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Updates Announced for the ACT

June 2020 Update: ACT has announced that the launch of section retesting has been postponed to fall of 2021. The postponement was to accommodate the larger number of students needing to take the full test in the fall after COVID-related test cancellations in spring of 2020. Major Shifts in ACT Testing Options Section Retesting, Superscore Reporting, Online Testing ACT announced three major testing initiatives this week, primarily rooted in recently released research on the power of the superscore. These changes will go into effect for the September 2020 national test date. ACT released new analysis in August of this year that found that a superscore—a combination of the highest section scores across multiple test dates—was the most accurate predictor of a student’s later college GPA. As a result of this research, ACT is making three major changes: section retesting, superscore reporting, and online testing. Section Retesting For students who have already taken the full-length ACT at least once, they will be allowed to sign up to retake specific sections rather than the test as a whole. The cost for this option has not yet been released, though ACT has confirmed that the price point would be lower than the full-length test. Any retakes of specific sections would be taken online, and students will be able to take one, two, or three subjects in a given retest sitting. Superscore Reporting ACT will report a superscore to colleges for students that test more than once. In their research, the superscore method was more predictive of a student’s college GPA than any other method, including a student’s average, latest, or highest ACT composite score. Reporting the superscore encourages colleges to use the most accurate performance metric rather than a single test administration when predicting college success. Online Testing for National Test Dates A third major initiative from ACT will allow students to take the ACT online for any national test date. In the past, the ACT has been available online at international test sites and at specific state or districts that have signed on for online testing, but the option was not available to students testing independently. Starting in September 2020, testers at selected test centers (with plans to expand to all test centers) will be able to opt in to online testing. Testing online has the distinct advantage of quicker score release, as scores from online test dates are released only two days after testing. Scores from pencil and paper exams are returned approximately ten days after testing.  ACT has clearly stated that at this time, there are no plans to discontinue the pencil and paper option. New Options, New Questions These changes certainly offer advantageous options to students, allowing them more flexibility in testing and scoring. This flexibility, however, raises several questions regarding the reliability of the scores. When it comes to comparability of performance to pencil and paper testing, online testing has shown mixed results. Research from the writers of the SAT, the College Board, in January of this year, found that students [...]

By |2019-10-09T13:51:14+00:00October 9, 2019|Academic Approach, ACT|Comments Off on Updates Announced for the ACT

ACT or SAT: Which Test Is Right for You?

At Academic Approach, we work with families and schools across Chicagoland to support students from all backgrounds to grow scores, skills, and confidence both on and beyond standardized tests. An important part of this work involves a choice: to ACT or SAT — which test should I take? The ACT or SAT can make Hamlets of us all, leaving us wondering what to do, what path to take. Either test is accepted by every college and university, so it’s really a matter of the right fit between the student and test. To help students decide, here is some direction on which test can be a better fit. Reading Comprehension: Marathoner or Sprinter? When reading, some students are more like marathoners — deliberate, calculating, cautious in decision making. Others prefer a sprinter’s approach — reading and reacting quickly. The SAT features passages with greater text complexity, but students are granted 43 percent more time per question for thoughtful analysis over 65 minutes. If students prefer the extra time to arrive at decisions, then the SAT is for them. However, if students prefer to glean meaning quickly and make decisions on a quick 35-minute sprint, then the ACT is the better choice. Mathematical Reasoning: Elbow Grease or Calculator Work? While SAT and ACT math cover similar material, the SAT assesses demanding algebraic problem-solving and dense word problems. The ACT focuses more on geometry formulae. The ACT also allows use of a calculator throughout while the SAT does not allow calculator use for 20 math questions and has 13 student-produced-response questions with no multiple-choice answers. In short, if students enjoy grinding out answers with a little elbow grease — multi-step algebra problems without help from the calculator — then the SAT is the better option. If students benefit more from memory of key formulae and calculator use in arriving at answers, the ACT is the preferred path to math. Science Reasoning: A Full Serving or an Appetizer? While the SAT and the ACT both assess science reasoning through data presentations, the ACT features a standalone science section. On the ACT, science is always the fourth section, while on the SAT, 35 science-related questions are spread across reading, grammar, and math. So, if students are fond of science, and enjoy a full serving, then the ACT is the right choice. If students prefer some science appetizers, small servings throughout the test, then they have an appetite for SAT science. English Grammar: Apples to Apples The dilemma — to ACT or SAT? — is simplified when it comes to English grammar, which is assessed largely the same way on both tests. Both assess usage and mechanics skills (e.g., sentence construction, punctuation) and rhetorical skills (e.g., essay composition principles). There is no avoiding a healthy and necessary assessment of your student’s college-readiness proofreading and copy-editing skills! Resolving the Drama If you are still racked with indecision, let us help you decide which is better for your student through our complimentary testing and analysis. Try them both and [...]

