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Friday, May 14, 2010

Preparation For College Admission Starts Earlier Than You Think

My children are still several years from getting out of school and into college. But, if they want to get into a good college with a decent scholarship, I have realized that the preparation begins right now. Many of the things that are recommended for snagging precious scholarship dollars at top-ranked universities and colleges are not short-term things that can be accomplished in a month or two. Instead, the colleges want to see dedication and commitment lasting several years.

I was browsing through various resources online to try and find information on all this when I stumbled across this article on how to get into college. It is a long series of steps, but the message is quite clear. You need many years of preparation to make the sailing smooth in the last few months. You can not simply do everything in the last few months after taking it easy through most of junior high and high school.

Many of the steps in the guide involve doing well on advanced placement classes as well as on standardized tests (such as the ACT, SAT, etc.). Doing well on tests and in classes can sometimes be more a matter of practice than sheer, inherent brilliance. The more you practice the test, the better you get at it. Practice not only teaches you the material, but you also learn test-taking strategies and time-management strategies. You also get to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can focus on your weaknesses to try and make them your strengths.

Practice tests can be hard to find on the internet. Once I decided to put my children through test-taking practice sessions, I scoured the web for practice tests. But there were very few out there. Many sites that have practice tests want payment to access these tests. Moreover, there is no easy way to customize the practice tests so that you can emphasize some area and de-emphasize others.

At first, I tried getting around this by creating practice tests for them by hand. But, as you can imagine, this was quite time consuming and painful. My handwriting is not bad, but I have not written pages of materials in a long time, so my letters and numbers sometimes came out funny enough that my children had trouble reading them. Formatting was a big issue. Correcting the tests was another issue because I had to keep a separate answer key and make sure I could locate the correct answer key for the correct test after my children had taken a test, and also make sure the answer key was not lost or available to my children! The whole thing became quite a hassle, and I started looking for a better way to do it.

Ultimately, my searches lead to the Proprofs website, which may well be the best way to do it. The site advertises itself as the knowledge freeway, and it truly is a great resource for knowledge building and acquisition. There are practice tests and online study guides for many tests including certification tests as well as college admission tests like the SAT.

But more importantly, the site allows you to use an intuitive interface to create practice tests. The quiz software on the site allows you to create practice tests that anyone with an internet connection can easily access and take. No more laborious hand-written tests, no formatting issues, no problems with hiding and locating the answer keys! Everything is taken care of seamlessly by Proprofs. What is more, the site is completely free for personal use. You can create unlimited tests and quizzes and administer them to an unlimited number of test-takers (fortunately, I have only two children, but if I had an unlimited number of children, this would sure come in handy!). The site is ad-supported for free use. But if you upgrade to a business account or you qualify for an education account, then there are no ads to contend with.

If you are not into creating quizzes and tests yourself, this site can still be very useful to you. Just click on "Take A Quiz", and you have access to the hundreds of thousands of quizzes and tests that other users of the site have created. You can take any of these quizzes and find out how well you did compared to others who have taken the tests before you. The quizzes are organized into categories so that you can quickly hone in on a skill or knowledge area you are interested in testing yourself, and find tests that fit that particular niche.

Whether you are an aspiring candidate for a competitive test or you are trying to help prepare someone (your children, your students, etc.) for a competitive test, you are sure to find Proprofs a valuable resource in your arsenal. Practice makes perfect, and Proprofs makes practice practical! Good luck!!

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