Thursday, April 18, 2019

Cracking the ACT

It is that time of year again when many college bound high schoolers are working on transcripts and taking the ACT and/or SAT to try to get into the college of their choice.  The race is on and the stress is real.

Years ago after my first child took both the ACT and SAT, both nationally recognized college admittance exams, we decided we preferred the ACT.  Thankfully for us, so did most of the schools she applied to and so that is what she concentrated on taking.  At the time, that concentration basically looked like eating a good breakfast and going in and doing her best on test day.  She was a natural test taker and it worked for her.

Now years later, it is her brother's turn, who consequently, is not a natural test taker.  He is a good student and loves anything history related, but spitting out facts he considers unimportant, ie ACT questions in general, is not something he excels in. 

His first attempt at the ACT was a solid score, but in my momma's heart, I KNEW he could do better.  Convincing him of that was a whole different ballgame.

Thant's where Cracking the ACT- 2018 Edition came into play!  Because I am a reviewer for the Timberdoodle Company, I often have the privilege of reviewing parts of their amazing curriculum line.  Seeing that Cracking the ACT was being offered, I knew the timing was perfect for our family.  

For the past four months my 17 year old has spent 20-30 minutes a day reviewing this resource in hopes to raise his original ACT score.  He took the test for a second time last weekend, and while the results are not in yet, I can tell you what we have seen by way of his practice test scores.

First things first!  Let me tell you about the book Cracking the ACT.

THINK BIG-  Remember the old fashioned phone books.  Well, they have nothing on this book!  It is a whopping 815 pages, softbound thank goodness.  And no, there are not a bunch of filler pages of silliness. 

THINK COMPLETE-  Did I mention there are a lot of pages?  11 Chapters to be precise! 
  • Part 1- This is your orientation that talks about general strategies, score goals and how to actually take the ACT.
  • Part 2- Cracking the English test
  • Part 3- Cracking the Math test
  • Part 4- Cracking the Reading test
  • Part 5- Cracking the Science test
  • Part 6- Cracking the Writing test
  • Part 7- Answers and Explanations
  • Part 8- 11 Practice Exams- This is where the rubber meets the road and you get to try out all of your knowledge.

In addition to the four practice tests included in the book, there are also two additional tests you can access online.  It is important to note that the sections that talk about "cracking" the tests are made up of a few different parts.  Some sections simply show you ways to quickly eliminate fluff answers and "best guess" the correct answer.  Other parts are quick reviews of basic skills you should have down pat before entering the test room.  Either way, all of the practice is just one more way to not only beef up one's skill's, but make your student more comfortable with the four hour long test.

One of the most helpful parts of the book, in my opinion, is the Answer and Explanation section.  Once your child has taken the practice tests and you have scored their answers, it truly behooves you to have them look at what they missed.  While it may not be possible to learn everything that will be on the ACT, there are some mistakes that can be quickly fixed with the simple explanations given.  Trust me, the process works!

THINK RESULTS-  This is what you have been waiting for, right?  After all, what is the use of a study book if you do not see any positive, measurable results?  Again, we do not have the official results of my son's last ACT, but I can share with you that we saw much improvement and a more confident test taker after using this program.  Our goal from the beginning was to improve his original score, but also to make him more confident in his ability to take the test again.  After taking the English portion of the ACT practice score his score was raised by 5 points!  We were thrilled as this is the area we felt he had done well on in the first place, so to see him improve the already strong score was a win for us!  In math, one of his harder areas, he increased by three points!  We did not have him do the grammar and science portions again because we were happy with his scores he had and wanted to concentrate on the other areas.  Better yet, since he was able to get immediate feedback after taking the practice test, he felt more confident in his ability and went into the actual test day with a great attitude and very little anxiety!

Based on the improvements we saw after using just ONE practice test, I would HIGHLY recommend this book!  The next time we use it, yes we have one more to go through this rite of passage, I will be even more deliberate in how we use it, beginning in 10th grade and working on it throughout the year.  My theory is, by the time a child has taken all six of the practice tests, they will be old pros at test taking and sure to score well.  Time will tell, right?!



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