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Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:

This week, we’re going to be sharing some key insights into college readiness skills with you. We’ll explore how these skills are assessed on the ACT/SAT, how they may differ from what students have seen in their high school coursework, and how these skills are important not only on entrance exams but also for success beyond the test. Today, we’ll start with an ACT English skill that challenges many students:

In this question, students are asked to apply a set of essential skills: knowledge of sentence construction and punctuation (dashes, semicolons, and colons) as well as the reading comprehension skill to understand compound, complex sentences. The correct answer, A, is an unpopular choice among students. Most students are tempted by B, the semicolon. Why? Rigorous instruction on core grammar skills can be under-emphasized in some school curricula.

As someone who taught the Core Curriculum to freshmen at Columbia University, I get it: it’s more enjoyable to discuss Plato’s Republic than the difference between a semicolon and a colon; however, both need to be taught.

Many of our students are unfamiliar with proper punctuation. Once we work with students on a clear understanding of the uses of punctuation, however, items like the above become easy—and our students’ writing becomes more precise and sophisticated.

College readiness requires mastery of essential usage and mechanics skills in writing, and the benefits of grammar mastery positively impact essay writing in school, enhance college application essay writing, and prepare for the rigors of college-level writing.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

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