Archive for the ‘College Prep’ Category

ACT Test Taking Advice 1

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Choosing a Test Date

 Before you choose a test date, consider the application deadlines of the colleges and scholarship agencies that are of interest to you. It will take four to seven weeks after a test date for ACT to mail your score report to you and to your college choices.
 I  recommend that you take the ACT during the spring of your junior year. By this time, you typically have completed most of the coursework covered  by the knowledge driven ACT.
  There are a number of advantages in taking the ACT junior year:

 • You will receive test scores and other information that will help you plan your senior year in high school.
 • Many colleges begin contacting prospective students during the summer before the senior year.
 • If you do not score as well as you believe you can, there will be opportunities to retake the ACT in the fall of your senior year and still have the new information available in time to meet admission and scholarship deadlines (usually by deadlines lie close to January 1).

New History

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I am excited about the new edition of my BRITISH HISTORY that will be available in July.  FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS will offer 8 different history choices:  American, British, World, Epoch I (Creation to the Middle Ages), Epoch II (The Middle Ages to French Revolution), Epoch III (French Revolution to Gilded Age), Epoch IV (Gilded Age to the Present).  The following is a section on “Druids,” in my British History:

A druid was a member of the priestly class active in Gaul (Northern Germany), and in Celtic Britain.  They were priest, judge, scholar, and teacher to their Briton communities. The core points of druidic religious beliefs included reincarnation and human sacrifice.

Druids were highly educated for their culture.  Yet, they wrote nothing.  Some Druids spent 20 years memorizing oral traditions of Druidic lore. The Druid priesthood was open only to males.  All instruction was communicated orally so there was no record of Druid ritual or theology.

Druids could punish members of Celtic society by a form of “excommunication”, preventing them from attending religious festivals.  Druids, then, had both priestly and political roles and were instrumental in maintaining order.

Druid religion included rituals performed at so called Druid temples, usually stone structures built into the side of a hill.  Stonehenge may be an exception.

Stonehenge is a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids, and for certain others following pagan or neo-pagan beliefs, but it was probably nothing more than a burial site.

One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It included several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

Stonehenge was associated with burial from the earliest period of its existence. Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape’s time frame to 6500 years.

Scholars believe that Stonehenge once stood as a magnificent complete monument. This cannot be proved as around half of the stones that should be present are missing, and many of the assumed stone sockets have never been found.

One final personal message. If one asked this author, when I was an eight year old, what my favorite holiday was, he  would have enthusiastically proclaimed: Halloween!  Haunted houses, costumes, candy–it all captured his imagination.  But that was 1961 and this is today.

Halloween clearly is not a Christian holiday.  In fact it is anything but Christian.  In fact the origins and traditions of Halloween can be traced back thousands of years to the Druids.  The eve of October 31 marked the transition from summer into the darkness of winter.  On this night, the spirits of the dead rose up.  Demons, fairies, and ghouls roamed about the town.  They destroyed crops, killed cattle, soured milk, and generally made life miserable . . . unless an appropriate appeasement was offered.  Namely, a human sacrifice.  So, anticipating these goblins, Druid towns annually, on October, chose young maidens and sacrificed them in honor of the pagan gods.   This is not the same as having a Christmas tree, or believing in the Easter Bunny–Halloween is a celebration of death, destruction, and hell.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is hope and mercy and love–not death, destruction, and murder.  There are alternative celebrations you know.  Some parents hold costume parties and have the kids dress as Bible heroes (no trick or treat though!).  Other groups hold hayrides and harvest celebrations. Halloween is a time to rejoice in the fact that “the Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)!”  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light . . . and do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them (Eph. 5:8,11).

4 MILLION AND GROWING!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Finally, what does it mean to the future of America to have 4 million of its best, brightest, and spirit filled students graduating from the most prestigious universities in the world? What will it mean to have four million new business persons, artists, authors, military officers, business leaders, and government leaders who are spirit-filled evangelical Christians? I can feel the ground shaking!!!!

