Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Conquering the ACT (Including Writing)

Hey everyone! Today I have some ACT tips! I would say I'm qualified to talk about this now, seeing that I've taken the ACT and received a pretty decent score. Throughout my experience of studying and taking a prep class, I have picked up a few tricks that I think would be helpful for you guys!

The first is to buy or borrow a prep book. I would recommend the Kaplan book or the Princeton Review book. I have the 2010 edition of the Kaplan one, and I'm really liking it so far. It goes through each section of the test (Reading, Science, Math, English and Writing) and give tips to help you get the best score. There are  6 practice tests in my edition. The book also includes a CD with more practice tests, but I'm not sure how good they are because my CD doesn't work! In addition, the tips are just as good as the tests. Some tips didn't work for me personally, but, who knows, they could work for you!

My next tip is to take an ACT prep class. In my town, there is one the week before each ACT. It is actually super helpful. I learned how to manage my time, which helped a lot. I will talk about what I learned for each section later. And just to prove that it's worth the time, I'll say that I did way better on the test than I ever thought I would and I did improve a ton from how I did on the practice tests.

Now, if you're anything like me, that math section is pretty daunting. If you still have time before your test, specifically if you're a freshman or sophomore reading this, I would recommend taking the full year of Algebra II and taking trigonometry before the test. There are a decent amount of trig and algebra problems and you will have an even better chance of knowing the answer if you get those classes out of the way as soon as possible. 

Practice, practice, practice! I was so nervous for the ACT that I probably took way too many online practice tests! I actually found some great (free!) apps that are useful. One is the Kaplan app, I didn't actually use this one, but because it's by the book people I'm guessing it's good and there are some practice tests and a diagnostic test to help you keep track of your improvement. The other, which I highly recommend, is play2prep. It gives you a diagnostic test and as you "train" it increases or decreases your overall score based on how you did. Honestly, I'm not sure how accurate the score is, but I do think it helped me. 

Here are my tips for the sections. There aren't a ton for reading and science because it's hard to give a lot of tips since it's different every time. 

-Have an eye (and ear) for grammar mistakes. Be the grammar police! Does the verb tense make
 sense? Does the verb agree with the subject? Is the information relevant? 
-If there's an omit answer, most of the time it's that (or so my teacher tells me). A lot of the time, the
 ACT people add information that may seem right, but overall it doesn't add anything to the story. Use
 caution when choosing it and be sure to look at the other answers.
-Don't choose the wordy answers. Just like the previous tip, the ACT usually try's to trick you by
 putting having answers or sentences in the reading with too many words. They want to make it seem
 like the more words a sentence has, the more intellectual and correct it is. So be careful and read
 each answer, but if you're in a pinch, choose the one with the least words.
-Look for redundancy. Many times there are phrases they sound right, but, when taking a closer look,
 are completely redundant. From what I've gathered from the books, I believe these are usually in the
 form of "should this part be omitted?" although I'm not positive. 

-Know your formulas! Area, circumference, distance, and all the rest! The quadratic formula may be
 used a few times. Also look up arithmetic and geometric sequences which allow you to predict what
 number will come next when only given a few numbers. 
-Be sure to remember the trig functions. My teacher uses SOH CAH TOA (sine- opposite over
 hypotenuse; cosine- adjacent over hypotenuse; tangent- opposite over adjacent)
-Review, review, review! I like looking at my old notes from geometry, algebra 2 and trig. 
-Do not spend too much time on a problem. Guess, circle it (in the booklet), and come back. Getting
 hung up on  questions is a great way to waste valuable time. A guess is better than no answer! 
-Get a graphing calculator. These really help. I've very minimally needed to use mine, but I did
 sometimes. It also may make you feel more confident knowing that you have so many little program
 type things on it. Just be sure to get an approved one!
-Be sure to bring an extra calculator because you do not want yours to run out of batteries in the
 middle of the test!

-Actually read the passage! You may think that this is a waste of time, but I find that I spend more
 time searching for answers if I haven't read the text. 
-That said, do not spend too much time reading. You will waste a ton of time if you do. 
-Underline important things. While you're reading, underline people, main ideas, and really anything
 that you think is important. This really does help; last time I took the ACT I barely had to look back
 at the passage because I read and underlined!
-Do not be overwhelmed. There's a lot of reading, but take it one question at a time. Make your best
 guess and come back to it if you need to. 
-If you know you are better at one type of passage than another, do that one first because it's a good
 way to make sure you get the most correct. 

-There are 3 types of passages: all reading (read this through before answering questions), all graphs
 (skip right to the questions), and a mix of graphs and reading (read this through).
-For graphs, I suggest reading the x axis and the y axis to get a feel for what it's about. 
-Do not panic if you come to a topic  that you know nothing about. Be sure to stay calm and
 understand it the best you can. Usually you understand it a lot better than you think you do!

