Search

Blogs Blogs

Test Preparation Blogs

Newest Most Active

  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 addition... read more

I know that when it comes to boosting one's vocabulary when preparing for one of the standardized tests, some students memorize long lists of words.  Some use flashcards, and others might use mnemonic devices--like associating a word with an image.     That's fine if memorization doesn't bore you, but let's face it. Learning those words by "rote" might help you identify a few on the language section of the SAT, ACT, or GRE, but you'll most likely forget them a week after the test. You also might be someone that hates the practice of memorization.   If you want to improve your vocabulary and really learn new words in context, the best thing is to be a reader, and if you've been reading challenging books throughout high school, that is definitely helpful.  But in the short term, try studying from the book 1100 Words You Need to Know.  This book teaches you vocabulary inductively.  In other words, you're first presented... read more

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 choice... read more

Testing is grueling.  There is nothing worse than going to a test and finding your stomach growling from hunger as you approach the end of the test.  Then, instead on having your mind on the next question, you start daydreaming about what you will be eating for lunch afterwards.   Instead, prepare yourself for the big day by eating key items.   Make sure to eat protein.  Eggs, sausage, fish, beans, yogurt, milk all come from the protein group.  This will give you your long term energy to help you withstand the lengthy tests.   Limit your carbohydrates.  Limit any bread products you might consume or don't eat them at all.  Limit your cereal, tortillas, potatoes, rice and other items.   Eat vegetables, Vegetables give you good nutrients that keep your mind going.  Eggs, mushrooms, onions and peppers, or fish wrapped in a salad wrap, are some ways to mix your protein and veggies.  And a small amount... read more

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... read more

     Most learning follows a curve; not a bell-shaped curve, but a sudden, steep ascent, followed by a plateau. Think about what it was like to learn how to drive a car. You had to consciously remember where the brake and the accelerator were, until it became second nature. That's the pattern for new learning. What has already been learned is usually habitual, so that it becomes unconscious. When learning new, you have to explicitly pay attention to things that later will become second nature. Then the learning is deeply ingrained; so deeply that you don't even have to think about it.       With regard to exam preparation, this steep curve is a reflection of the fact that you learn the preliminary skill set of exam prep strategies relatively quickly, because there are a finite number of things to learn. The ACT in particular is an open book exam in the sense that all the answers are either in the test or in the questions. It's more a... read more

     Most learning follows a curve; not a bell-shaped curve, but a sudden, steep ascent, followed by a plateau. Think about what it was like to learn how to drive a car. You had to consciously remember where the brake and the accelerator were, until it became second nature. That's the pattern for new learning. What has already been learned is usually habitual, so that it becomes unconscious. When learning new, you have to explicitly pay attention to things that later will become second nature. Then the learning is deeply ingrained; so deeply that you don't even have to think about it.       With regard to exam preparation, this steep curve is a reflection of the fact that you learn the preliminary skill set of exam prep strategies relatively quickly, because there are a finite number of things to learn. The ACT in particular is an open book exam in the sense that all the answers are either in the test or in the questions. It's more a... read more

     Most learning follows a curve; not a bell-shaped curve, but a sudden, steep ascent, followed by a plateau. Think about what it was like to learn how to drive a car. You had to consciously remember where the brake and the accelerator were, until it became second nature. That's the pattern for new learning. What has already been learned is usually habitual, so that it becomes unconscious. When learning new, you have to explicitly pay attention to things that later will become second nature. Then the learning is deeply ingrained; so deeply that you don't even have to think about it.       With regard to exam preparation, this steep curve is a reflection of the fact that you learn the preliminary skill set of exam prep strategies relatively quickly, because there are a finite number of things to learn. The ACT in particular is an open book exam in the sense that all the answers are either in the test or in the questions. It's more a... read more

