just do some more here. And so what I’d say is make sure you know you’re working with good materials for practice I like if you’re on the you know, the College Board work on the blue book app, you want to have good practice tests, make sure you’re doing you know, timed under the accurate conditions. Make sure you’re building in some practice tests every I like every few weeks doing practice tests when I’m prepping, because I get a score and I get some good feedback and see how I’m doing other things. You know, how long typically, if you have your first official test, I want to go back about eight to 10 weeks, and give yourself time to begin prepping. Learning from your mistakes. One of the most fundamental thing is when you make a mistake, stop, go back and evaluate analyze, that’s as a tutor. That was it. Like the goal the gems for me are What do you miss and why? And I want kids to approach it from that mastery oriented don’t just take a test to get a score, move on and stop. Because like what you missed is absolutely essential. Like why did I miss it? And why I chose B not C. What you know what led me to choose B what word or words why did I not choose you know? So going going through that process? This is how you get better. That’s the That’s mastery or mastery learning. And so if you aren’t doing that you’re not prepping optimally. And so with the right time, the right conditions, and also spread things out, you know, having more time like do an hour put it away, you know, I don’t like massive cram sessions. I like time to you know, learn it, then forget it come back and relearn it more more durably just how the brain works having multiple rounds of reinforcement and retrieval practice. So I think that’s it, spread it out. I did a couple hours, you know, and if you have one hour with a tutor, for every one hour with today, we’ll be doing like couple hours of review at home, make sure you really got the concept. And typically, you know, if it’s a 20 hour session, a 20 hour group class, total time you’ll be doing you know, but 20 hours in class, so we had 3040 hours of home, and a few practice tests. And so and then after the after the first test, the prep downshifts, maybe meet the tutor like for an hour every week or so, you definitely put into the biggest lift is before the first test when it covering the lion’s share of material then it kind of downshifts beyond that.

Lisa Bleich 46:04
That is so helpful. Thank you so much for coming on to CBM and thank you to the CBMers for tuning in. To catch more episodes of College Bound Mentor, make sure to Follow or Subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and tell a fellow parent or student about the podcast. To learn more, visit and we will have links to Applerouth as well on our website. And until next time, you got this!

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