Monday, September 5, 2011

Software product review: Boost Your Score! The Unofficial Software Guide to the Real ACT

    In my last post I reported on the ACT prep books that I was purchasing to help Ash get ready for the ACT test in February. Although he's only in the seventh grade, he's taking part in the Duke TIP program, which gives seventh graders a chance to take a spin on the ACT test.
    To go with my book purchases I bought a software program called Boost Your Score! The Unofficial Software Guide to the Real ACT. This program is designed to work with The Real ACT, the College Board's official guide to the ACT which contains five sample tests.
    Currently the software is keyed to the older edition of The Real ACT, which only has three tests. They are publishing a new version of the software in a couple of weeks which will be emailed free to recent customers. This version will cover all five tests, plus the online test the College Board offers. (Note: I just got an email with a link to a download of the new software. So the new six-test program is now available).
    So this software and The Real ACT offers students a chance to take six full practice tests. I would suggest spacing these out for three to six months for a long-term program of study. Personally I don't think it's important to take the tests in one long sitting until one gets near the actual testing date.
    I decided to take part of the ACT and ended up taking the whole test, although not in one sitting. Ash took only the math portion. Although I took both the English and Reading tests sitting at the computer, I do not recommend this. Sit at a table and use an answer sheet and then bubble in your answers.
    Boost Your Score is worth the $15 price just because of the convenience of scoring the tests. You input your answers onto an onscreen bubble sheet and the program automatically figures you score. You can then print out the scoring sheet to go over the problems you got wrong.
    In addition the program breaks down your answers into the types of problems asked and the percentage you got right. I did quite well on the English, Reading and Science, and I'm not sure the diagnostic report was very helpful. But in math I made a 22, and the diagnostic report reflects my lack of math skills. I correctly answered 87 percent of the pre-algebra questions, 60 percent of the elementary algebra questions, 56 percent of the intermediate algebra questions, 33 percent of the coordinate geometry questions, half of the plane geometry questions, and nary a one of the trig question. If I were really and truly studying for the ACT, I suppose my first order would be to brush up on elementary algebra.
    I must admit that on some of the algebra questions I "cheated," in that I plugged in numbers. For example, on a problem where I was supposed to find out where two balloons met in the air, I just said, "Well, let's see where they will be after three seconds." I was really close as the correct answer was 2.9 seconds. I was supposed to have used some obscure formula to calculate this. It's often possible to eyeball these algebra problems without knowing any algebra at all (I certainly know none!). Sometimes the ACT measures a particular skill only tangentially, in that it's possible to get the right answer without knowing the skill supposedly being tested.
    After my last post a friend of mine sent me a text stating that he wanted to know whether or not the software was worth the purchase price. The answer is that it's not perfect and it takes a while to find all the information you may want (but it's there!). BUT, it's a great way to not only score your tests, but also to see your strengths and weaknesses, particularly in subjects with a score of say 26 or below. In my opinion the diagnostics aren't quite as useful for really high scorers; but even then, they are still useful.
    For Pete's sake, it's a $15 program that will make studying for the ACT a lot easier. How can anybody NOT buy this?

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