In August 2012, I began offering to the public the very same program that enabled my first four (and counting) high school students to radically defeat their college entrance exams. They blew them away! (Now I’m not going to throw scores out there because if you’ve been following my story, you’ll be tired of hearing about perfect scores, so I”m not going there.)
The program I used with my own kids I now call Virtual Language Alive. It is now offered virtually to motivated students, and I have a variety of students from fifth grade up through eleventh grade.
Recently I got an email from a young man with whom I’ve been working for about nine weeks, and he happily related that he’d taken the ACT and scored four points higher on the English portion of the test since we began working together! I was elated for him because he worked hard for those four points. And four points is a rather large jump forward when it comes to the ACT.
Within the past month I did a teleconference entitled The Underwhelmed Mom’s Guide to College Prep. On this call I had my four high school graduates, two of whom are now college graduates, and two are currently in college. All are on scholarship or were on scholarship. I asked them a LOT of questions about test prep. One of the most popular questions I received before the event was “How can my student be ready for the SAT (or ACT) by the next test date?”
So I threw this question out to my young adults. I will not be giving you their verbatim answers since I have the memory of a camel, but I will provide you with an accurate representation of their answers.
One student pretty much said that you really have to prepare over a period of time via reading, doing logic problems for fun, and increasing your vocabulary. That is definitely true.
One of my young adults advised not to try to cram for this exam. Two agreed that if time is limited, start at least three weeks before the exam and use a test prep book available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and etc. These books usually cost about $30 to $40 bucks, but the insight they provide into the exam itself coupled with taking the practice tests they contain is invaluable.
So if you are short on prep time for the college entrance exams, get the College Board’s test prep book, read about the test, and then take practice tests. Same thing with the ACT except purchase the book put out by the ACT folks, read about the test, and then take timed practice tests.
Time yourself, of course, to get into the flow of taking these things under time pressure. Simulate the test environment as much as possible.
All four of my young adults recommended a more long-term strategy: READ a lot. Write down words you come across that you don’t know, look them up, and keep them in a notebook for reference. Yes! Vocabulary building is important for the college entrance exams!
Do logic problems. Purchase just a book of logic problems from a bookstore or online bookstore and hone your thinking skills. A ten-year-old should be doing this as well as a 17-year-old! The earlier you begin, the better.
Write regularly. Write for fun.
The language program my own students used and continue to use–for the four girls still at home–plays a huge part in developing language skills. It combines the necessary reading, writing, and vocab-building exercises that are self-teaching so student can work at their own speed. With Virtual Language Alive, students are immersed in SAT and ACT prep a little each day. It is not the purpose of the program, but it certainly has been the outgrowth of it.
If you have a student who will be taking the ACT or SAT in a few years, make sure they are reading at least an hour per day. AT LEAST. If necessary, remove distractions so that reading is an attractive activity!
Make sure your student is consistently learning harder and harder vocab words. Make sure they are manipulating these words so that they have an opportunity to use them in sentences. Otherwise, they will be memorized and forgotten by next week. Using the vocab words in their writing is the best thing you can do to help them commit the words to memory. Encourage them to use their new words in daily conversation!
Reading, writing, and logic/math skills are the basics. Too often we parents give our kiddos WAY TOO MUCH TO DO academically instead of allowing our children to build a firm foundation in the basics. Reading, writing, and math make a valid, effective school day in the early to middle school years.
To build your child’s smarts, focus on reading, writing, and math.
How did my 9th grader score almost perfectly on the ACT when he had not even had advanced math or science yet in high school? He read well, he was a self-learner so he was used to thinking logically instead of yelling for help on his work, and he could express himself well. He had an excellent grasp of the English language by 8th grade. Kids like this test well because they are, quite simply, smart. It didn’t happen accidentally! it came through a daily dose of English language via reading and writing, plus logic via mathematics problems.
Oh, and this was before Wii and computer games and cell phones and other such distractions. We had books and legos. And the great out-of-doors.
Kids today are handicapped by technology. How so? Their attention is constantly being focused on stuff besides sitting down quietly with a good book, or walking around outside just thinking about the nature they see, or taking things apart to see how they work.
Upping one’s college entrance exam scores can be done by focusing on the basics. Take the exams, and continue working to beat your scores, taking time in between to study vocabulary, mathematics, and do a whole lot of reading for pleasure.
And see if Mrs. Calderwood has room for you in her Virtual Language Alive program. It works.
About the Author
Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.