Digital SAT Practice: Writing/Verb Choice Questions

1. The officer nodded, took the boy by the arm, and in a trice ___________ with him into the adjoining store.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. have disappeared
B. disappears
C. disappeared
D. disappear

2. ________ the white light burn on, Mr. Gryce, by a characteristic effort, shifted his attention to the walls, covered, as I have said, with tapestries and curios.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. Letting
B. Let
C. Had let
D. Have let

3. And sure enough, in another instant this strange being, losing all semblance to his former self, entered upon a series of pantomimic actions which to the two men who watched him seemed both to explain and illustrate the crime which _________________________ there.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. had just been enacted
B. have just been enacted
C. were just enacted
D. had just enacted

4. The butler’s lips opened and a string of strange gutturals poured forth, while with his one disengaged hand (for the other was held to his side by Styles) he _________ his ears and his lips, and violently shook his head.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. touches
B. was touching
C. touched
D. had touched

5. This absence of the usual means of eliciting knowledge from the surrounding people, adds to, rather than detracts from, the interest which Mr. Gryce  feels in the case, and a little before midnight the army of reporters, medical men, officials, and such others as had followed in the coroner’s wake, _______ out of the front door and leave him again, for a few hours at least, master of the situation.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. files
B. file
C. filing
D. filed

6. The hour was late, and only certain portions of the city showed any real activity. Into one of these thoroughfares they presently came, and before the darkened window of one of the lesser shops ________, while Jake pointed out the two stuffed frogs engaged with miniature swords in mortal combat at which he had been looking when the lady came up and spoke to him.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. paused,
B. pausing,
C. pause,
D. pauses,

7. The officer went out, and Mr. Gryce sat for a few moments communing with himself, during which he took out a little package from his pocket, and __________ out on his desk the five little spangles it contained, regarded them intently.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. emptied
B. empties
C. had emptied
D. emptying

8. Sweetwater, to whom the song of the sirens would have sounded less sweet, listened with delight and ______________ with a frank smile.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. respond
B. had responded
C. responds
D responded

9. This time he approached with considerable feebleness, passed slowly into the study, ­­­­­­­­­­­______________ to the table, and reached out his hands as if to lift something which he expected to find there.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. advances
B. advanced
C. have advanced
D. advance

10. But her ears, and attention, _______________toward two girls chatting on a bench near her as freely as if they were quite alone on the lawn.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. was turned
B. are turned
C. were turned
D. is turned

11. Was it that courage comes with despair? Or was he too absorbed in his own misery to note the shadow it cast about him? His brooding brow and vacant eye _______ of a mind withdrawn from present surroundings.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. speaks
B. speak
C. spoke
D. spoken

12. So I wrote to my brother, Felix Cadwalader, or, rather, Felix Adams, as he preferred to be called in later years for family reasons entirely disconnected with the matter of his sudden demise, and, ________ him I had become interested in a young girl of good family and some wealth, asked him to settle upon me a certain sum which would enable me to marry her with some feeling of self-respect.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. told
B. tells
C. telling
D. had told

13. Eva, to whom I had said little of this brother, certainly nothing which would lead her to anticipate ___________ either so handsome a man or one of such mental poise and imposing character, looked frightened and a trifle awe-struck.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. seeing
B. to see
C. having seen
D. saw

14. Your stay in Mr. Adams’s house was quite productive, ma’am. Did you prolong it after the departure of this old man?” “No, sir, I _____________my fill of the mysterious, and left immediately after him.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. had had
B. have had
C. was having
D. could have

15. Mr. Gryce, with something of the instinct and much of the deftness of a housewife, proceeded to pull up a couple of rugs from the parlor floor and ­­_________ them over these openings.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. strung
B. string
C. had strung
D. strings

16. Miss Butterworth drew a long breath, ________ Mr. Gryce with some curiosity, and then triumphantly exclaimed, “Can you read the meaning of all that? I think I can.”