By |2019-10-02T09:41:11+00:00October 2, 2019|ACT, SAT|Comments Off on ACT or SAT: Which Test Is Right for You?

Academic Approach: Beginnings

Academic Approach: Beginnings I founded Academic Approach in Chicago in 2001, but the story begins in 1996 in New York City when I was earning a Ph.D. in English at Columbia University. While I was teaching freshmen in Columbia’s core curriculum—classes on logic, rhetoric, grammar, and strategies of essay composition—I was also working as a test-prep tutor, coaching NYC high school students preparing for the SAT and ACT. In doing both simultaneously, I realized that I was teaching the same underlying skills to both college freshmen and high school students... Gregg's Landing - September 2019View Complete Article

By |2019-09-30T10:47:00+00:00September 30, 2019|News, Press|Comments Off on Academic Approach: Beginnings

Better Magazine’s 2019 Faces of Chicago

Every spring, every year, high school juniors — like Shakespeare’s Hamlet — face an existential moment: to ACT or to SAT? That is the question. For 18 years, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., and his test prep team at Academic Approach have helped students answer this question. In fact, Matthew approaches this often-dreaded rite of passage as an exciting learning opportunity. In helping a student navigate the journey, Academic Approach counsels the family, customizes a personalized one-on-one tutoring program to raise both test scores and academic skills, and mentors the student to become a more confident, empowered test taker. With one-on-one tutoring offices in Winnetka, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Clarendon Hills, and Lincoln Park, Academic Approach is engaged in Chicagoland’s local communities, providing personalized service. With a School Programs division serving thousands of public-school students, Academic Approach is also committed to promoting equity and access to high-impact test prep. Read the complete article: https://better.net/chicago/life/education/faces-of-chicago-2019-academic-approach/

By |2019-09-17T14:23:59+00:00September 17, 2019|News, Press|Comments Off on Better Magazine’s 2019 Faces of Chicago

Test Prep Strategies for Dyslexic Students – Dyslexia.com

https://blog.dyslexia.com/test-prep-strategies-for-dyslexic-students/ Making the academic leap from high school to higher education can be challenging for any student. For students with dyslexia, this transition can seem even more intimidating as it requires more time and preparation for them than it does for their peers. Dyslexic students process and comprehend language differently, less intuitively, and less efficiently than students without dyslexia. Therefore, there is a specific purpose for any instructor working with a student with dyslexia: to teach the student learning strategies that help process and comprehend language as accurately and as efficiently as possible.  Find the right tutor and know your student’s specific needs Finding the right tutor begins with understanding your child’s specific needs. Dyslexia is associated with a spectrum of language processing issues and those specific issues need to be identified as narrowly as possible. The student’s IEP (Individual Educational Program), 504 Plan, or reports from psychological educational testing may provide helpful information.  For example, many dyslexic students are easily confused by verbal explanations. They will not thrive in a lecture-driven format and cannot rely on auditory processing as their primary means of learning. For those students, the right tutor will provide learning through hands-on experience: observation, experimentation, and the use of methods and models that help the student visualize information and meaning. In addition, dyslexic students can be eligible for testing accommodations, because they require extended time to demonstrate what they know. Their dyslexia is a functional limitation on their ability to perform up to potential under time duress. This presents a great opportunity for high-quality instruction and deep learning. Tutors can work with these students on building skills and strategies to help them more fully understand and engage test material within the additional time they are granted, rather than merely teaching “tips and tricks” to answer some of the content quickly.  Work with the tutor to learn how to process and re-process reading passages  The ACT and SAT are, first and foremost, intensive reading tests. Students with dyslexia are challenged by complex reading passages and grammar, making tests like the ACT and SAT important opportunities to support and teach them. A tutor can help by teaching specific learning strategies:  Active reading: reading for main idea and author’s purpose by analyzing specific portions of expository essays Annotating: developing techniques to annotate different types of information and classify that information visually, e.g., underlining main idea sentences in introductions and conclusions and circling supporting details in the body paragraphs Summarizing the meaning of a passage or paragraph reductively in simple sentences or phrases written in their own words Let’s flesh these strategies out a bit more.  Picture a reading passage on the ACT or SAT. It can span 500-850 words in length, including  unfamiliar content, new vocabulary, and even scientific data. This presentation is daunting to anyone, but can seem overwhelming for someone who has difficulty navigating grade-level reading passages.  Students with dyslexia need to be coached through a process of transforming the unfamiliar into something more familiar, something they can process and make meaningful. They need to [...]

