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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

In my experience tutoring students in both essay writing and test prep, one of the most difficult and tiresome challenges for both student and tutor is vocabulary improvement.  Because the ideal way to improve one's vocabulary includes reading a variety of sources over a long period of time, the optimal strategy for vocabulary improvement is often not available to students who have a very compressed schedule in which they must improve.  Many of my students have needed to show marked improvement in vocabulary within 2 weeks to a month, due to a looming deadline, so I have had to get creative to find efficient, effective techniques in vocabulary training.   One of the most important lessons when it comes to vocabulary is that multiple approaches are key.  Students should engage with the material using as many senses as possible.  This means not only reading a word and its definition silently, but also reading them aloud, hearing them read by... 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

Many of my students second guess themselves or tend to speculate. So I devised the Beth Cof strategy to help students eliminate wrong answers.   There are five possible answer choices on the SAT; four on the ACT. Therefore, it's crucial to be comfortable when choosing the right answer.   B stands for too broad. E stands for extreme answers. T stands for true for the passage as a whole but not for the lines in question, and H stands for half-right, half-wrong.   C stands for could be true but not enough info. O is off-topic, and F is factually true but not stated in the passage.   Students who applied this strategy tended to get the answer right. The only downside is it can be time-consuming, so don't use it for every single Critical Reading question. Be selective - and be right!

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 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

On standardized tests and in your general academic life, you are going to run into long reading passages that at first may seem like a lot to tackle. Let's face it - a long block of unbroken text on a standardized test is not the most inspiring sight in the world!    An effective strategy for digging into these passages with the gusto required for high scoring is to underline and note-take with intensity. Underline the first sentence to get you going, then underline, circle, and mark up the passage to your heart's delight. Let the pencil be your anchor to the text.   In my many years of experience as a tutor, I've found that students don't mark up SAT Reading passages nearly enough. Marking up the text not only keeps you on task and prevents your mind from wandering, but also gives you a personal little "road map" to the text when it comes time to answer questions about what you've just read.   And hey, while we're here... 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. 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

A website I like to use with my SAT students is freerice.com. This website has a vocabulary section which asks students to pick a synonym from a list of 4. For every correct answer, the website donates 10 grains of rice to the World Hunger Programme. It's a great way to study vocabulary and do good at the same time! You can create a profile and the website will track your progress with the vocabulary. For every 5 consecutive correct answers at a given level, the difficulty is then increased, so it is also a good way to challenge yourself. Encourage students to look up words that they have never heard of and create a list of their own of vocab words to study.    I've found this to be much more effective than simply using flashcards as it is less repetitive and more fun.  This is also a great resource for those learning English! Additionally, there are minimal vocabulary games for other languages, but the website is constantly improving, so in the future... read more

   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

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

  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

I have several students who would be glad to read more, if they have books recommended to them that are 'interesting'. I'm compiling a list of books for different grade levels, and would appreciate any recommendations from tutors or parents.   My immediate need is for books for an advanced 5th grader, and a 9th grader who is only interested in sports and the Odyssey!   Also, I have an ESL student who likes interesting non-fiction. Who can recommend something that is good for a college-age student? Maybe a business book, or a biography?   Thanks for joining this conversation.   best, Monica  

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!

The holidays are almost upon us - school will be out soon - and parents and students are looking at a 2-4 week hiatus from the regular routine of school work.  What happens to all of the knowledge and skills learned from school and tutoring during those weeks? Well, having been a high school principal for years, as well as a classroom teacher, my experience is that students often will not read on their own, review math on their own, or if in an AP class "read ahead" on their own.  If you have tutors in the educational profession, we also have that time off and our lesson times can be flexible - so instead of all of those late afternoon, early evening, or weekend appointments, most of us can now meet with our students in the morning or afternoon. So, what would your student gain from tutoring in the winter break? 1.  Weekly reinforcement of knowledge and skills  already... read more

As a Language Arts tutor helping students prepare for and improve their scores on high-stakes tests such as the ACT and SAT, there are a strategies, study methods, tricks, and of course, loads of practice that I prescribe. Oftentimes, a student who's perfectly capable of getting a good score on these tests may lose out on precious points because of seemingly trivial oversights. Below are a few easy-to-implement steps that can safeguard a student's best score from being needlessly lowered: - Be regular in putting in study time. erratic and sporadic bursts of studying, followed by a lull, cause you to 'unlearn' important strategies that you may have picked up in the course of your studies. Put in regular hours of study to ensure that all the skills you learn are reinforced and become second nature to you. - Box it: loose sheets of paper, vocabulary words scribbled on random notepads, and textbooks strewn everywhere - having your study materials... read more

Lexile and You Does it seem like you are always hearing that word?  Your child is below his or her Lexile?  They need to be at a 540 or at a 1080?  What exactly is a Lexile and how can you make it work for you?   Lexile is a reading meta-matrix that actually takes reading material and assigns it "value".  The "value" is referred to as its Lexile score or simply as its Lexile.  It is simply a numerical device for charting reading material.  As with all reading values, there are anticipated levels each student will reach at each grade.  You will hear them referred to as benchmarks.  They also have other names and phrases teachers use, though.  Perhaps you have heard expressions like 'just right books', or 'on level', or 'on grade level'.  These are all used to refer to books meeting Lexile expectations.  Not all books are created equal in the Lexile system.  Higher value is awarded... read more

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!

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