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. eyes
B. had eyed
C. eying
D. eyed

17. Mr. Gryce, whose eye is travelling over the wall, reaches over her shoulder to one of the dozen pictures hanging at intervals from the bottom to the top of the staircase, and pulling it away from the wall, on which it hangs decidedly askew, _________ a round opening through which pours a ray of blue light which can only proceed from the vault of the adjoining study.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. revealed
B. revealing
C. reveals
D. has revealed

18. The study—that most remarkable of rooms—________ a secret which has not been imparted to you; a very peculiar one, madam, which was revealed to me in a rather startling manner.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?

A. did contain
B. contains
C. is containing
D. contain

19. Young Sweetwater, who was now all nerve, enthusiasm, and hope, ______________.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. bow
B. bowed
C. bowing
D. have bowed

20. The two gentlemen, on the contrary, with an air of total indifference to her proximity, continued their walk until they reached the end of the piazza, and then __________ and proceeded mechanically to retrace their steps.

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of standard English?
A. turned
B. turning
C. turn
D. turns

  1. C. In the sentence, the officer does three things. He nods, takes the boys arm, and disappears. In the sentence the first two actions are in the past tense “nodded, took”. In order to maintain parallel structure, the third verb should also be in the past tense. This makes option C the best answer. Options B and D are in the present, and option A is the plural present perfect, not the singular simple past.
  2. A. In English we can use the present participle or gerund (word ending in ing) to indicate that something is currently happening at the point in time being discussed. In this case, Mr. Gryce is letting the light burn while in the past he shifted attention to the walls. The other answers do not appropriately choose a tense that allows the reader to understand this.
  3. A. Answer options C and D are incorrect because they say that the crime enacted something instead of the crime being enacted itself. Option B is incorrect because it uses the plural “have” to describe the singular “crime”. Answer option A is therefore the best choice because it uses the singular “had” and correctly explains that it is the crime that was enacted.
  4. C. In this sentence, the butler is doing three things. His lips open, he touches his ears and lips, and he shakes his head. All three of these actions must be in the same tense. This makes option C correct as it matches “touched” to “opened” and “shook”.
  5. A. Be careful in identifying the subject of your verb in such lengthy sentences. Who is it who is filing out the front door? It isn’t Mr. Gryce. Nor is it the reporters, medical men, officials etc. (the subject of your verb will never be in a prepositional phrase).  Rather, the subject of the verb is “army”. Army is a singular noun, so you much choose the singular “files”. In addition, the passage is in present tense, making option D incorrect.
  6. A.  Since the passage is in the past tense and “paused” is in the past tense, answer A is the only correct answer.
  7. D. While the passage is in the past tense, at that point in the past, Mr. Gryce is presently “emptying” the package out onto his desk. One way to be clued into this is to put the answers into the context of the last part of the passage “regarded them intently.” Which only makes sense when answer D is selected. If answer A is selected the sentence is awkward.
  8. D. Sweetwater is doing two things—match your answer to “listened” and the correct answer “responded” becomes obvious.
  9. B. The man did four things: approached, passed, advanced, and reached. Only answer option B correctly matches “advanced” with the others.
  10. C. Since the subject “ears” is plural, options A and D are incorrect as they have singular verbs “was” and “is”. Since the sentence is in the past tense, the verb “were” is the most appropriate answer.
  11. C. This passage is in the simple past, so our verb must be “spoke”. Options A and B are in the present, and option D is the past participle which would go with a helping verb to create the past perfect instead of building the simple past.
  12. C. Even though this passage is in the past tense, this particular sentence is put into the past with the words “had become”. What the author is saying is that at a point in the past, the author of the letter was currently “telling” his brother that he (the writer) had become interested. The only answer that fits this complicated idea is answer option C.
  13. A. Since Eva is anticipating something, that something will be happening in the future. This means that we must use the gerund form—that is—the verb with “ing” at the end. This makes option A the best answer and the other options incorrect.
  14. A. In the past, the lady had already had her fill of the mysterious. She “had had” it. While this seems intuitively wrong, it is the correct way to express that in the past someone already had something. Option B would be used if the subject were plural instead of a singular person.
  15. B. Mr. Gryce does two things the first is to “pull” and the second, therefore must be to “string” so that the tenses of the verbs match.
  16. D. Miss Butterworth “drew”, “eyed”, and “exclaimed”. In order for her three actions to be in parallel structure (all in the simple past), we must pick option D.
  17. C. Since this passage is describing Mr. Gryce’s actions in the present tense, the best option is option C, the third person present singular. Options A and D are forms of the past tense and option B is the gerund form.
  18. B. The subject of this verb is singular: the study. This make option be the only correct answer since it is the third person singular conjugation of the verb “contain”.
  19. B. The subject of the verb is “Young Sweetwater”. When you put the subject directly in front of the answers it becomes clear that only option B is the right verb. Answers A and D are both plural while the subject is singular. Option C is the gerund form which is not appropriate in this context.
  20. A. Make sure that your answer is parallel in form to the second verb “proceeded”. In this case, that would mean choosing answer option A: turned.  The other options are not parallel.

