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How to solve simultaneous equations.

Normally, an equation has a single solution when it contains only one undefined variable.  For example, take the equation 3x + 7 = 19.   3x + 7 = 19     [original equation] 3x = 12     [subtracted 7 from both sides] x = 4     [divided both sides by 3]   This is one case of a larger trend in algebra.  As I've already said, you can solve an equation for one answer when it contains a single variable.  However, this is derived from the larger rule that you can solve a set of equations where there are as many distinct equations as there are variables.  These are called simultaneous equations, and occur any time that two equations are both true over a certain domain.  In the more practical sense, this is what you should do if an exam asks you to solve for a value and gives you two different equations to use.   To solve simultaneous equations, we can use three strategies... read more

How Many Practice SATs Should You Take?

Practice is the key to SAT mastery. No matter what preparatory course you take, what tutor you hire, or what study guides you purchase, all of your resources are for naught if you don’t devote significant time and effort towards practice exams. Knocking out a healthy load of practice tests is particularly important for standardized exams. Why? Because standardization means that the test makers (a.k.a. the College Board) are bound by an obligatory adherence to consistency. As such, from year to year, while the precise questions vary, the core subjects and concepts are constant. Moreover, the style of questions is uniform. Translation: the more questions you see, the fewer curve balls can be hurled your way. With enough practice, you can familiarize yourself with the majority of possible question types, which will (1) improve your test taking abilities and (2) bolster your confidence come test day. Another reason why practice tests are so important is that they... read more

SAT Prep - Tackling Tough Math Questions

Nailing an 800 on the math portion of the SAT can be a tricky feat, even if you are steadfastly familiar with all of the requisite formulas and rules. A difficult problem can overwhelm even the most prepared individual come test day. Time constraints, test surroundings, and the overall weight of the exam can unnerve the most grounded students. So what do you do when panic strikes and your mind draws a blank? How do you re-center yourself and charge forward with ferocity and confidence? What you do is this: write everything down from the problem. This is the most important part of the problem solving process. As you peruse the question, write down the pertinent data and establish relationships by setting up equations. This exercise will help you see solutions that were previously difficult to decipher. As you work on practice tests and sample problems, you must work diligently to form a solid habit of writing down important bits of information as you plow through... read more

Preventing Silly Mistakes On The SAT And ACT

The “silly mistake” is quite possibly the most mischievous and irksome of the math demons. It is a sly beast that lurks in the deepest recesses of your mind, emerging only periodically to sully your scores in a most disturbing way. Because of its crafty nature, it is able to lull you into the false belief that your thorough understanding of mathematic concepts will keep you safe from its clutches. But, as I’m sure you know, “silly mistakes” afflict even the most soundly prepared students. What exactly constitutes a “silly mistake?” Here are some common examples for standardized tests: Misreading the question (or failing to read the entire instructions) Filling in the wrong bubble on your answer sheet Making a slight arithmetic error Incorrectly copying down the original problem Turning a negative number into a positive number (or vice versa) I don’t care who you are, what your educational background is, or where you go to school… you have been... read more

What to Watch out for on Standardized Tests

Hey folks,  I am sure many of you have plans of going to college or finishing up that last hectic year of school.  Well with these endeavors comes not only tests and quizzes created by books and your professors/teachers, but you also have to take nation and statewide test in order to pass and/or qualify for a position in a higher learning institute.  Such tests include the SAT, ACT, MCAT, etc.  What you want to remember about taking these tests is that these tests are testing you ability to locate small mistakes and easy to miss information.  They also want you to understand this material.  You have to be prepared for these easy to miss situations.  For example, I am sure you all have done a math question, felt like you did it perfectly correct only to find out that you actually got it incorrect.  Furthermore, the answer you got appeared as one of the answer choices!  Or you were on the right track to answering correctly, but made... read more

The Redesigned SAT: What You Need To Know

The news broke recently that the College Board is once again changing the SAT. These new changes, scheduled to be implemented in spring 2016, represent a pretty large departure from the SAT of the past. The College Board states that this new SAT will “ask students to apply a deep understanding of the few things shown by current research to matter most for college readiness and success.” Here are the changes that will have the biggest effect on test preparation, as I see them: An Increased Focus on Evidence-Based Analysis The new SAT will place a higher priority on analysis based on evidence. In the critical reading and writing sections students will now be asked to support their answers with evidence, including citing portions of the passages. In effect, the new SAT will require students not only to know the correct answer, but to be able to explain why the answer is correct, and point to specific evidence in the passage that supports their choice. The essay... read more

MAJOR SAT news (for younger students)

The College Board has revealed the nature of long-suspected changes to the SAT.  Please note that this new-format test will NOT be given until 2016.  So if you're on here right now looking for SAT prep, you're probably still taking the old test.  Students who are currently freshmen will be taking the new test for the first time in their junior year, assuming normal patterns of taking a first SAT in junior year.  (By the way, I do not recommend the practice I've seen in some families of taking a first SAT in sophomore year.  The test has content which is beyond most sophomore curricula.  The PSAT is a much better diagnostic vehicle at that age than the real SAT.)   This article explains the new SAT in the best way that I have seen.  In short, guessing will no longer be penalized, the essay will become optional (reverting scores to the familiar 1600 range), some math questions will not have a calculator, and the reading passages... read more

A review of online and mobile resources for SAT test preparation!

