Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Science Education (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Shari Stockero


Tests are an inevitable component of the educational process and the pressure, for teachers and students alike, can be tremendous. This study was designed to investigate and compare the effectiveness of two different strategies intended to assist students in the preparation for the ACT college entrance exam. One strategy was a continuation of the test preparation strategy that had been in place for several years and the other was a result of research about the type of thinking required to perform well on the ACT exam.

Students in the comparison group prepared for the ACT exam by reviewing the types of problems found on the ACT Science test and practicing them repeatedly. The experimental group was taught critical thinking skills through the implementation of activities based upon Toulmin’s argument pattern. Students were pre/post tested on a practice ACT exam and on an essay test designed to measure critical thinking skills. Additionally, students completed a questionnaire designed to elicit confidence levels both before and after taking the ACT in order to determine whether using an untested preparation strategy would have a negative effect on student test scores.

While both groups showed gains on the ACT exam from the pre-test, neither group performed better than the other. Possible explanations for this result include loss of instructional time as a result of inclement weather and student apathy for the pre-test. Although students in the experimental group voiced concern and dismay with the preparation strategy of learning critical thinking skills, it did not diminish self-reported confidence and did not appear to have a negative impact on the resulting ACT scores on the Science test. Ideas for making improvements in the study and for areas of future research are also discussed.