By |2017-05-24T15:22:40+00:00May 24, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on Test Prep Strategies for Dyslexic Students – Dyslexia.com

Creative Ways to Keep Kids Engaged with Math During the Summer – Homeschoolbase.com

For Middle & Older Students Matthew Pietrafetta is the founder and CEO of test preparation company Academic Approach. In order to keep your child’s math skills sharp over the summer, Matthew encourages students to engage in the following activities. Find a Summer Job If your child is old enough, getting a job as a cashier or sales associate will expose them to math skills without them even realizing it. Even with computerized systems doing a lot of the work, the process of counting change mimics problem-solving techniques they have to execute when learning and practicing math. Try Math and Logic Puzzles While most kids only want to spend time outside during the summer, there is the occasional rainy day. Instead of playing video games, watching TV, or doing a mindless activity, they can practice their math skills with a variety of math and logic puzzles, many of which are available via free apps on phones or tablets. Transform Family Game Night into a Learning Opportunity On family game night, why not combine family fun and learning? Many board games, while fun for kids, also can help develop key math skills. For older students, try Fractions, Decimals, Percents Bingo to practice certain skills. Card games like Rummy or Blackjack have advanced strategies that utilize math skills appropriate for older students. Head to the Clearance Section Go on a shopping trip and head to the clearance section. Your child can practice percentages if you quiz them on what something would cost if it’s 20%, 50% or 80% off. Make it more challenging by adding a coupon into the equation. Read the original article: https://homeschoolbase.com/summer-math-activities/

By |2017-05-17T15:24:43+00:00May 17, 2017|Press|Comments Off on Creative Ways to Keep Kids Engaged with Math During the Summer – Homeschoolbase.com

How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT – Modern Homeschool Family

High school juniors across the country are preparing to take the SAT in the next few weeks. At this point, you may be wondering what you could possibly do to improve your score. How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT Here are some steps to follow in the next few weeks to make the most of the remaining time. 14 Days Out — Get a current snapshot of your skills If you haven’t already, take an SAT practice test. Your score and skills analysis will give you a clear starting point for planning. Organize a study plan with these steps: Identify your good areas that you want to make great. Every student has a strong suit; figure that out and optimize it.Identify the areas that need the greatest improvement, and, here’s the key: find the few highest-impact skills in those areas that will produce the biggest impact. Focus on those high-impact skills.Prepare a detailed study schedule that charts your expected personal growth over the next two weeks, including specific goals for your areas of focus. A well-trained tutor can help use the practice test data to focus your efforts so you can improve during the time that remains. 10 Days Out — Work on time management Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the test construct and high-impact skills, you need to start to think about time management. How are you breaking up your time for the reading passages and questions? How much time are you spending on the easy and medium math questions versus the hard questions? These nuanced time-management decisions can have a big impact on performance. 7 Days Out — Take another practice test and assess progress At this point, take another practice test. Assess your growth in your scores and skills. What has grown? What hasn’t? Now, target the skills that need the most attention and focus there for the remaining days. 1 Day Out – Summarize & Review With the end in sight, it’s time to consolidate your lessons learned onto one sheet. What high-impact skills are most important for you? What grammar rules, math formulae, reading strategies are the most helpful? And what time management approaches optimize your performance best? Write these down for review and bring them along in the car ride on test day morning. And be confident! The key is that you have insight into your own personal performance and you know how to personalize your own test-taking approach to meet your specific needs. That’s the key to success. Read the original article: https://modernhomeschoolfamily.com/2017/03/28/how-to-help-your-child-prepare-for-the-sat/

