High school

Five Essential Components for Success on the ACTScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.29.02 AM

A

Attitude - Success requires a positive attitude.  Think, “If it can be done, I can do it!”.  You need to really WANT to do well and you must squash the ANT (Automatic Negative Thinking) Eliminate all negative thinking during prep and during the actual test.  There is no room or time for negative self-talk during the ACT.  

Application - Work through retired ACT questions and take retired ACT practice tests before sitting for the real test. Understand the correct answer to every question you miss as question types repeat themselves on standardized tests.

C

Content - Fully understand the content that is being tested

Commitment - Make the test a priority.  Commit yourself to dedicated preparation and focusing on areas of weakness.

T

Time - Finding time for quality test preparation is usually the biggest challenge in the life of high school students today. ACT success requires quality focused preparation time:dedicated work on content and retired ACT questions, timed full length practice tests, time put into reading and studies. Testing time is tight on the ACT.  You must work at a fast pace. Pace increases when you know what to expect on the test and have confidence solving similar questions - practice questions from retired tests.  Pace increases with practice under timed conditions - time yourself when taking practice tests and working on practice test sections.  Read this post for suggestions specific to increasing reading speed.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Improve Reading Speed and Comprehension for the ACT

Read to SucceedReading is a learned skill that builds upon itself. Reading often is the best way to improve comprehension and reading speed. Reading connects people places and times. It builds on personal experiences and learned knowledge.

A reader can improve reading comprehension by:

  • Selecting reading material of interest.
  • Reading with purpose - reading title page/ copyright and introduction and connecting time and place if given - getting any background available
  • Focusing - shuting out negative thinking and distractions
  • Looking up new vocabulary and concepts as they come up

A reader can improve reading speed by:

  1. Understanding that Speed Reading is basically more focused reading.  The best way to increase reading speed is to read often with focus and concentration.  Continued practice is key.
  2. Gently trying to read faster than comfortable.
  3. Grouping Words
  4. Trying out these free apps/software programs:  

Acceleread App - use the free version of this app for an introduction to the process of and skills needed for speed reading.

Spreeder:  a free online speed reading software where you can copy your own text and practice reading it with custom speed and grouping (set speed and grouping preference in “settings” under the passage) - I have no experience with the paid version of this program.  I think the free version should be fine for practicing. Copy and paste portions of  these Newspapers and Magazines The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Scientific American, The Atlantic Monthly, or The New Yorker into Spreeder and read them for speed and comprehension.  While reading, determine the purpose, main point and tone of each article. . (You may eventually want to copy and paste the article you select into Spreeder to practice reading it at the speed needed for the ACT.)  A reading speed of at least 300 wpm is needed to get through the ACT.  This reading speed is also important to get through the large amount of reading that is required in college.

Sandy Aprahamian, Principal, EDNavigators LLC

The Key to Higher Level Reading and Higher SAT and ACT Scores

ReadingHaving taught hundreds of students how to read and having worked with students up to grade 12 on reading, I have found most high school students to be breaking down on reading at the same place in the process. Background on Reading:

There are four cueing systems of reading:

  1. Graphophonic (Sound - the reader must be able to decode letter sounds)
  2. Syntactic (Structure - the reader must understand the rules of language)
  3. Semantic (Meaning - the reader must be able to relate material read to material already known)
  4. Pragmatic (Purpose -the reader must understand the culture and social purpose for which language is used)

Early in elementary school, most students reach success with the first two components of the cueing system.  When given an appropriate leveled piece to read, they can “read” it.

For higher level reading, students need to master the semantic and pragmatic cueing systems. This is where middle school and high school students often run in to trouble. These skills take time, practice and exposure to many topics and genres. The semantic cueing system requires background knowledge.  In order to find a logical place for the freshly read information in his/her brain, the reader must have a general idea about the topic being presented.  The pragmatic cueing system also requires life experience and strong mental processing. The purpose must be clear. Semantic and pragmatic cueing require higher level thinking and the ability to synthesize and evaluate material while reading. To master semantic cueing and pragmatic cueing, students need life experience, intellectual conversation and exposure to various topics.  It comes with time and practice.

The best way to become proficient with the semantic and pragmatic cueing systems and to become a better reader in general is to read often.

Middle and high school students, try these reading steps to improve your semantic and pragmatic cueing systems and get more out of your reading

  1. Understand that the book/article is assigned for a purpose.  There is something to be gained by reading it or it would not be assigned reading.  - Ask the teacher if the purpose is not clear.
  2. Look at the copyright page and read any introductory information available (back cover, front flap, introductory blurb…)
  3. Search the internet for information about the time period when the book or article was written and the time period when the story takes place.
  4. Do a quick internet search on the author.  Get a feel for where the author is coming from physically, mentally and intellectually.
  5. Download the audio version of the book if the book is a challenge to get through.  Try listening to the book while walking. (physical exercise improves brain function - and keeps you alert and awake)
  6. Pause and think about what is being read.  ask yourself… Can you relate to it?  Do you agree/disagree with concepts and characters?  Is it in line with something you read previously? Do you want to understand more about it?  Do you like the writers style?
  7. Look up unknown vocabulary words and concepts as they come up.  Just like in math, in reading missing one concept can lead to a misunderstanding of what lies ahead.

