Tuesday, June 5, 2018

GETTING READY TO STUDY FOR A COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAM


As tenth grade students wind down Sophomore year and begin to think about which college has the best academic reputation, sports opportunities, geographic location, and parties, they might also be thinking about when to take the ACT OR SAT college entrance exam.  Now is an optimum time to collect information and create a study plan.

ACADEMICS:  Consider the academic load in eleventh grade.  List the courses in which the student will be enrolled and estimate the time requirements for homework completion based on the student’s previous subject experiences.  Try to be realistic when judging how quickly the student learns, especially when considering honors or AP courses, but lean toward over estimating rather than under estimating time commitments.

OUTSIDE OBLIGATIONS:  If the student will have a job or will be participating in extracurricular activities, estimate the calendar of events and the time commitments involved.  Starring in the musical, for example, will undoubtedly occupy all available time a week before the performance.  Again, it is useful to allot more time than to find out later that the student is over committed.

SOCIAL COMMITMENTS:  Look at the school calendar and the family’s vacation plans to identify blocks of time unavailable for study.  Include birthdays and other social events that may disrupt a study plan.

KNOW THE LIMITS:
  Research a few possible schools to determine the academic and entrance exam expectations.  Visiting schools in person or on internet can provide all needed information and also the motivation for the student to implement a study schedule.

KNOW THE LIMITATIONS:  Use results from the PLAN (a standardized test given in Sophomore year) or have the student take a practice ACT (OR SAT) to evaluate the level of existing knowledge. Every test has a basic structure and list of concepts to be included.  The ACT, for example, incorporates fundamental Trigonometry, but the SAT goes only to Algebra II.  Consider consulting an experienced testing coach who can match the student’s current skill set to the testing company’s expectations and recommend the level of study required to achieve a desired score.

CREATE A STRUCTURE FOR THE STUDY PLAN:  Use a 9-month or longer calendar to mark out large blocks of time that are already committed.  For example, if the student is a football player or cross country runner, block out the Fall when focus will be on the sport and keeping up with school work.  Don’t forget semester finals which may consume as much as 2 weeks for intense study.

Based on previous experience, estimate the length of time the student will need for entrance exam preparation.  For an average student, incremental improvements in any of the 4 ACT sections might require a week for each 2 point elevation in score.  For example, if the entry score for English is 24 and the target score is 30, figure 3 weeks of concentrated study to accomplish the goal.   This estimate should be adjusted according to the student’s academic history and current level of achievement.  It will take longer to go from a score of 34 to a 35 than from 14 to 15.  In the first case, the student will need to search for unknown concepts to study, while the latter might be accomplished by studying just one of many possible rules.

Determine when the student will be taking the ACT.  For public school students in Illinois, the SAT is given in mid April of the Junior year, is required for high school graduation, and may become part of the student’s permanent high school record.  While the SAT score need not be the highest the student will ever achieve, a respectable score is necessary since every potential college may see it.  Don’t rush into a national administration of the test, however.  December of Junior year is a recommended ACT testing date only for students who have completed a course in Trigonometry and have adequate time in the Fall to prepare.  February’s test results do not include actual answers to test questions and cannot be used for effective study.  ACT offers an early April test, but many Juniors wait until June, or the new July date added in 2018.  An incoming Senior can take the test in September or October and usually have results in time for early admission to the college of their choice.  College Board runs a similar schedule for the SAT.

STUDY SMARTER:  The best results on any test come from a smart plan of action.  Realistic evaluation of the knowledge expectations of the specific test, the student’s existing skill set, school and family obligations, and desire to excel are vital components for designing an effective program of study.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

ACT: LAST MINUTE HINTS FOR SUCCESS - MATH

Last day to CRAM for the ACT!  Let's look at Math.

Math equations that you will need to use.


     SOH-CAH-TOA

     Pythagorean Theorem
          a^2 + b^2 = c^2

     distance = Pythagorean Theorem
                   = √ [(X1 - X2)^2 + (Y1 -Y2)^2]

     slope = rise over run
              = ∆ y/ ∆ x
              = (Y1 - Y2) / (X1 - X2)

     Mean = Average = Sum / Number

     Median is the middlemost

     Mode is the most frequent

     Midpoint = (the average x, the average y)
              = [(X1 + X2)/2, (Y1 + Y2)/2]

     All AREA formulas:
         Parallelogram
         Triangle
         Trapezoid (often forgotten, frequently needed)
         Rhombus and Square (special ones using diagonals)
         Circle

     General VOLUME formula:
         Flat-top prisms and cylinders……area of the base times height
         Pointed-top cones and pyramids..(area of the base times height) / 3

     Probability
         Successes / Total Possible

PROCESSES that will come in handy.

