SAT Preparation Software Boosts Students' Scores and Spirits

What can teachers do to improve SAT scores? What can students do? While certainly not a new concern, boosting SAT and other standardized test scores is quite high on schoolsí priority lists nowadays. Furthermore, helping students raise scores is also a high priority for many companies that offer test preparation materials. With over one million students taking the SAT every year, and with over $500 million spent on test preparation products and services last year, this area is too big to ignore.

The growing SAT preparation arena -- formerly consisting mainly of popular books, study guides and expensive crash courses -- has seen an increase in the past few years of various software titles claiming to be the ìlast wordî in SAT preparation.

So when Amesbury High School in Amesbury, Massachusetts, set out to help its students prepare for the SAT, they decided that the best way to get results was to have them take an actual SAT -- or take as close a replica as one can find. Therefore, in conjunction with The College Board (New York, N.Y.) they set up a simulated SAT session using One-on-One with the SAT, The College Boardís unique test preparation software.

Straight from the Source

Who better to provide SAT preparation software than the makers of the SAT? Thatís the premise behind One-on-One, and it seems to have worked out quite well in the finished product.

Coming from the SATís originators, itís the only software out there that includes hundreds of real SAT questions. It also is the only SAT preparation software that emulates a real SAT test, taking students through a timed, paced and guided simulated test session.

Because One-on-One simulates a real SAT, it is too long for students to take in an average class period. Mary Beth Exner, Director of Guidance at Amesbury, explains how they set up the sessions to accommodate studentsí schedules. "Our classes are currently about 43 minutes long and obviously this isnít enough time to do the complete program," she says. "So, we had to have extra night sessions where they could do the entire simulated SAT in one sitting."

Students assembled in the schoolís computer lab, each at their own computer. ì[One-On-Oneís] ability to keep the students interested enough to finish it all the way through, without stopping, impressed me,î says Exner. To encourage students to finish the entire test, One-on-One employs various techniques, including letting students pick a 'personal advisor' at the beginning of the session. This ìvirtualî advisor provides feedback on their progress and guides them through easy, medium and hard questions, only giving appropriate suggestions when students indicate they need help.

To keep students from getting frustrated, the software gives them access to thorough explanations of correct and incorrect answer choices, and definitions are available instantly when one clicks on highlighted words. One-on-One takes a lighthearted approach to this very serious undertaking, making it seem fun and easy to handle.

Working with Students

Overall, Exner seems impressed with both the product and with The College Board. ìAfter using One-on-One, most of our students scored over 100 points higher than their previous scores,î she relates. ìThe students really liked the program, especially the fact that they can pick different advisors and also get different levels of help throughout the entire session.î

The College Board worked closely with Amesbury, even sending out a technician to help with any technical glitches they might have had during their first use of the software. Luckily, everything went smoothly, and no major glitches were reported.

Representatives of The College Board even interviewed some of the students, asking them for their opinions of different features in the program, intending to use this information to enhance and improve future versions of the program.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.