Keeping Up with the SATs

Article excerpt

This year, the traditional SAT test was replaced with the SAT I, a revised version which for the first time includes sections assessing verbal and mathematical reasoning skills. Two new programs, Davidson's Your Personal Trainer for the SAT and Cliffs StudyWare for the SAT I, have been specifically designed to help students improve their performance on the updated test.

Both of these programs are self-directed, taking users through sequence of steps, including diagnostic pre-testing, tutoring, drill and practice, retesting, and other activities. The scoring, recording, and devising of individualized lesson plans--historically such time-consuming tasks for teachers or trainers--can be completed instantly and accurately, making these software packages good bets for either school or home settings.

Your Personal Trainer for the SAT (Davidson and Assoc.)

Loaded with entertaining sports-like graphics, Personal Trainer is nevertheless a serious teaching tool, combining an especially effective onscreen instruction component with numerous practice exercises and an appealing, music-enhanced, menu-driven format.

Work in each content area begins with tutorials, clear examples, exercises, and pertinent reference information, such as geometry formulas. Following each is an untimed workout of practice questions, during which the user can request an explanation of a correct answer, or pause to browse the dictionary for a definition. A gauge tells whether the question is hard, medium, or easy. For a change of pace, a game poses timed questions against the backdrop of a college campus. A number of the questions, however, were repeated from the practice exercises.

When students are ready to take the practice test, they respond onscreen to questions in a printed booklet identical to the actual SAT booklet, and can later see the results categorized in a variety of ways (see chart).

Among the program's many additional features are the option of requesting a shorter "sampler" review test (one hour versus the two-and-a-half-hour version), an individualized "training schedule" (a checklist of topics to follow throughout the program), information about new items on the test, and suggested test-taking strategies. A Special Problems area gives you practice with a calculator, the new (non-multiple choice) answer grids, and answering quantitative comparison questions. The program will also track and save activities and test scores for multiple users.

Cliffs Study Ware for the SAT I (Cliffs)

SAT I takes a more no-frills approach to test preparation, but what it lacks in music and graphics, it gains in its slightly larger bank of practice and test questions, and additional detailed reports. …