Still struggling with ACT.

peppypea

Member
My DS is everything any of the academies would want: bright, born leader, elected leader, volunteers, swimmer, outgoing, the list goes on and on and on. Academically he is #1 in his class (sometimes #2- he keeps vying with one girl!) Unfortunately, we are from a very small very rural school district- he will graduate in a class less than 70 people. We are also from a state with very poor education standards and opportunities. While he pushes himself to take the most challenging classes, he's kind of run out of classes he can take to be challenging. (I hope all of that made sense.)

At this point, the biggest problem we have is those darn standardized tests. If he has all the time he needs, he scores amazing. Once he's timed, he's about 4 minutes short per test- which leaves him with an average ACT score of 22- not strong enough. What suggestions do you have to help him get faster, to be better? I KNOW he can do it, but the pressure and stress of being able to get this done properly is making him feel even worse- giving even more test anxiety. *sigh.

Any advice or help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening, for your time,
mama bear.
 
My DS is everything any of the academies would want: bright, born leader, elected leader, volunteers, swimmer, outgoing, the list goes on and on and on. Academically he is #1 in his class (sometimes #2- he keeps vying with one girl!) Unfortunately, we are from a very small very rural school district- he will graduate in a class less than 70 people. We are also from a state with very poor education standards and opportunities. While he pushes himself to take the most challenging classes, he's kind of run out of classes he can take to be challenging. (I hope all of that made sense.)

At this point, the biggest problem we have is those darn standardized tests. If he has all the time he needs, he scores amazing. Once he's timed, he's about 4 minutes short per test- which leaves him with an average ACT score of 22- not strong enough. What suggestions do you have to help him get faster, to be better? I KNOW he can do it, but the pressure and stress of being able to get this done properly is making him feel even worse- giving even more test anxiety. *sigh.

Any advice or help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening, for your time,
mama bear.
The best way to get better at either the SAT or the ACT is to take the test. Practice just taking the test. A section everyday. Then go back and check the answers and identify and correct what needs to be addressed.
 

Humey

Member
My DS is everything any of the academies would want: bright, born leader, elected leader, volunteers, swimmer, outgoing, the list goes on and on and on. Academically he is #1 in his class (sometimes #2- he keeps vying with one girl!) Unfortunately, we are from a very small very rural school district- he will graduate in a class less than 70 people. We are also from a state with very poor education standards and opportunities. While he pushes himself to take the most challenging classes, he's kind of run out of classes he can take to be challenging. (I hope all of that made sense.)

At this point, the biggest problem we have is those darn standardized tests. If he has all the time he needs, he scores amazing. Once he's timed, he's about 4 minutes short per test- which leaves him with an average ACT score of 22- not strong enough. What suggestions do you have to help him get faster, to be better? I KNOW he can do it, but the pressure and stress of being able to get this done properly is making him feel even worse- giving even more test anxiety. *sigh.

Any advice or help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening, for your time,
mama bear.
The best way to get better at either the SAT or the ACT is to take the test. Practice just taking the test. A section everyday. Then go back and check the answers and identify and correct what needs to be addressed.
Maybe, but some people have problems with timed standardized tests no matter how much they practice. I would also like to add that just because someone has problems with the ACT or SAT due to time constraints, doesnt mean they would have issues with doing well on tests while at school. I also understand that an A from one school and and A from another school aren't necessarily equal and standardized tests are a great way to see how good a student really is.
 

peppypea

Member
I think the biggest problem is twofold:
1. He's not the fastest reader in the world
2. From the time they are really little, kids are taught to go back and check their work- on these tests you just have to do the questions and move on, no checking your work.

He is working with a local woman on strategies- I just hope it's enough.
 

peppypea

Member
I would suggest the SAT over the ACT. The SAT is easier on those that have an issue with timed tests.
Thank you for this. We are all so new to this: I have never taken any of these kinds of tests and my husband had to take POSS/MAP (I think- it was a confusing time, heh) tests for his career- very different animals.
 
When it comes to reading on a standardized test, reading the questions first helps immensely. You can them skim most of the answers if you have a good grasp on the questions. An informed reader is a fast one!
 
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When prepping for a standardized test, the trick is understanding the type of questions that exist and then learning the shortcut strategy to speed towards a quicker solution. There are a finite number of the type of questions that a student will encounter on the exam. Most prep books will go through each question type, show the way to recognize the question, and then explain ways to finish the problem faster. Do not just take the tests over and over - that does not work.
 

AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
When prepping for a standardized test, the trick is understanding the type of questions that exist and then learning the shortcut strategy to speed towards a quicker solution. There are a finite number of the type of questions that a student will encounter on the exam. Most prep books will go through each question type, show the way to recognize the question, and then explain ways to finish the problem faster. Do not just take the tests over and over - that does not work.
Agree with davejean90 in that repeating the same strategy is not productive. Learning tactics to become more efficient is the goal.

