Showing posts with label Testing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Testing. Show all posts

Monday, February 7, 2011

TOS Crew Review: VocabAhead 1000 SAT Vocabulary Videos and MP3s DVD (for computer use)


If you have a Junior or Senior High student who intends to take the SAT or ACT, brushing up on their vocabulary is a necessity.  One way to help melt the words into their memory cells, is to provide a visual along with the definition.  VocabAhead has created a program that offers 1000 of the SAT words with accompanying videos, to do just that.  The student clicks the word, then views the video whilst listening to the narrator, as they give several examples [too many in my opinion-sometimes the examples went on and on, to almost over explained it] of the definition (in sentence form).  The site also offers a Study Room, where the student can create their own word list, review the videos and share them as well.  Teachers have the option of posting the VocabAhead widget with word lists for their students (I guess as a homeschooling mom, this may not be so necessary) and the program is MP3 ready, so one could download the info into their player and take it where ever they go.

All in all, this is a good concept.  The narrators are clear speaking and the cartoons/drawings are OK.  If you have a child that thrives on visual and auditory methods for learning; the set up is conducive to this.  By simply uploading the VocabAhead SAT videos CD into one's computer, or a DVD compatible player [see requirements below], the material is ready to click on to listen to. With 1000 of the typical SAT words, the student can go through the list at their own pace, to glean the meanings-and hopefully be able to recall them (especially on test day) with ease.


Additional thoughts:

Even though this would appear to be a useful product, I discovered some things in it that simply bothered me-making it a not-so-good choice for our family. I found that on several occasions, the lines of parental respect were blurred to what can be construed as negative statements in regard to the role of the parent, and the parent"s religion vs the teen's. In one example, they chose to use the debate over abortion as the focus-which in my opinion has no business being a part of study tool on vocabulary, especially when there are many other subjects could have been used instead. I am thinking because the design crew figured they would be addressing preteens/teens, that this would be the way to go.  But being that we do not agree with that line of thought, I need to discuss this for a moment.  Of all the examples one could use to describe these words, I am flabbergasted as to why they would need to toss in some "digs" toward the parents/adults in general.  Here is an example:

The mother's bias toward her step-son caused her to totally neglect him and favor her other child; as a result of this bias, the step-son was weak and malnourished.


No, that would be child abuse and Social Services would need to be contacted. This is just a lack of good judgement on the creators' parts.  How is this a good example of the word?  Here is another snippet for you, on the word abase:

In a similar way, parents who abase their children will wind up with kids who don't think very highly of themselves.


Are you kidding me?  Why on earth does that need to be a part of this?  Regardless if they even considered the negative overtone of these statements, or to the necessity of it-which I suspect they did not; it is a big part of the reason [the cost of the DVD seems a bit high to me] that I cannot recommend this.  There are plenty of other sources out there that retain their integrity by using examples that edify, and explain vocabulary without the derogatory comments.  And even though many of the words in the list do not fall under this category, I am compelled to state that I am not impressed. I guess my own BIAS against something which promotes such things is prevailing here.  You can watch several of the videos on their site; and I strongly urge you to see what my other TOS mates had to say regarding this product, before you decide if it is acceptable for your family.



(for us really a 1/2 a raft)


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Visit the VocabAhead 1000 SAT info page to gain more insight regarding the material included on the CD.



VocabAhead homepage
Product available through Amazon for $24.99
jr.high/high school level
You can sign up to receive the "Word of the Day" through email; and they offer iPad/Phone apps, as well.

System Requirements (according the company):
Windows, XP, Vista or Windows 7. MAC: Intel based system. MAX, OSX, iTunes 8 or later.
512MB RAM, Sound Card, up to 4.7GB free disk space, compatible DVD-ROM player. Compatible MP3 player required for portable use.


Be sure to see what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, by visiting our TOS Crew Review homepage.

