Test Prep: A Student’s TakeWebmaster
The following post was written by guest blogger Jack S. Jack attends Burlington Central High School in Burlington, IL. Read on to learn about his firsthand experience with test prep at Learning Ascent.
ACT Practice Test and Test Prep: A Great Investment
High school students have a lot on their plates. As a senior, my days are consumed with completing coursework, sports, volunteer activities, while also navigating my college path. For me, the key to starting my college planning on the right foot was “prepping”: in other words, taking a test prep course.
My best decision, so far, was to get expert test-prep tutoring for the ACT. Some students may prefer “prepping” for the SAT. Different tests. Same importance. Either test score will greatly impact your college options and decisions. Why? The ACT/SAT scores determine where you are accepted, and how much scholarship money you receive.
I learned the following lessons on my “prepping” journey:
Don’t Assume You Have it “Covered”
I assumed I’d do well on the ACT and SAT on my first try. After all, I was a straight-A student, so I should know the subject content well. My first practice test was an eye-opener. I did not do nearly as well as I anticipated on any of the four subjects. So much for thinking I had it “covered”. I was not sure where I went wrong, or even what my weaknesses were. I began to search for ways to improve my score.
Three (No, Two) Options
With my disappointing practice test in hand, I had three options:
- Find time on my own, try to flip through a couple test-prep books and hope for the best on the National Test. Bad idea. There’s too much riding on my scores. I didn’t want to settle on whatever schools would accept me. I also knew I wasn’t going to get maximum scholarships if I didn’t raise my score…by a lot!
- Register for a prep class. Some of my friends took prep classes that only lasted a couple of weekends. However, they did not learn much due to large class sizes and lack of opportunities to get specific help. Other friends found classes with 10 people or less, which worked much better. This intimate setting makes Q&A much easier, and material can be covered more in depth with a smaller class size.
- Private Tutoring. If you need complete flexibility, and focused, one on one help, this is the route to go. This worked best for me with my crazy school and sports schedule.
If Options 2 and 3 sound like a good fit for you, you can sign up for Learning Ascent’s ACT and SAT Prep Classes here.
Don’t Believe the Myth of “Just One”
Some people believe the myth that colleges now only accept SAT scores since Illinois recently switched from proctoring the April ACT to the April SAT. Illinois switched because the SAT was cheaper for the state to provide for free to all High School Juniors. But colleges do accept BOTH scores. So try taking each one, like I did. Most students find that they naturally do better on one versus the other.
Three Times is the Charm (For Most)
You can take the ACT as many times as you wish. Your last test should be no later than September of your Senior Year. Why 3 times? For most people, like me, each test score got better and better. By the time I took my last one, it was my best overall score. My composite score was 6 points higher than on my practice test. That’s huge! I even scored a perfect 36 in one of the subjects.
Taking a test three times may seem daunting, but it is so worth it. And it becomes easier, since you know the flow, and you manage your time better during the 3.5-hour test. Best of all, you can benefit from Super Scoring. Many colleges take the best score from each subject section among all the tests. That can raise your score by another point or two. Super Scoring got me to a 34, which opened up doors I never thought possible, including letters from a couple of the Ivy League schools.
Don’t Forget to Write!
Each time you register for the test, be sure to sign up for the optional Writing Portion. Many schools will want to see this score as well. One friend was stoked that he got a Composite of 35, but had forgotten to register for the Writing Portion. So instead of sitting pretty with a 35 and being done with testing, he had to take another National test a month later to include a Writing Portion.
Milestones = Money
Numbers matter. The score you may think is “good enough” may not open the doors you hoped for. In general, an ACT of 25 will be the starting point for scholarship eligibility. Each point higher will qualify you for more money. Hitting the 30 milestone will open the gates to generous scholarship awards. A 32 or higher will qualify you for the highest scholarship level that many schools offer.
A little bit of effort in test prep will pay you back a thousand-fold. My decision to get expert test prep made a big difference in my path to college. Schools I never heard of reached out to me. Some schools not only solicited me, but they also offered me opportunities to enter their honors program. The two colleges I narrowed my search to rewarded me with their highest scholarship levels. That takes a lot of financial stress off of me, and my parents.
So don’t wait to test-prep the right way. Your high school time will fly by. You may think you don’t have the time, but there’s always time to fit in a couple of hours a week for a few weeks, all for a BIG PAYOFF in your future. Click here for Homework Help resources.
Featured image credited to Ben Chun.