Are You Eligible for Duke TIP?

Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) is meant to recognize and nurture gifted students in grades 4-12. Students enroll in talent searches during two key periods: 4th-6th grade and 7th grade. (Note: 8th-10th graders have an option for late enrollment. Also, the enrollment does not carry over from one period to the next.)

For students who meet eligibility requirements and get recognized, Duke TIP offers exclusive education programs, summer camps, and media. These include the following:

  • Academic Adventures (Grades 4-6): One-day courses held during the school year

  • CRISIS (Grades 5-6): Week-long residential program in which students work together to solve a hypothetical community crisis

  • eInvestigators (Grades 5-6): Month-long online program (fall, spring, or summer) in which students solve a mystery

  • eStudies (Grades 7-11): Seven-week online summer program in which students take challenging courses with peers - requires a qualifying score

  • Field Studies (Grades 9-12): Two-week summer programs in which high schoolers go to specific locations for hands-on learning

  • Scholar Weekends (Grades 7-11): Weekend-long program during school year in which students learn about new subjects, college majors, and careers

  • Summer Studies (Grades 7-10): Three-week summer programs in which students take advanced classes and stay at college campuses across the U.S. - requires a qualifying score

Notice that the programs don’t really open up to students until 7th grade, especially the most popular Duke TIP offering--Summer Studies. In fact, many students only participate in Duke TIP so that they can attend the summer program. That’s why many students wait until middle school to enroll in the talent search.

Notice, too, that Summer Studies and eStudies have something in common: they both require an additional qualifying score. For students who are enrolling in the 7th grade search, they just need to make sure that they score high enough on the SAT or ACT to get into the Summer Studies (or eStudies) program.

Which test should I take for the Duke TIP 7th grade talent search? SAT or ACT?

There shouldn’t be too much of a content level difference between the SAT and the ACT. Both tests are designed for high schoolers, particularly juniors. However, it seems that the ACT is often more popular with younger students. And generally, the ACT is a more straightforward test. If anything, timing is the main challenge.

That is not to say the SAT is off limits, but the SAT is a trickier exam, built more to make students feel overwhelmed. It also has a higher learning curve when it comes to understanding the format and how to approach questions.

If you don’t have time to decide for yourself, then take the ACT. But it is recommended that you at least take both tests as practice exams to get a feel for the differences. Even doing a single passage or problem set in each section would be helpful.

Let’s look at the 7th grade eligibility requirements for the Summers Studies program to get an idea of what test may be better for you:

Note: Summer Studies has two levels--Academy (regular) and Center (advanced).

Academy Math (Regular Math)

  • SAT Math: 510-540

  • ACT Math: 19-22

  • ACT Science: 20-22

Center Math (Advanced Math)

  • SAT Math: ≥ 550

  • ACT Math: ≥ 23

  • ACT Science: ≥ 23

Academy Verbal (Regular Verbal)

  • SAT Reading/Writing: 510-550

  • ACT English: 20-22

  • ACT Reading: 20-23

Center Verbal (Advanced Verbal)

  • SAT Reading/Writing: ≥ 560

  • ACT English: ≥ 23

  • ACT Reading: ≥ 24

Let’s break this down another way, assuming that you want to participate in the most advanced Summer Studies programming. These are the SAT or ACT scores that you need:

  • SAT Math: ≥ 550

  • SAT Reading/Writing: ≥ 560

  • ACT Math: ≥ 23

  • ACT Science: ≥ 23

  • ACT English: ≥ 23

  • ACT Reading: ≥ 24

For the SAT and the ACT, you have to score above the national average to be eligible as a 7th grader for Duke TIP Summer Studies. The national average for the SAT is 1060 (math/verbal); for the ACT, it's 21 (average of the four scores).

How should a 7th grader prepare for the SAT or the ACT?

The numbers may seem daunting, but you should keep in mind that Duke TIP is not meant as a rite of passage in a young person’s life. In other words, don’t put all your energy into proving your child’s brilliance with endless cramming and long nights of test prep.

You should definitely prepare and familiarize your student with these tests, but also give them the opportunity to explore these major standardized tests before they really matter--when they take them for college admissions.

My recommendation is to start thinking about which test to take. Once you make that choice, you should prepare for a month or two before the test date. Prepping a few hours a week, just to familiarize yourself with the test format and clarify any small content areas that your student can learn, is recommended. I don’t, however, recommend devouring whole units or entirely new concepts that are too advanced. (But obviously you know yourself and your child best.)

Don’t make the test into such a big deal that a bad score will crush your kid. At the same time, don’t pretend that any standardized test can be mastered without a little bit of practice. (Sure, it happens, but more often than not, prep does help.)

Is Duke TIP really worth it? What about the popular Summer Studies?

Now we’re to the real question: should you even be worried about Duke TIP? After all, it looks like a constellation of online courses, summer programs, and one-shot classes. What’s so great about all of that? I cannot attest personally to the glories of Duke TIP, but I will say that students find their experiences at the Summer Studies program, for example, life changing. It comes with a price tag that is above many other summer residences and camps, but Duke TIP does provide scholarships and financial aid.

If you are approaching Duke TIP with the mindset that it is another gem for the college application resume or that it fosters bragging rights or proof of your child’s genius, then you probably will be disappointed. Instead, treat Duke TIP as you would any other program geared towards adolescents--as something to nurture interests, build lifelong friendships, and give direction.

Planning on taking an SAT or ACT for Duke TIP in the spring? We are registering right now for seats in our 8-day winter break SAT and ACT classes. Learn all the fundamentals necessary to ace these exams and take proctored diagnostic tests to measure your progress. If you are looking for a quick cram while you have time off school, then we are here to help!

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