All passages have been adapted from The Circular Study by Anna Katharine Green. Read more of this mystery novel on project Gutenberg:

PSAT, ACT, and SAT Planning for High School Juniors

High school juniors in the United States have a very interesting year of testing options ahead of them. There are a total of four major tests that students will have the opportunity to take: the Digital PSAT, the Paper SAT, the ACT, and the Digital SAT. Who should focus on which of these different types of tests?

Digital PSAT: Administered in the month of October through a student’s high school. Students who are trying to earn National Merit recognition should prepare for this exam. National Merit recognition generally applies to students who score in the 95th percentile or above, and National Merit Scholarships usually go to students who score above the 99th percentile. For students who do not think that a National Merit award is in reach, taking the Digital PSAT is still an excellent way to try the adaptive, digital format they will find on the Digital SAT. Scores for the Digital PSAT will be back in November, so students will have plenty of time to review their PSAT results to prepare for the Digital SAT in the spring.

Paper SAT: Administered in August, October, November, and December of 2023. After these administrations, the current paper SAT will be retired and replaced with a Digital SAT. For students who want to take advantage of the expansive body of existing practice tests and review books, taking the paper SAT before it goes away is a good idea. Results from the paper SAT will still be fully utilized by colleges, so students would have nothing to lose by giving the paper SAT a try before they no longer have the opportunity to do so.

ACT: Administered throughout 2023-2024. In general, students who are faster test takers like the ACT. This is a good test to take if you have taken through Algebra 2 and a bit of pre-calculus. The ACT covers more math material than the Digital SAT: logarithms, matrices, hyperbolas/ellipses, and combinations/permutations. It also has a broader array of grammar concepts than does the Digital SAT: wordiness, idioms, diction, and sentence placement. Fortunately, students who want to take the ACT can use many excellent books and practice tests to prepare for this well-established test.

Digital SAT: Administered in the United States beginning in March, 2024 and continuing thereafter. The Digital SAT will be offered on national test dates, and many schools will offer it during the school day given the relatively short amount of time that taking the Digital SAT requires. Students will have their Digital PSAT results back in November of 2023 so they can evaluate whether the Digital SAT is a good fit for them. There is a great deal of overlap in the content between the ACT and Digital SAT, so if students wish to switch from one test to the other, it should be fairly seamless.

Please contact us if we can advise you as to the best testing plan for this upcoming school year.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

With the prevalence of internet accessibility increasing across the board, one key skill in education is diminishing: the ability to figure it out. It may be true that students no longer need to memorize key facts because they can always look them up, but being able to puzzle through things is essential to many jobs. After all, what happens when something can’t be looked up? What kind of world would we have if we didn’t have people who were willing to figure out new things? This ability to figure things out starts very young. Remember the toy where the small child has to match the shape of the block to the shape of the hole? Somewhere along the line, though, many children and young adults begin to expect less work in figuring things out. They’re given fewer puzzles to solve and more things to memorize. They stop looking at learning as a puzzle solving and start simply asking for answers (from a teacher or Google) if they don’t know.

