MCHS column: So many tests to keep track of

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ACT? SAT? PSAT? PLAN?

"What do these have in common?" is a question asked by many students and parents this time of the year. As testing dates near, it seems appropriate to answer some of the concerns.

As sophomores, students at MCHS will take the PLAN test in November; this is a mini-version of the ACT. Not only are score reports given for English, math, reading and science, but also a thorough interest inventory gives students a chance to consider how their interests might link to future careers and high school planning. Sophomores also were able to take an optional PSAT (mini-SAT) test for practice, as a way to see whether PSAT and SAT testing should be considered in their junior years.

Juniors are able to take ACT and SAT tests that are used in college admissions and scholarship programs. Both tests are accepted by all colleges, with the higher scores used by admission counselors. Although junior colleges and technical schools do not require college testing, these programs often use scores to determine eligibility for scholarships.

Most Midwest and West Coast schools require the ACT. It tests in the four subject areas of English, math, reading and science. Students use "direct-recall" to answer questions. The ACT is part of Gov. Bill Owens' educational testing plan, and is required for all juniors. The Department of Education pays for testing.

This year, testing will be April 27, and practice materials will be available through advisory teachers. We recommend that juniors retest in June or October of their senior years.

The SAT and PSAT are required by all East Coast schools as well as many Ivy League colleges and military service academies. Some scholarship programs require the PSAT results, as well. When taken in October of the junior year, the test leads to National Merit competition. The SAT deals with critical thinking and reasoning skills in math and verbal areas. A writing component has been added. Students who will consider schools that require the SAT should test in January and June.

Experience shows that students find a "comfort zone" with one type of test more than others and then concentrate on raising that set of scores. Although not always enjoyable, testing is necessary and vital to the college admissions process. MCHS juniors will begin receiving information soon on developing their own testing plan. For those who would like to use excellent Web sites, try www.act.org and www.collegeboard.com.

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