     1)  Set up ratios and proportions
          for SIMILAR TRIANGLES
          for RATES

          for CONGRUENT FRACTIONS

     2)  Write out equations and substitute values

     3)  Use all the data provided.

     4)  Draw diagrams.

     5)  Use the calculator to visualize by graphing and to check calculations.


     6)  Compare fractional values by finding a common denominator.

Don't get hung up on a single question.  Remember that the score is an accumulation of points, so missing 1 is not as bad as not finishing all 60.  Plan to spend the least amount of time on the first 30, an average of 1 minute or less on 31 through 45, and invest the remaining time efficiently on the final 15.  This last group will probably contain the most challenging problems, but be sure to recognize the 2 or 3 that are super simple; they are your reward for getting that far within the allotted time.

GOOD LUCK!!!

ACT: LAST MINUTE HINTS FOR SUCCESS - GRAMMAR

Only 2 days left to CRAM for the ACT.  Since you’re probably applying at an American school, let’s make sure the English section demonstrates a respectable level of knowledge.
 
ENGLISH - REVIEW RULES OF GRAMMAR
Several standard rules are ALWAYS tested, some more than once on a single test.

ITS-IT’S 

its is like his — it shows possession
it’s is an abbreviation for it is

INTRODUCTORY PHRASES must relate to the subject of the sentence
(good)  Sitting on the balcony, we watched the parade.
(not good)  Sitting on the balcony, the parade passed right by us.

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT

Single subjects do not usually end in ’s’ but single verbs do.
Plural subjects usually end in ’s’ but plural verbs do not.

VERB TENSE does not change in the middle of a paragraph.

PRONOUN REFERENCE
The pronoun usually refers to the preceding noun.
If you can’t answer the question “who?” then use the noun.

SPECIAL NOTES ON PUNCTUATION:
 --  Two commas (or two dashes) means that the words in between are not needed.
 --  The subject and verb can NEVER be separated by a single comma.
 --  When adding an ‘-ing’ phrase after a full sentence separate it with a comma if it does NOT describe the preceding noun.
 --  A COMMA ALONE CAN NEVER, NEVER, NEVER SEPARATE TWO INDEPENDENT SENTENCES!   (But comma-conjunction can.)
--  A period, colon, semicolon, and comma-conjunction are usually interchangable when there is a full sentences in front, so finding more than one in the alternatives tells you to look for special circumstances.

REMOVE REDUNDANCIES
If a shorter alternative gives enough information, pick it.

COULDAV-WOULDAV-SHOULDAV
Spell it out, don’t just say it.  These contractions replace ‘could HAVE,’ ‘would HAVE,’ ‘should HAVE,’ so abbreviate them as could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.

ADVERBS VERSUS ADJECTIVES
The difference may be in the -LY (which makes the word modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb).

OMIT, DELETE
If ‘omit’ is an alternative, there is a 50% chance that it’s the right answer.  Be sure the information is VITAL  before including it.
 

WHO-WHOM
“Who” is the subject doing the action.
“Whom” is the person the action is affecting (direct object, indirect object, object of a preposition).

REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS (himself, herself, myself)
The person DOING and the person RECEIVING the action must be the same person.

CONNECTOR AND TRANSITION WORDS
Lump them into general categories:
    a) showing contrast (however, but, instead, although, nevertheless, yet)
    b) showing cause and effect (therefore, consequently, as a result)
    c) giving proof or more examples (likewise, besides, moreover, indeed)
    d) Since the English section is usually informal, when given a choice between ‘however’ and ‘but’ or ‘therefore’ and ‘so,’ choose the informal ‘but’ and ‘so.’



ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT TO SATURDAY'S ACT, so if cramming is your style, you'd better get to it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

ACT: LAST MINUTE HINTS FOR SUCCESS

With only 3 days left to CRAM for the ACT, the panic is starting to set in.  Here are 6 last minute activities to maximize your efforts.

1.  REVIEW PREVIOUS WORK
Pull out all the tests you used for practice and review the answers you got wrong.  Think about what you SHOULD HAVE DONE to get the right answer.

2.  ENGLISH - REVIEW RULES OF GRAMMAR
Since about 2/3 of the English test involves grammar, you stand to gain the most points in this area.  Tomorrow's post will list several concepts that will most likely be on Saturday's test.

