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West Central High School Test Week

Almost all students dread taking tests. Only the ambitious few look forward to page after page of math, English, science, and interpretation questions.

And then there's the anxiety over the results and the wondering if they've done well enough. And, of course, the grade.

Testing is going to be a big part of life at West Central High School next week as the students encounter the annual Illinois achievement examinations.

Known as the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE for short, this state-wide required test seeks to determine the levels of achievement of 11th grade students across the entire state of Illinois. The test is administered over two days - Day 1 is the ACT, and Day 2 is the Work Keys which is more vocationally oriented.

Taken together, the two days of tests give schools a good indication of the level of achievement of the students ... and the performance of the school in terms of helping students to achieve state learning standards.

Test results, however, benefit the students as well. Many colleges use the ACT scores from Day 1 as part of their admission process, and an increasing number of businesses are asking for student performance on the Work Keys part of the test as part of the hiring process.

So, as important as the student scores are to the school as a tool to measure school performance, the students themselves can gain a great deal through adequate performance on the tests.

A few test-taking strategies have proven to be useful over the years, and these are some tactics wise students use to improve their scores. Smart test-taking never hurts.

  1. Make sure you have answered only ONE choice for each question. There is no such thing as two answers being correct on these state tests.
  2. Be certain that you are putting the answers in the right place on the answer sheet. After a while all those bubble dots start to look alike.
  3. If you are nearing the end of the allowed test time, spend the last minute or so filling in one answer for each question. Do not leave any
  4. question without something filled in as an answer choice. You do this because these tests have no penalty for guessing.
  5. If you have time, eliminate one or two of the answer choices - then guess. Your odds are much higher if you know that one of two answers is correct rather than if you know that one of four answers is correct.
  6. Practice makes perfect. There are printed and on-line practice tests for the ACT, and studies show that your score WILL be higher if you have practiced on those tests. Just simply familiarizing yourself with the format of the test and the types of questions can make a measurable improvement in your score.
  7. Remember that you can take the ACT test more than once if you are trying for a college scholarship, for example. Often, a student's score will improve a couple points on the second try, and an additional point or two on the third try. This is not always true, but it does seem to hold true in enough cases to make the effort worthwhile. One or two points can make the difference between winning that scholarship and/or getting that job.

At West Central, the Juniors are not the only class undergoing testing next week.

The 9th grade students will be taking a test called the EXPLORE test, and the 10th grade students will be taking the PLAN test. Both tests are similar to the junior-level tests given over two days.

Each of these tests is completed in one day; both give the students and the school a picture of progress toward meeting State of Illinois learning standards.

West Central High School has a mission of "providing opportunity and expecting excellence." The school testing program gives teachers and administrators a better picture of what students have learned and the issues that the school has yet to address in order to achieve the goal of excellence.