The SAT is a beast of a test, and not some seemingly ferocious beast that turns out to be cute and cuddly: it is a true monster with fangs and all. While acknowledging that the SAT is a force to be reckoned with, like all monsters, the SAT has certain “Problem Areas” that students tend to find more dangerous than others (the fangs and fire-breath, to continue our already stretching metaphor). Here are three techniques to help conquer these problem areas and thus de-fang our foe. OK, enough metaphor!
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I distinctly remember the night before my first day of college. It would have been an extremely memorable night no matter what, but the experience of my first panic attack made it particularly memorable. What was this new experience going to be? Was I going to be successful? Were people going to like me? Was everyone I loved going to die in a fire while I was away? My thoughts began to spiral quickly and before I knew it I was having a full on panic attack. Stress and anxiety will always be potential problems as new experiences, important events, and difficult deadlines occur, but here are some tips for college bound students (and everyone else) who may deal with the anxiety of a stressful situation.
Woohoo! You’ve done it! After all the hard work creating beautiful animations on Powerpoint, memorizing the Monarchs involved in the War Of The Roses (the ORIGINAL house of Lancaster before Game Of Thrones co-opted the name by changing three letters), and busting your behinds trying to memorize SAT vocabulary words (only to hear that next year the test won’t have a vocabulary section. Oh the humanity!), you have finally gotten into college! So, now what? Sure you know how to thrive in the bustling world of high school, but how do you succeed when there are no parents to keep you honest about whether you have completed your work, no curfews to keep you home in time to get a good night sleep, and no one there to make sure your laundry gets done and you don’t smell like the inside of a tennis shoe after a marathon? The start of a more independent life is both daunting and exciting. There are a number of paths to success in this new arena, but here are a few ways to make sure that this next step towards adulthood also sets you up for success academically and professionally for years to come.
As a young test taker I remember the terror of looking up at a clock and realizing that I was only halfway through a sixty question exam while my time had dwindled to a measly ten minutes. Many adults still have stress dreams in which they are running out of time on a timed test (how unfortunate that so many cannot even escape this dread in their sleep!) The SAT is a beast of a timed test and many students have a hard time determining how to manage their time while taking this exam. While the timed nature of the test is daunting, there are a few concrete steps that can be taken to avoid a panic attack when the words “five minutes remaining” are uttered on test day.
For many hopeful college applicants, the essay can feel like one of the most stressful portions of the SAT. It is not simply that it is the first section of the SAT, which is certainly stressful, or that so little time is allotted to complete the essay, another legitimate concern, but also that there is no way to know the question that will be posed and thus no way to know if the right example will pop into the brain of the nervous test taker while he or she is taking the test. These are all valid concerns for all the college hopefuls out there, but all of these concerns can be addressed by studying for the essay in the right way, and yes, you can study for the essay! Here are three tactics that can help alleviate some of the stress of this section and prepare students to rock the SAT essay.
The great leap is upon you! So far you have been a star pupil in High School and there is no reason to believe that college will be any different, right? Right?! You begin to panic in the way only the young have really mastered, imagining the hundreds of pages of reading you’ve heard about, the “weed out” classed where half the students fail, and distracting the frat parties, how can a person NOT fail in this crazy environment? This is an inevitable, and not wholly unproductive, question.
This is a class of problem that is among the most dreaded on the SAT: the hard pattern problem! DUN DUN DUN [Cue dramatic music]! Though this type of problem is not very familiar to many students since it is not often specifically taught in many high school math classes, the actual skills necessary to dominate these questions are straight forward. The general set up of this type of problem is as follows:
Techniques for studying for the SAT are as varied and numerous as the students who adhere to them. One student may swear that the only way to prepare for an exam is to study for six straight hours before bed once a week, while another might say the only way to succeed is to do two questions a day and then eat a grapefruit to help all the information stick. Though there are a variety of studying techniques with which many students have found success, there are a few core study practices that will create consistency and clarity within whatever practices already work for each student.