3.  MATH - REVIEW BASIC ALGEBRA AND GEOMETRY EQUATIONS
Make a list of those that appear in your practice problems.  There are quite a few, but they are always the same.

4.  READING - PRACTICE FINDING SPECIFIC WORDS IN CONTEXT
Take any magazine or newspaper article.  (Magazines are better because the columns are generally  wider and more like the layout of the test.Have someone list 5 or 6 words they find in the article. (Nouns are the best sources since ACT questions usually refer to specific names or ideas.)   Peruse the article, circling the words listed.  This practice will help you to more quickly find specific information from the Reading passages without the need to actually READ the whole article. 

5.  SCIENCE - PRACTICE READING CHARTS AND GRAPHS
Search "science graphs" in your browser.  When I 'google' it, I get samples, pictures under the heading 'images.'  Click on one and answer the following questions:
      a) what is the independent variable? (What does the x axis represent?)
      b) what is the dependent variable?  (What does the y axis represent?)
      c) pick a spot on the graph and identify the meaning.
Here's an example:

    
      a) hours elapsed 
       b) bacteria 
       c) after 5 hours had elapsed, approximately 23 bacteria were reproducing.

Don't obsess over why we need to know this information.  Just answer the question and move on.  The test task is to read the graph accurately and work on the next question.

6.  SCIENCE - COMPARE RESULTS
Using the same graphs, analyze results.  In this example, an analysis statement might be "as the hours increase, the number of bacteria reproducing decreases."  Personally, I use a shorthand system that looks more like....
   ....to take less time than full sentences.

Three days left.....keep working!!!
 







                 















   

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The NEW ACT - SCIENCE SECTION HINTS

While the SAT has undergone massive revisions in the past few months, the ACT is also responding with a few tweaks to the Science section.  Nothing major is changing, but it's worth a look so June test takers are prepared.

In the old ACT version, you would rely on there being 3 raw data, 3 research summary, and one differing viewpoints data sets, with 5, 6, and 7 questions, respectively.  In the updated version, there are still the three TYPES of information presentations, but the number of data sets and the number of questions in each can vary.

Don't worry.  The strategies for finding, comparing, and extrapolating details won't change.  The only real difference is that with possibly 6 questions based on raw data, you may have to dig a little deeper to analyze the information given.  That could actually be a benefit to the test taker because there is less need to adjust to a new topic.  Once you're "into" a data set, you can stick with it longer, albeit in greater detail.

So here's the plan for tackling the Science section.

1) Answer the questions in the order presented.  More often than not, the easier ones come first and can give you an idea of what's being reported, without trying to understand nonessential minutiae.

2) Identify key words in the question stem and match them with labels from the data set.     

   



3)  Take personal notes.  The example here uses "T" for temperature and "RT" for reaction time, but this code is temporary and refers only to this particular question set.  The next group of questions may ask about Turtles, so "T" could stand for something entirely different.  

4)  Notice that I'm not concerned at this point with what is said about Experiment 1.  My assumption is that "Reaction Time" is the time it takes for "the purple color to disappear" since that's the only thing reported in the chart.  Strategy 4 is to NOT WASTE TIME with useless information like "a 3.2 mL sample of some chemical I don't recognize anyway is poured into a clean 4L cylinder by a graduate student at UWM on Tuesday before his mother's birthday..."  Focus on the details of the question.

5)  Use your personal note taking system to organize collected data.  "T up -- RT dn" is an example.  Another question type could give a comparison and ask for sentence completion.  Be careful to identify the SUBJECT of the sentence you're finishing.

               

6) Don't be afraid to write all over the test booklet.  Nobody will ever look at it, and nobody else will be reusing your booklet. 
         
                      

Even without the ability to actually read the axes in this smudged graph, I can pick out "boiling point," match the chemical, find 80%, and estimate the direction of the curve.  This is a lot of note taking, but with it, the answer pops out as a whole lot bigger than 115˚C.  Watch for those "smaller than" and "greater than" options.  Usually, if you are expected to extend a graph past it's domain or range, the answer will be one of those extremes.

7)  Use a system of ELIMINATION to discard answers that are obviously wrong.  A, C, and D in Tip 2 are easy examples.  For this one...
        
I'm looking at Experiments and 2, and if MnSO4 is not mentioned, I'm throwing F out.

For more discussion of ACT in general or specific sections, return to top and go to the upper left corner of the first page. Enter the topic you are researching.  Scroll past the index and see what tips will help you earn a top score on the ACT.