Friday, May 27, 2016

At last! I've found an ACT science workbook!

My favorite test prep materials are the ones that provide targeted practice.  Whether I'm learning content material or testing strategy, I want an opportunity to try it out without having to take an entire test section.  I don't have anything against practice tests, but we have so few of them available right now that I don't want to use one just to practice some detail.  On the other hand, I don't want to wait and practice 17 details all at once.

Up until now, the ACT science section has been the great big hole in my test prep tool box.  There are plenty of books out there that include or focus on the science, but they all fall short.  Either they don't have useful advice, or their practice passages just don't feel right. Then, while browsing on Amazon, I stumbled across For the love of ACT Science by Michael Cerro.

In under 150 pages, this little workbook gets down to the nitty gritty on the most efficient way to accurately answer science questions.  The author has a philosophy that most students will appreciate: Don't read the passage unless you absolutely have to.  I have long had this approach, but this little workbook showed me how to avoid reading the passage in more situations!  There is targeted practice for each tip and several full length science sections.  Other than the fact that some of the "science" seems to have come from the author's imagination (that's on purpose - it illustrates a point) the passages feel like ACT passages.

My one criticism is that the section on prior knowledge is thinner than it could be.  A few extra pages spelling out more of the information that tends to come up on prior knowledge questions - cell structure, plant and animal metabolism, energy, and the solar system - would have been welcome.

I've only just begun using this with students, and they haven't tested, yet, but they definitely feel better, which is half the battle.  A lack of confidence in the science section has been sending some kids to the SAT, which is a problem for this year's juniors.  We're worried that fall SAT scores won't be back in time for early decision applications, and we still don't know how those scores will play out during the admissions process.  This workbook should allow more students to take the ACT.

It's a little pricey for it's length - about $30 on Amazon on 5/27/16 - but it's packed full of useful stuff and it is easy to use on your own; it may save you the price of a tutor.  There's a link below, if you want to order it.

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