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Practically speaking:

  • Find a local church before you go to college. Go to the first service you can.
  • Parents should meet the local pastor and introduce themselves.
  • Participate in a local Christian group—Navigators, Inter-varsity, et al. But that does not substitute for a local church.
  • Purpose to live a Godly life before you face temptation.
  • Set up a study schedule that is a priority only behind your devotional life.
  • Practice courtship.
  • Expect persecution. The main persecution you will receive will be about your profession that Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life.
  • Summer school can be a spiritual and financial opportunity for you. You can participate in mission trips that may count for academic credit and may also help you grow spiritually. Also, summer school may be a cost-effective way to accelerate your college experience and thereby save money for you and your parents.
  • Avoid all appearance of evil.
  • Write from a Christian perspective but do not allow your confessional stand to be an excuse for shoddy work.
  • You will probably not be able to choose your roommate before you first arrive. But you can choose your roommate for your sophomore year. Choose wisely.
  • Pray for your unsaved friends.
  • Know the Truth.
  • Live the Truth.
  • Work hard and be the best follower of Christ that you can be!

GOING TO COLLEGE

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As you make final preparations for college, consider this information. American society is manifesting:

  • Increasingly dysfunctional culture.
  • A pervasive and abiding concern about the future
  • A serious breakdown of community.
  • Confusion about individual responsibility.
  • Confusion about what toleration is.
  • Confusion about sexuality.

As we begin the new millennium, Robert Bork in his prophetic book Slouching Toward Gomorrah warns us that the out of control individualism and egalitarianism of the 1960s are very much with us. One merely has to recall the impeachment hearings several years ago to see evidence of this sort of morality where “if what he is doing harms no one (individualism) then it is ok to do it (egalitarianism). We are part of a therapeutic culture, where wholeness is replaced by holiness, sanctification is replaced by therapy. And even the heartiest pagan is getting really tired of this mess! And, as he does, he may very well choose home schooling as an alternative to public education.

Os Guinness warns us that at some point Americans will become fed up with the excesses and dysfunctional aspects of our culture. He says that as American mainline culture fails to sustain Americans in their hedonistic pursuit of self interest, they will want something more. It is now questionable whether America’s cultural order is capable of nourishing the freedom, responsibility, and civility that Americans require to sustain democracy. Modernity (a word to describe modern American culture) creates problems far deeper than drugs. It creates a crisis of cultural authority in which America’s beliefs, ideals, and traditions are losing their compelling power in society. William Bennett is right to warn us that there is a “death of outrage” in our country but he might add that there is a numbness spreading across the land that offers much opportunity for Christians in general and for home schoolers in particular.

FINALLY (College Prep)

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Finally, my 30 years of coaching remind me how important stress reduction is to high SAT I scores. In fact, in my opinion, it is the most important preparation variable. For Christians, at least, stress reduction is best accomplished by a frequent and rigorous devotional and Bible memorization program and disciplined devotional time.

Here are a few common-sense sorts of things to know about college admission:

  • Don’t be discouraged by high tuition charges. Private colleges, for instance, especially the costly ones, usually have much more money to give away in financial aid than state-supported schools. While cost consideration is an issue, many competitive colleges are very generous with financial aid.
  • Financial aid is offered according to SAT scores, need, race/gender, transcript/ recommendations, zip code—in that order. The financial aid process is separate from the admission process.
  • A college will look at your entire high school record, from ninth grade on. But a college knows that a transcript is subjective and still want an SAT I or ACT score.
  • Keep good records of interviews. Use your prayer journal to record what God is doing in your life through the process.
  • You should make sure that you have taken pre-algebra, algebra I, algebra II, geometry, and advanced math (optional). If the way is clear, for practical considerations, take a consumer math course senior year.
  • Playing a musical instrument and participating in debate are two events that many colleges consider special, and applicants with special talents get special consideration, above and beyond those who do nothing in school but get good grades.
  • A second language helps your college application but I recommend Latin as one of your languages. By all means, take at least two years of each language.
  • The volume of your mail is an early indication of how desirable a college applicant you will be. Colleges only recruit students they really want. The more mail you get, the more colleges want you.
  • Show interest in the college. Be assertive.
  • Be creative on your transcript. Advanced Literary Analysis: Beowulf to Ben Jonson sounds a whole lot better than English Literature I.
  • Take the SAT I in the spring of your junior year.
  • Take the SAT II if necessary. The SAT II is a subject area exam. Besides many competitive colleges require that all students take 2-3 exams, it is a way to show special knowledge. For instance, engineering majors who wish to attend Georgia Tech may find it advantageous to take a subject area in physics.
  • Consider taking a CLEP or AP test or two.
  • In your junior year visit the college(s) you are considering.
  • If you apply to a college, you want the admission officer to have a favorable impression of you, even before reading your application. The interview when you visit the campus is your shot at creating that impression. The interview is important-especially to a home school student.

