Program helps students prepare for ACT test

Tony Parra

High school students with schedules that include basketball practice, band and cheerleading are trying to make time to prepare for the American College Test, which can make or break a student’s acceptance into a quality university.
“Time is one of the biggest problems in conducting tests and preparing for the ACT,” Thomas Tafoya of the Eastern New Mexico Educational Talent Search said. “Teachers have a lot of responsibilities with so many lessons that they have to give and with the No Child Left Behind Act there is a lot of pressure on them. Sometimes they don’t want any outside interruptions.”
That’s where the ENMU Educational Talent Search Program becomes a factor. The federally funded program conducts ACT practice tests and informative presentations to local schools.
This is the first year ENMU officials have been offering practice tests for students, and they try to make the process as real as possible: time limits, test rules and test-taking environment are similar to test day, Tafoya said.
For some students, practice reduces anxiety come test day.
“A lot of students suffer from test anxiety,” Tafoya said. “I think some students don’t do particularly well because of that. We try to alleviate test anxiety as much as we can.”
The presentations are given in various high schools throughout eastern New Mexico.
“I plan to take it (ACT) in the spring,” Jena Billberry, a Dora junior, said after taking a practice test on Thursday. “I want to prepare for it and take it again to improve on my scoring during my senior year. I plan to go to South Plains College then transfer to Texas Tech.”
The ENMU Educational Talent Search staff conducted a practice ACT test on Thursday morning in Dora for the Dora High School juniors.
“I learned that the math test is really hard,” Ashley Carter, a Dora junior, said. “There were a lot of calculus problems that I hadn’t seen.”
Tafoya said the scores will be sent off for grading and Dora students will know their scores after Christmas break.
“It’s easier at the smaller schools (than at Portales High) to conduct the tests because of the class sizes,” Tafoya said. “Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to administer the tests. The library usually has a lot of people in it. We would be interested in doing it there (Portales High School).”
Tafoya and ENMU Educational Talent Search staff members’ toughest challenge is vying for the student’s time, according to Tafoya. Teachers, coaches, counselors and directors all want a fragment of their time.
“It was tough to set aside time to study for the ACT because I play sports, had to do a research paper and had other activities going on,” said Cindy Andrade, a senior at Floyd. “We have to study for the ACT on our own time. I wish there was time set aside at school to prepare for it.”
National ACT tests cost $26 and will be conducted on specific dates from Saturday through June. Scores from national tests take at least three weeks. The residual ACT test cost $35 but is graded on the same day. The first residual ACT will be held on Dec. 18, and eight more are scheduled through August.