Jun. 25—A quintet of Dalton Middle School students received an advanced peek at the positives and negatives of both the ACT and SAT through the Duke University Talent Identification Program.
Now rising ninth-graders, Eva Ashcraft, Hope Hambrock, Scott Miller, Lilli Sharp and Cencen Wan earned state and "grand" recognition for their performances on the tests as seventh-graders, but only learned of their achievements last year as eighth-graders.
Sharp opted for the ACT because it included a science portion, while the SAT is only math and literacy, she said. Science is both her favorite and best subject.
"In life, knowledge is the goal, and science is the way we (cultivate) knowledge to learn, grow and progress as a species," Sharp said. "It would be really cool to spend my life in that (field)."
"The ACT is a more varied test" than the SAT, and the science portion involves heavy reading and critical thinking, said Lauri Johnson, Dalton Middle School's principal. "There's a lot of inferring, and you have to find the best answer."
Miller, a Brookwood School alumnus, chose the SAT because science is not a strength, while math and literacy are among his advantages, he said. His advanced algebra course as a seventh-grader aided him on the SAT, too, as "a lot of that part of the test was easy for me, because I was learning it at that time."
Miller and Hambrock were surprised they performed as exceptionally on the SAT (scores of 1250 and 1280, respectively) as they did.
"I was proud of myself, because I didn't think I could do that well," Miller said. "I barely finished, and I was hurried."
In one reading section, "you have 60 minutes to answer 45 questions, and my reading pace is slower," he added. "I felt like I had to speed through it."
Hambrock also felt rushed, because she took too much time on some challenging questions midway through the exam, she said. "It's supposed to be for high school students," so she hadn't been exposed to some of the content.
On the math portion of the ACT, Sharp ran out of time, she said. "With 30 seconds left, I just filled in bubbles" to give herself some chance of being correct, rather than leaving them blank.
Miller believes taking the Preliminary SAT benefited him with the SAT.
"A lot of it is similar, and you get used to the time you have to answer questions," he said. "I knew the content and subjects, so it wasn't stressful."
Ashcraft "wanted to do the ACT because I wanted to do science," she said. "I like science, because you can immediately connect it to the real world, and it's interesting to see how everything connects."
But it was the science portion of the ACT that gave her the most trouble, as there was "lots I hadn't learned yet on that part," she said. "The writing, I did the best on, because it was pretty much common sense, and things I'd learned, so I could use what I already learned to (make educated) guesses."
"It was really fun to see what's on the test, what I'd learned, and what I could apply," she said. "When I got to something I'd learned, it was a good moment, and I was very happy."
Ashcraft and Sharp studied together, and they achieved the same composite score of 25 on the ACT, said the latter. They even planned to take the test together, but Sharp had to postpone her exam due to the flu.
"Eva, Hope and I are really close," since their kindergarten days at Brookwood School, and "it's more fun to study with (others)," Sharp said. "The ACT prep book is long and boring."
"I could ask (Sharp) about stuff, and we'd talk and get excited together," Ashcraft said. "It was really fun."
With math a strength for Wan and science decidedly not, she opted for the SAT, and "I did pretty good, better than I expected," she said. For math questions, "most I knew how to do, but some I had to think more about."
Wan, who began accelerated math courses when she was in elementary school in Ohio, has long had an affinity for the subject, she said. "I'm just good at math" — good enough for a 730 score on the SAT's math section, which, combined with her 690 on literacy, gave her a total of 1420.
"I looked at two or three practice tests online" before she took the SAT, "I did all of the questions on one of them, (and) I got a similar score," Wan said. "It was definitely a unique experience."
The SAT is "hard, but you get good experience, and it does help prepare you," Hambrock said. "It'll make a big impact on you and could help you get better grades."
Duke's Talent Identification Program is committed to helping students and their families evaluate, strengthen and grow the student's academic potential, and is geared toward students who scored exceptionally high on the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), Georgia Milestones or other standardized tests, according to Dalton Public Schools. Students are given the opportunity to take the ACT and/or the SAT to determine their strengths and weaknesses while also allowing them to tap into their academic abilities.
For state recognition, students had to score at or above the national average of recent high school graduates on at least one part of the ACT or SAT, according to Dalton Public Schools. Students had to score at or better than 90% of recent high school graduates on at least one part of the ACT or SAT for grand recognition.