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1. Repeating themselves.    In high school (and sometime beyond) there are unhelpful rules from teachers relating to number of paragraphs, minimum lines per paragraph, and number of quotes per paragraph. Page length, word count, and more fit under this heading as well. Too many times I've seen students try to say the same thing in a different way in order to puff up their writing to hit a word count. It's easier to just think some more about the subject matter!   2. Trying to sound academic (or something).    Many a time I'll talk to a student and ask their opinion about some topic or relevant subject. They'll explain themselves clearly and concisely, and sometimes even with some with and humor. Then, when it's time to write, they start saying things like: "This subject is truly fascinating, as I believe that it is truly relevant for children in our society to become educated about many of these diverse and sundry topics"... read more

Schedule for SAT Crash Course: Lesson 1: Test Basics, Sentence Completions (singles and doubles), Short Paragraphs Lesson 2: Long Passages (Narrative, Expository, Persuasive) Lesson 3: Double Passages, Difficult Passages, Essay Lesson 4: Grammar Basics (Voice, Parallelism, Continuity, Conciseness) Lesson 5: Verb and Pronoun Errors Lesson 6: Modifier, Comparative, Idiom, Confused Word Errors SAT English Basics Reading Section: (70 minutes) Sentence Completions 19 Questions Worth 30% Reading Passages 48 Questions Worth 70% Writing Section: (60 minutes)  Grammar: Worth 70% Identifying Sentence Errors 18 Questions Improving Sentences 25 Questions  Improving Paragraphs 6 Questions   Essay (25 minutes) Graded from 2-12 Worth 30% 1 point given for each question answered correctly. -¼ point for each question answered incorrectly. No points for unanswered questions. Tips... read more

I remember how nervous I was during every major test in my life. The SAT, AP Tests before undergraduate school. Then there was the dreaded GRE required for admission to graduate school. Fast forward: my master's degree test involved a full day of writing (with no notes or books). My doctoral exams involved a full day of writing, three times a week for one week (also with no notes or books). Talk about torture! And then there was the faculty review ... whew! But you know what? I needn't have been nervous and neither should you, because "testing" begins the minute you walk into the classroom door. If you pay attention in class, do your homework, stay focused (you can always "play" later), take good care of your mind and body -- exercise a little to relieve stress and stay healthy -- and create a peaceful environment in which to study a little bit every day during the school week, you should be able to retain information and write to the best... read more

Well, the new school year has started, and that means SAT test dates are fast approaching. In fact, the first one is this coming weekend. To anyone taking the SAT on Saturday, good luck! Remember to get a good night's sleep on Friday! If you are thinking about applying to college in the next few years, it might be time to schedule an SAT date! Remember, you can retake the test as many times as you need to, so don't be afraid to schedule an early date. Also, remember that the big SAT Redesign will be kicking into effect in the Spring of 2016, so if you are in the class of 2016 you may want to start your testing early, to make sure you have time to retake the current style of test and not have to relearn everything for a completely new test the following year. This semester's SAT test dates and registration deadlines are as follows: October 11th – Registration ends September 12th November 8th – Registration ends October 9th December... read more

Test anxiety can impact everyone.  However, with a few strategies, you can overcome these anxieties and excel on your next standardized assessment.   Should you guess? This is a choice you will need to make based on the assessment you are taking.  For certain tests, such as the Praxis, you are scored based only on your correct answers.  However, keep the guessing to a minimum. On the SAT, you lose 1/4 of a point for an incorrect answer, but if you leave it blank, you lose 1 point.  So guessing should be used as a last resort.  Obviously, you should not guess on too many questions. Which leads me to...   Should you omit questions? Only skip questions you find extremely difficult.  Use other strategies to help you determine if you can, in fact, answer these questions before omitting them.  However, do not spend too much time using these strategies, as time is limited.   Should... read more

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

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

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

Yes, test stress is definitely an issue, and I don't want to be accused of adding to it.  However, in the spirit of cold, hard reality, this article from the Wall Street Journal on use of SAT scores by employers deserves some attention.  Whether you agree with this or not (and the HR department at Google has clearly decided to disagree, for example), there are still many big corporate employers who use the SAT as a convenient proxy for an IQ test, which relatively few Americans have ever taken.  Whether IQ is a good predictor of job performance is a whole other mess that you can put in a college essay if you've researched it, but which you really can't do anything about as a high schooler (or parent of one, unless you're also a Ph.D-level researcher in psychology or management science).   That said, when you break it down, the SAT has a lot in common with an IQ test, and that's worth knowing.  It's best not to really think about it as a test... read more

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.'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

1. Hyperphysics This website is basically a concept map of every physics topic, and I mean every. It's not a comprehensive guide to all of them, but it provides a basic overview of pretty much everything you could ever want to know about physics. It's not a "Physics for Dummies" site, so if you're struggling, you'll still need a competent tutor. That being said, if you want to look up and equation or definition, or just learn a little more about something your teacher only mentioned, it is the best resource I know.   2. Paul's Online Math Notes This website offers extremely detailed lessons on Algebra, Calculus I, II, and III, and Differential Equations. To be honest, I learned most of what I know about Calculus through Paul, not my professors. I'll even admit that many students can use this in place of a tutor. Paul's teaching style isn't for everyone, though, so many people will still need some extra help.   3. SparkNotes... read more

When I work with students on the SAT essay,  many have difficulty coming up with concrete, adequate examples. Many can't get out of the quicksand of vague and directionless ideas.    Instead of ideas, let individuals from history, literature, science, and the modern era be your guides. Create a list of influential and inspiring people for each category like I've done.  Focus on two or three categories you're most comfortable with and research what made these people so special and influential. Individuals such as John Proctor from "The Crucible," Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Galileo, and Nelson Mandela are just some of the examples to use when you write your essay.   SAT essay questions are broad enough that you can take something that one of these individuals has done to "advance freedom" or "challenge authority."   Remember, you only have 25 minutes. Keep...

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

  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

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 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!

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!

Here is an overview of my 5 BEST TIPS for realizing your highest potential on the SAT:   Read and Write Daily- Do not read just fluffy stuff from internet sites or think that your emails constitute all the daily writing you need (join a writer's group and keep a journal).  Most importantly, read thoughtful, intelligent articles from reputable sources (like the Wall Street Journal) on a daily basis on topics that stimulate your thinking and challenge your vocabulary.  This is the best approach for long-term improvement in reading and writing. Study High-Frequency SAT Vocabulary Lists- There are many of these word lists obtainable on the Internet. The problem is that you may not retain the words using a crash-course study approach.  This won't be helpful for long term unless you pace your study of the words and see words in their context.  I recommend a 7 day study approach.  Study 30-50 words each day for two days in a row using... read more

One topic which can be transformational for students preparing for standardized testing, especially logical-mathematical students who are underperforming on the writing SAT, is formally learning English grammar.  A large proportion of writing MC questions in particular focus on the sequence of tenses, and tense sequence errors or unintentional tense shifts can greatly harm submitted writing.  The English language does not have a "past tense".  It has multiple past tenses which are non-identical and which all have their uses.  Working with a tutor on grammar can be a great help to the student who is not well served by whole-language and literature-centric approaches to English class (i.e. the students most likely to seek SAT verbal but not math tutoring in the first place).

Very interesting article for parents of younger students about likely changes to the SAT in line with Common Core curriculum alterations.  Please note that all of this is INFORMED SPECULATION at this stage, not an absolute plan, so if you are a junior/senior or the parent of one, prepare for the SAT as expected.  However, parents of younger students seeking enrichment should take note.

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