On the other hand familiarity increases efficiency as well. So multiple practice tests helps to increase familiarity with the test, and enhances confidence.

It is a combination of tactics and practice that optimizes prep and thus moves the needle forward.
 

brovol

Member
The bottom line is that, whether the ACT/SAT is or isn't a fair assessment, it is the single most important factor in terms of admissions; so either get the score up, or don't get the spot. Sounds harsh, but it is true.

The only way to improve is to keep taking every test you can, and study hard between each test, timing each section, then going over the answers after each section, and learn why each wrong answer was wrong. The practice books are actually quite good. It takes commitment and discipline for a kid to do this, because studying for and taking even practice tests is a total drag, and then getting up early on a Saturday morning to take the real ACT or SAT is even less fun than that. But, with super-scoring, you can really move a score, be it with hard work, or dumb luck. There is no guarantee that you will get the score you need, even if you knew what that score was, but if a kid is committed enough, it is worth the effort.

To the OP; how many times has your son tested? How many practice tests has he done? My son moved his Super-score up every time he took the ACT, even when he thought he did terrible on an exam, at least one sub-score went up. He moved his science score from a 28 to a 34, even after being convinced he would never get higher than a 28 on science. His math was consistently at 32, until he got a 34, and he eventually got every subject above a 30, which was his goal. He was shocked to see some of his scores, because frequently he thought he did lousy on a section before receiving the score. You never know. But all you can do is put yourself in the best position to score well, and hard work is the only way to do that. No special prayers, no voodoo, no answer key, no secret contacts in the admissions office. Just discipline and grinding it out.
 

midge

Member
I completely understand the small rural school worries. We are from rural America as well. My DS is in a class of under 50!

Regarding the ACT, my DS (just started his Junior year) did ACT online prep through ACT. We were not sure if would be worth it, but he took his ACT for the first time in June and did very well (31). He says he liked the online prep and that it helped him find his strengths and weaknesses. It tracked his studying and gave him a timeline to his test date. Lots of practice questions and practice tests. He will retake the ACT (and SAT) this fall but already said keep using the online prep. Honestly, I did not look at the website much but he used the app on his phone and the laptop both. It made it very accessible when traveling. It was pretty reasonable for a 6 month subscription. Just another option to maybe look into.
 

Alaskan

Member
My DS is everything any of the academies would want: bright, born leader, elected leader, volunteers, swimmer, outgoing, the list goes on and on and on. Academically he is #1 in his class (sometimes #2- he keeps vying with one girl!) Unfortunately, we are from a very small very rural school district- he will graduate in a class less than 70 people. We are also from a state with very poor education standards and opportunities. While he pushes himself to take the most challenging classes, he's kind of run out of classes he can take to be challenging. (I hope all of that made sense.)

At this point, the biggest problem we have is those darn standardized tests. If he has all the time he needs, he scores amazing. Once he's timed, he's about 4 minutes short per test- which leaves him with an average ACT score of 22- not strong enough. What suggestions do you have to help him get faster, to be better? I KNOW he can do it, but the pressure and stress of being able to get this done properly is making him feel even worse- giving even more test anxiety. *sigh.

Any advice or help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening, for your time,
mama bear.
Reminds me of DS last year. He did much much better on the SAT though. Also take the ACT again. Keep taking the tests and having them sent to the academy.
 

Alan99

Member
It is not hard, especially for SA's because they mainly look at the first 2 sections (maybe only the first 2 sections). This allowed me to focus on the English and Math sections for about a week of practice (2 hours every day) and I improved my composite score from a 28 to 33 (English was a 25 to a 35 & Math was a 27 to a 32). Just buy a study book, I would recommend Princeton Review and drill the practice problems and take a few practice timed sessions.
 
A friend of ours has a son who is a National Merit Scholar. They paid $700 for an in-person "course" of SAT prep, something like a month of weekends. He scored 800 on each section, and he and his mom attributed his scores to these classes. Others who attended the course with him also qualified as National Merit Scholars. (I can't tell you the exact class, but a quick check online yielded several options. If it is something you'd consider, I can contact her to see if I can get the exact class.)

For some, the face-time with an instructor and other students might be more effective that online or book prep. Just a thought.

Wishing him the best!
 

Cerberi

Member
Why does your son want to attend the USCGA? What academic majors is he interested? IMHO a 22 is pretty low and he is probably looking at closing at minimum a 5-6 point Gap just to become considered - not even 'competitive' - just qualified.

I am not a huge fan of standardized test scores - but the service academies are. I am in no way discounting all the other things he brings to the table, but is he ready for an intense engineering based program which by the way throws in a lot of the humanities courses. 18 plus hours of academics, military knowledge and duties, plus athletics (intercollegiate or intramurals)?