#1. You must lose some battles before you can win the war.-“Timing” you have 2 minutes for every quant question (37 Quant Q’s total) and about 90 seconds for each verbal question (41 Verbal Q’s total.)  There will be a clock on your screen that counts down how many minutes you have left for that particular section. While verbal can be a bit more confusing due to the reading comprehension passages, Quant/Math questions are clear-cut.  How do you get keep pace?  Set some mile-markers by memorizing the ones I’ve listed below.  At each minute, you should ideally be at the question listed.  If you’re too slow, speed up a little bit, but not too much.  If you’re too fast, take a deep breath.   75 minutes-37 Questions 60 minutes- Question 7 45 minutes- Question 15 30 minutes- Question 23 15 minutes -Question 30 10 minutes-Question 33 5 minutes- Question 35 2 minutes-Question 37   #2. Don’t be Late-... read more

As you may know, I am a big fan of the well-known author and brain specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen. He mentions in several of his books that Physical Exercise is good for the brain. I have read of research studies that showed a clear correlation between IMPROVEMENT in students' test scores in math and science, and their level of physical activity (for example, when math class followed PE class, the students had significantly higher scores). Maybe we should schedule PE before all math classes in our schools. What do you think about that idea? This morning I read an online article on the myhealthnewsdaily site, entitled "6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain," and another article about how Physical Exercise helps maintain healthy brain in older adults too. The second article, "For a Healthy Brain, Physical Exercise Trumps Mental Workout" was found under Yahoo News. The remainder of this note is quoted from that article: Regular physical exercise appears to... read more

This afternoon, I found myself writing to one of my ESL students: ______________________ Hello, XXXXXX--- I am imagining you and your dog having a fine time at the cabin as I write this. I bet you are in the cabin as well. In the first sentence at the cabin is correct, just as you would say "I am at home" rather than in home. It would also be correct to say "I'm in the house" rather than outside in the yard. When you are at home, the yard is included. When you are in the house, the yard is excluded. With cabin, the same word is used both ways. When you are at the cabin, the exterior property is included, but when you are in the cabin, it is excluded. By the way, while you might be in your yard, you would be on your property. ______________________ Preposition problems are common to all but the most advanced English language learners, including many native speakers. After sending my student this email, I realized the word office... read more

With the wealth of LSAT prep materials out there, it can be tough to find the best resources for LSAT study. I've been tutoring the LSAT for 5 years, and these are the materials I've found to be the most helpful.   Practice Tests The best way to practice is by using previously administered LSATs. LSAC has published several collections of tests: Volume 5 (Tests 62 to 71, December 2010 to December 2013) Volume 4 (Tests 52 to 61, September 2007 to October 2010) The Next 10 Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests (Tests 29 to 38, October 1999 to October 2002) 10 More Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests (Tests 19 to 28, June 1996 to June 1999) 10 Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests (Tests 7 to 18, December 1992 to September 1995)   The most recent tests (Volumes 4 and 5 above) are the most accurate reflections of what you'll see on test day, while the older tests can be significantly different. I recommend both taking fully-timed practice tests and completing... read more

Frequently Asked Questions   What do you do to help make learning fun? This depends on the subject and the student's age. I have created Jeopardy games, given play money/candy as rewards for answering correctly, played board games (while studying), gathered books on subjects that interest the student, and much more.   Do you offer any guarantees? Yes, I am not satisfied until you are. If your child receives a grade on a test/quiz that is below a "C" then I will review the material with the student at no charge.   Can you guarantee my child will improve? I can assure you that I will give your child all the tools necessary to improve their grades. It is ultimately up to the child to improve.   What are the typical grade improvements you see? Most children will improve a minimum one letter score within only a few weeks of tutoring.   Do you offer ongoing tutoring rates? Yes, students who meet a minimum... read more

My emerging tutoring passion is assisting ESL college students with their coursework. Most of them must also hold full-time jobs to support themselves and often their families as well. Many require online courses to get college educations. They could not earn a college degree any other way. Do textbook publishing companies realize how much cultural bias is written into their online ancillary (supplemental) materials? Do teachers of online college courses realize how hopeless these students feel about merely passing a class when their grades depend on online multiple-choice exams consisting of 60 items to be completed in 60 minutes (60 in 60), for example? This may be a subtle form of cultural bias, but bias it is. Frankly, as a native speaker of American English with a master’s degree in journalism from University of Wisconsin—Madison, I’m not sure I could pass a 60 in 60 exam. I would like to challenge the instructors who teach these online courses and college administrators... read more

