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SuperKids Educational Software Review. The parents' and teachers' guide to educational software
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SAT Preparation Software Reviews

Your Personal Trainer for the SAT
by Davidson & Associates


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other SAT Preparation software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot Pentium90 with 16MB and a 2XCD

Description
Your Personal Trainer for the SAT is based on SAT preparation courses developed and tought by Ivy West Educational Services since 1989. The program includes strategy lessons, workout drills, and exams covering all the question types contained in the SAT. In addition, 1000 printable vocabulary flashcards (143 pages worth!), and a speed drill game are included.

Ease of Install / Use
Personal Trainer installed easily on our reviewers' test machines. The user is asked if a full (6MB) installation is desired, or a minimal (<1MB) install. The software ran fine in the minimal install mode on our test machines.

When we queried our reviewers about ease of use, however, we received a more ambivalent response. "On several occasions we were frustrated by our inability to leave a section and then return back to the same location," noted one reviewer. Another commented similarly, "[This program] could seriously use a 'back' button."

Davidson offers impressive technical support for the product, including a toll-free phone number, 24 hour fax, a bulletin board service, and email.

Methodology
Personal Trainer begins with a sign-in form. Immediately after providing a name, a screen comes up that says, "The first step is to take an assessment test." If the user selects the default "full test" option, he or she will spend the next 2-1/2 hours answering questions in a printed pre-test booklet, and later transferring the answers to a form on screen. Good practice? Yes. But as the lead-in to using an interactive computer program it left some of our reviewers less than hooked.

The program scores and scales the exam, and prints out a results table. This table identifies where errors were made, and allows the user to go back and see the correct answers. Based on this analysis, Personal Trainer claims to develop a customized study plan, beginning with the areas that need the most work. One of our reviewers noted that this feature must not be 100 percent accurate; they had made no errors on the analogy section of the pre-assessment test, yet an analogy lesson was the first element in the 'personalized' study guide.

Personal Trainer is the least glitzy of the four programs reviewed, in terms of animation, video, and sound. It makes up for the lack of atttention-captivating features, with an impressive depth of instruction. For example, in the Analogies section, every sample problem allows the user to input a sentence that ties the two 'stem' words together, The next screen then shows the preferred sentence creation, and how each of the possible answer pairs would read if they were plugged into the same sentence. Our reviewers found this process, "... laborious, but instructive."

Interestingly, although feedback is provided instantaneously, in many cases that feedback does not appear to be cognizant of the user's answer. For example, when asked to circle one word in a pair, the program responds identically regardless of which word is circled - "You should have circled ______." In other cases, correct answers are rewarded by a simple bell note, and incorrect answers receive a written "Try again" response.

After taking the pre-assessment or post-assessment exams, the user can contrast the scores received to the average scores reported by freshman at over 300 colleges. "This is a great feature, but I wish it didn't take so many clicks to check out each school," noted one reviewer. To see a comparison graph, the user must walk through several menus each time to get back to the school selection menu.

Best for...
This program is best suited for a student who needs lots of practice, but little entertainment stimulation.

Bottom-Line
Personal Trainer contains good advice and a significant number of practice problems with explanations. A student who forges all the way through this program should definitely feel increased confidence and reduced anxiety. Most users, however, will feel it was a lot of work and not very different from book-based preparation tools.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other SAT Preparation software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1 or later; Win95 System 7.0 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 386/16 or faster (Win3.1)
486/33 or faster (Win95)
any
Hard Drive Space < 1MB n/a
Memory (RAM) 4MB (Win3.1)
8MB (Win95)
4MB (at least 2MB free)
Graphics 16 or 256 color VGA B/W, 16, or 256 color
CD-ROM Speed 2X recommended 2X recommended
Audio Windows compatible sound card n/a
Other Needs mouse mouse

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