Getting Started
I took the exam at Irvine Valley College.
Unlike most schools, whose administrators post classroom assignments on a billboard, IVC showed up around 8:15, had students stand in the quad, and verbally had students split into separate groups like cattle. Then students ended up having to walk down a confusing pathway to a classroom, where we had to have our IDs checked one-by-one. You can tell which schools have the check-in process down, and which schools need to work on it. IVC is definitely a school that can stand to be more efficient.
Once in the room, the proctor had difficulty with the test set-up process. She was unaware of the fact that there were now three components that come with the exam. It used to be that there was just a test booklet and an answer sheet. Now, with the revised exam, there is an essay booklet as well. I don’t think that she was supposed to hand out the essay booklet at the beginning of the administration, especially because...
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Ellen's Rules for Effective Time Management, Part 2
3. Know when it’s time to take breaks.
Spending a good chunk of time on one subject is good; it helps you settle into a rhythm and lets your brain get into the correct frame of reference for the subject. But there exists a horizon beyond which no progress can or will be made. It’s the point at which your brain has become over-saturated with the current material, and if you continue on you’ll just end up working yourself into circles of frustration. In paper writing, it’s the point at which anything you wrote would make sense to you regardless because you’ve been reading the same few paragraphs to yourself for hours. In math, it’s the point at which you will just end up confusing yourself more and more as you try desperately to work it out. When that moment arrives, you know it’s time to take your break.
4. TAKE BREAKS.
I don’t care how much work you have, there’s always enough time for a fifteen-minute break...
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I mentioned this problem from one of my earliest blog posts with one of my students last week, so I thought I'd bring it back as this week's Math Journey. Enjoy!
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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...
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Okay, we have all made a math mistake, but for one reason or another we never took advantage of that opportunity to commit the correct step to memory. I have news for you. You can still remedy the situation. Here is how you achieve it. 1. For every time that you’ve made a wrong step in solving a problem, repeat the correct step three times. 2. If it is a multi-step problem, WRITE all the steps in the correct order at least three times. 3. READ out all the correct steps to yourself at least three times so that you HEAR the correct steps. Here is the rationale for this strategy. We have multiple ways of learning for a reason and we need to make use of multiple intelligences in order to maximize our ability to understand and memorize the correct steps. Once we commit the correct procedure into long-term memory, we are essentially freeing our short-term memory to work on other tasks. This way we won't get stumped months later when we come across the problem. So this strategy is a win!...
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Over the last few years, the SAT has lost a tremendous amount of market share to the ACT.
Over 1.84 million high school graduates sat for the ACT in 2014, while only 1.67 million took the SAT.
The College Board changed the SAT to look more like its competitor.
Both exams now feature:
*An optional essay
*Longer sections – The old SAT had 10 sections. Each was around 20 minutes in length. Both the new SAT and the ACT have four sections (the exact number depends on how you count), which average around 45 minutes.
*More science related content. The ACT has a Science section. The new SAT will not, but includes these concepts in the Reading and Math sections).
*No penalty for guessing.
*No esoteric vocabulary. Gone are the days when people described five dollar words as SAT words!

summer vacation is the perfect time for starting to study for the fall college admissions tests. It's also a great time to keep those math skills up so that you don't lose any of the skills that you learned last year. So many students lose so much of the skills that they have gained in the past year, and math is just like anything else, don't practice and you'll lose all that you learned.

