Tag Archives: test day

Very few people enjoy a story that begins with, “Back in my day…” That said, back in my day, we were not permitted to use calculators on the SAT. Instead, we had to perform all calculations (gasp) by hand. Didn’t think this was going to be a horror story, did you? Life for test takers in the 21st century became just a bit easier when both the College Board and ACT, Inc. opened the doors to calculator use on at least some math questions. Sure, you can’t outsource figuring on the No-Calculator Math section of the SAT or the Science section of the ACT, but generally, your calculator will be there for you when you need it. Except when it is not. No discussion of test day horror stories would be complete without mentioning the myriad victims of calculator malfunction. Sometimes your device glitches, and sometimes it just dies. Either…

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So… you are finally ready for the big test. You go to sleep Friday night, confident in your progress and abilities, and proceed to be agonized by nightmares that limit you to two hours of sleep. Or worse, you get so much sleep that you slumber right through your alarm. Better to have a strategy to make sure that all of your hard work was not in vain. For starters, don’t do any prep work Friday night. Cramming may work for final exams and college, but if you aren’t prepared for the test by the night before, you are in trouble. From personal experience, I can attest to this. Many years ago, I was frantically preparing a new manual for an SAT math class that I was running in New Jersey. I did something I hadn’t done since college – the dreaded “all-nighter”. With the book close to completion, I…

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As surely as a new school year brings holidays and seasonal events, the same SAT and ACT test dates we’ve always known appear with comforting certainty. Students will take the SAT in early September, the SAT in early October, then the mid-October PSAT, then the ACT again, and so on and so on. Test dates may shift around from time to time, but once etched on the calendar, they are locked in (weather permitting, of course). The College Board has never cancelled a U.S. administration of the SAT. But recent events may strain even the clockwork consistency of our nation’s oldest testmaker. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that a person with access to SAT material in development provided the news organization with hundreds of confidential test questions and answers. Reuters has not published any of this test material, but did confirm its authenticity with the College Board, who, through an…

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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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This past weekend, a massive Nor’easter named Jonas slammed the East Coast, dumping feet of snow on states that rarely see inches of accumulation in a given winter. Unfortunately, this past Saturday was also the last scheduled administration of the version of the SAT first introduced in 2005. Something had to give, and you can be sure it wasn’t the weather! This time around, wild weather shut down test centers from Massachusetts to Georgia and as far west as Mississippi. Nobody can predict where inclement conditions will postpone tests in the future, but anybody can and should prepare for the worst.   How will I know if bad weather will postpone my test? The best way to find out if your test administration is being cancelled due to inclement weather is to listen to the local radio or television station that normally carries school announcements. If you are taking the…

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The current ACT takes over four hours from the proctor’s lengthy monologue to the last furious moments of the Writing Test. By any standard, working intently over that span of time takes a considerable toll on a test taker’s physical, mental, and even emotional resources. That’s why these lengthy standardized tests tend to include breaks. Why are breaks important? Basically, our bodies and brains need periodic breaks to maintain peak performance. Nobody is going to physically collapse after the strain of four hours of continuous testing, but scores suffer without occasional respite. Even a microbreak–from 30 seconds to 5 minutes–flushes fatigue and promotes productivity, problem solving and creativity. Test breaks become more effective when students can get up and move around or stretch and drink water and eat healthy, performance-sustaining food Unfortunately for today’s teens, ACT does not seem to support beneficial breaks. An official administration of the ACT incorporates…

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