-First things first, you need 5 paragraphs (introduction, 2 body paragraphs, a counter argument, and a
 conclusion) and a good thesis. 
-When you get the test, read the question, think of your stance, and make an outline. When I make
 my outline, I write the thesis, the points of the body paragraphs and the examples, and the topic of
 the counter argument and an example. Don't write anything about the intro or conclusion because
 that wastes time. 
-Introduction: write 3-4 sentences introducing the topic and taking your stance. Place the thesis at the
-Body paragraphs (2): introduction your point, give an example, tell why the example relates to your
 stance (relate to thesis), conclude. Use transitions between paragraphs. 
-Counterarguement: state why others oppose your stance, say why they are wrong, use an example to
 prove your point, say why it proves your point, conclude. Use transitions. 
-Conclusion: transtion, state overall point, kind of sum up what you wrote about, restate thesis (in a
 different way, do not copy it word for word), strong conclusion
-Once you are done, check it over. Look for legibility, spelling, and words that could possibly be
 changed to be stronger. 

One last thing: be sure you have everything you need. This includes your ID, ACT ticket, multiple number 2 pencils, an approved calculator or two, and a snack if you need it. (This might not be all, I believe that everything you need should be on the ticket)

Some parting words: 
-I strongly suggest not comparing scores. It could make you or the other people upset. 
-There will always be someone who got a better score than you (unless you got a 36, kudos to you if
 you did!). Don't put yourself down if you didn't do as well as others. What matters is that you did the
 best that you could do. 
-Follow your normal routine. Don't do anything special because it could throw you (or your stomach)
-If you receive a nice score and decide to retake the test, do not be overconfident. For my second time
 I was and I actually thought the test was easy. My score begged to differ.
-Try not to sit by your friends. This could make you more nervous. 
-Get to the school early, especially if you don't know where the room is.
-Sign up early!

I really hope these helped! It's quite long, but I think there are some pretty good tips in here! Do you have any tips? How was your experience with the ACT? 

Au revoir!

"If you know you can do better... do better"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review: Just One Day

Hey guys! So today I am reviewing Just One Day by Gayle Forman!

This book follows Allyson as she and her best friend Melanie embark on trip around Europe after graduation. When they are in Stratford-upon-Avon, Allyson meets Willem, a traveler and an actor in a Shakespeare group who invites her and Melanie to come watch his performance. They do and the next day the tour ends and the friends take a train to London to meet Melanie's cousin (or friend, I can't remember which). On the train Allyson finds Willem and the two have an instant connection. He asks Lulu (his nickname for her) if she wants to go to Paris with him for the day because she wasn't able to on the tour. She takes a risk and says something she wouldn't have even thought about saying before: yes. After an eventful day in Paris, a heartbroken Allyson leaves for London to find Melanie, but everything is different. Why did Willem do that to her? This begins the rebellion of Allyson. Everyone expected her to be the perfect student, but what she realizes, with the help of a few failed classes, is that she is doing what everyone wants her to do- not what makes her happy. Allyson goes on a self discovery journey with her new friend Dee and decides to find Willem in Europe and clear up what happened once and for all. 

Sorry for being so ambiguous at some parts, it's hard not to give away what happened! 

***contains spoilers*** 

I had high hopes for Just One Day. I'd thought it would be kind of like a Meant to Be type book (if you haven't read that yet, get on it. It's by Lauren Morrill) with the girl falling in love with the guy she didn't expect to like. Unfortunately, it was not. I absolutely loved the concept of it though. It started off really well with the European tour and Paris, but once Allyson went back to college, she became such a slacker. I just couldn't believe that one day could change her life so much. Maybe it's because I haven't had any experience with love, but I don't understand how one guy that she just met, no less, could leave her so distraught. Anyways, I do really identify with Allyson. I love how she grew throughout the story and really followed her heart and did what she wanted even if her parents didn't support her. It was interesting to see how she went from being such a good girl to being so rebellious. This part really resonated with me, and probably most teenagers, because at this point in my life I'm trying to decide what I want to do and if what I want to do is actually what I want to do, just like Allyson, if that makes any sense. I especially loved the last third or so when she went back to Europe to find Willem. You could really tell that she had grown up because she was taking so many risks and going to all these different countries where she didn't speak the language. That part was really inspiring. 

Overall, I did like it. If you are tired of romance novels, this probably isn't for you, but if you aren't, heck, add it to your list! I am definitely looking forward to reading Just One Year and the ebook (I cannot for the life of me remember the name!).

Well, hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading! I apologize for not keeping my promise and posting more frequently... I've had a ton of homework and, honestly, my grades aren't up to par at the moment (*ahem* english), I'll try my hardest though! 

Au Revoir!

"Sometimes the best way to find out what you're supposed to do is by doing the thing you're not supposed to do." -Gayle Forman, Just One Day