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SAT Prep Resources

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One of the leading questions parents ask when inquring about tutoring services is "how long should my student study for the SATs?"  This answer varies depending upon the student's current academic progress, whether they've taken the test previously and what areas they need to invest more time in.  The short answer is at least 40 hours.  Also, it is not a bad... read more

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One of the biggest successes you can endeavor during your tutoring career is expanding your academic reach. Two years ago my student asked me to help her begin preparing for the PSATs. I have never taught that material but she enjoyed my English and reading approach that she was confident I could help her. After reviewing the materials, we began to take apart the test and work through the English... read more

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Ellen’s Rules For Effective Time Management, Part 3 5. Mix up your subjects. Spending all day working on the same project can lead to feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Mixing up your subjects helps the brain to stay engaged, since it can’t fall into the trance of working on the same thing for hours. If you’re writing a paper and starting to feel annoyed or frustrated with... read more

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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... read more

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Marshaling the cognitive resources and committing the amount of time required to earn good grades and high test scores takes effort. The rewards from these achievements are often delayed, while the rewards from having fun with your friends, playing video games, interacting on social media, watching tv, etc. are more immediate. What strategies can you use to help overcome this mismatch? In... read more

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When you're studying before a test, the question of how to allocate your study time inevitably arises. What should you study first? Where should you spend the most time? Janet Metcalfe and Nate Kornell designed three clever experiments to find out. In the first experiment, participants were allowed to choose how to allocate their study time. They were tasked with learning English-Spanish... read more

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We all know we do better when we're well-rested than when we're not. Modern sleep research has started to uncover exactly why that's the case. In terms of memory, there are at least two important reasons to make sure you're getting enough sleep. First, we better remember what we learned the day before. This is because sleep plays an essential role in the conversion of short-term memory... read more

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During the school year, many of the students I work with have jam-packed schedules replete with extracurriculars, sports, and demanding classes. Adding test prep into the mix can complicate schedules even further. So why not take advantage of the time students have off during the summer to get ahead, so that when school resumes they won't have a heavy additional workload to worry about?    There... read more

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When I worked for Kaplan, they required all private tutoring lessons to be two hours. That surprised me because I thought of lessons as one-hour affairs. However, I soon discovered that we could get through a lot more in one two-hour lesson than we could in two one-hour lessons. Why? For starters, each lesson always starts with a few pleasantries and takes a couple of minutes to get... read more

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Sometimes I work with students who perform well during our lessons, but who struggle when it comes to actually taking the test. It turns out the reason for this might be genetic.    When we experience stress, our prefrontal cortex is flooded with dopamine. Some of us are coded with a gene that slowly removes the dopamine, while others have a variant that rapidly removes... read more

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The Economist recently published an article with some surprising research findings about stress. Contrary to popular belief, stress is not always bad, nor is it the amount of stress that matters. Rather, the key determinant of its impact on performance and health is largely psychological.    In one study, researchers divided a set of GRE test takers into two groups. Saliva... read more

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Over the years, I have noticed that many students do not like to take their practice test scores at face value. When students get scores below their goal, the temptation to rationalize is strong. "On Test Day, I will take it much more seriously, so I'm sure my result will be higher." "I was distracted during XYZ sections, so my score on those isn't as accurate as... read more

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Our understanding of the relationship between memory and learning continues to improve. Why not benefit from the latest research by incorporating some of these findings into your own study habits? I help my students come up with creative ways to do this all the time, and wanted to share one of the more helpful summaries I've come across about what works and what doesn't.    Here... read more

Blogs

Way back in 2010, one of my first blog post series on this site took the form of a five-part series on rules for effective time management.  For the next few Ellen's Choices, I've decided to go back through these rules and apply them to the world of preparing for the SAT (or any standardized test). So let's begin with Part 1: All-Nighters Are Evil Ellen’s Rules for Effective... read more

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Scheduling A regular schedule is the most successful structure for tutoring, and I offer discounts for sessions scheduled on a regular basis (see Session Fees).  I also tutor individuals who want single sessions, have irregular schedules, need immediate help, or simply are not sure.   I try to be as flexible as possible and am usually able to stay longer than scheduled... read more

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When I first took the SAT, I sat in a classroom with desks that were connected to chairs. One problem: these desks were less than the size of a piece of paper. Whenever I tried to flip pages, my materials fell on the floor, my pencil rolled off my desk, and I had to spend the time flipping each individual page rather than keeping my booklet open. This wasted a lot of time, and I'm sure I could... read more

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    The SAT or ACT is the dreaded standardized test that students begin taking typically in 11th grade. From my personal experience, the SAT was nothing but a nuisance; you have to wake up at the crack-of-dawn on a Saturday morning and sit in a testing room for approximately three hours. As I advise high school students and parents about the SAT and ACT, I get the question "How... read more

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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... read more

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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... read more

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Overview: Current SAT vs. Redesigned SAT Details of the new SAT have been a mystery since the new format was announced last year. We have been doing our best over the past several months to keep our students up-to-date by scouring the internet for reliable information. Collegeboard.com recently published the key differences between the old test and the new test. Since this information... read more

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