QUADRATIC EQUATIONS

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Students do not have to know how to solve quadratic equations to do well on the math portion of the SAT I. Some algebra and basic geometry is helpful, but I have found that the key to high performance on the math portion is the same as it is on the verbal portion: critical thinking and critical reading skills. Thus, best scores come from individuals who think well and read well-even if their math skills are average. The 2005 SAT I math section will not only cover concepts from geometry and elementary algebra, it will contain concepts from Algebra II. The math computation on the SAT I is usually not difficult. What makes the math portion of the SAT I so difficult is that it is presented in a word problem format. Thus strong critical thinking and advanced critical reading skills will increase SAT I math as well as SAT I verbal scores. The addition of Algebra II computations should not alarm good students. Good students, especially good home schooled students, usually have had or are taking Algebra II before or during the junior year when the SAT I should be taken.

The best time to take the SAT I is May or June of one’s junior year. This allows students to retake the SAT I October of their senior year if necessary. Preparation is very helpful if the student implements a long- term program–as advocated in The SAT and College Preparation Course. Without long-term coaching, there is no correlation between the frequency of taking aptitude tests (e.g., SAT I and IQ tests) and increased scores. Therefore, the author recommends that students take as many unofficial, old, real (i. e., from the College Board) SAT I tests as they can. Students should avoid the high cost of taking stressful official tests at their local high schools and universities. They are much better off if they take practice tests. Practice SAT I tests can be obtained by contacting me (www.forsuchatimeasthis.com) or they can be borrowed from some libraries. Remember, there is evidence that a small percentage of colleges average SAT I scores (rather than accept the highest score). Therefore, students should anonymously obtain as many unofficial scores as they can and then take the test one or two times officially.

The PSAT is the major determinate of the National Merit scholarship. As you know, for years I have advocated ignoring the PSAT unless students are legitimate National Merit Scholar possibilities. I observe that since 1% of Americans actually are National Merit possibilities, since there is no correlation between PSAT and SAT I scores, and since some students are discouraged by low PSAT scores, it is unhelpful or even harmful to take the PSAT. I argue that the best preparation for the SAT I is the practice SAT I and years of advance preparation. Students should use practice SAT I tests as practice for the SAT I. They should not use the PSAT.

DISTANCE LEARNING

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Some of you will consider distance learning programs. Obviously these alternatives are growing very popular. With good reason. More and more of them are accredited. But be careful. Not all are accredited and some are actually more expensive than resident education. You should contact several graduate schools and ask them how they feel about admitting online students from your preferred undergraduate school.

There are four major components to college admission:

  • An SAT or ACT score
  • A Completed Transcript
  • References
  • An Admission Essay(s)

By far the most important component to college admission is the SAT/ACT tests.

It is important to understand that the SAT I is an aptitude test, not an achievement test (like the Iowa Basics or Stanford Tests). The SAT II or Subject Area Exams are achievement tests. The SAT I is a math and English test—there is no history, science, or any otheer subjects on the exam (although students will need these other subject for college admission).

The College Board® claims that almost 4 out of every 5 American colleges require the SAT I. That is not bad news. Christian students in general, home schooled Christian students in particular, are doing very well on the SAT I. Evangelical Christians should view preparation for the SAT I as an opportunity to grapple with an important question: Can they become what God is calling them to be? They won’t have the whole answer to this vital question at the end of their SAT preparation, but this can be a first step.

Students usually take the SAT I during the second semester of their junior year or first semester of their senior year. It measures their potential success in college, but it does not necessarily measure their information acquisition and assimilation skills. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with a student’s worth or esteem in God’s eyes.

The math portion and the verbal portion of the SAT are much different from the SAT some of us took several decades ago. There are more analysis questions, vocabulary is understood almost entirely in context, and there will be exercises requiring students to compare two reading passages. They will even have to write in some answers, instead of just picking a letter! There will be no antonyms on the SAT I, but double the number of reading comprehension questions. Finally, students will be allowed to use a calculator to help them with the math portion of the exam.
Vocabulary development is critical. As a matter of fact, I judge that 40 percent of the questions on the 2004 verbal portion of the SAT are related to vocabulary. Since analogies will be dropped and vocabulary problems will be increased, there are indications that that percentage will decrease on the 2005 exam. But that does not mean that students should ignore vocabulary development. Therefore, more than ever, it is vital that students learn the Latin/Greek roots of words. Also they should learn to define words in context. It is a waste of time for students to memorize the 500 most frequently used words on the SAT I. A better approach is to read good books (a list is included in the back of The SAT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student).