The result is that by the time students get to the ACT and SAT in high school they often have very weak concentration and critical thinking skills. They view math as a set of memorized steps, not a puzzle to be worked through. They view reading as something to do only to gain facts, not as something that requires critical thinking. This leads to poor results and to many students struggling to develop skills that have long lain dormant.  

One key part of ACT and SAT tutoring is strengthening these weak skills. Students will often become frustrated when they say “I don’t know how to do this problem” and instead of explaining the steps a tutor starts asking them questions. But this is how these skills are built. Instead of explaining and having students memorize every type of question that could be on the test (an impossibility), asking the students questions and assisting them in breaking the question down and solving the puzzle on their own will enable them to figure things out on test day when a tutor isn’t there to explain things. Nine times out of ten, when a student claims they don’t know how to do the problem, they actually already have all the math or reading skills they need to solve the problem, they just don’t realize what type of math they need to use or where to focus their reading. Developing critical thinking skills leads to much batter results. Besides tutoring, students can develop their critical thinking skills in several ways.

Here are some every day suggestions for strengthening this key skill.

  1. Hypothesize before looking things up:
    Let’s say you need to know the date for some key historical event for a school assignemnt. Before hopping on the internet or grabbing a text book, try to figure out at least a range of time that even could have happened in. Make a game of it to see how close to the correct answer you can get by using all the information you have already in your mind. For example, if I needed to know the date of the moon landing, I might go through a thought process like this: I know the moon landing was during the Cold War and the Cold War was after World War II but before the 90s, so it’s probably between the 50s and 90s. I remember back to a TV show I where the characters watched the moon landing. The TV was black and white and their clothes seemed bright. There were also a lot of hippies as characters. Maybe the moon landing was in the late 60s or the 70s. Only once I have thought through all of this and come up with a hypothesis do I look up the answer: the moon landing was in 1969.
  2. Do puzzles regularly:
    Sign up for a daily word or number puzzle. Maybe it’s a Sudoku. Maybe it’s a mini crossword puzzle. Make it something you can do most days, but that you can’t look up the answer to. Don’t let yourself give up quickly! If you need to, put it down for a few hours and then come back to it later. Work through feelings of frustration and focus on how much easier it gets over time! Try to be okay with not figuring it out if you puzzle on it for a good amount of time and can’t crack it.
  3. Ask specific questions:
    If you’re stumped on something at school or in anything you’re working on, focus on asking really specific questions. More specific questions force you to think about the problem a lot more before getting help and will avoid the helper just giving you the answer without making you think. Avoid saying things like “I don’t understand this thing” or “I don’t know how to do this” and try instead to say things like “what is the relationship between these two things- I don’t think I fully grasp that” or “If I’ve already done steps one and two, what should I consider to get to step four.” Once you’re comfortable with that try asking yourself those questions before asking other people.

Developing the skills needed to figure things out is difficult, but it’s well worth the effort and will pay off in many ways beyond just standardized tests. Keep working on those skills and let us know if you’d like any guidance along the way.

Michal Strawn

Visiting Boston University

Located in Boston Massachusetts, just a few subway stops from the historic North End, and across the river from MIT, Boston University is well positioned for an involved urban experience. Boston University is a large, private, teaching and research university. Admission to BU is highly sought after by students from all over the nation, and application is simple with the common app, so their admission rate hovers around 20%.


Boston University does its best to have a flexible approach to academics. Students who apply undecided into one of BU’s ten schools will have two years to declare a major. BU focuses on hands on learning, with 40% of their student body studying abroad at some point and many more students taking part in internships and completing research during their time at BU. BU has a program which they describe as “our take on the liberal arts” in which students can pick from over 1000 classes to build what the university sees as six life skills. Outside of those classes and classes for their major, students are free to fill their electives however they choose.

BU does a decent job of getting students to graduation with 80-85% of students completing their degree in four years. BU has a 10:1 student to faculty ration and their average class size is about 27 students.

