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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Preparation for the ACT
on January 26, 2012
If you are looking for ACT prep materials, Princeton Review materials are excellent. I enrolled in the instructors' course for the Princeton Review SAT and found their test prep approach clear and digestible. I have taught SAT prep at a prep school here in Connecticut, worked for a private tutoring company, and tutor students in both SAT and ACT prep. Friends and neighbors have asked if I would tutor their teens for the ACT, so I purchased this book to teach the non-math sections. The explanations in Princeton Review test prep books are field tested with actual students. Princeton Review explains clearly how to think about the tests and the test questions.
What is helpful for students and parents to understand about the reading tests on the ACT is that on tests given in school teachers want to provide quality answers. Teachers are testing to determine that students studied the material. Students just have to identify the right answer--it's more a test of did you learn the material?
The reading tests on the ACT are open book tests. The tests ask a question and the answer is right in front of you so they have to make it difficult to identify the answer. Because the reading tests on the ACT Test do not rely on your memory or knowledge base, they give you lousy answers, deceptive answers--sometimes you have to choose among the least worst answer. So, it takes strategy and knowing HOW the test company scrambles the answers in four different ways (distortion, switch, extreme answers and the "nice" answer) to lure students into the wrong answer. Once you know the ways they construct answers (there are only so many ways to do this), it is easier to spot the right answer. As my Princeton Review instructor wryly noted, these reading tests primarily test how well you take this kind of test, not what kind of a reader you are or how much you've read etc. In fact, there's not enough time to read the selections, so it's more of a read-the-question-and-"spot-the-answer" in the selection as quickly as you can strategy. This book shows how to do that.
It is not really a test of reading comprehension. It's a test of using the strategies that work to find the right answer. And Princeton Review materials are stellar at explaining fun ways to do this. They spend millions every year teaching test prep with actual students, so they know what works and what doesn't. And their employees sit and take the tests with students at test centers every year to keep up with the latest questions. Once students know the strategies, it takes the fear away because they see a question and know which strategy to use for that type of question.
Similarly the English section covers specific, limited grammar rules. Students need to know what those rules are to select the correct answers. Regarding the writing test, there are sample prompts on the writing section for practice. This book recommends a strategy regarding how to organize your essay response. The test scorers take about 30 seconds to scan and score your essay, so again it is helpful to know the rubric for how they score a test. Typical essay topics are featured so students can practice writing essays according to the recommendations.
I have heard the actual ACT Test company's book is great for sampling actual tests, but the prep books by the ACT company are not as helpful. The ACT Test Company may not be as motivated to teach strategies as they do not want to share all of their secrets. If most students could ace their test, they would have to design a new test. Princeton Review wants to help students ace the test. Consider buying this book for practice to improve your strategy skills, take the practice tests for homework, and then use the ACT Test company's book for actual mock tests once you have completed PRINCETON REVIEW's materials. Students may benefit from working with a tutor to review the chapters. I have found we can usually cover a chapter together in an hour. Then homework is assigned to practice the skills on the practice tests in this book and in the ACT company's test book.
I have taught for over 20 years, tutored for more, and was headmistress of a private academy. I just wish these PRINCETON REVIEW test prep materials were available when I was in high school.