By |2017-03-28T15:30:28+00:00March 28, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT – Modern Homeschool Family

What parents can do to help teens prepare for the SAT & ACT – ChicagoNow’s Between Us Parents Blog

Standardized tests take on a whole new meaning in high school, with the SAT and/or ACT being huge components in the college application process. With the SAT coming up on April 5, I talked with Matthew Pietrafetta of Academic Approach, a test preparation and tutoring company with locations in Chicago, New York, and Boston. He offered his expert advice on what parents can do to get teens ready for the SAT and ACT. His wisdom is applicable to both those taking the test next week and those who are still a few years off. Between Us Parents: In an ideal world, what does the parent role for a child preparing for the SAT look like to you? Matthew Pietrafetta: Parents play a tremendous role in trying to build purpose. Teenagers can get a little cynical and not see the purpose.  If purpose is built through compliance or authoritarian rule, there isn’t intrinsic motivation. Most successful students are intrinsically motivated. Those are character traits developed way before 16 and 17, so building purpose around learning and performance and having that be very positive is the principle role that the parent is involved in. Parents are involved in the psychology of our children and how they approach achievement. Parents need to be positive as they encourage their kids to be their best. For 20 years I've been meeting with families to go over practice test scores and have seen a lot of different tones set by parents. My favorite is when parents ask their kid, “What do you make of that?” It empowers the child and makes it a constructive conversation about the learning process and not just looking at the test as an anxiety-producing right of passage that's part of getting into a certain college. BUP: Speaking of anxiety, what can parents do to manage their high schooler’s stress level about standardized testing? MP: There are several basic things parents can do that have a big impact in keeping their kids stress level down. Don’t project yourself on your child. Parents may feel that they themselves were stressed out when they were taking the test, but don't put your anxiety on your kid.Know the process. You can take the test multiple times, and often schools will suppress the lower scores. Don’t approach test day like it’s doomsday if the process allows the child to take the test multiple times without penalty. It's important to know that a test taker can cancel their score if they had a horrible day, whether they were sick, had a bad break-up the night before, whatever. Parents need to know that to talk the student down a bit.Cultivate growth mindset. It’s age old stuff but it is so, so helpful when preparing for standardized tests, which are complex and covering a lot of material. A mistake is an opportunity to learn. The process is prolonged and requires deferring immediate gratification which is hard for kids, but most goals weren't achieved without a lot of hard work, and many take a long time. Teach kids that slow and steady wins the race, and [...]

By |2017-03-27T15:28:18+00:00March 27, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on What parents can do to help teens prepare for the SAT & ACT – ChicagoNow’s Between Us Parents Blog

Always A Lesson: Matthew Pietrafetta, Founder of Academic Approach, joins host Gretchen Schultek to discuss the benefits of aligning high-impact test preparation with curriculum and instruction.

Matthew is the founder of Academic Approach, an organization that helps schools in underserved communities prepare students for the SAT and ACT, the tests they need to succeed on to gain admission to college. He’s also a former New York City teacher. He says “aligning high-impact test preparation with curriculum and instruction is not easy work, but it’s valuable and necessary. Often this work is approached as an “either-or:” either I focus on test prep or I focus on my curriculum.  If you can approach the challenge as a “both-and” instead, you can find some efficient, creative solutions: I can both teach my curriculum and integrate in skills-based test preparation that teaches my students the high-impact skills they need for success both in my class and on the test.  With the right assessment, reporting, and professional development system in place, we can achieve that all-important “both-and” in teaching and learning.” Quotables “Teach beyond the test” “With the proper mentorship, students can fail forward… a lesson in resilience” “The way [students] experience failure can be positive and productive or paralyzing” “If you do take a student centered view of teaching, you never are done because there’s always a new student and each student is different” Buzz Words Locus of control Growth mindset Grit Rigorous academic approach Self Conception Matthew’s Stamp of Approval Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins (“backwards design” and “teaching for transfer”) http://alwaysalesson.com/90-bonus-edition-interview-matthew-pietrafetta/

By |2022-02-04T17:19:00+00:00March 6, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on Always A Lesson: Matthew Pietrafetta, Founder of Academic Approach, joins host Gretchen Schultek to discuss the benefits of aligning high-impact test preparation with curriculum and instruction.
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