Campus Life:

Like most city colleges, BU lacks the charm of the traditional green quad and wide open spaces. It is a fairly compact campus that often appears to be just part of the neighborhood around it. This would appeal to students who want to live in a major city and still be on a college campus. The campus has a mix of historic and modern buildings which makes for an interesting campus feel. Students are required to live on campus for only their freshman year and many take the opportunity to move into the surrounding neighborhoods with friends once their first year is over.  There is a decent amount of Greek Life on campus with 20% of students taking part in Fraternities and Sororities, but students say there are plenty of social opportunities outside of the Greek system.


Applying to BU is fairly simple because BU uses the common app. While there are later deadlines for regular admission, admissions counselors at BU stress that students should have their applications done by December 1st for merit scholarship consideration. BU is test optional for at least one more year, so if you feel that your test scores do not reflect you, you can apply without them. In addition, BU will superscore any tests that you do submit. The best piece of advice given by the admissions officers is this “be specific when answering the essay question ‘why BU’”. Take your time on that supplemental essay. Don’t give a generic answer, don’t apply just for the relative prestige BU can offer. Have a good and specific reason why you want to be at BU in the fall.

Let us know if we can help you with that essay or with any part of your college application process- good luck!

Michal Strawn

Why Do Unreasonable Expectations Seem Reasonable?

Grades in school are often not indicative of how a student will do on the ACT or SAT.

This is unfortunate but true. A lot of tutoring starts with something along the lines of “I just don’t understand! Her grades in school are so good. She has a 4.2 and is multiple advanced courses; we just don’t understand why her ACT isn’t at least a 28.” There are a few issues with this mindset. The biggest issue is that the ACT isn’t a test over what the student has learned in school: it’s a test of critical thinking.

School grades, for the most part, are a reflection of how well a student can memorize things and understand concepts. The ACT tests how students can apply those concepts in new situations. This is something that is rarely practiced in school. In addition, there are almost unlimited opportunities for grade improvement at school. Teachers offer test corrections, extra credit, and close to unlimited time to finish work. Teachers want students who show up and work hard to succeed and to have good grades. The pressure on teachers not to fail students is immense. This leads to grade inflation. For all these reasons, a good GPA often does not translate to good ACT scores even though it seems like, reasonably, it would.

Getting tutoring or working hard does not guarantee large improvements.

Because of the school system just described, students and parents alike are conditioned to believe that if a student simply works hard and seeks the appropriate help their scores will reach the level they would like. This is, unfortunately, not the case. Tutoring and hard work will help a student learn how to think through the questions on the test; critical thinking can indeed be improved. However, most students will eventually hit their natural limit. It would be cruel to put the expectation on any high school runner that they could turn into a 21st century Jesse Owens through just hard work in high school.

 In the same way that physical limitations will always exist for athletes, mental limitations exist for students. The ACT and SAT are both designed to find these natural limitations, whether they be high, low, or, like most, in the middle. The good news is that this will generally not prevent a student from continuing their education after high school. On the contrary, the United States has a very wide range of colleges, universities, and trade schools that cater to students at all levels, and using standardized tests to discover a student’s abilities and limitations allows students to attend a school where they can be successful!

Set reasonable expectations.

Because of points 1 and 2 students and parents alike need to set reasonable expectations. It is wonderful when expectations are surpassed, but there is nothing quite so heartbreaking as when a student improves through hard work and the result is disappointment on the side of the student and/or parent. To set reasonable expectations, let’s talk about percentiles on the ACT.

The ACT is designed on a curve. The 50th percentile is a score that tends to hovers between 19 and 20 nationally. This will not change. No matter how much students across the nation study, the test will be adjusted so that 50% of students fall below the 20 mark and 50% rise above it. When a student gets a 20 they are often disappointed, they think that is a terrible score. Parents, peers, and teachers often agree. None of them realize that this is actually just about the national average!