As you are sitting and surfing through the seemingly infinite educational institutions to which you could send the credentials? It is easy to descend into a full-fledged panic attack. After all it’s only the ONE decision that will determine EVERY PROCEEDING MOMENT OF your LIFE. Take a breath, friend! This decision, like many others that determine your surroundings for a period of time, is important. But before you get so stressed you decide to ditch the whole process and start a new life for yourself in Malaysia (a tempting place to start a new life, take my word for it), ask yourself these questions and know that any experience is very much what you make of it.
One of the more challenging classes of math problems for any aspiring SAT master is what we in the biz calls the “Abstract Problem” (it even sounds confusing). This is simply an easy and all-encompassing term to describe problems that ask for an understanding of a concept rather than an exact number answer. “But we have only been taught to arrive at a numerical answer to difficult math questions!” you might exclaim. The truth of the matter is that conceptualizing difficult math topics is very hard to do without some input of real numbers. But with the input of actual computations, even confusing concepts can become crystal clear. Let’s look at an example:
One of the most difficult things to teach students is how to avoid careless errors. Very few things are as frustrating as looking down at an answer sheet on the SAT and seeing that your process was correct for arriving at the right answer and yet some small error made you choose the wrong answer. Careless errors are in insidious blight on those who wish to achieve at the highest level on the SAT. Here are a few simple, practical steps that can be taken to ensure that you are being judged on your process not on some small arithmetic error.
1. Circle the answer choice. One of the easiest careless mistakes to make is simply answering for a variable that the question does not require. Luckily this is also one of the easiest mistakes to avoid. Simply circle of the desired variable or unknown and draw an equal sign next to it. This will ensure that you do not move on from this problem until you can complete that equation.
As the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey, (or a delicious vegetarian alternative) it is easy to put studying for the SAT to bed for a long winter’s nap. It is almost certain that taking a little bit of time to not think about standardized tests is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work. With a work out plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true of SAT studying as well. Students can use these three steps (which should take less than twenty minutes) four days a week to help continue the process of conquering the SAT, while still leaving you lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how tall you’ve become.
The groans I hear when I ask my students to memorize a new list of vocabulary words makes it seem as if I have asked them to do some impossible task akin to carving a replica of Michelangelo’s David with a dull set of dentistry tools. “It’s so tedious!” they say. To me, it does not seem more tedious than trying to slingshot exploding birds into precariously designed structures harboring evil green pigs, but what do I know? The question remains: what is the best way to learn vocabulary?
The future is now, and that does not simply mean that we must all Instagram pictures of puppies wearing hats on an hourly schedule (that said, it would be a shame to keep such pictures to yourself). There has never been a greater capability of connecting with people across the globe, and this means that learning does not simply have to take place in an “in person” classroom. Live Online classes and tutoring allows eager students to access the best educational methods for SAT prep.
I have been out of my formal education, and certainly out of high school for many years now but I still have stress dreams where the time is slowly running out on a standardized test. I’m stuck on a hard problem and am waffling between two answers: “What does it mean if these two points are co-linear!” I scream and wake up in a cold sweat. If this describes your own dark dreams, you are not alone. Negotiating timing on a test is tough, but there are a few great tricks that will help you to zoom through some of the tougher sections and complete the SAT without feeling that stress.
There are very few people whose idea of a good time includes spending hours outside of regular school poring over SAT material. With all the other constraints on a high school student’s time, is it worth it to do an SAT prep course? The honest answer is yes. The SAT is very important to the university admissions process and the skills necessary for lifting an SAT score can be learned over a much shorter period of time than it takes to dramatically change a four year GPA or achieve success in extracurricular activities. In terms of results for the time put in, success on the SAT is a lot of bang for your buck, and the skills learned in SAT prep are applicable to any standardized or multiple choice test.
Anxiety can often feel like an indestructible creature of mythical strength. If it is not enough that students must learn five hundred vocabulary words, spend hours drilling algebra (everyone’s idea of a fun Friday night), and learn to identify hidden grammatical mistakes, students must also fight the dragon of anxiety which paralyzes with its powerful breath and leaves students feeling defeated before they even begin. Anxiety is a mighty beast, but there are ways to combat this force and slay the dragon of fear so that you can focus on what really matters: answering the questions on the SAT correctly.
