08. Test Preparation Resources

College Confidential

College Confidential is a blog/forum that focuses mainly on the application process. It is populated by US high school students, some college students and parents.

Some parts of the blog are not helpful to your application. Don’t read through 1,000 posts of admission decisions & discussions searching for that formula. In the same vein, avoid threads in which an anxious high school posts his/her stats (all the countries they’ve been a President of, the number of times they’ve cured aging, the 2-day community service trip that showed them the meaning of life, while still having an 8.4 GPA, etc.) and then asks people to state his/her chances of getting into a given school. Admissions Officers have been shown to prefer apples to mangoes, mangoes to oranges, and then oranges to apples.

On the other hand, use College Confidential to get SAT Prep Book recommendations. If you google something like ‘College Confidential best book for SAT Math Level 2’ you’ll get fairly good results because the users debate and list the merits of a given prep book. Posts like ‘How to Get a Perfect 1600 by a 2400 SAT scorer’ are super helpful, if you read them early enough. You’ll soon find out that there’s no magical way to ‘boost’ your score by 400 points in a week – you need to work!

American Corners

American Corners are resources provided for free by the US Embassy. There are 4 of them, and we’ll provide their addresses below. You can get free access to ACT and SAT Prep Books and some general information on US Colleges such as college brochures & magazines. We hope you’ll also run into fellow students applying to the US. For your best interests, please work together; don’t pretend that you’re not applying so as to ‘reduce competition’.

American Corner Physical Address P.O.Box Telephone Mobile Email
American Corner Nakuru Kenya National Library Services, Nakuru Branch. Behind Christ the King Cathedral off Moses Mudavadi Road 253, Nakuru +254-51-216-023, +254-20-215-8362 +254-720-261-120 nkuamspace@gmail.com
American Space Lamu Lamu Museum Information Center. Mwanaarafa House – Sea Front Road 48 – 80500, Lamu +254-42-463-3027 +254-722-480-145 lamucorner@gmail.com
Ali A Mazrui Memorial Library (Mombasa) MEWA Information Center. My-Tac Hall, next to Masjid Musa, Majengo 89427 – 80100, Mombasa +254-722-819-795, +254-725-833-597 mewainformationcentre@yahoo.com
American Space, Moi University (Nairobi) Moi University, Nairobi Campus. The Bazaar, Moi Avenue 63056 – 00200, Nairobi +254-20-221-1206 +254-721-302-481 moiunivspace@gmail.com

Online SAT & ACT Resources

Official Test Prep vs. Non-Official Test Prep

Official SAT/ACT material is prepared by the test makers (College Board/ ACT). Because of this, official tests are most likely to be similar to the actual test. However, some of these tests don’t have lots of Official PDFs floating around on the internet. To best benefit from the situation, we advise that for the three or so weeks leading up to the test date, use Official Practice Tests so that you’re more familiar with the actual test.

The Redesigned SAT

The SAT was redesigned in March 2016. Since we are compiling this guide in August 2016, many resources aren’t available yet. Google for more resources since by the time you’re reading this, the situation may have changed.

College Board partnered with Khan Academy to provide prep material for the Redesigned SAT. From your College Board account, you should find a link to Khan Academy’s free SAT prep material – of course, you must have sufficient data/ Wi-Fi. The advantage of linking your College Board account or having a Khan Academy account is that you can store your progress and get recommendations on which skills you need to work on. (Also, Khan Academy has cool stuff and we hope you’ll visit the website even after the SATs!)

Begin by going through the prep offered by Khan Academy. Do the practice problems that they offer. Don’t start on the Official Tests yet. Some of the prep material are in video format, so Wi-Fi/ a fast & quiet cybercafe will come in handy. If you have limited data bundles, you may skip the videos. You may also find a phone’s screen too inconvenient to study from for long periods, so if you can find a larger screen, the better.

There’s a free diagnostic SAT from Ivy Global. Ivy Global also has a compilation of Redesigned SAT Sample Problems, so use those as well. Browse CrackSAT for more review problems. Both Ivy Global and CrackSAT have Official Practice Tests, but save them for the home stretch!

Khan Academy has 6 Official SAT Practice Tests in downloadable PDFs. Before moving to the next practice test, ensure you’ve fully revised the one you just did such that you’d get 1500+ if you redid it! Remember, there are only 6 Official Tests so you better utilize them fully.

ACT Prep

As mentioned earlier, the ACT is an alternative to the Redesigned SAT. You can find lots of ACT Prep Material from CrackACT. Remember to start with the non-official material first, and then do the Official ACT Tests as you near the test date. Make sure you have enough time to do and review all the Official Tests.

SAT Subject Tests

Unlike the ACT and Redesigned SAT, there aren’t many Official Practice Test PDFs floating around. You’ll have to make do with unofficial test prep. As you guessed, CrackSAT has free practice questions and some prep books as well. Kindly note that some of the concepts covered on the SAT Subject Tests were not taught in high school. Furthermore, with the exception of Math IC and Math IIC, you’re not allowed to use a calculator on the SAT Subject Tests – so this is quite different from high school Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.

The general strategy is this: Review the content, then do LOTS of practice tests. Here is some advice from some gurus at College Confidential.

Note: While the gurus endorse a certain book, it doesn’t imply that the book was responsible for stellar scores. Their scores may also have had to do with their high school curriculum. As a KCPE candidate would say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Do practice tests from as many books as you can.

TOEFL-iBT

Since Kenyan high schools are taught in English, students don’t usually incur difficulties on the TOEFL. The format of the test presents the greatest challenge. After you register for the TOEFL, you’ll get access to test prep material from your TOEFL-iBT account. Take time to familiarize yourself with the test format, e.g. speaking in response to a prompt, while adhering to a time limit. Just like in the SATs, practice helps a great deal when taking the TOEFL.