SAT PREP! As a seasoned SAT tutor, my students have informed me of many different online resources for SAT prep. Some have been quite useful, while others are not so much. In this post, I will rank 5 resource links to SAT review websites or apps that I find helpful in preparing for the SAT. Keep in mind that these resources may be immensely helpful but are not perfect solutions for stand-alone SAT preparation. The best SAT preparation is done with a live tutor who is knowledgable about the SAT itself and about the different strategies for test-taking that work best for each individual.   Top 5 SAT Prep Resources 1. CollegeBoard.com's  full practice SAT exam is the very first place every student should begin. Who better to provide SAT test prep, than the makers of the SAT?! 2. INeedAPencil is a great free resource for an entire comprehensive prep program funded by the CK-12 Foundation. 3. Number2 is another free resource with... read more

Are You Bold Enough to Hear the Truth? Everyone Can Get 2000+ on SAT

   You probably heard people telling you that "Oh, you can't really improve you SAT score!" That is true from one perspective. According to College Board, the national average improvement on SAT is only 40 points! That is really disappointing considering the fact that the total score is 2400. However, even though this is totally true, does that necessarily suggests that you cannot improve your SAT score? If you are bold enough for the truth, the answer is: no. Because honestly, most students who took the SAT for the second or third time, did not spent enough time and effort studying for the exam. If they did not study, how would you expect them to improve? You cannot just simply take the exam and expect the score to raise by itself.        Although SAT is more of an "ability" test, that you cannot really study, you can still study it and improve your ability and hence, improve your score! Why do I say that? Because... read more

SAT or ACT? It's Easy to Determine

I assume you already know these two exams, so how to pick which one to take? The Best Option (only apply to those who still have a lot of time to prep for the test ex. Freshmen, Sophomore, or Junior who has nothing else to do): Take both test. Do the practice tests (only the ones that are very close to real one) and see which one you score higher. And then, choose the one that you scored higher!    Otherwise SAT -- if you are more into English ACT-- if you are more comfortable with math and science   In addition, because SAT is more of a "reasoning" test that tests your ability, it is more tricky to most students. And for ACT, it is more a straight forward test that test you on certain required topics. But in conclusion, you have to study for it before you take the actual exam. You have no idea how many students mess with these serious exams and ruin their chances of getting into dream colleges.    If... read more

How to write an inequality equation from two boundary inequalities of a variable

I couldn't solve an SAT math problem (farmer picking pumpkins of the right weight and asking what ranges will he NOT pick) where I manipulated the word problem on a number line graph to give  x<2 and x>10.  I was asked to pick the answer that could be the correct one.   The answers I had to choose from were in the form of absolute value inequality equations, I solved all five answers and found that the answer (D)  |x-6| >4  was the correct answer.  This is one way to do this, grunt work/crank it out, but I want to explain to my student (AND MYSELF) how to do it analytically.   It appears that what I want to do is generate an absolute value inequality equation from data, seems simple enough, but I cannot find any references on the internet where this is done, it's always the other way.   Can someone explain to me the logic of how to do it?   From looking at the steps I went through to solve the... read more

Preparing for the May SAT

I am currently teaching SAT courses in the Bay Area, and a lot of students have been enrolling in my math classes.   I wanted to summarize what I think are important aspects of test preparation, as this crucial testing period begins:   1) Know the format of the test 2) Understand how the guessing penalty affects your strategy (e.g. a person scoring a 500 has a different strategy than someone scoring a 700 in math) 3) Do at least 15 practice problems per day. 4) Try to do a full length practice SAT every 3 weeks 5) Target your areas of weakness (and know what your weaknesses are) 6) Don't rush during the test. Rushing only leads to careless mistakes. 7) Be open to new strategies. Sometimes, the way we do things might get us to the right answer, but there may be a more efficient way. The SAT isn't just about accuracy - it's about doing things efficiently. 8) Know your strategies of last resort. Plugging in the answer choices is a... read more

SAT and ACT: What You Need To Know!