Now, let’s talk about goal scores. Those who start at 20 often set their hearts on 25, 28, or 30. In this situation, a 25 on the ACT would be in the 78th percentile or a 28 percentile point increase over a 20. A 28 would be in the 88th percentile or a 38 percentile point increase. A 30 would be in the 93rd percentile and a 43 percentile point increase. What this means is that a student would have to, between one test and the next, leap frog over 43% of his or her peers (most of whom are also studying) in order to move from a 20 to a 30. This would be not a leap of knowledge but of critical thinking. This is not a reasonable goal. Such goals put undue pressure on the student and in ninety-nine percent of cases lead to dashed hopes no matter how much hard work is done. A reasonable goal will depend on what score the student starts at and what their natural abilities are, and no matter what the score is, there will be colleges that are open to them. A good tutor will be able to help you set those reasonable goals, work toward achieving them, and reach your potential.

If you have questions or comments about the ACT or SAT, how to prepare for the tests, or what reasonable goals might look like please get in touch! Helping students reach their potential is our number one goal.

Statistics source:

Ohio Wesleyan University

Ohio Wesleyan University 12-14-2021 Next on our college tour of Ohio is Ohio Wesleyan University. Located in the heart of Delaware, OWU has small town charm and, with Columbus right down the road, big city accessibility. Ohio has a lot of small, seemingly generic liberal arts universities, but, if you pay attention, each one has a slightly different flavor that can make it stand out from the crowd and be a good fit for some students.

Ohio Wesleyan University has a few things that give it its unique flavor. Academically, the standout feature is the OWU Connection which encourages students to think big, go global, and get real. Through this program, which is available to all students, students can get research funded, study abroad, and locate internships in their desired areas of study. The OWU connection works to take learning out of the classroom and actively engage students, which leads to success. OWU is also known for their business/management major as well as their biology program.

Campus Life
Beyond academics, OWUs campus life has a strong Greek life presence and Greek or interest specific housing. Many smaller universities are not able to offer Greek houses or interest specific housing to students, making OWU stand out from the crowd. OWU also has a strong showing of student athletes.

Students who want to make OWU their home for four years do need to put in some work. While the acceptance rate is 68 percent, students are expected to submit letters of recommendation along with their transcript and essay. Students with at least a B average in high school have the best chance at admission. OWU offers early admission. OWU is test optional, but of those who submit test scores, fifty percent are between 23 and 29.

Early Action? Early Decision? Early Confusion?

Early decision and early action deadlines are creeping up on students right about now at the beginning of November. While some students may have decided to apply early some time ago, many of their friends may be left in a panic as they watch the deadlines go by thinking “what does this mean?”. “Should I apply early?” Many students experience FOMO (fear of missing out) as they realize a bit belatedly that many of their peers are wrapping up applications just as others are only getting started. What is early action? What is early decision? Who are they right for? Below are the basics that students need to know in order to make informed decisions about early applications.

Early Action:

Early action is a pretty good bet for most students. Applying early action means that students apply sooner (generally early fall of senior year) and then they get their decision early. Students can apply early action at as many of their colleges as have an early action program. Early action applications come with no commitment and are a good way to get the applications out of the way sooner so that students can focus on and enjoy senior year. Early action also allows for students to have more time to make their decision once they get acceptances and it takes the burden off students’ shoulders much sooner.

Early Decision:

Early decision applications are a much bigger deal than early action. Not many schools offer early decision; those that do tend to be highly selective institutions. Many students, therefore, may not even have the option of applying early decision. The key thing to remember is that early decision applications are legally binding. Students are required to attend the school and withdraw applications from all other schools if accepted into their early decision school. This means that students who apply early decision are committing to attending before they see what financial aid the school will offer them. Students should not apply early decision unless they are sure that the school is the right fit and they are committed to paying the full price for the school. At most schools, applying early decision does increase your chances of being admitted and, similar to early action, gets the work and the decision out of the way much sooner which is attractive to most students.

In Conclusion:

If you’re in your senior year and you haven’t yet submitted any applications, it’s okay! You still have time for those regular decision applications, so don’t rush to apply early if it means submitting subpar work. Generally, schools accept regular decision applications until the beginning of January, but make sure you check with your schools to find out their specific deadlines. Try to have your applications in as soon as you can; don’t wait until the last moment. The sooner you get accepted the sooner your school can put together your financial aid package. Most schools have a limited amount of aid to give out, so you don’t want to be last in line. If you need any help with your applications or essays reach out to us and let us assist!

