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Test Prep Materials

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By Amy James, for NEWS 9

Do you want to "drill and kill" your child into a high achiever? Are you on your way to purchase all of the test preparation materials that have been made? That leads us to the burning question; test preparation materials: are they right for your child?

What do the Test Makers say?
ACT stresses that the most effective preparation for the ACT is for students to take a solid high school program-courses in English, math, science, and social studies-and to take schoolwork seriously.

Students should be confident in their ability to do well on the ACT-they can do well if they've been working hard because the ACT is curriculum-based. The test measures what students have learned and know how to do as a result of having taken high school courses.

ACT also recommends getting familiar with the test

• Learning some ACT test-taking strategies and tips
• Previewing the test format and content, and knowing what to expect on test day
• Trying some practice questions/practice tests in advance, and using the results to figure out what needs to be worked on-pacing or content areas, for example

(All of this info and sample questions are available at actstudent.org.)

Buying a bunch of study materials is just not that cut and dry of an answer. Test prep materials (workbooks, practice tests, software and online quizzes) are exactly what some kids need in every circumstance, what some kids need in some circumstances and not at all what some kids need until they are older (think SAT, LSAT, GMAT). Let's look at these one at a time - here are a few circumstances where it is:

Just What the Doctor Ordered

• Your child is in a super competitive school and is trying to get into an elite university.
• Your child is in jeopardy of not achieving proficiency on the end of the year tests - demonstrating that he or she is not profe.
• You know that your child needs extra help and you use your child's performance on practice tests to see where to start reviewing subjects and reinforcing skills. Teachers do the exact same thing and it is a great way to use the materials.
• Your child is preparing for a test that determines eligibility for entrance into a school.
• You, I mean your child, is a full-fledged control-freak that needs to take a practice test or two before you, I mean he or she, can sleep at night.

It's a Coin Toss

• Your child is a bit nervous about the testing process and you think that seeing what a test is like while at home will relax him or her. This should be a method of last resort when it comes to helping your child relax.
• You and your child haven't spent as much time as you should have on homework and school assignments this year. Test prep materials can help you make up for some lost ground but like a crash-diet isn't a long term solution.

Not For My Child

• Your child will achieve proficiency on the end of the year tests which demonstrate mastery of the curriculum.
• There is no tangible consequence of scoring higher.
• You want your child to get the highest score possible because you are an overachiever and it has rubbed off on your child.

That's it, I'm Buying it All

What type of test materials should you buy and where should you buy them?

There's a wealth of free preparation resources at ACT's student website, actstudent.org

• Test taking tips
• Descriptions of the test format and content, which will give students a sense of what to expect on test day
• Practice test questions
• A downloadable Preparing for the ACT booklet

A comprehensive, 80-page resource designed by ACT to help students do their best on the ACT. It includes strategies and practice tests.

If you are taking the SAT, check out the collegeboard Web site for similar materials.

If you want to buy additional materials, I suggest Kaplan's Flashcubes for the iPhone and their online tutoring service: Live Online to study for the SAT and ACT.

Additional ACT test-taking resources are available for purchase at actstudent.org

• ACT Online Prep-An online preparation program designed by ACT. [$19.95]
• The Real ACT Prep Guide-The official print guide to the ACT-which includes three retired ACT tests, each writing tests, and explanations for right and wrong answers. [$25]

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