There are a lot of test taking strategies, programs, etc, but if USCGA is the goal you might also be considering what a year of college or prep school would do for him. It appears more and more appointees for all the service academies are those that made it after a year and sometimes two years of college.

I am not suggesting that he can't improve significantly by taking the ACT/SAT repeatedly with some coaching/prep work. There are undoubtedly people here who have seen dramatic improvement in their scores, but it appears your son is already a high school senior with limited number of opportunities to improve those scores for the next class.

You might want to consider a longer term strategy to achieve the goal of USCGA. He wouldn't be the first and it might better prepare him for success once (if) he gets there.
 

Alaskan

Member
Tp
Why does your son want to attend the USCGA? What academic majors is he interested? IMHO a 22 is pretty low and he is probably looking at closing at minimum a 5-6 point Gap just to become considered - not even 'competitive' - just qualified.

I am not a huge fan of standardized test scores - but the service academies are. I am in no way discounting all the other things he brings to the table, but is he ready for an intense engineering based program which by the way throws in a lot of the humanities courses. 18 plus hours of academics, military knowledge and duties, plus athletics (intercollegiate or intramurals)?

There are a lot of test taking strategies, programs, etc, but if USCGA is the goal you might also be considering what a year of college or prep school would do for him. It appears more and more appointees for all the service academies are those that made it after a year and sometimes two years of college.

I am not suggesting that he can't improve significantly by taking the ACT/SAT repeatedly with some coaching/prep work. There are undoubtedly people here who have seen dramatic improvement in their scores, but it appears your son is already a high school senior with limited number of opportunities to improve those scores for the next class.

You might want to consider a longer term strategy to achieve the goal of USCGA. He wouldn't be the first and it might better prepare him for success once (if) he gets there.
He's really not far off the average. Take the test again and try the SAT. It's also not the only thing that matters. Top
of the class and lots of leadership positions etc.. my DS first time taking ACT was 22. Compared to 1375 Sat. Took it again and got a composite 26 and is being given the privilege of "tutoring" other cadets at MMI. These tests are overblown.
 

Cerberi

Member
You might want to consider a longer term strategy to achieve the goal of USCGA. He wouldn't be the first and it might better prepare him for success once (if) he gets there.[/QUOTE]
He's really not far off the average. Take the test again and try the SAT. It's also not the only thing that matters. Top
of the class and lots of leadership positions etc.. my DS first time taking ACT was 22. Compared to 1375 Sat. Took it again and got a composite 26 and is being given the privilege of "tutoring" other cadets at MMI. These tests are overblown.[/QUOTE]

A 22 is considerably 'far off the average' and he is applying to USCGA and not to the MMA. And 'the tests are overblown' might be true but they are the only data point regarding academics that are standardized so the service academies put significant weight on them.

The candidate has taken the exam previously and it sounds like he has taken it more than once. His window for significant improvement which I would define as 5-8 points is now less than 4 months. I am not suggesting it can't be done, but candidates also have to be realistic about their chances.

It is not a reflection of his ability to lead, serve or to even have a distinguished military career as an officer, but he has a lot of distance to close in a short window to be competitive for an appointment to USCGA.

There is a local private catholic school near me. It has solid engineering and accounting/business programs as well as nursing, education, and other programs. It is not 'prestigious' by any means, but it is a 'good' school. They won't consider applicants with less than a 22 on the ACT. This even applies to athletes.
 

cb7893

5-Year Member
Learning tactics to become more efficient is the goal.
Both our DS's benefited greatly from a tutor whom they only met with a few times. They were both off the charts in math, but struggled with the verbal. The tutor taught them how to read the questions. They discovered that by simply reading the questions the right way, they could easily eliminate several possible answers.

There are several other tricks and tactics they learned. Make mastering them the point of preparation, like practicing technique in sports. This makes the prep tests much more beneficial, leaving the test taker less intimated and more confident before even starting the test--much like an athlete before game time.

Given the fact that we paid (not a whole lot), this advice is probably now free on the internet.
 

jebdad

5-Year Member
A friend of ours has a son who is a National Merit Scholar. They paid $700 for an in-person "course" of SAT prep, something like a month of weekends. He scored 800 on each section, and he and his mom attributed his scores to these classes.
The prep classes are not cheap (and $700 for what you describe sounds like a great deal) but are worth every penny. We paid considerably more for each of our kids to each do about a dozen sessions at Huntington. It was worth every penny and both of them increased their composite ACT at least 5 points. They teach you how to take the test quickly and how to attack the various sections. If you haven't done so already, look at the questions your child is missing when they do a timed practice test. Are they cruising along rarely missing a question and then miss a bunch at the end due to time shortage or guessing. If that is the case, the tutoring should help a lot. I know it did with my kids.
 
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