Higher level critical thinking is important to high SAT I scores. The SAT I is a cognitive, developmentally-based exam which assumes that students learn in stages. Bloom’s Taxonomy is frequently a reference resource for cognitive developmental thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy argues that students learn in six stages. Most of the questions on the SAT I are based on the bottom and most challenging three levels: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As a matter of fact, unless students are able to function at these higher thinking levels, they are doomed to manifest scores below 1000.
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Sixty percent of the 2004 SAT I concerns critical reading exercises. That percentage will increase to eighty percent with the 2005 exam. In fact, the College Board is renaming the verbal section of the SAT I “Critical Reading Section.” This change in titling shows how serious the College Board folks are about critical reading. The verbal section will no longer include analogies. Instead, short reading passages will be added to existing long reading passages. A new section called the SAT writing section will be added. It will contain multiple-choice grammar questions as well as a written essay. That is good news to most classical-educated students who have spent years studying grammar and writing.

Choosing and Being Accepted to a College

Monday, September 7th, 2009
  • Don’t be discouraged by high tuition charges. Private colleges, for instance, especially the costly ones, usually have much more money to give away in financial aid than state-supported schools. When you start your search for the right colleges, money should not even be close to the front of your mind. You have no idea how much financial aid you will be offered.
  • Financial aid is offered according to SAT scores, need, race/gender, transcript/ recommendations, zip code–in that order. The financial aid process is separate from the admission process.
  • A college will look at your entire high school record, from ninth grade on. But a college knows that a transcript is subjective.
  • Keep good records of contacts.
  • You should make sure that you have taken pre-algebra, algebra I, algebra II, Geometry, and Advanced Math (optional). If the way is clear, for practical considerations, take a consumer math course senior year.
  • Playing a musical instrument and participating in debate are two events that many colleges consider special, and applicants with special talents get special consideration, above and beyond those who do nothing in school but get good grades.
  • A second language helps your college application but I recommend Latin as one of your language.
  • Listen to my insights about the PSAT.
  • The volume of your mail is an early indication of how desirable a college applicant you will be. Colleges only recruit students they really want. The more mail you get, the more colleges want you.
  • Be creative on your transcript. Advanced Literary Analysis: Beowulf to Ben Jonson sounds a whole lot better than English Literature I.
  • Take the SAT I in the spring of your junior year.
  • Take the SAT II if necessary. Also consider taking a CLEP or AP test or two.
  • In your junior year visit the college(s) you are considering.
  • If you apply to a college, you want the admission officer to have a favorable impression of you, even before reading your application. The interview when you visit the campus is your shot at creating that impression. The interview is important–especially to a homeschool student.

THE GIFTED AND TALENTED

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Any person who exhibits measurable and exceptional skills in a(n) area(s) could be considered gifted and talented. The characteristics must be excessive (almost too high to measure). A very small portion of our population is G&T. Someone could be very smart, very, very smart, and not be G&T. Our children have a 1-in-20 chance of being G&T. The difference between smart and G&T is the difference between the Book of Romans and the Book of John–both are important, both ar e anointed, but Romans is profoundly different–not superior–from< John. Greek scholars will tell you that Paul was off the scale in intelligence; John, though, was gifted in other ways. Both were used by the Holy Spirit; both wrote anointed books; but Paul was G & T.

The following is a summary of characteristics of a G&T person: high IQ (over 135) and often a behavior problem (not always). At the skill application level G&T students exhibit: elaboration, originality, divergent thinking, and problem solving. Social skills include: cooperative learning approaches, shared decision making, active participation, self-management skills, and a process-oriented approach.

  • Shows superior reasoning powers and marked ability to handle ideas; can generalize readily from specific facts and can see subtle relationships; has outstanding problem-solving ability. The high IQ may be the best indicator of G&T.
  • Shows persistent intellectual curiosity; asks searching questions; shows exceptional interest in the nature of man and the universe.
  • Has multiple interests, often of an intellectual kind; develops one or more interests to considerable depth.
  • Is markedly superior in quality and quantity of written and/or spoken vocabulary; is interested in the subtleties of words and their uses.
  • Reads avidly and absorbs books well beyond his or her years.
  • Learns quickly and easily and retains what is learned; recalls important details, concepts and principles; comprehends readily.
  • Shows insight into arithmetical problems that require careful reasoning and grasps mathematical concepts readily.
  • Shows creative ability or imaginative expression in such things as music, art, dance, drama; s hows sensitivity and finesse in rhythm, movement, and bodily control.
  • Sustains concentration for lengthy periods and shows outstanding responsibility and independence in classroom work. Sets realistically high standards for self; is self-critical in evaluating and correcting his or her own efforts.
  • Shows initiative and originality in intellectual work; shows flexibility in thinking and considers problems from a number of viewpoints.
  • Observes keenly and is responsive to new ideas.
  • Shows social poise and an ability to communicate with adults in a mature way.
  • Gets excitement and pleasure from intellectual challenge; shows an alert and subtle sense of humor. (Adapted from ERIC, http://ericec.org/digests/e476.htm)

