Rocking the ACT with TestRocker

November 25th, 2013

 Sponsored by TestRocker, an online SAT/ACT preparation program

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My eldest is a freshman in high school this year, which just blows my mind. So far, the transition has gone really well, with the exception of (wait for it) English.

As a writer, it’s hard not to take this personally. But he says it’s boring, and I can sympathize. I sometimes think the intent of language arts curriculum in middle and high school is to extinguish any love of writing and reading that might have been accidentally kindled in elementary school.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “But you’ve got to make it work anyway. It’s not optional. You need a good grade in English to get into college.”

Going to college is not optional either. It’s lately become fashionable to debate the merits of a college education, but as a guest speaker at my middle son’s fifth grade graduation said, those debates seem to always be about someone else’s children. “You go to college,” she said, pointing at them.

I’m with her. My kids are going to college. And unless something changes dramatically in our circumstances between now and then, they’re going to need scholarship money to get there. Ninth grade English matters.

Test scores also matter, but I have far less experience with those, as the ACT and SAT weren’t required in Canada when I was graduating from high school. I’m having to figure out how to coach my kids through that process without having been through it myself.

I’ve been told that it’s a good idea for students to get as much experience writing the tests as possible. So when my son was tapped by the Duke TIP program to sit for the ACT in seventh grade, we jumped on it. And when a representative from TestRocker contacted me earlier this year with an opportunity for him to try a customized online ACT study plan, I put my thinking cap on, and came up with a way to make the offer as appealing to him as it is to me.

Long story short, I’m subcontracting him. He’s to put in the study hours and report back to me on his experience, and he receives a share of the sponsorship fee, which he plans to invest in equipment for building custom skateboards. Welcome to the family business, son. When you are a skateboard mogul, you can run ads on your Mom’s blog. A college educated skateboard mogul.

The full diagnostic test took around 70 minutes. Here’s what he had to say about it:

“Interface was easy to use. It was well-organized and allowed you to go back and change your answers or skip a question. I did run into one snag when I tried to switch to Spotify to change my music and the test restarted, but all was well when the very helpful and attentive (rep) Michael Henry restarted the program. “

(I’m guessing the program developers may not have considered the critical importance of being able to change your tunes while taking the test. )

The result of the diagnostic was a study plan–copied to my email–which prioritized subject areas, and made recommendations on how much time to spend on each.  A counter displays how many days he has to work with before the target test date (we chose February 8). Leaving weekends and holidays out, we calculated that he needs to put in an hour a day on the TestRocker program. I love that it shows his progress, and that he can pick what module he wants to work on according to what he feels like doing. I wish all of his homework had such immediate visual feedback. 

These are early days, but here’s what he has to say about the study plan so far:

“So far, this is a great program. It’s hard, but I think it will pay off in the end for my test scores.”

As for me, what I like so far is that he doesn’t have to be nagged at all into that hour of study. Unlike ninth grade English. 

We’ll be back with another progress report in mid-December. In the meantime, if you have college-bound kids, or have lived through entrance exams already, please chime in with any questions or tips you have.

Or custom skateboard orders. ;-)


I’m very happy to disclose that TestRocker is providing my son with six months of access to a customized ACT study plan, and sponsoring a series of posts about the experience. All opinions are mine and his. Get a sneak peak of TestRocker’s SAT & ACT programs by taking a free Diagnostic Test, previewing your study plan, and attempting some of the free questions (no credit card required).

One Response to “Rocking the ACT with TestRocker”

  1. […] battle over homework, and I was a bit worried about expanding the war to a new front when we were offered the chance for him to use TestRocker, an online study aid for college entrance […]

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