The next challenge in mastering the reading sections of standardized tests (and college level reading) is reading speed.  Again, this takes practice.  The more someone reads, the faster they get. In my next blog post, I will provide suggestions for increasing reading speed.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Attention High School Athletes: The Academic Index

Ivy League Pennants What is the Academic Index (AI)? - The Academic Index is a tool used by the Ivy League Schools to measure a high school athlete's academic performance and to determine whether or not the student has the academic credentials necessary to be admitted to the school.

Why is the Academic Index Important? - In order to be accepted by the admissions office of an Ivy League School, high school athletes who plan to play their sport in college must meet the school's Academic Index.  It has become more important to understand the AI early in high school as high school athletes are being offered early verbal commitments from coaches as early as freshman year of high school.  If a student has his/her heart set on any Ivy League school, it is essential that the student knows whether or not he/she can meet the Ivy League's AI before making a decision on the early verbal offer from another school.

Two New York Times articles by Bill Pennington are great resources on the topic of the Academic Index (AI) -

Before Recruiting in Ivy League, Applying Some Math The Graphic on the left of the article show sample calculations.

A Rare Glimpse Inside the Ivy League’s Academic Index

To Get a General Idea of your AI:

Add the results of 1, 2 and 3 below together:

1.  SAT or ACT Index Number:

  • If using SAT scores to calculate AI, add reading and math scores and divide by 20
  • If using ACT scores to calculate AI, multiply the ACT Composite Score by 2.23

2.  The GPA Index Number (this index number used to be based on class rank)

The university has a conversion table to convert grade point average to an Academic Index number. The conversion can handle any conceivable grading scale, weighted or unweighted. A couple examples:

  • 3.5 (out of 4.0) unweighted yields 73 AI points,
  • 3.7 weighted is 71 points
  • 3.3 unweighted is 70 points
  • 3.0 unweighted is worth 67 points

3.  SAT or ACT Index Number from step one or SAT II Subject Tests:  Add your 2 best SAT II subject tests together and divide that total by 20.

Another article with valuable information about affording an Ivy League education:

Financial Aid Changes Game as Ivy Sports Teams Flourish by Bill Pennington

Sandy Aprahamian, Principal- EDNavigators LLC

 

Essential information about the SAT Writing Score and the Essay

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.23.14 AMSAT scores are back today.  Many students got up at the crack of dawn to check scores.  If you got the score you hoped for, congratulations!  If not, stay confident.  Don't let this score define you.  You are more than a score.  Sign up for the next test and continue to prepare.  A positive attitude is essential. After working with many students on SAT Prep, I have seen that SAT scores CAN be improved with dedication, practice and a positive attitude.  It takes a lot of time and a lot of work. There are strategies, but not shortcuts.  It takes TIME.  The SAT is a standardized test.  There is only one correct answer to each question.  With practice and preparation, it becomes easier to find that correct answer.

The one exception to the 'one correct answer' is the essay. The essay is graded subjectively and has many possible answers.  This article, written by Debbie Stier, the author of The Perfect Score Project, is an essential read for all students (and parents of these students) who are taking or have taken the SAT for ACT.  After seven attempts, she, a published writer, could not get a score of 12 on the writing.  Her friend, whose books have been USED ON THE SAT CRITICAL READING SECTION could not score a 12!!!  (On a much more positive note - you can still get a perfect SAT score with a 10 on the writing)

On a separate note, I highly recommend Debbie Stier's book, The Perfect Score Project to parents of students who are taking standardized tests.  It will make you laugh and give you a glimpse into the testing world of teens today.  My review of the book can be found here.

Sandy Aprahamian - Principal, Educational Consultant, EdNavigators

 

Is it better to get a B in a difficult class or an A in an easier class?

This list from the Independent Educational Consultant Association answers this and other questions about what strengths and experiences colleges are looking for in high school students. Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.53.42 AM

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.53.31 AM

SHRINK THE GIANT

HELP-time_managementWho is the giant? In the eyes of many high school students and their parents the college application process is the giant. Try these simple strategies for shrinking this giant.

  1. Have a goal and motivation to reach your goal. (Campus visits are great motivators.)
  2. Create a big-picture list of what needs to be accomplished throughout the process.
  3. Break the project into small pieces and complete the steps one at a time.
  4. Create a check list and check the boxes so you can visualize your accomplishments.
  5. Use a calendar and work backwards from the deadlines.
  6. Start early (freshman year of high school is not too early)
  7. Use a project manager. (In the case of college admissions, this is an Independent Educational Consultant.)
  8. Be positive and picture yourself succeeding each step of the way.

Tackled with confidence and a positive attitude, the college application process can be a wonderful experience of self-discovery  and can lead to immeasurable rewards.

Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Independent Educational Consultant, EdNavigators

 

Chances of Success: For Standardized Testing, College Admissions and Life

chances of successAttitude matters. If you think you can, you can.

In standardized testing, in college admissions and in everything you desire to do in life -

Squash the ANT (Automatic Negative Thinking)

Sandy Aprahamian - Owner, Independent Educational Consultant - EdNavigators