One word of caution: G & T status does not imply there is a concomitant growth in morality and spiritual formation. In other words, one can be very gifted, an a moral degenerate. Witness Adolf Hitler. All indications are that Hitler was G & T. However, clearly, he was an evil, if smart, man. G&T evaluation is normally tied exclusively to cognitive development. Daniel in Scripture is a good example of a G & T young person who combined intelligence and moral acumen. Let us not neglect the spiritual formation of our G & T students.

There are several interventions we can employ to educate G & T students. First, we can do nothing. Let child develop naturally. If anything, hold him back until he matures appropriately.

  • Acceleration Overall (curricula compacting)
    1. Provides needed pedagogical stimulation.
    2. Emotion and spiritual price. Can create elitism.
    3. Can spiritual/affective development keep pace with academic development?
  • Contracting

Independent Study Agreement
The following terms are agreed to by parent and student:
The student may learn the key concepts or the information described on the study guide independently. The student must demonstrate mastery at appropriate checkpoints to continue this arrangement for the rest of the unit. The student must participate in selected group activities when one day’s notice is given by the teacher. The student agrees to complete an independent project by (date) to share with the class.
Project description: ___________________ .
The student agrees to work on the selected project according to the following guidelines while the remainder20of the class is involved with the teacher. (List guidelines.)
Parent’s signature Student’s signature
Implement an entirely new curriculum: student-centered, etc.
The curriculum committee of the Leadership Training Institute (Passow, 1982) developed seven guiding principles for curriculum differentiation that reflect the considerations described in this Digest.

  • The content of curricula for gifted students should focus on and be organized to include more elaborate, complex, and in-depth study of major ideas, problems, and themes that integrate knowledge within and across systems of thought.
  • Curricula for gifted students should allow for the development and application of productive thinking skills to enable students to reconceptualize existing knowledge and/or generate new knowledge.
  • Curricula for gifted students should enable them to explore constantly changing knowledge and information and develop the attitude that knowledge is worth pursuing in an open world.
  • Curricula for gifted students should encourage exposure to, selection, and use of appropriate and specialized resources.
  • Curricula for gifted students should promote self-initiated and self-directed learning and growth.
  • Curricula for gifted students should provide for the development of self-understanding and the understanding of one’s relationship to persons, societal institutions, nature, and culture.
  • Evaluations of curricula for gifted students should be conducted in accordance with the previously stated principles, stressing higher level thinking skills, creativity, and excellence in performance and products.

Developing curriculum that is sufficiently rigorous, challenging, and coherent for students who are gifted is a challenging task. The result, however, is well worth the effort. Appropriately differentiated curriculum produces well-educated, knowledgeable students who have had to work very h ard, have mastered a substantial body of knowledge, and can think clearly and critically about that knowledge. Achieving such results for one or for a classroom full of students who are gifted will produce high levels of satisfaction, not only for the students who are beneficiaries, but also for every teacher who is willing to undertake the task.

Name of Student:
ACADEMIC CRITERIA
Standardized Score Percentiles:
99% plus in four subjects (25 points)
99% plus in two subjects20(15 points)

SAT/ACT scores:
Ninth grade over 2350 (40 points)
Tenth grade over 2350 (35 points)
Eleventh grade over 2350 (30 points)
Any grade 2350-2400 (20 points)

IQ (If known):
129-135 (5 points)
135-150 (15 points)

Socialization
Is he bored by regular classroom work?
Does he prefer work at least two grades ahead?
Does he have problems working with his peers?
Does he have mood swings?

If you answered yes to all of the above give yourself 40 points.
If you answered yes to three (30), two (20), one (10).

Problem Solving
Does your son/daughter show obvious skills in higher level thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)? (30 for evaluation, 20 for synthesis, 10 for analysis).

A score of 120-150 indicates G&T potential. The nature of this evaluation implies a great deal of subjectivity so it obviously is inexact; but it can be a rough guide.