by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist
Many students don’t understand the connection between Accuplacer scores and their immediate future.
They may not see any connection until they meet with an admissions counselor and find out how many remedial courses they have to take. Although some community colleges are now waiving remedial math courses based on certain high school GPA levels, many institutions still require a minimum Accuplacer score for math and all still require it for English classes. Improving Accuplacer scores is a worthwhile idea regardless of remediation policies, because it signifies improved foundation skills. Tests like Accuplacer are not just arbitrary exercises: they measure the skills required for an academic or vocational pursuit. Math and English are the foundation skills. Today, let’s look at some strategies for improving English skills. (Part II will deal with math.)
The first step is to find out your target college’s requirements.
See what Accuplacer scores you need to eliminate remedial courses. Next, investigate your college’s retest policy. Some schools will allow you to re-take Accuplacer tests within a certain period of time. Be sure to ask the admissions or testing office which version of the Accuplacer they are using, Classic or Next-Generation. (Next Generation is supposed to be replacing the old Classic in the 2018-19 academic year, but not all colleges are on the same schedule.)
Now that you know what test you need, what your target score is, and what your re-take options are, make a study action plan. Ask yourself some hard questions:
- What can I do that is realistic for me?
- How much time am I willing to spend to build my skills to be college ready?
- Do I want to concentrate on one subject if I need remedial courses in both English and math?
Be honest with yourself. Before you devise a study plan, make a realistic self-assessment of how much time you are willing to spend building your skills.
A good start is to practice the test. Familiarizing yourself with test questions is helpful and can be an easy way to boost your score a few points. There are two things you can do to practice the test. If you are taking the Classic Accuplacer tests during the summer or early fall, go to the College Board’s ACCUPLACER: Sample Questions for Students found here to review sample questions. If you are taking the Next-Generation tests, click here and select each subject for samples of next generation questions. If you want to take a more analytical approach, use the free study app for students. Click here to sign up for free practice. This app will give you a diagnostic test which will analyze your strengths and weaknesses. You will have two choices: you can just take the sample test or you can choose the learn as you go option. For your first attempt, choose the learn as you go option to get immediate feedback and detailed explanations. Then repeat the test in the sample test mode.
There are many simple things you can do to improve your skills. One of the biggest favors you can do yourself is to build your vocabulary. This will help your reading comprehension, which is key to college success. Try to learn one new word every day. You can use free vocabulary apps and study on the go with your phone. Try Word of the Day, available on the Apple iTunes App Store or GooglePlay. Keep a running tab of your words and sentences on your phone or tablet. You can also make flashcards on your phone by using the free study app Quizlet. If you want to reinforce your vocabulary skills, write a sentence with your new word every day. Using new vocabulary words in sentences accomplishes two goals, building your vocabulary and improving your writing. Use an online dictionary to help you write sentences with your new vocabulary. There are many free online dictionaries. Many have sample sentences, which will give you a better grasp of the word. Remember that no matter what you study, including STEM, you will be doing a lot of reading and writing.
This may sound simple, but one of the most important things to do is just keep reading. Try to find something you like, but also choose articles or stories that don’t interest you. Download a news app on your phone, such as CNN or the BBC. Remember, you are going to do a lot of reading in college and you are not going to be interested in everything professors make you read. Check out the New York Times online or the Wall Street Journal. Try reading a variety of articles- news, science, business and entertainment. You get 10 free articles a month on each device for the New York Times or most newspapers, but BBC News and CNN give you unlimited access. After you finish the article, try to summarize what you just read. Make sure you are reading actively. Make a habit of asking yourself comprehension questions after you finish reading something. Try to synthesize the key ideas. There are some low cost apps for reading comprehension such as Me Studying Reading for College Success and Reading Comprehension High School by Tegosoft.
If you have time, it’s also a great idea to work on your writing skills. There are many apps to help you practice writing, but you can just write a few sentences about any editorial. Summarizing someone’s point of view will help your writing skills and your reading comprehension. Choose any online newspaper or the news apps above. Whatever college major you choose, you are going to be doing a lot of writing.
There are also free or low cost apps to work on grammar. Try:
- 1800 English Grammar Questions – This app provides grammar tests and corrects your answers.
- Another good option is English Grammar Book – This app will give you many choices by level or by topic.
Painful as all this may be in the summer, remember that working on these skills now will help you later. It’s not only about improving test scores and placing out of remedial courses; it’s about building skills that are essential for college success and for employment. The foundation skills that you improve this summer will last a lot longer than the tan you might have to forego while you study.
Part 2 of this 2-part series found here: Mathematics in the Summer? How to Succeed in College by Really Trying (Part 2)