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I find that the majority of points lost on essays seem to be for argument construction, not for basic writing skills.  My opinion is that if a test taker spends enough time crafting his or her argument, the essay score will be higher.  So to help my students prepare for the writing portion of the SAT we spend most of our time outlining arguments, rather than actually writing essays.  Most SAT help books suggest 5 mins for outlines, then 20 mins for writing.  I encourage my students to do closer to 10 mins for outlining, in order to solidify their arguments.     How to prepare for the SAT essay?  Here's a fun, interactive way to "get set" to write.  Estimate 10 minutes per question.     Choose a writing prompt (use an old test, or look up prompts online).     1 min: Have the student write out his or her opinion (yes or no), thesis sentence, counter argument, and general outcome (progress,... read more

If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of academic or professional advice, what would it be? Learn to really listen. When I say "listen," I mean: take the time to hear an idea or concept, think about it, and be willing to change your mind. Why is this important in academics and professional trajectories? I'll give you a few examples. In school, I was sometimes a know-it-all. I remember a couple times where, instead of learning new material, I would just hear the parts that I already knew (and be pumped I already knew it), and then miss the important new information. Similarly, I would often answer a question quickly, rather than allow myself to be part of a conversation in which I probably would have grown and learned new things. Had I learned to listen earlier, I would have saved myself some embarrassment, and I would have had a richer knowledge about some important topics. People are drawn to good listeners. My friends and colleagues... read more

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