FreeTestPrep.com
Loading








Why We Should Avoid Wordiness in our Writing

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Writing, College Application Essays, High School, SAT Essay, SAT Prep, SAT Writing, Study Tips, Teaching, Tutoring
No Comments


One of the worst habits that students develop in their high school classes is that of writing in a wordy fashion.   Students find that if they write longer and longer papers, their grades often get better and better.  They also discover that in classroom discussions and Socratic Seminars, the more they monopolize the discussion, the higher their “participation” grade.  Our grading system has a built-in tendency to inflate grades for those who inflate the length of what they create.    

As a former teacher, I understand how difficult it is to ignore the length of a student’s response when evaluating it.  It is much easier to justify a higher grade for a student who has put in more time to write an extended response than someone who has created a relatively brief analysis.  Why?  You can say that “Johnny put in so much more work into writing his essay than you did because his essay is twice the length.”  When grading a massive stack of papers, the tendency to start “scanning” the papers rather than reading them super-carefully is a temptation to which quite a few teachers will succumb.  Not to scare any teachers, but I have known of a case where a student put swear words in the middle of his essay to see if his teacher would actually catch them.  The teacher did not, and the student shared this episode with all his friends, significantly damaging the teacher’s reputation. 


Both students and teachers can change the expectations of the school grading process if they are aware of 5 ways that wordy writing will cause problems on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, during the college admissions process, and in the workforce:

1.       You Won’t Develop Your Ideas on the SAT or ACT Essays.  The SAT only gives you two pages and 25 minutes for its essay, and the ACT only provides you 4 pages and 30 minutes.  If you are accustomed to writing in a wordy way, you will spend forever introducing your topic and not enough time developing your ideas and examples. 

2.       On the SAT and ACT Grammar Questions, You Will Consistently Pick the Wordy Answers.  Don’t get me wrong  – often, being more descriptive is exactly what is called for.  However, if you have it ingrained into your mind that the more you write, the better your writing is, you will pick the longest, most complex answers, even when they are not appropriate. 

3.       Your College Essays Will Be Pure Fluff.  When you write your Common Application Essay, you will be limited to 500 words.  If you are not used to packing a big punch in a short essay, you will not stand out among the thousands of applicants. 

4.       Job Applications.  For the foreseeable future, the job market will be extraordinarily competitive.  You will only have one chance to impress a potential employer with a fantastic cover letter.  It is critical that you are able to succinctly convey what makes you an incredible applicant. 

5.       Business Communications.  Whether in business meetings, conference calls or company-wide emails, no one wants to listen to someone blab on and on.  Your bosses and coworkers will respect you if they know that when you speak, you will immediately convey something of substance and value. 


So what can teachers and students do to avoid wordy writing?  First of all, if you are aware of a tendency to write wordily, that is half the battle.  You’ll recognize when you’re doing it and that will empower you to stop it.  Second, I would like to see more school assignments that require word maximums instead of word minimums.  Word minimums are the norm, and they encourage students to be verbose.  By requiring word maximums, students will learn to be more concise and precise in their writing, and teachers will be able to evaluate much more thoroughly since they won’t be overwhelmed with endless piles of grading.  This paradigm shift will help students do better on standardized tests, their college applications, and in the real world. 

I hope you found this piece helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

 


Can you Write on the ACT and SAT Test Booklets?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, ACT Writing, SAT Math, SAT Prep
No Comments

When students are used to taking tests in school, they are usually not permitted to write on the test booklet.  This is with very good reason – teachers want to be able to use the same booklets for other groups of students and want to save paper.  Typically, teachers will let you make small pencil markings on the test as long as you come back and erase them. 

You ARE able to write all over the test booklet on the SAT and ACT!  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  What you write on the test booklet will not be graded – only what you enter on your answer document.  

Writing on the ACT and SAT test booklets is particularly useful when it comes to the Math Section.  The SAT gives you a decent amount of space to do your figuring, but nothing compared to the blank right  half of a page that the ACT gives you.  Don’t do everything in your head or on your calculator – you will make a ton of careless mistakes if you do.

The trend towards the ACT giving you more space with which to write is also present on the Essay.  The ACT provides you with 4-5 pages (it has varied in the past couple years in my experience) while the SAT only gives you 2 pages on which to write.  You will still have room to prewrite on the page where they provide you your prompt.  

I hope you found this summary helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Bubble Trouble on the SAT or ACT?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, SAT Prep, SAT Subject Tests
No Comments


Students often ask me, “should I bubble in the answers as I go or should I wait until the end of a couple pages and then bubble?”  My short answer:  it depends on the test and your approach.

The Test – Better to bubble as you go on the SAT, and do it out of order more on the ACT.  Why?  

