Heart pounding out of my chest. Number 2 pencils clinched in my fists so hard my hands are turning pale. A constant tapping of my foot.
Directions from an instructor are coming from somewhere in the same room as me.
But from where?
My eyes are focused on the large stack of booklets strategically placed at the front of the room.
This is my future.
This is the ACT.
Or in reality, my practice ACT. So, maybe not my future quite yet.
But at the time, I could only imagine what it would feel like once I sat down for that test.
As a student who has done relatively well in school and never been one to fret over tests before, this was a feeling I was not used to.
I knew I was in need of a confidence booster.
After some research, I signed up for a prep class at night.
One of my many concerns about the class: the time commitment. Junior year with challenging classes is not the best time to be spending at least one night a week with total strangers going over the ACT.
However, I had no choice as to when I took the class.
My inevitable date with the test was scheduled for the end of junior year.
And who am I kidding? If I had not signed up for this class, I would not have done any studying.
Even while sitting in the class I wasn’t sure that it was helping much. Sure I picked up a tip here and there, but for the most part it was information I already knew.
But when my scores arrived and my cumulative score was up by four points, I wasn’t going to complain anymore about having to spend a couple hours a week poring over The Real ACT Prep Guide.
A study released last May by The National Association for College Admission Counseling claimed that prep test companies inflate the value of their products.
That may be true as far as teaching new information, but the classes (or at least the one I attended) focus on the tricks of the test and how to maneuver your way through them.
And that information is invaluable when it comes to calming nerves in order to be ready on test day.
Only 26 percent of the class of 2009 students who took the ACT in Kansas met all four College Readiness Benchmark Scores. Maybe more people need to look into taking these classes.
Blue Valley has taken steps to help students boost their scores by offering a prep class and providing free practice PSATs to selected juniors.
Whether the extra help is being offered to make the district look impressive or solely to help students prepare for college is another debate.
The SAT and ACT may not be the best judge of whether or not students are ready for college, but as long as they’re required, you might as well find a way to impress colleges with your scores by signing up for a prep class.
by Stephanie Roche.