With so many choices for test prep products whether online or from books, we find it essential to review various products to recommend only the very best for our students. So, How Good Are Your SAT Test Prep Products?
Customizable is good for those who want to hone specific skills. The “Personalize” functionality enables the dedicated student to work efficiently within his or her own ability, and thus sharpen skills without the intense frustration of problems that are either too difficult or too easy. That being said, College Connections recommends taking a mixed difficulty test first as a diagnostic to assess one’s baseline before drilling down into a particular difficulty level. Also, it would be very useful to the new user if the program offered an upfront digested analysis and recommendation for building skills at an appropriate level. (High school students who are preparing for the SAT are not generally as self-aware of their own ability levels as more experienced students preparing for the graduate school level exams…)
Hints are quite useful… but only available for math. College Connections only encountered hints for the math section, however, College Connections believes that hints might be helpful for the eager learner in the writing section as well. For example, a hint could direct the student to the appropriate concept that is being tested and helping him or her to identify whether the question deals with “Subject-verb agreement” or “comma usage in a dependent clause” – giving them a chance to work towards an educated guess before handing them the correct answer.
Explanations are very detailed. This is very good for the determined student because the step-by-step details seem quite well illustrated. However, based on our experience with high schoolers, it is probably too much for the more casual student and will be ignored very quickly. College Connections suggests a short explanation in a colored box that is easily digestible and conveys key concepts, and then the gory details can be included for those dedicated few seeking a more thorough explanation.
Flashcards are good for vocabulary, but tough to use for math. College Connections think that flashcards work great for vocabulary, and may be useful for grammar rules, but they are tough to use on this interface for math. For instance, if a user wanted to note the quadratic formula with all of its symbols and exponents, it is challenging to find a way to easily create a flashcard with such information. Perhaps there could be a repository of common formulas and concepts tied to each problem that could be “clicked on” to generate a relevant flashcard to add to the personalized stack?
Scroll-over-vocabulary is a nice feature. The majority of high school students have a rather limited vocabulary and do not normally pick up a dictionary. As a consequence, reading comprehension suffers significantly. Thus, the scroll-over functionality that yields a definition is a great tool to have available. It would be good if it were also available on the answer choices as well as the passages… because those are much more impactful on the student’s score!
Another word on difficulty. Since the SAT is generally formatted so that easier problems tend to come before difficult problems, especially in the math section, College Connections thinks that it would be well-advised for the UWorld QBank tests to be generated in a similar fashion to keep students habituated to this test format.
Minor nitpick about the Scientific Calculator. College Connections encourages our students to practice with the calculator that they plan to use on the real test day so that they are familiar with their own interface. We understand why UWorld Qbank includes a calculator on its program, but it would be good to encourage encourage students to bring their own to the practice (for our aforementioned reason).
Summary. College Connections thinks that UWorld’s SAT Qbank is a resource for students who want more thorough practice with test questions in a customizable interface. It is particularly suited to the student who has successfully identified areas of weakness that need deeper drilling and honing of skills.