Clicks/Software Reviews


Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


by Jean Nash Johnson, The Dallas Morning News

**** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Oh, no

Passing the test

KAPLAN SAT & ACT DELUXE EDITION

Maker: Kaplan

Rating: * * * *

System: Windows 95 or later, Macintosh

Suggested price: $49.95

More information: 970-339-7142; www.kaplan.com

Hardly any time is more stressful in a high school student's life than taking the college prep test. Kaplan has been helping students prepare for college entrance exams for 60 years. Its five-CD software prep package is comprehensive, including the tools for taking the test and extra help with college admission and scholarship searches.

The program is laid out to help a student plan an effective course of action from taking the test to signing off on the last college applications. A well-done video gives students a guided tour of the program and puts them at ease with the different sections. Clear-cut icons make it easy to navigate through the testing software. The main menu at the opening screen contains the labeled icons for each section. The Test Center area, though, is the meat and potatoes. Students go there to practice and take the review's final tests. The center also gives feedback on tests, and a progress bar tells you where you are in your planning and goals. The Admissions Office, my favorite, provides tips on choosing a school, getting in the college you want and paying tuition. In this section, you can also find a scholarship and school search. In the testing section, I like how students can pace themselves by initially taking a half-length exam that covers all SAT and ACT material. The program uses the results to come up with a baseline.

From there, students can plot their practice strategy based on the assessment and ultimately build up to the full-length exam. This is a particularly strong feature for the beginner. Test analyses calculate a raw score that is converted to the real test numbers. The program shows you how to use the analyses to improve your work.

Kaplan guarantees its effectiveness and, judging from the program's thoroughness, chances are high that its use will produce passing results.

Accent on French

ENCARTA LANGUAGE LEARNING: FRENCH

Maker: Microsoft

Rating: * * *

System: Windows 95 or later

Suggested price: $54.95

More information: 1-800-426-9400; www.microsoft.com

Encarta has joined the relatively long list of software makers with a foreign language program. This series deserves a look because its unique approach is aimed directly at classroom curriculum, and it's interactive. This makes it a nice accessory to course study.

Language Learning: French is divided into units, topics and activities. Each unit explores a different aspect of the culture. Unit 1, for instance, is Introductions and Greetings, where students can learn to speak the basics. Students also can organize their studies and design a study planner. A progress tracker charts each unit, topic and activity.

In a unique feature, the program's Virtual Challenge places a student in a 3-D arena where he can participate in on-screen conversations with French-speaking people contained within the software. In some activities, using the included handset, students can record and play their voices as they practice speaking the language.

An information center dissects the video dialogues, allowing students to control the information on the screen. They can slow the recorded speech or display the text of the video lines in French, for example. Because this is an Encarta product, reference tools come with the language program. The tools include a glossary that gives you instant translation of any word and a grammar review of the parts of speech. The all-important conjugation helper also is included.

Learning Language: French program is thoughtful and thorough. If only it were more affordable.

Jean Nash Johnson is a Dallas Morning News staff writer. Send questions or comments to her at Personal Technology, The Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas, 75265, or send e-mail to jnjohnson@dallasnews.com Ms. Johnson is unable to reply personally to each letter.