Archive for Monday, August 24, 2009


Test of time: Best SAT, ACT prep may be focus on pacing

August 24, 2009


A couple of missed question in a college admissions tests such as the ACT or SAT can be the difference between thousands of dollars in scholarships or a $100 grant. Here are some tips to ensure students can get their highest score — and amount of financial assistance — possible.

The ACT, which is the most common of the two tests in the Midwest, requires knowledge of math, science, reading comprehension and English writing and grammar. Kathleen McDavid, director of the Sylvan Learning Center in Lawrence, says the ACT assumes students have taken Algebra II, trigonometry, chemistry and physics. The SAT, which is more common at U.S. coastal universities, does not include a science test.

The ACT and SAT tests are different from most classroom tests because of their stringent time constraints.

“The No. 1 complaint that we get is that when kids are taking this test, it’s not that the material is too difficult, it’s that they weren’t able to get through all the material,” McDavid says.

She suggests using the timer technique to increase students’ reading speed. This method involves reading as much as they can for five minutes; when the students are done reading, they should reflect on how much they comprehended and determine how to improve their comprehension. McDavid says students should practice reading with academic magazines such as Time and newspapers to improve vocabulary and writing skills as well.

“We just really encourage students to read as much as they can,” she says. “One of the things we really do recommend for our students is to work on vocabulary so they understand all those words that are included throughout the test.”

Robert Shandy, a counselor at Lawrence High School, says LHS offers several different seminars to students focusing on the different portions of the test. These are meant not only to increase their knowledge of certain subjects but also to improve test-taking skills — especially time management.

“Just like doing flips on a trampoline, the more the practice, the better you’re going to be,” Shandy said. “The more you practice test-taking the better you’re going to be.”

Shandy said he gives every student who wants to take the ACT a practice test and also encourages them go the ACT Web site, which offers practice ACTs and sample questions.

One helpful aspect of the ACT is that students may take it as much as they want to achieve their goal score. McDavid said the average student usually takes the ACT two or three times before reaching his or her goal. The Kansas Board of Regents, which governs most of the Kansas’ public universities, requires students get at least a 21 for admittance, while scholarships at least part way correspond with ACT scores — a higher score usually equates to more money.


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