School Smarts: Prep work helps students on standardized tests

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The anxiety really ratchets up for high school juniors as they prepare to take the SAT or the ACT.  These exams determine whether the students will be accepted to certain colleges and whether they qualify for scholarships.  

Max Furlan, a junior at St. Xavier High School, is enrolled in an ACT prep course.  "I'm hoping for a higher score which can increase the colleges I can get into," he says. Students in the class know their future is on the line.  Instructor Jed Hilbert helps students navigate the testing season with confidence through his test prep classes called Standardized Success.  He says the classes give students confidence through repetition.

Hilbert's students take multiple practice tests, go over them together, and figure out why questions are answered incorrectly.   "The kids who miss a lot of questions in the session get frustrated," Hilbert says.  "But, they are the ones getting their money's worth because they are finding out a lot about what they didn't know and hopefully what they can know."

As they do this, Hilbert shares different strategies for taking the test.  Students have to figure out which strategy works best for them. Hilbert says parents have many choices when helping students prepare for these tests.  If you're paying for a class, he suggests shopping around.  Find out whether the class uses practice tests--which he finds most helpful, look for a smaller class size, and get the qualifications of the person teaching the class.  

"The first score you get, when kids get disappointed, that was never going to be your best score," Hilbert cautions, "so get a number and move up from there."

It's not unusual for students to take multiple tests through the early part of their senior year.

What should young people expect as far as improvement if they take a class?  "I think a two-point composite jump on the ACT is good; anything higher than that is awesome," Hilbert says.

A class isn't the only strategy for improvement.  Anyone can go to a bookstore and buy books with practice tests.  Hilbert recommends the Real ACT Third Edition which has five practice tests, or newest one, The Official 2016-2017 ACT book with three very recent tests.

For the SAT, buy the College Board SAT practice book or find the tests online for free. Regardless of your approach, Hilbert says any type of prep work is better than nothing at all.

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