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Free ACT/SAT test - take it at home to see where you stand

You can take a free ACT test through this link: http://www.4tests.com/exams/examdetail.asp?eid=13.   It is very good to understand your starting point, and only then to make the decision if you need a tutor or not, and for which of the modules.   You may take this free test and score badly - don't be discouraged! Scoring low may be because of the time pressure (to respond very quickly) or because of anxiety on taking tests.   When you take the test you can learn about what's in the way of getting a high score that will get you into your dream college: - is it test anxiety and skills to take a test? - is it that you can respond correctly but you need more time?  - is it that you don't know how to respond to bunches of questions? Then identify if it's geometry or algebra or grammar, or what is it you need help with.   You can now see how much info you can get from taking a test at home! And if you did well, congratulations,... read more

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

Studying for the SAT

The first thing you should know about studying for the SAT is: You can’t. You don’t know exactly what material is going to be on the test until the day you sit down and open your booklet. You will never be able to predict exactly which questions will be asked and precisely what you must know in order to get all of the questions correct. So if you can’t study for the SAT, how are you supposed to do well on it? Practice. You can learn the types of questions that you’ll be tested on, and you can practice answering questions from past exams. The SAT isn’t designed to trick you; its purpose is to determine your aptitude for (“a natural ability for”) reading, math, and writing. The test is scoring how good you are at these crucial subjects on a scale from 200 to 800. This test is more about knowing how to answer the questions than the answers themselves. Whether you’re narrowing down choices for a reading sentence completion, setting up a math equation,... read more

Summer Test Prep Tips!

Summer is the best time to start studying for college/career entrance exams. Since there is no school and homework, you will not feel overwhelmed when it is time to study. Studying for just an hour a day, 5 days a week, will increase your chances of getting a higher score and you will still have time to enjoy the summer. Alternate subjects weekly. Familiarize yourself with all the subjects on the test. Purchase a test preparation book to get question examples. By the end of the summer, you should have done every problem in the book, including the practice exams. If you need additional help, ask your tutor. Study with others. You will be more motivated to study this summer if you are involved in a study group. Find students that are taking the same exam. Ask your tutor to for a group study session. Knowing that there are other students with the same goal as you can help your study sessions be less stressful. Know your calculator. If a calculator is... read more

Goodbye SAT; hello SAT

You may have heard that the Scholastic Aptitude Test is being redesigned, with a new version being introduced in 2016.  The testing company that creates the SAT has said that they will strive to make the test more relevant and more reflective of the content that high school students cover in their classwork. Therefore, there will be a reduced need to learn obscure words that are rarely ever used in speech or even in writing, like the word "tyro."  I doubt whether anyone uses that word other than in learning it for the SAT.    One might ask, why after all these years, has the SAT administrators and developers decided to change the test?  Didn't they know that they were asking the "wrong" questions 20 years ago?  Didn't they consider how they were causing undue stress and anxiety among students taking the test over the years (and we are talking about a huge number of students)! How many?  About 3,000,000 each year... read more

SAT Subject Tests--the Frequently Missing Piece

As parents of rising seniors plan standardized testing schedules for the summer and fall, one very important standardized test for most highly selective colleges sometimes gets forgotten: the SAT Subject Tests.  The majority of the nation's highly selective colleges and universities require or strongly encourage students to take 2-3 of these tests to demonstrate their subject knowledge.  The actual content is unlikely to be much of a cause for concern for students who are competitive for these colleges, since it is likely to overlap with an AP course, but students should still make time in their schedules to take the tests if they wish to aim high in their admissions.  Now is the time to check websites of your preferred colleges to see whether they require or advise the SAT Subject Tests, and whether they have any specific guidance for which subjects they would like to see.  As general advice:   If only 2 tests are required, they should preferably... 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

Word of warning about new SAT

Given all the publicity around the new SAT, families need to be aware that it is NOT being implemented immediately.  If your child is currently a rising senior, he/she will still be taking the old SAT this summer or next fall.  I will update my profile to reflect New SAT when it becomes an issue, but for the coming testing season, the SAT we all know and either love or hate is still with us.