**VocabAhead provided me with a free VocabAhead One Thousand SAT Vocabulary Videos and MP3 CD to use and enjoy with my family, so that I could write this review. I did not receive any further compensation (product wise or financially) for my honest opinion of this product.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TOS Crew Review: US Gov and Politics AP Exam Prep DVD by Cerebellum/Standard Deviants

Give me a "C", an "O", a double "L" , "E", "G" and another "E"!  What does that spell?  Yes, well outside of a quick way to empty the savings account, and make even the most hearty parent faint dead away-it spells a whole 'nother season of life for those of us who have precious fledglings about to fly the coop.  



Being the astute and ever-ready homeschooling parent that you are~you are probably already thinking of ways to provide opportunities to not only save on the eye-popping bill; but to prep your academically driven student for the multitude of tests they will have available to them in high school. One type that a lot of homeschoolers forget about and/or are unfamiliar with (as most have heard of the ACT/SAT tests) is the Advanced Placement courses/tests.  I had an inkling of them when my two oldest were in high school, but never truly investigated them.  We were not able to afford the enormous costs of a university for our kids' first college experience [we simply didn't qualify for any real scholarship money or any other assistant programs], so we decided to go the community college path [which has been a wonderful experience for all involved]-so there really wasn't much of a need to pursue the AP tests.  That said though,  I was rather excited to see what these Light Speed AP test prep DVDs had to offer, especially since I still have two students in my home-one being a high schooler at the perfect age for this very thing.

We received the US Gov and Politics DVD to review.  I highlighted the website's ditty on the product, then listed my thoughts about it for you.  I also listed some links, so you can do your own research regarding the AP test requirements.



U.S. Gov & Politics AP* Exam Prep program takes a look at factors that influenced the adoption of the Constitution, the institutions of National Government, and much more! Topics are taught in a lively and accessible style combining colorful graphics with fun and entertaining programming.

Light Speed Advanced Placement videos reviews the 30 most tested topics, provides tips and strategies on passing the test, and gives insightful advance on writing the short-response answers. This is the first program of its kind, so go paperless and use this test-prep video to pass the exam! Digital Workbook included with handouts, quizzes, and activities to reinforce the topic before and after the video. 



When they advertise Light Speed on the label, they mean lightening speed. These tutorials fly by like a swarm of bees on a mission.  The facts are presented in a manner that requires the student to be fully attentive, in order to truly benefit from them.  The actors are age appropriate, clear speaking and animated in a way to engage the viewer.  The "pop-up points" highlight the topics being discussed, in an easy to understand manner.  With the addition of the student materials, we were able to glean the gist of what they were covering, and could easily see that this is a valuable asset to getting the most out of the lightening round prep session. This series is by no means a complete study of the subject, but rather a great introduction to the material to be covered,  and/or a great way to wrap up the study-so that the student can take a stroll down memory lane, in order to have better recall, and [the main goal here] get higher test scores later on.  

If your child is inclined to take the AP tests, then these DVDs are perfect for pulling the material all together to offer an excellent review for them.  My teen has not yet decided whether she wants to take any AP courses/tests, but if she does-I know where I will go [Cerebellum/Standard Deviants] to get the materials to pull it all together for her.  Since we received the Government DVD, I plan on intertwining that into our regular study for her next spring.  It offers plenty of material to ponder and will fit nicely into my curriculum.  I will just have to remember to swig down about a case of Red Bull before watching it, so that my elderly brain cells can follow along again...as this Light Speed version is definitely suited for the spring chickens roosting about our hen house.  

So where does one go to find these courses anyhoo?  Well the College Board's AP info page has plenty of insight to get you started.  I have linked the course description for US Gov't and Politics (since that is the one I have the DVD for-but search for the other courses too) for you to look over as well .  I don't see why one couldn't put together the course themselves, (if so inclined) then go ahead and take the test (of course after watching/studying the Cerebellum Light Speed DVD about it).  You can also ask your local school, and/or search for on line classes to find the prep classes you need, but remember though-only those courses that are OK'd by the College Board can be listed as an actual AP course on your child's transcript.  The tests are administered in May, and I believe the student will need to have spoken with the AP Services by March.  So unfortunately, for those who are thinking of taking it this spring-you'll have to wait til next year, but for those who are already registered-and are without this valuable series, you may still have time to purchase and study it prior to the test date.









