Tag Archives: English

When discussing strategies for multiple-choice grammar questions recently–something totally normal people do all the time, I’m sure–I found myself surprised by how much one of my most respected friends in education and I differed on how useful “listening” for an error is. Continued debate proved inconclusive, so we brought the question to our big brain colleagues in Test Prep Tribe: “How many of you advocate that students “use their ears” to identify grammar errors in ACT English or SAT Writing and Language?” Unsurprisingly, the test prep community at large is split, at least as far as blanket statements about any particular approach go. However, the lively discussion around the issue helped formulate some nuanced rules about trusting your ear when solving grammar questions: In English, what sounds wrong is wrong… usually. Standardized exams like the SAT and ACT tend to test grammar through underlined portions of larger texts that may…

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Over the years, I’ve fielded the occasional question asking whether the SAT or ACT were offered in languages other than English. “How could they,” I’d reply, “when English is part of what these exams are designed to test.” Now, I’m not so sure of my answer. No, the SAT won’t be administered in Spanish or Mandarin anytime soon. Neither will the ACT, but that doesn’t mean the test isn’t becoming a bit friendlier to students for whom Spanish or Mandarin is their primary language. ACT, Inc. now provides supports on the ACT test to U.S. students who qualify as English learners to help ensure that the ACT scores earned by English learners accurately reflect what they have learned in school. What exactly are supports? They are not, as you might initially imagine, translated versions of the exam. The ACT really does test English, which is tough to do in, say,…

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The ACT may serve as the world’s most popular college entrance exam, but this iconic test, in conjunction with variations designed for younger grades, fills other assessment roles as well. The ACT has been used by a number of states over the years in lieu of specific state tests to assess academic achievement and college readiness. Consequently, ACT score reports provide a lot more information than most college admissions offices pay attention to, including ACT Reporting Categories. Reporting categories, which we used to know as subscores, provide a more granular analysis of performance in each section of the ACT. Subscores were generally ignored by both colleges and students in the past, especially since they didn’t really add additional insight into performance. The one exception might have been ACT English subscores; the Usage & Mechanics vs. Rhetorical Skills dichotomy framed the differences between the science and art of effective written English…

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If you’re shocked at how focused American students are on attending college, don’t worry: they’re not alone. Teens from all over the world aspire to attend U.S. colleges, which means they usually have to take the SAT or ACT. No wonder these tests are administered across the globe from the Åland Islands to Zimbabwe. Unfortunately for many, the SAT and ACT are administered in only one language; students for whom English is a foreign language must often prove their proficiency through an additional test. The TOEFL is typically mandatory for teens planning to study at American higher education institutions. Most take the TOEFL iBT or Internet-based Test, which is offered in most of the world and accepted by nearly every U.S. university and scholarship program. College-bound students may feel overwhelmed by the thought of adding an additional high stakes test to an already overburdened application process, but just as a…

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English expression is not easy. Not only does our language lack internal consistency in terms of pronunciation and spelling, but common conventions seem to change all the time. Many of us work so hard to stay current that we often forget the basic phrases that come up so often. No matter how many times you might hear, “for all intents and purposes,” you might still succumb to saying or writing “for all intensive purposes” when it matters. Even if you haven’t mastered the fine distinctions between who and whom, affect and effect, or less andfewer, (all of which are tested often on the ACT & SAT) you should still be prepared to avoid the following misused phrases. Better yet, use them properly!   WRONG: Use to RIGHT: Used to WRONG: Suppose to RIGHT: Supposed to WRONG: Could care less RIGHT: Couldn’t care less WRONG: One in the same RIGHT: One…

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Testing grammar and writing has caused the College Board all kinds of headaches over the last decade. Everything seemed peachy back when colleges looked at the SAT II Writing Test as proof of English language proficiency. But once the College Board essentially stapled that test to the SAT in 2005, in large part to appease those selfsame colleges, things went south. Not only did the last SAT revision open the door for the rise of the ACT, but even the SAT Subject Tests have lost their luster. Nonetheless, the assessment of grammar adds value to a college entrance exam. Rather than give up on testing this content, the College Board is learning from the mistakes of the past by lashing this section more tightly to the exam as a whole. No longer can colleges marginalize the grammar portion of the SAT when it is part of the larger Evidence-Based Reading…

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