Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Princeton Review: Inside the SAT & ACT 2002 Deluxe

The Princeton Review: Inside the SAT & ACT 2002 Deluxe

Fall 2001 Software
Ages: 13 - 18 yrs.
Price: $29.99
Platform: Windows, Mac
You know the proverb about teaching a beggar how to fish instead giving him a fish? This exceptional diagnostic program's approach is akin to teaching students facing the pre-college trauma of standardized testing how to fish. Which is to say, teaching students how best to take the SATs and ACTs.

On both the SAT and ACT discs of this two-disc package, students enter into an animated high school hallway whose six doors lead into the program's six main categories. The introduction pops up as live video-clip hosts -- all young, hip, upbeat and humorous-- who provide lively, step-by-step guidance to using the program. The several hosts stay on hand with insights, advice and explanations throughout all of the program's segments.

A good place to start is in the General Strategy room where students get acquainted with The Princeton Review's smart, adversarial approach to taking the SATs and ACTs. The attitude: This is all about "the game of standardized testing." What do these tests really measure? Not how much you know. Not how smart you are. But how well you take the test. So this program doesn't teach students how to study or review for these tests; rather, it teaches how to improve scores by taking advantage of knowing how the tests are designed "by the evil test writers." From a clever analysis of how the test writers organize their easiest and hardest questions, to rules on whether to guess in multiple choice questions, to descriptions of the trick questions test writers include to trap students, this program builds confidence about what's going on in these tests -- and why.

Other rooms include the Test room, which provides four full-length practice SAT tests (four more on the ACT disc) that the program automatically scores and analyzes. The score analysis is a comprehensive report that provides personalized feedback on strengths and weaknesses, and shows where in the program the student needs to concentrate his preparation. Students determine their score goals, and the program automatically helps them work toward them. And they can chart their progress as they practice and drill in the Verbal and Math rooms, where the kinds of questions covered in SAT tests are thoroughly examined.

In the College Counselor room, students can access updated profiles of more than 1,400 colleges and universities, connect to Internet searches for more than 4,000 scholarships, federal loans, and college application forms, and even search colleges based on personal criteria. Also: The College Admissions Roadmap section handholds students through the steps and key dates of applying to colleges. The ACT disc (which oddly loads on-screen as the Princeton Review's ACT '99 version) is set up in similar fashion -- except it is customized for the ACT's differences. Also included in the discs are reviews for the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship tests.

Don Oldenburg   ©2001 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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