The Reading Passage is difficult for two reasons: the passages are often complex and you aren’t given much time to read and answer all of the questions. As I tell my students, one of the most effective ways to deal with this conflict between absorbing the main ideas in the passage and finishing the questions in the allotted time is reading strategically.
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Whenever I talk with students about subject-verb agreement, there is at least one precocious youngster whose eyes glaze over as they wait for something more “challenging”. As basic as subject-verb agreement can seem, even those students who have an impressive grasp of grammar can have a difficult time identifying the true subject and verb of a sentence. The best way to get good at identifying subject-verb issues, as well as many other errors, is to get good at identifying the parts of a sentence. Here is an example of a rather complex sentence.
One of the biggest barriers to success on the SAT is summertime. For most students entering their senior year, the summer represents the first time during their SAT prep experience that they will have a prolonged break from school. After months of prep, you probably took the test in either January, March, or May, but still didn’t get that exact score they were hoping for.
In the last two classes I’ve taught, I’ve had students come up to me after a session to ask about the value of brain-training exercises. The brain-training industry has been getting more attention recently as neuroscience sheds new light on how the brain works, baby-boomers worry about cognitive decline, and companies offering brain-improvement software expand. It’s impossible to listen to NPR without hearing an advertisement for Lumosity, a brain-training website that now boasts 70 million subscribers. The site claims that the benefits of a regular practice range from adolescents improving their academic performance to the elderly staving off dementia.
We’ve all heard it before, the only constant in life is change. Sometimes change can be a good thing? One could argue the Sammy Hagar Van Halen (this might be before your time, but they were a California rock band formed in the ‘70s) was far superior to the David Lee Roth Van Halen. Or for a slightly more timely example, one could argue we’ve yet to see the best of One Direction in the post-Zain Malik era. Regardless, change is a constant, and that applies to standardized testing as well.
By now you have received your SAT score in the mail. For some, it will be a welcome relief. You will have achieved your target score and can concentrate on college applications for senior year. For others, you missed the score by a wide margin and are dead set on retaking the test. For these two groups, there is no true analysis or consideration for taking the SAT again. However, not everyone falls into one of these categories.
Last week, SAT scores became available online. Generally students focus on one number: the overall total out of 2400. Some will focus on the breakdown of the three sections: reading comprehension, writing, and math to see which areas they excelled in and which still need work. This bird’s eye view evaluation is a good way to measure your overall progress in terms of your score, but looking at it from such a distant perspective does not give you the tools you need to improve for the next test.
As another testing season comes to an end. I want to share my personal experience on the SAT. After all, the first time I took it in high school was in the late spring – perhaps just like you!
I always have been fascinated by standardized tests. From ERB’s in elementary school to the ISEE, which is the standardized test Los Angeles private schools used for middle and high school, I was always intrigued by the questions. It’s probably a strange obsession to have, but for some reason I like to learn all about any type of standardized test and try to get a perfect score.
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!
Time is one of the ways the College Board tries to get inside students’ heads. This varies from student to student. Some breeze through only to find the clock running out on their Math section with four problems left. Whatever the case is, timing can be an incredible source of anxiety for students and have adverse effects on one’s score if not managed properly.
I have never met a SAT student who enjoyed writing essay conclusions. I understand that conclusions are important and I appreciate a well-written one, but at heart I’m in the same boat; even though I’ve been a writing tutor for several years now, I still think that writing SAT-style conclusions feels redundant, uncreative, and boring. Fortunately, conclusions aren’t quite the monster that we tend to make them out to be.
I’ve been a full time student for about fifteen years now–elementary, middle, high school, college. It wasn’t until I began teaching, though, that I really understood how to be a good student. My best students haven’t necessarily been the ones who scored highest, knew the most, or learned most quickly; they were the ones who studied, practiced, and listened in ways that maximized our communication and made the most of our tutoring hours together. A few of their best habits:
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.
Using sophisticated vocabulary and writing really long paragraphs in high school essays has been a subject of intense debate. Some teachers love the added eloquence when a student includes a few large words, while others mark down for the use of a thesaurus and overstating what has already been written.