There are many situations in which a student or parent might want to seek extra help with math.  Does the student often need to retake assessments? As a teacher, I like to offer make-ups because I want my students to know it's more important to learn the material than to move on before they're ready. Needing to frequently retake assessments means that the student needs to reevaluate how they are preparing. Often, getting a tutor can help them figure out how to best study independently. Does the student freeze during assessments? Does their mind go blank? Or do they think they did well but it turns out that wasn't the case? It's possible the student has test anxiety and needs to build their confidence. Talking through the material with someone is one of the best ways to alleviate that anxiety. Does the student have a difficult time staying caught up with the material? Do they feel like they always get it after the test or quiz but not before? This is... read more

When it comes to standardized tests, the PSAT is often overlooked as an “unnecessary step” in the college entrance process. School guidance counselors steer students toward the SAT and ACT; many teachers mention it in their 6th and 7th grade classrooms. This leaves students and parents alike wondering whether they should even bother taking the PSAT. This article explains the purpose of the PSAT test itself and lists four (4) reasons students should take the PSAT and the benefits of doing so. What is the PSAT test, anyway? First, PSAT stands for “Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test”. In some places, you may see it paired with the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, as in “PSAT/ NMSQT”. The acronym describes its purpose: to test a student’s readiness to take the SAT, to serve as a practice test for the SAT, and to determine student’s eligibility for National Merit Scholarships. So, contrary to popular belief, PSAT scores DO matter if you want to qualify for... read more

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... read more

I am a firm believer that one does not truly know something until she can put it into a new format. You can take notes from a book or from lectures all day, every day, but until you can put the information into a new shape, you haven't actually learned anything. Make a concept map, put facts and vocabulary into tables or categories, write flash cards, and/or rearrange the information in a new outline. Go really crazy and write a song or a poem, draw a picture, even make something in 3D. What you do or make depends on your learning style, but it has to be something new. I also believe that you only know something if you can summarize it. If you know enough about a subject to condense it into something really compact, like a “cheat sheet,” then you’re doing pretty well. You can capture its meaning in much less space than a textbook chapter. I actually do make “cheat sheets” for most of my tests. I condense all of the information I need for the test onto just a few pages, which are... read more

Between ACT and SAT preparation, strategies may differ in some specific ways, yet the overall objective is the same:  build confidence, reduce time, improve accuracy.   Confidence ... why?  Does confidence matter?   Yes!  Here's why --   1 - Neurochemically. Confidence lets us give the thinking brain its proper attention.  When we feel anxious or otherwise flooded with emotion, the stress / alert chemicals actually interfere with cognition.   2 - Cognitively.  Confidence lets us assess competing options more effectively, in order to identify and take calculated risks while avoiding impulsivity.   3 - Intuitively.  Confidence provides feedback to let us know when we are appropriately prepared.  When we feel a lack of confidence, the feeling, itself, indicates that we have overlooked something important.  When we have fully prepared and are sure we have done so, the feeling of confidence... read more

Well, it is the time of year when the frenzy and buzz of talk about classrooms, teachers, textbooks, pencils, folders, and schedules begin. Some of you might be thinking past this year and onto high school or even college, or perhaps you have already signed your child up for the SSAT, HSPT, SAT or ACT test. Now is definitely a good time to start preparing for those tests. In general, students need a lot of practice before taking any of the official tests. The SSAT and SAT tests students on concepts that they might not have learned yet, such as Geometry, or vocabulary words that are beyond the scope of their classes and reading assignments in school. These tests are difficult because students also need to learn some test strategies and approaches to do well on the exams. My advice: prepare early! I have seen students improve greatly over 4 - 6 weeks with steady and consistent practice. By increasing vocabulary, critical reading and quick calculation skills, students will often double... read more

1 2 3 4 5

Test Preparation Blogs RSS feed