Tag Archives: standardized tests

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” This quote, unironically attributed to Christopher Columbus, says as much about education as it does exploration. The path of learning entails all kinds of challenges, particularly if you want a piece of paper that proudly proclaims what you learned and where you learned it. This is to say, the more prestigious a degree from a particular school, the more obstacles and distractions an applicant will need to prevail over simply for admissions. This fundamental truth applies to both undergraduate and graduate studies alike. Obviously, we talk a LOT about the SAT & ACT around here. These two standardized entrance exams may be taken more than any others in the U.S. but they hardly stand alone as necessary steps to specific academic programs. Most graduate programs–particularly those at the most prestigious schools–require entrance exams…

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Students often come to us with expressed fear of the math and English sections, and we usually start with one of those sections first because there is so much content we can cover that will quickly lead to higher scores. The Reading section of the tests, however, remains elusive, and is often the hardest section to make progress in. The best thing a student can do to improve their reading comprehension for the tests is read more–read widely, read often, read actively–and seek to understand what the text is saying, ideally by looking up vocabulary that is unfamiliar. Sustained reading increases the skills tested in the Reading section over time, but many students are scrambling to prepare for the SAT and ACT only a month or two before the exam date. So, when faced with a time crunch, what can we do to increase a student’s score in Reading? One…

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I’ve been happily immersed in ACT Certified Educator training over the last week. This is a great program with terrific trainers. Jason Derby, for example, is a true educational triple-threat, teaching high school classes, ACE courses, and private test prep. No wonder so many of his insights resonated with my own experience of testing. For example, who could argue with this analogy? The ACT is like a rock wall: there are usually multiple ways to climb to the top. Jason hits the nail on the head here. Great climbing walls are designed to challenge a wide range of complementary skills and strategies along a spectrum of successful outcomes. Great tests do the same. Neither trial is necessarily designed to allow every competitor to attain the summit but still permits numerous paths to the highest levels of success. The comparison doesn’t end there. Solving a tough test question is a lot…

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How is a test like a duck? They may appear unruffled and serene on the surface, but underneath they are usually paddling frantically. Great tests, meaning those designed to be valid, fair, and reliable, require tremendous effort and insight to put together. Casual observers may see a random assemblage of items, but those in the know can glimpse the many hands–not to mention reams of data and decades of experience–that go into crafting entire tests, specific sections, and even individual questions for standardized exams like the SAT and ACT. Basically, assessment design goes very, very deep. If you are going to spend weeks, months, or perhaps even years of your life analyzing test questions, some insight into testing terminology can’t hurt. ITEM A test question–both the problem itself and any answer choices–is called an item. Tests can feature all sorts of objective and subjective items. The standardized tests used for…

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The current paradigm of SAT and ACT testing in the state of New York generally sees high schoolers testing at high schools, with the vast majority of students engaged in Saturday testing. Students in many other states benefit from free school day administrations, but the SAT and/or ACT take the place of traditional state assessment tests in those states. While NYC has piloted the use of standardized admissions tests for assessment purposes, we do not seem to be anywhere close to replacing the Regents. This does not, however, eliminate the opportunity for a high school to administer the SAT or ACT in its own classrooms during the school day. In fact, both College Board and ACT have created paths that allow schools to serve as school day test centers for their own students. The question, of course, is, “Why bother?” Who exactly benefits from SAT and ACT school day testing?…

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I recently had the good fortune of being invited to take an official ACT in my own home by computer. As a lifelong student of standardized testing, I’m never going to turn down the opportunity to learn something new while challenging my skills. And now that I’ve taken the test, the educator in me demands that I share my insights on this new twist on an old test. What did I learn by taking the ACT on computer? 1. I still got it! While performing at a high level obviously matters to me, I have nothing but professional pride on the line. Elite performance can be difficult to achieve without a real incentive, and I already have my college degree, thank you. Apparently, though, I can still turn it on when needed 😉 2. Testing on a computer takes longer. I spoke at length with ACT Senior Director of Research…

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