  • The SAT answers are all A, B, C, D, and E on all the multiple choice questions, so it is more likely that if you do the questions out of order on the SAT, you will get off by one and you won’t notice that you have messed it up. 
  • The SAT bubble sheet has more answers than bubbles, making it more likely that you will make a careless error. 
  • The SAT questions almost always go in order of difficulty, so you won’t be skipping around as much as you would on the ACT, which has a more random ordering of difficulty. 
  • The ACT alternates its lettering between A, B, C, D, and E & F, G, H, J and K.  This makes is easier to avoid putting the answer immediately before or after the one you meant to put it in. 


 Your Approach – If you like to skip questions and come back to them, bubble later.  Why? 

  • With the time pressures you are under and the general stress level you will feel, know that you may make careless mistakes.  If you tend to skip tougher questions and come back to them, you have less room for error if you circle several questions in the booklet and then transfer them all at once. 
  • Students find that on the Math and Reading sections, skipping and coming back to questions often makes more sense.  I have found that students tend to become stuck on these questions more than they do on Grammar and Science questions.  And if you are skipping around, you should bubble later on.  You don’t have to have the same approach to every test section – you can mix it up.   

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  I look forward to your comments. 


Timing and Pacing for the ACT Test

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, ACT Writing
No Comments


If you’re taking the ACT, you’re in for a long morning.  You should arrive at the test center before 8 AM in order to find your room and check in.  You will then have a roughly 4 hour test in front of you. 

The ACT is broken up into four sections with an optional fifth section:  English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing.  To remember the order in which the test sections fall, simply remember that they go in alphabetical order!   

Here is the breakdown for timing of the test, and how you should pace yourself on the ACT:

English Test – 45 minutes, 75 questions, 5 passages.  You should take about 9 minutes per passage. 

Math Test – 60 minutes, 60 questions.  Take about one minute per question. 

You then have a 10 minute break when you should have a snack!  Bring it yourself. 

Reading Tests – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 4 passages.  Take about 9 minutes per passage. 

Science Test – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 7 passages.  Take about 5 minutes per passage. 

If you are sticking around for the writing, you have a 5 minute break.  If you are not doing the ACT Writing, you can go home at this time. 

Optional ACT Essay – 30 minutes.  Spend about 5 minutes prewriting, and 25 minutes writing.  They typically give you 4-5 pages on which to write. 


As the tests go on, they become more difficult for most students to finish.  English is very easy to complete, and Science is quite tough.  Practice ahead of time so that you have a good internal feel for the pace at which you should go.  Also, by practicing, you will have a good idea of whether it makes sense to skip and guess on some questions.  Remember, there is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, so if you don’t complete all the questions, be sure that you at least bubble everything in.  For some free practice ACT material, please go here:

http://www.freetestprep.com/blog/2012/act-sat-test-prep-free/act-practice-test/

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart    


ACT English Test Content

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Prep
No Comments

The ACT provides a summary of the content covered on the English section here:

http://www.actstudent.org/testprep/descriptions/engcontent.html

To most students, the way they describe what is on there doesn’t make much sense.  I have attempted to translate what they have in “ACT-speak” into common language. 

Usage/Mechanics  Half of the ACT English Test

  • Punctuation (13%).  Primarily you need to know commas.  Also, review usage of semicolons, colons and dashes.  It is critical that you don’t just know simple punctuation rules but how proper punctuation affects the meaning of sentences. 
  • Grammar and Usage (16%).  Look at subject verb agreement – words that need to agree with one another will often be separated, so you’ll really have to observe context clues.  Watch out for vague pronouns, idioms, and proper adjective and adverb usage.  Basically, make sure that the intended meaning matches up with the literal meaning. 
  • Sentence Structure (24%).  You have to be more than a proofreader – you need to be an editor.  Be certain that individual words and longer clauses are placed in a logical order. 

 Rhetorical Skills – The Other Half of the ACT English Test

  • Strategy (16%). You will need to examine the intent of the author, and pick answers that do what the author actually intended to do.  You will also need to see if phrases and sentences are relevant, or if they can be removed. 
  • Organization (15%).  You need to know where sentences and phrases should be placed – rearrange things until they make sense.  Also, you need to connect paragraphs, sentences and phrases with logical transitional words, like “but”, “also”, or “because”, as demanded by the situation.  You’ll also need to be able to think what a sensible introduction or a conclusion would be based on the context. 
  • Style (16%). This is big picture stuff. . .  How do you make an individual sentence have the same tone as the rest of an essay?  Depending on what the goal of the author is, how do you pick the best wording to express what is wanted?  How can you be clear with pronouns?  How can you prevent needless repetition and wordiness? 

If you want to sharpen your ACT English Skills, please take a look at my ACT Grammar Flashcards.

Also, please try some of the ACT English Practice Test Questions with Videos that I have made. 



Copyright FreeTestPrep.com 2018 | Blog Powered by Wordpress
Website By | PingDesigns.net