capsule review

Kaplan's Higher Score for the SAT/ACT, Deluxe Edition 2002

High school puts us through many tests: finding a prom date, landing a part-time job, making the JV soccer team, getting a driver's license. But some of the most important tests taken in high school are the gateway to college: the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. Kaplan's Higher Score package offers solid preparation materials for all three tests, steeping students in standardized test-taking strategies to help them increase their overall test scores.

Crunch Time

Designed for any student's hectic schedule, Kaplan's Higher Score for the SAT/ACT, Deluxe Edition 2002 provides a wealth of test-preparation materials, including 2,700 questions, five full-length SAT tests, and two full-length ACT tests on CD-ROM, as well as four paper tests. Fortunately, the program is easy to navigate and conveniently organized onto five CDs: Higher Score SAT & PSAT, Higher Score ACT, Succeed in School, Paying for School, and Newsweek Guide to Colleges. With the last three CDs, the package goes beyond just preparing you for standardized tests by bundling convenient resources that could help any college applicant save time. These resources include general study tips, a comprehensive college directory, and a financial aid and scholarship database.

The On-screen Advantage

Preparation comes in a variety of forms, so your study routine doesn't become redundant. Kaplan's Higher Score is packed with everything from standard flash cards and refreshers to entertaining multimedia lessons, all of which are less daunting -- and less tedious -- than a thick practice textbook. Print-ready flashcards are comprehensive and cover all SAT/PSAT subjects from fractions to word families.

What further sets this program apart from a practice textbook alone is its use of original teaching techniques. For example, to teach vocabulary words with origins in foreign languages, an animated Napoleon figure appears on screen and speaks, making the meaning of the word puissant unforgettable. The program teaches vocabulary by using words in context so you can easily grasp their meaning -- a much more effective approach than combing through vocabulary lists. In addition, many of the examples are humorous, while others contain mnemonic hints that save you from time-consuming rote memorization. Higher Score also teaches you how to decipher the meaning of many words through roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

Practice Makes Potential Perfection

You can take practice tests for the SAT or ACT by either doing all of the work on screen or reading the questions from a paper test booklet and choosing answers on screen. Practice tests are timed so that you can rehearse how to budget time for each section. A voice-over announces exactly what the proctor of the test will announce before each section, such as how much time is allotted for the section, and when to begin. Afterward, you'll receive test scores that diagnose your strengths and weaknesses by section, and you can either keep guessing or go back to work on the appropriate lesson.

The paper tests are a valuable supplement to the CDs, as they look similar to the actual tests and include the same amount of space you'll be given to perform calculations. The only thing missing from the program is a box of No. 2 pencils.

The Search Is On

Once you've taken the SAT and ACT, you'll still need to research colleges and outline your tuition-payment strategy. However, instead of heading to the local library or bookstore, you can quickly consult the bundled Newsweek Guide to Colleges CD-ROM, which contains essential information including student body statistics, campus maps and photos, and video clips of guidance counselors explaining the financial aid process. The program also provides admissions calendars and links to online applications, as well as official test dates for all three tests, to keep you from losing track of any deadlines. Moreover, the Paying for School CD allows you to compare financial aid packages at different schools and fills you in on the various forms of financial aid.

Macworld's Buying Advice

For a $40 investment, Kaplan's Higher Score for the SAT/ACT, Deluxe Edition 2002 delivers ample test preparation. It's also far less expensive than Kaplan's online and classroom courses, delivering some of the perks of interactive learning while accommodating a busy schedule. If you master all the material and still want to go further, the package includes a coupon for $100 off the Kaplan classroom course or $50 off the online course.

Aim High, Work Fast: Kaplan's Higher Score provides timed practice tests for both the SAT and the ACT.
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