Emerson, NJ: What does it take to succeed on the SAT and ACT exams? For many students it’s simply study and preparation. For others, it’s getting the idea and the access to study and preparation first. Then, it’s study and preparation. You may have seen the statistics showing that there is an average of a 300 to 400-point difference among standardized college entrance exams from applicants of polarized socio-economic backgrounds. That’s enough of a disparity to block entrance and/or scholarship money from those with the lower scores. The statistics are showing that students from wealthier families with college-educated parents tend to score higher than students whose parents have less means and education.
Many colleges have responded by making the ACT and/or SAT scores optional for students to submit with their application packages. And, the College Board (an organization that prepares and administers standardized tests that are used in college admission and placement) this year will be adding an adversity index beside the SAT scores to disclose to admissions officers the scale of a student’s disadvantaged environment. The College Board serves about 150 colleges this year and says that it will be available to all colleges in 2020.
One popular high school physics teacher and after school SAT and ACT tutor would have scored high on this adversity index. Born in Jersey City and raised in a rough area of Union City, Alexander Robayo has seen first-hand how hard it is for kids to get ahead when the only thing they know is life in “the projects.” Robayo was lucky enough to have a mom that pushed him hard to achieve and succeed, and he responded well to her parenting. For many kids in the inner city, however, this is simply not the case.
So, the Rutherford High School Physics teacher devotes a significant amount of his tutoring practice to preparing disadvantaged pre-teens and teens, for a nominal fee, to excel on the college entrance exams. “The exams don’t necessarily show how well someone will succeed in college and life. However, the exams DO show how well one has prepared for the test,” he says.
One thing about Robayo is you’ll never find him teaching in a suit. You’ll find him dressed purposely in casual attire to better relate to his students. Keeping things real and really entertaining, he opens with a joke, “Never trust an atom. It makes up everything.” And another, “Don’t eat too much pi, it makes your radius bigger.” You might also find Robayo on the ballroom floor dancing the Salsa or Merengue, for the fun and the craft of it. Robayo’s passion is making what would otherwise be difficult material understandable and enjoyable. “I started out in my career as an optical engineer at a company that contracted through the military. I didn’t like that so much,” he says. He went through the alternate route to get his teaching certificate, started working as a math and science teacher in 2004 and never looked back.
Robayo offers some words of wisdom for parents and students who are planning to take the ACT or SAT exams:
1. Know the difference between the ACT’s and the SAT’s and choose your exam wisely.
The ACT is better for a “by the book,” honors student who is curriculum-based and knows her stuff. This student works well under pressure. The science on the test isn’t really about science. It’s more about reading charts, graphs, and tracking trends. You don’t have to understand the concepts. You just have to answer what they want.
The SAT is more analytical and inferential “read between the lines”. More things are implied, indirect, or interpreted. There’s no science on the test. Math is more analytical with more patterns and a broader scope.
2. Rid exam anxiety by making the test routine.
Take a mock exam every Saturday morning. It’s like running a 5K. You prepare/train 2-3 months in advance.
3. Parents, provide support, seeing to it that your pre-teen or teen does homework and/or exam prep before video games.
No one is suggesting hovering or nagging but students in middle school and high school generally still need that extra support and accountability on a regular basis.
4. Take the test, even though some colleges don’t require it.
There are reasons to take the college entrance exam. For one, there’s potential scholarship money offered for students who score high. (And, with the new College Board adversity index, here’s hoping that the playing field will be more level when it comes to diversity and scoring.) Secondly, an SAT score can show how well you’ve prepared, and this could reflect positively in the overall college entrance portfolio. You may or may not get a very high score, but if you don’t try then you’re not giving yourself a chance.
Alexander Robayo lives in Emerson, NJ with Wife Yasmin, daughter Alia age 9, daughter Leila age 5, and son Ely age 3. His tutoring practice is named Success Prep, LLC and is primarily based around the Tenafly, Cresskill, and Alpine areas of Bergen County. Robayo along with two colleagues in the company not only prepare students for the college entrance exams, they also tutor in math and science. Robayo is fluent in both English and Spanish.
For more information on Success Prep, LLC, go to www.success-prep.com