Tag Archives: writing

Now that the Writing portions of both the SAT and ACT are optional, students must content with a challenging decision: spend the extra time and effort to write the essay or gamble that their target schools won’t require the scores. On the one hand, nobody wants to risk an incomplete college application. On the other hand, nobody wants to struggle through another forty or fifty minutes on an already exhausting test day. What choice should a smart test taker make? In previous years, we always recommended that students take the optional ACT Writing section (or take the mandatory SAT Writing section seriously) in order to keep their options only. Few aspects of the admissions process feel worse that having to take an entire ACT again just because one school required a Writing score. But events over the last year have shifted perspectives on the test essay. Most competitive schools routinely…

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For a growing number of our nation’s teens, the question is never, “Am I ready to go to college?” Rather, they ask, “How soon can I get there?!” But the first question deserves further consideration. Since 2003, the twelfth-grade mathematics and reading assessments from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have been used as an indicator of students’ academic preparedness for college. According to the 2015 data released in The Nation’s Report Card, only 37% of twelfth-graders met the standard for success in mathematics or reading. Even more troubling, the percents of students meeting preparedness standards are down across the board from last year. College readiness is no joke. Students who arrive at school with deficient math, reading, and writing skills face a higher likelihood of struggle and failure. Even the ones who don’t drop out are forced to take remedial no-credit classes, which extends the already pricey proposition…

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The SAT & ACT have long tested structural elements in reading passages, specifically an understanding of why writers make certain choices and what form their choices take. Structure questions challenge a test taker’s ability to recognize literary devices and go beyond understanding what an author says to recognizing how and why. The new SAT essay tests understanding of structure on an entirely new level. Students are given a long passage and asked to explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience. This assignment marks a dramatic departure from previous test essay assignments, which were persuasive rather than analytical. Analyzing an argument demands a better mastery of the terminology of structural elements. Test takers should be able to speak to the balance of ethos, pathos, and logos in an essay, but should also be prepared to identify additional persuasive elements. The following represents some of the broader categories…

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For a moment, the ACT stood ascendant as the college admissions test to beat, the safe harbor for all students and schools fearful of that scary, new SAT. The masterminds in Iowa City outflanked the College Board at every turn to finally usurp the throne. …Then came the Enhanced ACT Writing Test in September 2015. Changing the ACT Writing assignment was not, on its face, a bad idea. The ACT’s ongoing positioning as a state standards test has triggered the inclusion of lots of data points of more value to school administrators than college admissions officers. At least ACT continues to test persuasive writing, which is more than can be said for the competition. Changing the ACT Writing Test in mid-stream, as it were, made little sense. Traditionally, major test changes are introduced in the spring in deference to the college admissions cycle. Not only are changes often accompanied by…

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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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While some complain bitterly about the presence of essays on the SAT and ACT, others try to derive value from the whys and hows of the assignments. I stand with those latter, more pragmatic sorts that see these college admissions tests as indicators of the skills and qualities colleges want in their students. Based on how much the test makers have been focusing on their respective writing assignments, colleges care quite a bit about certain types of writing skills. Before this year’s changes, the SAT and ACT essays were scored using very similar rubrics and grading processes. However, the ACT score report added a measure of feedback through stock essay comments based on the rubric. If you analyzed those comments, you could see what skills identified exceptional writing. You could even, were you so inclined, implement those lessons and thus improve your argumentative writing. The Enhanced ACT Writing Prompt appears…

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