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

Ellen's Choice: How I Feel About the SAT Redesign

A few weeks ago I posted an article about the impending SAT redesign and the changes that have been announced. I mentioned at the end of that article that I'd be posting another one soon with my thoughts on the redesign, once I'd had time to think more about them. Well, this is that article. Overall, I think the motivation for the redesign is good – that the College Board's heart is in the right place and they're acknowledging some of the very real problems that the current SAT has. I'm very happy with their partnership with Khan Academy as well. I'm happy to hear that they acknowledge that students really do need some kind of prep help for the SAT, and that if they're going to force every student who wants to apply to college to take it, they should be offering free prep help for everyone who wants it. Not everyone can afford a private tutor, and money should not be a limiting factor in every student's ability to thoroughly prepare for the test. (That said, I am... read more

Working with a Tutor to Prepare for Your Standardized Test

Having worked with hundreds of test-takers on standardized exams over the years, I have tutored students of all abilities and levels of commitment to their studies. Most students want to know how many hours of tutoring are necessary to achieve the results they desire. While there is no single number of hours uniformly required for all students, for all exams, I do recommend as a rule of thumb that you spend as many hours working on your own as you have spent working with your tutor. To maximize the benefit of working with a tutor for a standardized test, it is necessary to implement, and then practice, the strategies you've learned on your own. Ideally, a student matches the time spent studying independently hour for hour with the time spent tutoring (similarly, university courses typically advise a minimum of one hour of study for every hour spent in class). It is to your advantage to meet with your tutor frequently, and early, enough that the tools you acquire to succeed... read more

Reading Your Way to an Exceptional Vocabulary

As students prepare for standardized tests for college admission, "Vocabulary" suddenly becomes an important subject.  Both the Writing and Critical Reading sections of the SAT reward a strong vocabulary. I try to emphasize to students that having a college (adult) level vocabulary will continue to reward them far beyond a one-day test.     Studying SAT related vocabulary books is certainly worthwhile in the weeks before a test day, but I would like to reach out also to students who are still a few years away from college entrance concerns. The best way to build a rich and useful vocabulary is to read books, magazines, and newspapers that are well-written (e-books and online sources definitely count!) When you read great writing you will not only improve your vocabulary but also your writing and your critical thinking.     Your reading can and should be varied.  Admittedly, I do love literature that has been relevant to... 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

Better Than SAT/ACT Test Prep

The following article takes well known anecdotal evidence and makes it much more real - as if it were a punch to the stomach or whack to the head. Do not let it intimidate you in the least. http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/why-your-sat-score-says-more-about-your-parents-than-about-you/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost The issue is not about the money…..and this is the key point! It is not the actual tangible money - it is the BEHAVIOR of how people think and what they do which makes the largest difference. The issue is about EXPOSURE. Money can allow for wealthy families to have their children gain MORE EXPOSURE OVER LONGER PERIODS OF TIME to the material within the SAT and ACT. In reality, anyone can gain more exposure over longer periods of time. The idea of last minute test prep and cramming for these exams is where most families have it all wrong - even those with money. It is about the number of times... 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

Why are the SAT, GRE, ACT, GMAT, etc., designed to trick students into picking the wrong answer and to make sure many students don't finish on time?

For anyone that is preparing or thinking about preparing for one of the standardized 'high stakes' tests (you know which ones) -- the SAT, GRE, GMAT, ISEE, SSAT, and so on -- there's something you really should know about test development.   But first consider this. Wouldn't it be sensible for tests to discover what your strengths are and what you do well in?  Of course! But who said these tests or the test developers are sensible?  In fact, why should they be?  Here are two things test developers don't want you to know   1) Test developers usually (meaning not EVERY test is created this way, although most are) try to trick students into providing the wrong answer. Huh?    2) Standardized tests are intentionally designed so that many or even most students will not complete them within the given time limit.   Now why would these nice testing companies engage in these practices?  Select the best... read more

Another reason to care about the SAT

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

Is Standardized Testing Effective in Determining Success in College?

Test prep companies have been teaching students how to beat standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT for years. The simple truth is that these exams measure how well you take exams, not your aptitude or your ability to do college work. In some cases there may be a direct correspondence: students who have excellent grades have correspondingly excellent scores. And yet, there is a not-insignificant group of students with outstanding grades and poor scores. Does this mean standardized testing is unreliable? Or that it fails to consistently predict student success? Not exactly, and yes, respectively. Let’s back up for a moment and talk about the single best input for determining college success: the high school GPA. Time and time again a high correlation has been shown between success and engagement in academics in high school (as represented by an unweighted GPA) and performance in college. That’s because the GPA is a many-faceted guage. It samples various different... read more

SAT Prep - How To Boost Your Math Score

So you just took a practice test and you’re devastated by your results. You thought you would net more points, but lo and behold, your score is painfully below your expectations. Your math score is especially poor, but you’ve never been good at math. What is a good plan of action? Let the math score linger at a subpar level while focusing all of your energy on the verbal portion, right? Wrong. First of all, even if you’ve historically done poorly in math, you can easily turn that around with a few months of devoted practice. Second, math is the area where you can see the most marked transformation as far as testing abilities. You can certainly improve your score in the verbal section, but the base of knowledge for both the writing and reading sections is far broader. The English language is highly complex, and it takes most of us a great many years before we learn and understand all the intricacies. Math, in comparison, is much simpler. The rules and terms are... read more

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