By Christopher Roy
English teacher Mr. Jason Schmidt and Science Department Chairwoman Ms. Fawzia Qazi are co-facilitating an ACT prep course from Sept. 28 to Oct. 23. The daily hourlong course begins at 7 a.m. and features two weeks of instructional time per teacher on different material.
The first half of the meetings were held in Mr. Schmidt’s classroom, where he reviewed the English grammar and usage, reading comprehension, and essay portions of the test. The other half of the the meetings occur in Ms. Qazi’s room, where she works on the math and science sections of the ACT. The 20 juniors that signed up for the course arrive on campus early to get practice through diagnostic tests and learn test strategies to help raise their scores.
Mr. Schmidt said that he focuses on “teaching students effective strategies to use when answering the English and reading comprehension questions” and helps students maximize their scores on the essays by teaching them a format that fulfills all elements of the ACT essay rubric.
“I believe that the most important thing that I can do for students is to help them understand what the right answer is and why that answer is the correct answer,” said Mr. Schmidt. “I feel that students really need solid explanations as to why certain answers are better than others, and this explanation is where the ACT review books fall short.”
Junior Kieran Moutes-Lee said, “I signed up for the course because I had heard from a few of my friends who are seniors that ACT prep at Loyola really helped to improve their test scores. I feel that the course is really beneficial because the teachers helped me understand how to approach the problems rather than just telling me the right answer.”
Mr. Schmidt said, “I believe a key part of the course is gaining familiarity with the subject material. Getting comfortable with the different types of questions and finding patterns of certain types of questions allows the student to have a better idea of what they will see on the test. The class is really a stepping stone and catalyst for the students own individual preparation for the test.”
Junior James Sims stated, “One of my favorite things about Mr. Schmidt’s portion of the class is that he has experience with the ACT material, so he really knows what questions students are most likely to miss. He also knows how to help students approach those problems and get them correct in a reasonable amount of time.”
Ms. Qazi started teaching her section of the ACT on Friday, Oct. 9. She uses diagnostic practice sets, as well as content review and strategy planning for reading graphs and data in the science portion.
Ms. Qazi said, “I feel that the best way to raise the scores of students is to teach content and how to interpret data. The students learn time management strategies that can be applied to these skills, and they learn strategies on how to approach problems that show up a lot.”
The students will take tests throughout the course and then Ms. Qazi will help them grade their tests, understand their mistakes, and learn how not to make those same mistakes in the future, which she believes is “one of the key parts in the success of the students.”
The juniors have now taken five math and science sessions with Ms. Qazi, and junior Dillan Kenney discussed his goals for the math and science portions of the class: “I hope to improve my score on the math section through rigorous review of content that I may have forgotten from class. I think that studying the ways to approach the science problems and read the graphs will be extremely beneficial in raising my score.”
Ms. Qazi said, “The practice tests are effective because we use tests that were administered and written by the ACT authors. Some of the students are in Algebra II, and the test goes through Pre-Calculus. Therefore, the practice tests that we do in class are instrumental in them learning the material necessary to do well on the test.”
Junior Jack Vanaken shared his feelings about the practice tests: “I really like how we do a lot of smaller practice tests focused on the individual sections rather than one big one because it allows me to focus in on each subject and really try to find strategies that are effective for me.”
College counselor Mr. Mike Denison said, “As a counselor I think this class is an amazing thing that the school is offering. With the SAT going through all its changes, I think it is really smart for Loyola to be offering this ACT prep before school. I am convinced that the students will benefit immensely from it, and I am excited to see how this course could segway into further standardized test prep here at Loyola.”