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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

SAT/ACT: Q&A with College and Career Coordinator Bryna Blaine

What is the correlation between the cost of an SAT/ACT-prep class and a student’s results on the SAT/ACT?
There is not a correlation between the check that mom or dad writes and what you get out of the class. What you get out of the class is correlated to how much time, energy and effort you put into what you are learning. You are taking this class to learn test-taking skills. Like playing the piano or swimming, you have to practice the skill. They are not trying to teach you 500 new vocabulary words or teach you new math. It’s basically a review of what you are already learned.

What do you think would be the benefit to a student using a class versus a tutor and vice versa?
It’s pretty individual. Knowing the student’s leaning style is probably the best determinant. Or if a student knows that he or she needs to concentrate on just the math, and if he or she knows that he or she is strong in two out of the three subjects, then maybe a tutor would be best.

What can a student get out of the online Triumph program, the preparation tool installed this year?
Practice, practice, practice! It’s a chance to practice the skills. A student does not have to go pay and take a high-priced SAT or ACT prep course. They can take our online Triumph program; it’s totally free, available online, 24-7. They can do it at their leisure, when they are comfortable. Or they can take the SAT prep course through Montgomery College, which is about $275, a reasonable cost. It’s not about the money. It’s about practicing the skill daily. So whether you are taking a class twice a week, it’s what you do in between. It’s the same thing with Triumph; if you can just discipline yourself to spend whether it is thirty minutes, an hour, or whatever you think you need, to do it daily and regularly. That’s what’s going to make a difference in your skill: it’s practicing that skill over and over again, taking those practice tests, reading the questions to see how they’re worded to get into the test-maker’s thought pattern. I’m not saying every student needs to take a prep course, they can do it themselves, but it takes a lot of self -discipline. The positive about taking thing about taking a test prep course, is that knowing Mom or Dad has paid for it, you will probably show up once or twice a week for that class because they will make sure you do.

What do you think is the best way for students to navigate between all of the different test prep options?
Talk to friends that your respect in your classes who took a certain course and get some feedback from them. Not just the name of the vendor, but if there is a particular teacher who is excellent that you might want to try to get into that teacher’s course. Try to get feedback that is current, for example, from students who have just taken it last semester. [Every year aspects change about certain courses]. Figure out what they liked, what they didn’t, if they would recommend it, and if they improved. Listen and pay attention to other students because they are your most effective barometer because they have just recently done it.

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How do students generally prepare?
Whether it’s using Triumph online, going to Borders and buying “Ten Real SATs,” or coming in here and borrowing one, or borrowing one from another student: it’s a question of practicing and not going into the test cold. That’s the scary part- being familiar with the way it’s worded and how to answer it.

Should a student take an SAT or an ACT?
I can’t recommend one or the other. For juniors, I would recommend in the spring, that you take an SAT and an ACT, and see which do you like better, which fits your style better. They are worded differently. I will say that I believe the ACT is friendlier. When you take the SAT, your score is the number right minus the percentage of the number wrong, so there is a penalty for guessing. In the ACT, your score is the number right, there is no penalty for guessing. Usually, they have taken an SAT first. However, the scores are usually very close in correlation. Usually students will find that their scores are not terribly different.

Do you find students at WJ favor one test, or do they take both?
Going back a long time, the SAT used to be the choice of most students in the East and West coasts and the ACT was for students in the Midwest. That’s no longer the case. It used to be that some colleges used to not accept the ACT in place of an SAT, that is no longer an issue. There is no college in the United States now that will not accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT. I think students have more of a choice than they did. The SAT was what was popular, and it’s probably what your parents took if they lived on the East Coast. I think within the last few years, guidance, school counseling departments and myself, have been pushing the ACT. There are some students in MCPS who will never take an SAT. The ACT has a science part of it, if you are good at that. It is a question on preference.

What is the best mindset for a student going into taking one of these tests?
Take it seriously, do some prep work. I do not want students practicing or studying the night before the test, I am very big on this. That Friday night, I don’t want you partying all night either, though. What I suggest is you go home, have a nice leisurely dinner and then do whatever you do to relax. If it is listening to music, watching a movie, or a bubble bath, it’s whatever you need to do to be calm. What I don’t want you doing is trying to cram in a few more vocabulary words or Algebra II formulas the night before. What you are going to is stress yourself out and you’re not going to sleep well and you are going to be a wreck the next morning. That, is exactly the opposite of what I want you to do. Have a good night’s sleep and get up and just give it your best the next morning. Please register to take whatever you are taking in advance. The earlier you register, you get to pick the site you want. Just please take it seriously, you’re getting into or not getting into a college is not based only on your SAT/ACT scores, and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do well. It just gives you one more thing to knock off a list of things colleges are looking for.

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Katie Levingston
Katie Levingston, Online Editor in Chief
Although she seems quiet on the outside, 2010-2011 Online Editor-in-Chief Katie Levingston is bursting with energy on the inside. A former young Parisian in her second year on staff, Katie models her life after certain television shows, namely Gilmore Girls and Friends. She is unnaturally familiar with said sitcoms; she longs for the day when she can eat anything she wants and spend all her time at Central Perk in the Village. Nothing happens to her in real life, it all happens in Stars Hollow or in Monica’s apartment… okay? When she’s not practicing her speed-talking, she plays a mean clarinet in many different musical groups and spends inordinate amounts of time editing videos for the website. Among her most pressing decisions in life are what to order at a restaurant and which scarf to wear that day. She is insanely proud of her thick curly hair when it cooperates. She’s super excited to be a part of the up-and-coming wjpitch.com. Her doppelganger Anne Hathaway says, "Hi!"
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