Free Local Activities for Summer Break

I was recently in a library here in central Ohio working with a student. As the student completed some practice problems I was watching the other folks coming and going from the library and saw a dad with his daughter come in to check out some books. The girl was maybe in 7th or 8th grade and I was excited to see her in the library- more kids should be reading over summer break! However, then I saw what the dad was checking out: every test prep book in the building.

Now, I’m the first to admit that the summer is a great time to get ready for the ACT and SAT tests, but students (especially students that young) should also have time to be themselves, explore their interests, relax, and do things they wouldn’t have time for during the school year. They need to recharge their batteries! That doesn’t mean they can’t learn- but the learning doesn’t have to be as structured as multiple hours of test prep every day! Many parents enrich summers by paying for lots of camps and activities, but parents whose budgets don’t allow for that may find enrichment more difficult. Here is a list of summer activities in the Columbus area where are free (or mostly free) to enrich your students’ summers.


1.                 Park of Roses
2.                 Franklin Park conservatory (Free the first Sunday of each month)
3.                 Educational Programs through Columbus Metro Parks

Social Studies:

1.               Find as many historical markers as possible
2.               Visit the Shrum mound
3.               Visit historical cemeteries
4.               Tour the Ohio Statehouse/ Ohio Supreme court (you may have to pay for parking)
5.               Attend Cultural Events (Asian Festival, Greek festival etc)


1.               Columbus Museum of Art (free on Sundays)
2.               Grandview Art Hop
3.               High Street Art Hop
4.               Tour the Thurber House (free on weekdays)
5.               Shakespeare in the Park (at Schiller park)


1.              Check out programs at local libraries and community centers
2.              Ask an adult friend if you can shadow them for a day

Outside Columbus day trips:

1.               Great Seal state park (find the great seal)
2.               Hocking Hills nature hike
3.               Air Force Museum (Dayton)
4.               Great Serpent Mound (you pay for parking)

What free activities are you doing with your kids this summer? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list!



Summer Slide

As the school year winds down, students look forward to several months of sleeping in, few responsibilities, and plenty of fun. However, from an academic standpoint, the summer is the most dangerous part of the year. It is widely known that summer slide impacts many students; they end up returning to school in the fall having lost valuable information and skills over the summer.  Much of the beginning of the school year is often spent simply getting students back to where they were a few months prior. The key to avoiding summer slide is to keep students thinking over the summer. While a full course schedule isn’t necessary (and would probably result in a student rebellion), doing a little something each day to engage the mind can be very helpful. Students can engage their mind in any number of ways.

1. Summer reading

Summer reading gets a bad reputation from the lists of (often boring) books that teachers hand out to combat summer slide. However, any reading whatsoever is helpful. Go to the library- have the student ask the librarian for help finding books that the student will enjoy! Students are much more likely to read if it is a story or topic that they find interesting.

  1. Prep for tests

Students often don’t have the time during the school year to prep for standardized tests. If you have a high schooler, encourage them to spend just an hour or two each week working through a prep book or meeting with a tutor. The structure of having a meeting each week can help a lot as far as keeping students on track.

  1. Summer camps

If your student has an interest in a particular topic, explore the summer opportunities around that subject. Is there a camp being offered? Job opportunity? Shadowing day? Summer is a great time to work with students to help them better understand what career they want to pursue- don’t waste that time!

  1. Travel, museums, and other educational opportunities

If you can, use the summer to help students expand their horizons by doing the things you don’t have time for during the busy school year. Take a vacation to a historic city, have them learn about nature through a camping trip, or go to that museum just down the street. All of this will help keep their minds engaged!


Finally, keep in mind that your kids are kids! They had a long year at school. The older they are the more extra curriculars, jobs, and commitments they had.  The school year is often go-go-go. Don’t forget to give your students unstructured time to be kids over the summer. Let them relax, have fun, and enjoy their time off.