Almost every college or university requires students to submit an ACT or SAT score. This score affects not only your admission application but also scholarship opportunities and which classes you will be able to enroll in. The vast majority of students do little to no preparation work before taking these exams. They may feel that all their hard work in high school should have prepared them already. Although this is partially true, it is actually quite easy to raise your score a significant amount by just putting in a little bit more work. Students can see composite ACT scores raise 5 or more points and SAT scores raise 300 or more points. Why is this?
1) Both the ACT and SAT test many of the same concepts repeatedly and by learning these core concepts, you will easily get a higher score.
2) You will get more familiar with the format of the test and start to see patterns in how they ask questions. Once...
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Standardized test math doesn't behave like normal math. On a normal math test, your knowledge of the concepts and material is being tested, using (hopefully) fair test questions. On a standardized test, though, they're looking for you to think outside the box, to apply math concepts and algorithms to unusual situations, and to really understand what they're looking for and find the quickest way to go about it. Let's take a question from a recent GRE student's lesson:
If 4x – 5y = 10 and 6y – 3x = 22, then what is x + y?
Now, this is a set of two equations with two variables each, so it looks to me like a perfect candidate for solving as a system. If I were solving this one on a regular math test, I'd start off trying the substitution method, since I'm more comfortable with that one. So let's explore that one first:
I'll start by solving the first equation for y:
4x – 5y = 10
- 5y = 10 – 4x
y = (-10/5) – (4/-5)x
y = -2 + (4/5)x
Then...
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Need help in middle school, high school, or college math? Don't hesitate to reach out to me! I'm an easy-going and reliable tutor who loves working with all ages!

Quickly after beginning work as a tutor, I came to realize that parents are the black belts of scheduling. They not only have to keep up with a number of annoying adult responsibilities, but they also have to keep up with their children's calendars. Parents' organizational skills (and possibly their sanity) are put to a very difficult test daily. So, to all my expertly organized parents out there, in this post I hope to let you in on a scheduling detail that often slips through the cracks but can make a big difference in a student's SAT or ACT scores.
One of the biggest obstacles I face when preparing a student for the SAT or ACT is the student's test schedule. Far too often, my student is signed up for two tests that are only a month apart. For example, a couple of my past students have been signed up for an SAT in May and then another in June. This short turnaround gives me very little time to receive the student's scores and prep the student in the areas he or...
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During the school year, my students balance classes, sports, social lives, and sleep. Their schedules are hectic. During tutoring lessons, students often only have time to focus on the immediate assignments at hand in their classes. We usually have little time for test prep unless the student and parent has specifically requested that we focus solely on the SAT or ACT. So, when is the best time to study for the SAT or ACT? You guessed it. Summer vacation.
Many of my students have a summer schedule that gives their school year calendar a run for it's money. However, their busy summers do not contain nearly as many academic activities as their school year schedules. Most have summer sports, camp, or jobs. This is the perfect time to balance those physical and social activities with test prep. In addition, students can learn the ropes of the SAT or ACT better when they are not juggling other classes and tests. Every kind of standardized test is unique and it takes...
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My top tips for 'outside the box' -
1. If possible 'interview' the student by phone before the first lesson to establish a bit of a rapport, and to show that you are there as the student's tutor, not the parents' ally.
2. Bring chocolate if you are having a long session, once you have asked if your student likes chocolate. I believe in rewards for hard work, and a 90 minute plus session is hard work!
3. I give students some tools for instant relaxation, which they all enjoy learning.
4. Often, especially with anxious students, I help them with visualization of a successful test report coming in the mail!
5. I make sure that the last 2-3 minutes are used to record the homework, and to note what pages we left off, if we were in the middle of a review section.
Re how I tutor for math:
My approach is to individualize the lessons - first do a diagnostic assessment of what areas...
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Some basic tips for students preparing for the SAT exams.
If your goal is to score high on the exams (and who doesn't want to score high) then you must start preparing early and spend the time. The preparation must be organized into a daily study schedule with a detailed list of tasks. A high score on the SAT translates directly into money in your financial aid package in college.
How to organize the preparation:
1. Study time should be scheduled for the time when you are most alert. For most people, this is the morning hours and it is entirely possible to study an hour before the start of the school day - if you go to sleep early.
2. Cut back or eliminate other social activities to properly prepare for the SAT
3. Purchase a preparatory book (used from Amazon is ideal) and use that book to organize a daily schedule for studying
4. Read printed material that you DON'T like - especially newspapers like the New York Times, Washington...

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...
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For many students in the surrounding Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties welcome back to the classrooms! if you have any difficulties in class, do not hesitate to let your teachers or your parents know so that they can find you the most appropriate level of help before it is later in the school year and you end up being in failure of being promoted! I can't wait to see how I am able to help this school year!

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 you...
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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.
Addition...
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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 are...
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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 the...
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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...
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