Studying for the test

Today is the final test for high school entrance. Once again we took a close look at the topics on the test and have been following a strategy of...

Studying for the test

Yesterday we took the the last test before high school. It's been 9 solid years of tests.

Going into the test, we took care of logistics, topical areas, practice, strategy, and last minute coaching advice (don't miss any questions and don't get any wrong and don't take too long). Coming out, my son explained to me the one thing we missed so that I'll spend the next 4 months with anxiety, doubt, and regret.

Preparation & Logistics

There are plenty of testing services available for this test. I strongly recommend that you sign up for one of these. We didn't sign up for any of them. Instead, I looked at the list of topics and we practices our weaker ones from high school level tests.

On the bright side, we shined logistically.

If you plan to arrive ahead of time so that your child is relaxed going into the test, you will find a solid 30 minute mess of just getting into the parking lot, assuming you select Lane like we did. Actual panicky nightmare may vary. There is a single entrance on a major road with barely enough capacity to handle regular traffic. I told my son to get out of the car, follow parents into whatever door they go into, get in line and register. We would touch base via text and I'll show up later if needed. It turns out that parents are not allowed in the building; I wasted 45 minutes getting into and out of the parking lot.

The test is timed, so I gave him my watch. We ate the breakfast of champions and he decided to forgo snacks. I told him to text me if needed before the test, but then turn off and hide his phone. The SAT requires number 2 pencils, but he was sure he didn't need any because we read through the lack of instructions multiple times before we left.

We ignored all other other types of test taking advice. The best way to prepare for the soft skills of test taking is take lots of tests, and my child is nothing if not over tested.

The dropped ball

It turns out that some of the advanced topics from the test prep websites are either not on the test or not on the test at the level of our preparation. For example, I was told after the test, 'Exponents were not on the test', but this could have meant 'high school level exponential proofs are not on the test.' I didn't ask for clarification.

The problem is that the math test is timed. This format favors fast and confident calculation from memory. This is our weakest skill area. We not only didn't practice this ever, we skipped any homework that was calculation oriented. I've never set a time limit on math practice and never will. I think this is a mistake, not necessarily something that would negatively impact the test score, but something that will negatively impact my nerves while I wait for scores to be released in the end of March.

Learning from mistakes

As I assigned practice tests for each topical area, I slowly decreased the complexity level of the material from solid AP high school vocabulary, for example, to something from an 8th grade test at a good school. High school preparation would benefit from overkill on certain subtopics like belated math facts memorization or Greek and Latin word roots. As we practiced over the last few weeks, I noted these goals for this summer and we agreed that they would be beneficial. It's weird to get agreement from a maturing child. We actually had a conversation that went like this:

  • I think it would be a good idea to memorize these 200 word roots this summer in preparation for high school.
  • Ok. Sounds good to me.
  • I really don't care for your bad attitude. Your doing it anyway.

When I asked how things went, the first question was did you have enough time to finish.

'We only had 40 minutes for 40 math problems. It was a struggle to get through them all.'

I'm cursing silently to myself. Fortunately, we have plans B, C, D, and E and have already discussed them thoroughly. It is entirely possible for any child to come out of the test feeling bad, having a headache, and finding out an hour later that they have a 103 temperature and just blew their future. We're prepared. Any of our other routes would get the job done for the future. Each one would be a bit harder though.

The worst part

Going into the test, we passed all varieties of people, including a family dressed as tiny Inca villagers. I would have loved to help if asked. I'm not assuming that their child is any less prepared than mine, just pointing out that there is a 99.72% chance that this is the case based on all available information. Any child is capable of academic success, but almost none of them have spent the last 2 years dedicated to it.

Even worse, coming out I saw plenty of capable kids who were totally exhausted by the experience, a few with a ghostly look for failure on the faces, and one crying in her mothers arms. This sight hurts me personally and is enough to turn my blog from a deep shade of red to a deep shade of blue. But no one is asking me for help, and when I offer, it is generally perceived negatively.

My general approach to offering help is welcomed by most people as 'Your child sucks academically and you obviously dropped the ball as a parent so can you kid come over on Saturdays so I can fix it?' Everyone is more than happy to believe that it's not their fault, that nothing is wrong with them personally, but there is something wrong with 'the system'. Trumps & Reagan's success came from the fact that they changed the Republican line from the former to the latter. I'm going to try it.

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