ContactCovid is long over now and Chris and I are immersing ourselves into ACT prep once again. We have both stayed busy studying and developing materials but have neglected our website. Life got busy and other things took up our time. The upside to this is that we stepped back and reexamined our strategies. We do this periodically anyway, but since things have gone back to mostly normal we felt it was time for a deep dive. That is SOOOO important with a test that constantly evolves. We strive to stay on the cutting edge and shortcuts and strategies have to change along with the test. ACT works tirelessly to make shortcuts and tips ineffective on newer tests to keep scores competitive, so it is imperative to make sure your advice is current and applicable so students can earn the maximum possible score.
An example of advice that has become obsolete is the old math tip about substituting the answers into the problem to solve by trial and error rather than working out a problem. Back in the day that tip was pure gold but the ACT writers modified the questions so that rarely, if ever, works these days. The biggest insight on the math test these days is that the ACT writers are getting better ever day at disguising middle school math problems so test takers can't recognize what type of problem is being asked. Test takers consistantly miss questions THAT THEY ALREADY POSSESS THE MATH SKILLS to solve! Students with average or higher math skills benefit much more from learning to see through the fog and recognize the problem type rather than learning new math skills and memorizing formulas.
The science test has doubled down on asking questions that require referring to more than one source to answer. Rather than reading one chart or locating the information in one graph, many questions require finding something in one spot to able to figure out the answer with information from a chart or graph. At the same time graphs are becoming more complex and confusing. Old-time advice to only look at charts and graphs to save time by not reading the passage doesn't work any longer. Test takers need guidance and practice reading complex graphs and strategies for knowing which questions to attempt and which ones to skip. Six unrelated science passages, forty questions and a 35-minute time limit contribute to making this the section my students dread the most. If any portion of the test is in dire need of strategy and pacing tips, it is the science section.
This type of information can sound depressing to test takers, but I get excited at the opportunities it presents. Chris and I have always said that prepping for the ACT is like fighting an arms race with the test writers. If we can arm our students with the strategies and specific practice they need then the test becomes an opportunity to succeed instead of a burden to be endured.
Watch this space. We are working on some exciting things we'll share with you in the near future. In the meantime we are available for individual or group tutoring. Contact us for more information.
We are two full months into quarantine. It's hard to believe that it's only June. I've joked that I'd planned to retire from being a classroom teacher this year, but didn't intend to become a shut-in this quickly. Thankfully, I adopted a cat in February, not knowing that she and I would be home together all this time. Chris and his wife are enjoying spending time with their daughter, who is home due to her college closing temporarily. My youngest nephew and his girlfriend have moved home from New York with two semesters left to go in culinary school for the same reason. We are in that age group with a foot in each world. Elderly parents on one side and young family members working hard to get ahead and start a career on the other.
Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this crisis. There is so much uncertainty, and no one thrives when their lives are in an uproar. This crisis won't last forever though. Things will get back to some kind of normal eventually and I'm concentrating on spending this time getting ready for good times to come. Our school seniors had a belated graduation last weekend and I bought myself a retirement cake. The daughter and the nephew are working jobs and staying busy until they can go back to school. Chris and I have had the honor of coaching three groups of prospective college students preparing for the ACT this summer. Once this Zoom bootcamp ends we will be gearing up for one last bootcamp this summer, just before the July ACT. Chris will be going back in the classroom when schools reopen in August and I will be devoting myself to ACT prep. Ladybug the cat will continue to work on becoming my full-time assistant. We hope to see you on Zoom!
Wallace TRIO and ACTs Test Prep partnered for a second bootcamp just in time for the October ACT. We met lots of new students, some who had wanted to attend the summer bootcamp but couldn't because of scheduling conflicts. Several students were about to spend a generous amount of money and commute to Birmingham for ACT tutoring when they learned of the TRIO bootcamp scholarships. Chris and I were both thrilled to see so many eager students ready to work hard to prepare for college! What a great experience!
Our first bootcamp was a huge success! We gathered with the students and their parents for wrap-up night with food and speakers to congratulate our kids. This is the article describing that night:
Wallace State's TRIO Talent Search wrapped up their first-ever ACT bootcamp with a celebration on Thursday night. Around forty local students spent three grueling weeks preparing for the July ACT with Kim Cole and Chris Howse.
Proud parents showed up to hear Mechelle Baker speak about the requirements for Wallace's Nursing program. Most programs welcome everyone and have little or no entry requirements, but Wallace's health care programs require a minimum of 18 on the ACT. Not all applicants are accepted, even with the minimum score and a good GPA, because class sizes are limited. Mrs. Barnes stressed the importance of good ACT scores to ensure acceptance into competitive programs and four-year colleges.
Wallace Success Coach Coordinator Christine Wiggins came to congratulate the students on their hard work and wish them luck on Saturday's test. She also spoke about the importance of the ACT scores, but at the same time, encouraged the students to see it as a necessary trial and not a reflection of them as a person.
Kristi Nyquist gave the most touching talk of the night when she explained how Talent Search empowers students to attend college who might otherwise get lost in the maze of college and scholarship/grant applications. Talent Search is a free program for Cullman County students that takes them on college tours all over North Alabama, helps fill out college applications, and assists students in locating and applying for scholarships and grants to pay for college.
Chris Howse was a keynote speaker at the AEA Conference in Montgomery last Friday night. He talked about Fairview High School's rise from a 'D' school to a 'B' school on the strength of their ACT scores. Check our social media feeds for the full story!
This month's AEA Journal has a nice write-up about Chris Howse's presentation at the AEA Huntsville Conference last January. Read the article here.
Twenty students came out on a cold Tuesday night to learn from Kim Cole how to increase their ACT science scores. Half were high school students and the other half were Wallace State Community College students who need certain scores to be accepted into programs like Nursing. Two of these were older ladies who are going back to school after being out for quite a few years. The group had a great energy and was wonderfully enthusiastic!