Tag Archives: standardized tests

In the fall of 2015, Tennessee became the first state to pay for its students to retake the ACT. Guess what happened… Nearly 26,000 students in the Class of 2017 opted to participate in the state’s first ACT Senior Retake Day in October. Of those, nearly 40 percent got higher scores. And about 5 percent — 1,331 students in all — raised their composite above the 21 necessary to receive the state’s HOPE Scholarship, which provides up to $16,000 toward in-state tuition. The ACT retake also resulted in more students hitting the ACT college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects, an area where Tennessee has struggled. The percentage of students meeting all four benchmarks increased from 21.5 percent to 26.8 percent. Let’s look past the unfortunate implications of a college-bound cohort where barely a quarter of students meet college readiness benchmarks. What is worth celebrating is the investment in allowing students…

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Into every life, a little testing must fall. And where you find tests, you will eventually encounter multiple-choice questions. This common question type may seem more daunting than free responses or true-or-false questions, but how can you not love a test question that includes its own answer? In addition, multiple-choice questions become much easier when you combine proper technique with a commitment to eliminating answer choices strategically. Why is answer choice elimination so effective? Crafting really good multiple-choice questions is something an art, but test writers usually follow a predictable pattern. With four or more responses, you can usually count on a correct answer (you hope), one or two similar choices, and at least one outlier. If you cannot predict the correct answer outright, clear the field by eliminating the choices you know are definitely wrong. IDENTIFYING INCORRECT CHOICES Identifying the incorrect choices can be as challenging as find the…

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The college admissions test market racks up hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees, yet the duopoly of the College Board and ACT, Inc. has never seemed more tenuous. In fact, the two test makers to be competing to see who can garner worse publicity through one blunder after another. Perhaps they’re too focused on the lucrative state-testing market to pay attention to their core missions. In any case, their shared negligence opens the door to competition. Enter Vector A.R.C., an organization that aims to offer an alternative to the current college admissions exams. Their eponymous exam, rather than being yet another defunct acronym, stands for Assessment of Readiness for College. But Vector takes a different approach than the other test makers: Not Aligned with Common Core Where the College Board has embraced the Common Core State Standards, Vector joins those who recoil from them: “We don’t think…

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Sir Topham Hatt, the magisterial Fat Controller in the Thomas & Friends series, is notorious for his commitment to making the trains run on time. Nothing chafes him more that the twin terrors of confusion and delay. Nothing should irk you more either on test day, especially when the confusion and delay come from clueless proctors. Such was the sorry situation during the April 2016 administration of the ACT in a school district that shall remain nameless. One of our students was on the waitlist, so she arrived at the exam over an hour early. The proctors placed her on a line with other students who were skipping the ACT Writing Test, but allowed students taking Writing to enter. She remained on that line for more than two hours. Consequently, she and other students began their exam somewhere between one and two hours late. No timing strategies can compensate for…

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Cheating on a test is wrong–unquestionably, irredeemably wrong. Using unethical or illegal means to inflate a test score not only penalizes those who follow the rules but also harms both those who use the test scores and the cheaters themselves. One needs very little imagination to see how SAT scores divorced from the actual levels of math, English, and critical reasoning ability those scores are meant to reflect lead to very bad college admissions outcomes. So, do not ever cheat on the SAT or any other test. That said, you may really, really, really want a higher score than you are capable of earning, even with expert help. Once you open your mind to even the possibility of using unfair means, you may come to recognize an eternal truth: where there are tests, there is cheating. The history of the SAT is rich with examples of test takers angling for…

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The SAT and ACT, as if testing a ton of math, grammar, and reading comprehension wasn’t tough enough, also challenge a test taker’s time management skills. Basically, many students fail to finish specific sections, which is by design. The highest scores go to those who earn the most points, which usually requires seeing ALL of the questions. So what do you do when you tend to run out of time on a section? 1. Focus first on accuracy instead of speed. Getting to more questions means nothing if you get those questions wrong. Your best score begins with answering as many of the questions you see correctly. Sometimes that means learning the math or grammar content that is tested, while other times, learning the right way to read will be the key to greater accuracy. 2. Learn the right strategies. A perfect note on a flute doesn’t come naturally; neither…

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