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Preparing for college admissions tests

By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

Link 12 MARCH 3, 2014 – For a high school student, a Saturday morning may offer the luxury of sleeping in. On many Saturday mornings, that’s just what Carver junior Jenee Miller does – but not on this particular Saturday. Miller wants to be a veterinarian, and she thought the best step toward reaching that goal was to head over to Carver High School for an ACT preparation workshop.

Miller wants to go to N.C. A&T State University or N.C. State University. With that in mind, she wants to get the best possible score she can on the standardized tests that universities consider when students apply. Last year, she took one of those tests – the ACT – and did just fine on it. That wasn’t good enough for her, though.

“I want to get a higher score than I did,” Miller said.

Sabrina Barkley, who is also a junior at Carver, had not yet taken the test. She was there because she wanted to get a feel for it. “So I can do my best on it,” Barkley said.

Link 97 The two young women were among 28 students from Carver and Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy attending the workshop sponsored jointly by the Winston-Salem Chapter of The Links, an international organization of women dedicated to serving their communities, and by Winston-Salem State University. The classes were taught by four Winston-Salem State professors – Fred-Rick Roundtree, Mesia Moore Steed, Margaret Poston and Pamela Simmons. By the time the day was done, students had focused on such aspects of the test as reading, English and essay writing, mathematics and science.

In addition to talking about the types of questions that students might find and knowledge students needed to answer them, the professors gave detailed advice on the most effective strategies. For instance, Steed suggested that instead of worrying about trying to absorb as many scientific facts beforehand, students concentrate on making sure that they understand the meaning of such terms as “inversely proportional” and “hypothosis.” All of the problems will include the information needed to solve them, she said. What’s important is that you understand what they are asking and how to read graphs.

Link 98 “Your goal is to interpret the information they give you,” Steed said. “This is not a test of your knowledge but a way to gauge your understanding of information presented.”

Roundtree – who as Winston-Salem State’s assistant dean of faculty and curriculum initiatives and instructor of interdisciplinary studies – coordinated the university’s part in the workshop, also talked to students about some of the things that they can expect once they go to college.  

Miller said that the workshop proved helpful. “It was good,” she said.

Carver junior Saharia Porter was glad that she was there as well. “It’s always valuable to get extra help,” said Porter, who had already been investing her time in practice workbooks and such.

“I have learned a lot of good test-taking strategies,” said Carver junior Rashaun Rousseau, who on other Saturday mornings might be working at his job at Food Lion or working on one of the cars that he is fixing up. Aaron Lipscomb, who is a senior at Winston-Salem Prep, said that Steed’s emphasis on test-taking strategies rather than already knowing all of the science had helped boost his confidence.

Link 99 The Winston-Salem State professors were there as volunteers. Roundtree said that, as someone who went to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools – he graduated from East Forsyth High School in 1986 – he thinks it’s important for him to support the schools system. “That’s why I like to help when I can.” 

Link 77 The Links’ Services to Youth program put on the workshop, and those helping out included Pat Hickman, the chair of the program, and Constance Johnson, who coordinated the workshop, as well as LaVerne Gaither, Amy White, Kathy Stitts, Velma Simmons and Linda Jackson-Barnes, the chapter president. Johnson’s husband is school board member Vic Johnson. He dropped by and sat in on one of the sessions that Roundtree was leading. Ron Travis, the principal at Carver, checked in as well.  

For the adults, putting on the workshop also meant investing a Saturday they would have spent in another way. Velma Simmons owns Simmons Accounting & Tax Services so, at this time of year, she would have preparing people’s tax returns. Even so, she was happy to be there. “The kids need all the help they can get,” she said.

Gaither probably would have been helping out at her church. For sure, Steed would have been doing research on enzymes in her lab, something that she does every Saturday when she isn’t otherwise engaged. Once she was done with the workshop, she planned to head that way.

Link 15 For others wanting to be as prepared as they can be for taking the ACT, Roundtree suggested going to the ACT’s website for Test Taking Tips  

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Kim Underwood