Hi! I'm Jennifer J.,  B.S., MEd, JD, PHD ABD WyzAnt Tutor In my blog I will tell you everything you need to know about the "start-to-finish" process of preparing and taking the SAT and ACT exams. that will get you into the college or university of your choice.    Some Background About Me: I teach classes and tutor privately for the PSAT, SAT and ACT. I have taught these test preparation classes since 1999. I taught for Princeton Review, and then started my own business, Pathfinders College Preparatory. Since then, I have amassed my own collection of actual SAT tests, answer sheets, practice material, etc. I work with anywhere from one to four students at a time. I will tutor you privately in your home or at another location.   Commonly Asked Q & As:   Below are some commonly asked questions and answers about preparing for the SAT, the PSAT, and the ACT exams:     Q:... read more

Recommended Materials for SAT Study

  With the wealth of SAT prep materials out there, it can be tough to find the best resources for SAT study. I've been tutoring for the SAT for over a decade, and these are the materials I've found to be the most helpful.     SAT General Study   For all-around SAT preparation, nothing beats The Official SAT Study Guide, published by the College Board. With ten full practice tests, this book contains plenty of study material for all sections of the test. Because the questions are written by the College Board and, in many cases, have appeared on actual administered SATs, they accurately reflect what students will see on test day. (I've never found a test written by a third-party company that comes close to matching actual SAT questions, and I do not recommend third-party practice tests for study.) Working through the questions in this book is the best, most effective way for any student to prepare for the test.   In... read more

The Grand Old Standardized Tests

Aaah...the the most feared, loathed, avoided tests of the century: the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.   I am here to tell you that you should not let these tests overpower you. A bad first score is not enough to tell your potential. You are capable of improving leaps and bounds, perhaps hundreds of points.   Take my younger brother, for example. He took the PSAT his freshman year with no prior exposure to the test and received a 153. He was not happy with his score, so I told him he would have to practice greatly to improve. With my help tutoring him in math and writing, he was able to improve his SAT score to 1820 his sophmore year. That is a 290 point increase! Using the big blue SAT practice book, he took many practice tests to help him get comfortable with the test format. I went over the questions he got wrong, so he could learn from his mistakes and not make the same mistake the next time. The SAT Question of the Day was another helpful tool he used that... read more

Good Luck SAT Students!

Good luck to all students taking the SAT this morning!  Remember: they're trying to trip you up, so watch your feet!   Don't feel like you did your best?  Anxious about how many questions you skipped?  Don't worry, there are more test dates this year.  Many people take the SAT multiple times, and if you get some tutoring in between (from yours truly!), you can dramatically increase your scores on the second time through.   The remaining test dates for the current school year are:   January 25 March 8 May 3 June 7 I recommend you start studying for the SAT at least one month in advance, longer if you plan on going it without a tutor. If you'd like to work with me for the January or March test cycle, send me an email ASAP. The sooner we can get to work, the higher your scores will be!

SAT Test Dates - It's Not The End Of The World!

Did you take the SAT on Saturday?  Are you freaking out about how confusing it was, and feeling like you had no idea what you were doing?  Never fear; many people take the SAT's multiple times, and if you get a little tutoring help in between (from yours truly) you can radically improve your score on the second go-around.   Here's the remaining test dates for the 2013-2014 school year:   November 2 December 7 January 25 March 8 May 3 June 7   I recommend you start studying for the SAT at least one month in advance, longer if you plan on going it without a tutor.  If you'd like to work with me for the November or December test cycle, send me an email ASAP.  The sooner we can get to work, the higher your scores will be!

Occam's Razor and SAT Math: Why the SAT Messes With Your Head

The SAT messes with your head. Don't feel embarrassed, it messes with everyone's head. It's designed to. The SAT is a test of your critical reasoning skills, meaning it's actually far more about logic and figuring out the correct course of action than it is about actually knowing the material. This is nowhere more evident than on the Math section. The SAT Math trips up so many students because they expect it to behave like a math test. The truth is, the SAT Math is about figuring out how to answer each problem using as little actual math as possible. It's all about working quickly, and the questions are structured such that they conceal the quick logic and context-based route behind the facade of a more complicated math question. They're trying to psych you out; to make you think the problem is harder than it is. In math class you're taught to be thorough, to show your work and not leave out any steps. On the... read more

A brief history of YOU preparing for the Math sections of the SAT

Let's look at where we are with this test, in a brief history of personal math. First was one, "me" and utilizing the survival instincts to draw on the provider instincts of guardians. Next was outside objects. The ones that were NOT edible became a basis of attention, combining by grouping or stacking, or rejecting as undesirable due to being useless or even dangerous. Further along, those objects came to be more easily considered when represented by marks on paper, beginning the abstract thought processes we call addition and subtraction. Then, the abstracts were further manipulated by multiplication and division, now a full four steps away from actually requiring the physical presence of an object. Acceptance of the principles of Algebra made it possible to continue the development by substituting variables or even unknown values and contriving valuable relations between them to further ideas. We are now at the precipice of the next level: being able to see how... read more

SAT Math Tip #1

Answer the Question: On the SAT math section, it is very important to carefully read the question and be aware of what exactly it is asking. Not following this simple strategy could unnecessarily cost you valuable points. To illustrate, here is an example: If 3x + 2y = 19, and 2x + 4y = 18, what is the value of x + y? (A) 2 (B) 4 (C) 5 (D) 7 (E) 8 In this question, it is very tempting to solve for x or y and then hastily pick answer choice A (y = 2) or answer choice C (x = 5). It is important to notice that the question is asking for x + y, which would give you 2 + 5 = 7 (answer choice D). This strategy can be applied to the math section of most standardized tests, and occasionally to other sections as well.

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