Have you ever had a fight with a parent, a partner, or a friend that was about one thing but was really about something else? Maybe mom yells that she can’t believe you left the milk out when really she’s mad that you watched the new episode of Homeland without her? Things are not always what they seem, and the SAT is just as guilty of hiding what it truly wants as your Homeland watching parent. So how do we approach a problem where the true skill that is being tested is not obvious? As in life, the real trick is digging down to what is really going on and addressing the true nature of the problem. Here is an example where this technique can be used:
The SAT, like so much in this big beautiful world, is a complex assemblage of pieces. It is, therefore, a complex task to improve one’s score on the SAT as it involves an understanding of the different parts of the test. There are, however, a few simple steps that can help start the process of improving one’s score that many people may not even realize are necessary. Here are three simple changes that can help to significantly improve your score and can, with the aid of other strategies, help you to rock the SAT.
When approaching a reading passage on the SAT, it can feel overwhelming to go through all of the information in the passage and extract the little tidbits that are truly useful in answering questions. While it is wonderful to read in a more lackadaisical way when sitting at the beach with a tale of vampire love affairs, this method of reading is more about following plot and big picture than about gleaning important details. If you feel like you have trouble wading through the information and finding what is important, fear not! There are a few strategies that may help you to navigate the reading section more effectively.
One of the biggest differences between the SAT and other non-multiple choice tests is that for nearly every question on the SAT, the correct answer is right in front of you! Given that the answer is right there, the real trick is figuring out how to use this to your advantage. Let’s look at an example to show us how we can use these answer choices to our advantage.
For those of us who grew up speaking English, we rarely find a personal benefit from translating English into another language. One big exception to this is in the math world. We may find ourselves able to understand the most erudite texts with ease, but figuring out how to interpret mathematical terms can be difficult without a little translating. Here is a quick and easy guide to help translate our language of communication into a language of computation.
Some of the most difficult kinds of problems in the math section of the SAT are the problems where there doesn’t seem to be enough information present to solve. Fear not brave test-taker! Often times, a problem that seems to be lacking simply has information hidden somewhere in the question. But like the great detectives of the past, it is possible to use our wits to find this information. The first step is to know the common shapes hidden in SAT math questions.
For those of us who grew up speaking English as our native language, grammar can be somewhat of an afterthought. We take for granted that the linguistic constructions that we use when we are arguing with our parents or flirting with a prospective prom date employ a regimented structure that we may not realize we are using. Basic understanding of piecing a sentence together is necessary for really taking that grammar score to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of the basic grammatical elements that make up our language.
Preparing for the SAT is a lot like working out. In order to maximize results, it’s best to put in a little bit of work everyday. If you are trying to bench-press 300 pounds, you won’t get there in one work out (if you do, you probably have a career in professional weightlifting ahead of you). Similarly, if you are trying to score at the highest level on the SAT, it’s best to prepare with at least a little work each day. Here is a sample five day, thirty minute a day, brain work out plan that will leave you ready for brain swimsuit season (OK, that’s not a thing, but it will leave you ready to attack the SAT).
Anyone who really wishes to achieve success on the SAT should not only be able to identify what makes up a correct answer, but also what makes an incorrect answer. The anatomy of an incorrect answer choice is not as complex as one might expect and gives students an important tool in selecting the correct answer choice: the power to eliminate all the other, less deserving options. The most common characteristic of an incorrect answer choice is the fact that it cannot possibly be correct given the context of the problem.
One of the worst feelings in many student’s young test taking lives is furiously working away at some standardized test, and really feeling that they are NAILING IT, only to look up at the clock and realize they have five minutes to complete the next fifteen problems. Time management can be extremely tricky on the SAT, but there are a number of things that can be done before the test to insure that time is used effectively.
Of the errors on the SAT, the idiomatic error can seem to be the most difficult to spot. Though these kinds of errors are particularly tricky, there are some clear steps that can be taken to help prepare for the dreaded error of idiom.
What is an idiomatic error?
Essentially, an error of idiom is a mistake in the word or words, often prepositions, that are used in association with other words, often verbs. An example would be the previous phrase, “used in association with”. It would be incorrect to say “used for association with” or “used in association to”. There are literally thousands of idiomatic phrases in English. For this reason, it can be very difficult to strengthen this particular skill, though there are ways to increase one’s ability to spot an idiomatic error.