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AP Light Speed DVDs (English, History, Chemistry, Gov't) each:  $14.98 -on sale for $11.24
Use this code (OSH20)  to get 20% off any Cerebellum product, until the end of the year.

Don't forget to see what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Cerebellum Corporation provided me with a free Light Speed U.S. Gov and Politics, AP Exam Prep DVD to test and use with my family.  I did not receive any financial compensation in exchange for my honest opinion of this product.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TOS Crew Review: ACT Explore and Plan Academic Assessment Tests

Wouldn't it be swell if our high school-aged kids would get all pumped up and excited over that special test they are encouraged to take in their junior year?

"Give me an 'A', give me a 'C', give me a 'T'!"
"What does that spell?"
"ACT!"
"Yeah, rah, rah!"

Oh, but for most (and I am including the parents here too) it isn't a cheer fest. No, it is more like a death sentence, or the overblown "don't mess it up or you'll never get into college" threat. I haven't quite figured out why that is, but the "fear of it" seems to be passed down from generation to generation. Having gone through the motions with two of my four already-I can honestly say, it really isn't all that bad. But, and you know that was coming-it is really stupid (and I am not trying to be offensive here-just real honest) not to prepare the student in advance. I personally am not all that in "love" with testing-actually, for the most part am not in favor of them. So why would I encourage a person to take the ACT test then? Well, how about the fact a lot of colleges will let the student skip out on the basic level courses (usually math and language ones) with decent scores in those areas-which saves the student time and money. The ACT will open many, many doors for scholarships, and admittance into universities that seek out students who score well. And at the very least, it provides the parent and student with a pretty good idea of how well they understand the tested concepts (obviously-not all of their knowledge, but a good barometer) even if they do not pursue college in the future.

So where does one go for study and pre-test material? The source of course, as the ACT Advantage site is specifically designed to meet the needs of homeschool students and families. They offer two different assessment tests: Explore-for the 8th-9th grader,  and the Plan -designed for the 10th grade student, but you could have a precocious ninth grader take this too. Along with those, they have the  ACT Discover  program (which I have already penned a review about) and several other products like the Real ACT Prep Guide book, which we own and have successfully used for years.



Since my daughter is in 10th grade, we focused on the Plan test .  I had her take it without studying, so that I could see what we need to focus on, with our ACT prep courses she will start in January. I found that it showed me a few things I was already aware of, and a couple others we now know we need to address-such as finishing the questions in the allotted time frame.  It also gave her a good idea of what to expect, which took away a lot of those unrealistic "fears".

The test in of itself, is not overwhelming because it is a sampler.  It covers reading, English, math and science concepts similar to what the actual ACT test will contain.  The Plan Assessment Package  includes the booklet with the questions/answers and guide for figuring out the scores, a brochure to help you understand the results, and a very handy College Readiness Standards handbook. I am finding the handbook to be the most helpful because I can see where she is,  what she needs to work on next, and if she is ready for college level work.


For the younger student, there is the Explore Assessment package. This covers the same subjects as the Plan assessment, along with the brochure on how to understand the results, and the Standard Readiness Standards handbook, as well. The Explore test will give you, and the student, a good idea of what they need to work on, in order to prepare for the ACT test in high school. It can also be used as an indicator of where your student is, compared to other children their age. 
All in all, these are a nice way to figure out where your student is, and how you can adjust their courses to address the subjects they need to work on.  The price of them is not out of the range of normal for such products, but if you are on a tight budget-I would recommend The Real ACT Prep Guide book over them both.  You get a lot for your money, as it supplies many more tests and practice on the four subject topics,  while providing strategies and prep for the actual test day.  Which ever way you choose to go, it will be money well spent. 



  




actually it requires very little of your effort-you will need to monitor the test period (time) and score the results

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ACT Advantage Homepage

Plan and Explore Sample Tests:  $22.95 each
The Real ACT Prep Guide book:  $25.00

Be sure to visit our TOS Review Crew Homepage to see what my crew mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschool products.

***ACT Advantage supplied me with one free package each of the Plan and Explore tests, in order to use with my family, so I could write this review.  I personally purchased the Real ACT Prep Guide book several years back, for my family.