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Academic Access: Preparing for the ACT/SAT

05/02/2017 04:15PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez

By Donna Vann

For parents, it can seem like yesterday that you were holding your newborn in your arms and wondering what the future might bring. Now, it’s already time for your babies to graduate from high school and head off to college. But before an application and an acceptance, there must be test preparation.

It’s a simple question. When someone calls and asks if Global Learning Center does test prep for the ACT or SAT, the obvious answer is “yes.” But with test prep, there is not a “one size fits all” program. Each student has their own unique needs. There is not one specific recipe. It would be like using a recipe for a coconut cake and expecting it to come out chocolate.

Even though the recipe for success on standardized tests is different for each test-taker, they all need the three major ingredients: content knowledge, test taking strategies and preparation. When Global Learning Center began doing test preparation for ACT/SAT, we found that teaching test taking strategies alone, to a child who lacks knowledge of the content, does not result in success. Also, students who are academically gifted may need test taking strategies to be able to reach their desired score. Because every student is unique, our test prep tutoring is one-on-one with a certified teacher and student to ensure specific needs are met.

Best Practices for Test Takers

1.       In preparing for the ACT/SAT there are strategies that are a must. Here are the best practices for standardized tests. Students who make a habit of using these strategies will undoubtedly score higher on the ACT/SAT than those who do not.

Test Taking Strategies:

Ø  POE (Process of Elimination) – For every question there is only one correct answer. Many of the answers will have something in it that could be considered right. Do not look for the right answer; look for the wrong answers and eliminate them. In other words, look for reasons to get rid of choices instead of looking for reasons why they might be correct. Using POE and marking out the incorrect choices will considerably increase the chance of getting a question correct.

Ø  Time Management – If you are unable to quickly (around 30 seconds) figure out the answer, put a mark next to the question or circle the number and move on. Do not get stuck on a question. Answer all the easy questions and then go back to the ones you marked. Do not leave any question blank! Unanswered questions mean a loss of points on the test.

Ø  Choose Your Answer by Plugging in – In Math, if you are unsure how to get an answer when solving for ‘x’, plug each answer choice back into the original equation and see which choice works. This should also be used in English for sentence corrections. Always go back and plug in the corrected word or punctuation you have chosen and read the sentence again to make sure it makes sense. Use POE to eliminate the choices that you know are wrong.

2.       Though getting prepared to take a standardized test is unique to every student, there are many universal do’s and don’ts in the process.

Do: Take at least one ACT (taken by all high school juniors in the Cumberland County School System during the school day) and one SAT before the end of junior year in high school.

Don’t: Wait to take the SAT or ACT in the senior year when it is time to apply to colleges.

Do: Use available resources to prepare for an upcoming test. There are on-line resources, schools and local learning centers that offer test prep.

Don’t: Wait until a week or two before a test to get help and expect a miracle.

Do: Make sure the calculator is working properly.

Don’t: Bring a calculator that has a QWERTY-style keyboard or a cell phone calculator. 

3.       Not only should the student be prepared in test-taking strategies and content knowledge, but he or she must be prepared for the actual day itself. To help with test anxiety, test-takers should do the following:

- Relax the night before – no final cramming. Do something fun that will take your mind from the test.

- Before going to bed the night before, lay out what you will need the next day (i.e. admission ticket, picture identification, calculator, and two #2 pencils).

- Don’t forget to breathe – you’ve got this!

Donna Vann is a Fayetteville native and retired educator where she spent 32 years in Cumberland County School System as a teacher and an administrator. She and her own husband, Mike, own Global Learning Center.

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