Considering how ubiquitous a piece of punctuation the comma is, it is surprisingly misunderstood. The comma has a number of uses that are described quite thoroughly here, but the most common comma errors on the SAT are comma splices, omission of commas when used with a conjunction to combine two independent clauses, and misuse of commas with the word ‘which’.
A lot of students, after they have gotten their first score, feel unsure whether or not they should take the SAT again. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to endeavor to conquer the four hour test after it has already been battled, but here are a few things to consider when deciding what to do.
One of the biggest tricks the SAT uses is to confuse students is putting a question in theoretical terms instead of in practical terms. This simply means the questions on the SAT will sometimes reference a general term, for example an even integer, rather than giving a concrete number that fits that description, such as two or four.
When students, even those who consider themselves strong in math, get to the final two problems of the SAT, many begin to sweat like they are about to embark on some epic journey from which they may never return. The hard probability problem makes students very uncomfortable, but in reality most harder math problems simply require one or two more steps than less difficult problems. Probability questions are actually some of the simplest to solve.
The essay begins the SAT and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a five paragraph essay in 25 minutes, but there are a few steps that can make the essay a piece of cake!
1. Make An Essay Template
The time spent figuring out how to structure an essay on the SAT is time wasted. This may sound counter intuitive as structure is a big part of what the SAT graders are evaluating, but it is this reason exactly that makes the structure of the essay the first thing that can be systematized and recycled. The essential make up of a five paragraph essay is simple. There is an introduction which presents the topic, states the thesis, acknowledges the opposition, and lays out how the essay will argue its point, three body paragraphs which use examples to support the thesis, and a conclusion which restates the thesis and briefly reminds the reader what it has just read.
In grammar, as in life, agreement can be tricky. Subjects and verbs have to agree, verb tenses have to agree, sentence structures have to agree, and pronouns have to agree. Much agreement is necessary for a sentence to function properly, but one of the trickiest of the many agreement issues that can pop up on an SAT is the hidden agreement issue between some non-pronoun and its referent. This can be particularly tricky to spot, but with a little practice it will be easier than buying a pie (making a pie is actually pretty tough to do well).
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do on an SAT question is to see something that isn’t there. The SAT provides test takers with enough information to solve the questions, but sometimes the information is not stated explicitly. The easiest way for the makers of the SAT to disguise information is to give written description rather than a picture. Luckily, it doesn’t require Picasso’s eye for line to translate words into pictures. Here is an example:
Studying for the SAT is a fantastic idea and really the only way to ensure that you will succeed on the SAT, but not all studying is created equal. I have encountered a number of mistakes students make while studying from watching “Sex In The City” because they think it is a good place to look for essay ideas, to studying non-Euclidean geometry to study for the math.
In my tenure as an SAT teacher I have heard all explanations imaginable as to why the reading on the SAT is the most boring and awful reading in the known universe. Students tell me the reading is too dense, too dry, too descriptive, too hard.
There is no arguing with the fact that some of the passages on the SAT are less than thrilling, but in order to score at the highest level on the SAT, students must find a way to stay present and actively consume the material. There are a couple of techniques that can help with this process and allow students to answer questions about the passage effectively.
As trembling hands turn the first page of the SAT, the heart of students drops like a rock. This first problem is a WORD problem and word problems are IMPOSSIBLE! The student drops his or her head. How can the test begin with such a hard problem? Be of good cheer young test taker, not all word problems are created equal.
So much time and energy is spent in preparing for the SAT. Many consider it the gate keeper to their college acceptence. It is a way to distinguish oneself on a level playing field from all others who are attempting to gain admission to college, but what is the SAT really? Is it an IQ test? Is it a college prep test? Does one really have to succeed on the SAT to do well in college?
One of the most common (and frustrating) questions SAT instructors hear from their enthusiastic but sometimes misguided students is this: is there a secret to dominating the SAT? As nice as it would be if there were some long guarded secret word or ritual that a student could invoke to dominate this test, there simply is no single secret. The SAT is a skills test and requires students to practice the skills it values. There are, however, a few tools that are useful on all tests which take the form of the SAT and use it to gain advantage. Here are 11 tips to help you on test day.