Taking the Online Version of the ACT—Pros and Cons

For the past few years, the state of Ohio has paid for all juniors to take one standardized test for free in the spring. Generally, schools in Ohio (with a few exceptions) have chosen the ACT as it is the student-preferred test in Ohio.  Over the past few years, an increasing number of schools have been offering this test only through an online portal.  With this trend increasing every year, it is a good idea to understand the pros and cons for online tests.


The first advantage to the online test is that there is a timer on the screen. Since time management is such an issue for many students who take the ACT this is very nice.  However, timing is manageable by any student with a watch, so this is not a huge advantage. Similarly, there is a built-in calculator if a student doesn’t have one of his or her own. However, if the student is unfamiliar with the layout of this calculator, it can be as much a hindrance as a help.

A second advantage can be that many students might prefer working through a test on a screen if that is the format with which they are most familiar from school. Many schools now use tablets instead of paper versions of textbooks. For students who go to a school like this, an online version of the ACT may be more familiar.

The third and biggest pro for the online test is the speed with which test results come back. With online grading, it is just a matter of a few days before students can access their results. However, even with paper tests, ten to fifteen days is the most the majority of the students wait. I don’t think that is a big enough difference to justify switching to online tests.



The cons are far more numerous. The biggest con that I see is the inability to write on the test. Many of the strategies that students find the most helpful involve interacting with the test instead of just looking at it. On the science and reading especially, circling, underlining, and writing on the test are enormously helpful. When schools decide to do online tests, they are taking away this resource from the students. When students are exhausted from this test, being able to write on the test so that they don’t have to remember everything can give their brains a bit of a break! While the online test does have some resources to cross out answers and highlight text, this is not going to be as quick or as natural as a paper test and does have limitations. In addition, students can expect a learning curve on the first part of the test until they are comfortable with the tools in the online portal. The best way to address this is to become familiar with the online portal prior to the test. We’ve included a link below that contains more information form the ACT.

Another big strategy that helps students maximize their scores is being able to do the easy questions first or skip questions and go back to them later. While the ACT online does all it can to make this easy, it still is tougher than with a paper test, which means that many students won’t focus on getting all the easy points first. Instead, they’ll do the questions in the order they are presented, often resulting in wasted time. Students may need to be reminded that the best strategy is to skip to the easy questions to start out with. They should practice doing this so that it feels more natural on the test.

The screen itself can also cause issues. Many students associate screens with entertainment. When students study with screens in front of them they are often flipping between what they should be doing and Instagram, Youtube, Reddit, music, and other distractions. While this certainly won’t be possible on the ACT, students have come to associate screens with distractions. Because of this, many students have concentration issues when they are looking at screens.

In addition, technical issues may be an issue for select students. Paper and pencil are fairly impervious to technical issues. In a school where every student is issued a computer, there is going to be a good handful of students who may not have their computer fully charged on test day. There can also be issues with internet connection, power supply, software etc. While some of these issues can be easily resolved, others can’t. Keep in mind that an easily solved issue is still going to cause stress for the student—something that should be avoided at all costs. Students who are bringing their own computer to the  test should do all they can the day before to make sure it is in good working order- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Another issue with screens is that many school issued computers are chrome books or other similar computers that have tiny screens. This can lead to issues with being able to see all the information at once (on the reading and science) and just overall makes it more difficult to interact with the test. If possible, request to take the test on a laptop brought from home or in a computer lab. The worst that can happen is that they say no!

Finally, as any optometrist will tell you, staring at a screen for three and half hours can cause physical issues. While students may say that “they’re used to it,” they probably don’t often stare at screen for that long. Even if they don’t realize it, they likely look up and around quite often to rest their eyes. On the ACT, all these mini-breaks can really add up to time lost.

In short, if your school is considering an online test you should, if possible, request a paper test. If you absolutely can’t get a paper test, prepare for the difficulties of online testing by using this resource given by the ACT


This will allow you, at the very least, to become comfortable with the program prior to test day!

Best of luck!

Michal Strawn