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Under pressure
Hall County schools do their part to prepare students for the all-important SAT and ACT
Flowery Branch High School instructor Melissa Stewart leads a class Thursday in a discussion of the Emily Brontë novel "Wuthering Heights." The SAT prep classes the school offers focus on teaching students to analyze information and think critically. The school is hosting an SAT/ACT boot camp Saturday to help students get ready for the big test.


Alex Perez, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, describes how she prepared for the SAT and how it gave her a boost.

For many high school students, performing well on the SAT is the golden key that opens the door to college and a successful future.

While most area high schools offer free SAT preparation classes to students during the school day, Flowery Branch High School on Saturday is kicking students' study plans into high gear. The high school is offering its students a free three-hour boot camp that will rotate participants through classes focusing on specific elements of the SAT and ACT. Johnson and West Hall high school students are also eligible to participate.

Stefanie Gibbs, a graduation coach for Flowery Branch High School, said the upcoming boot camp is the second college entrance exam prep class the school has offered to students on the weekends.

Gibbs said 46 students participated in the first camp, which focused on the ACT and was held Sept. 6. More expressed an interest in taking an SAT-based boot camp, she said. So, Saturday's boot camp will concentrate mostly on preparing students for the SAT being administered Oct. 4.

The boot camps come on the heels of headlines proclaiming Georgia's SAT scores ranking No. 47 in the country.

"We're hoping that some of the north end schools will pick up on it so we'll have everyone on board," Gibbs said.

And starting next Wednesday, Gibbs said Flowery Branch High School will offer a weekly 30-minute SAT prep class before school at 7:30 a.m.

Alex Perez, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, said teachers constantly remind students of SAT sign-up deadlines throughout their junior and senior years. Gibbs said students prepare for the tests beginning their first day of high school. All grade levels participate in a schoolwide SAT question of the day and learn an SAT vocabulary word of the day. Wednesday's word of the day was bevy, as in a bevy of birds.

"Everybody was walking around saying bevy all day," Gibbs said.

Perez said taking the test is a sort of rite of passage some students stress over, while others dismiss. As for the honors student, she said she falls somewhere in between.

"It is a little bit stressful, especially if you want to get into the college you want to go to," she said.

With dreams of attending universities in New
York, Miami or California, Perez said she's taken the SAT prep class at Flowery Branch High and has studied practice tests at home to prepare for the second and final time she takes the SAT this spring.

Perez said the in-school SAT prep class helped her to gauge which questions on the SAT she should answer, since answering questions incorrectly counts against a student's score while leaving them blank does not.

She also said the class incorporates activities such as reading and summarizing newspaper articles to prepare the students for the writing portion of the test. The separate writing portion was added to the reading and math portions, which brings a perfect score on the test to a total of 2400 rather than the traditional 1600.

Perez said the class focused on interpreting current events through opinioned essays, increasing vocabulary and refining math skills.

"Some stuff I was like, aw, this is dumb," Perez said of the class. "But it kind of helped. It helped in the writing portion, at least to get the flow of thought going ... With the current events, how are you going to write an informed essay if you don't know what's going on in the world?"

Gibbs said although the SAT is the traditional college entrance test in the eastern U.S., she also encourages students to try their hand at the ACT. Generally, Gibbs said students more deft with literary skills perform higher on the SAT, while students whose strengths lie in science and math perform higher on the ACT. Most colleges accept either test, she said.

The deadline to sign up for Saturday's SAT/ACT boot camp at Flower Branch High is Friday.


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