A lot of times on the SAT, students worry about the level of rigor and complexity associated with some of the more difficult questions on the math sections. Some people assume that in order to really succeed on the test, they have to be advanced in mathematics and skilled in high level topics. In reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The following interview comes from testprepstore.com. Testprepstore.com recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A session with Eric Fischer, one of Veritas Prep’s expert SAT instructors, to inquire about the SAT and get his take on the questions that many college applicants would like to ask with regards to SAT prep courses and how to be successful at achieving their desired SAT score.
Don’t read too much on Critical Reading? That’s right! Passages are many students’ least favorite part of the SAT, and understandably so. Many, especially the longer ones, are dense and full of detail. It’s harrowing to spend five or ten minutes trying to absorb everything, only to have to read parts of it over again in order to answer the questions.
Circle problems are one of the toughest things for students to master on the SAT math section. Moreover, geometry as a topic is always a cause for concern. Any type of question that brings in circles is difficult. Part of this stems from the fact that when you learn Geometry in school, you focus on a wide variety of quadrilaterals, proofs, and other concepts. But the SAT includes more circles and triangles, and less proofs and parallelograms. While the reference to simple shapes may bring you back to Pre-K, the complexity of some of these problems is anything but simple. Here is how the radius makes all circle problems easy to solve. The best thing you can do is to treat the radius like your north star. It will guide you in the right direction no matter what the question asks. Understanding the radius and knowing how to manipulate it in a variety of different problem structures will make mastering circles a piece of cake.
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:
Singular focus is a lost art. Whether it’s studying for a test, preparing for the SAT, or getting a presentation together, the ability to shut everything else out and concentrate on one activity is almost impossible for most people in present day. The influx of technology, social media, and heightened obligations are culprits for this new phenomenon, which author Daniel Goleman addresses in his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Goleman, who is well known for his book Emotional Intelligence, is a psychologist who has spent years studying the ability to focus. Years after revolutionizing how people understood and defined someone’s “intelligence” as more than a transcript, he has also provided very interesting observations and notes on the ability to focus and concentrate.
As a junior, you’re actually really well positioned to get a leg up on the college admissions process. You still have some time to complete your testing requirements and you can start to research colleges before the crunch of application season. Here are some things you can get started on right away:
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.
In the late 1960’s, Professor Walter Mischel at Stanford conducted a series of studies that examined the concept of delayed gratification. His research team offered preschoolers the choice of one reward immediately or two rewards if they waited for about fifteen minutes. The rewards were usually marshmallows and the study later became famous in popular culture, known as “The Marshmallow Test.”
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:
I loved martial arts growing up, but used to absolutely detest drills. My teacher always insisted on placing the most physically demanding forms at the end of each drill session, so every other evening I spent my practice time dreading the end of the hour. Today, however, I apply the same strategy to teaching SAT classes: I have my students complete an essay (for many of them the most daunting part of the SAT) at the very end of each 3-hour class. Most of them complain or groan a little, but many have told me afterwards that the practice was very helpful!
Everyone makes a few New Year’s resolutions. Most of them are about getting in shape, reading more, and other activities that improve one’s livelihood. In 2015, if you are a high school student gearing up to take the SAT, you should start it off with a different sort of resolution. Resolve to study one hour each day until the test on Saturday, January 24th.
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.
The SAT essay calls for a more formal and academic tone of writing than some students are comfortable with. Over my two and a half years as an SAT instructor, I’ve received an extraordinary number of questions about what formal tone should look like. Far too often, students mistake complexity for formality, misuse of advanced vocabulary or simply focus too much on tone that they forget the importance of strong content. Here are a few of the most common errors I’ve seen regarding SAT essay tone and how to avoid them.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, Winter Break is coming up. The semester has flown by with quizzes, tests, memorizing odd facts about Charlemagne and imaginary numbers. But before you can relax, you have to climb and conquer those treacherous peaks of your final examinations. Only then will you be able to rest and sleep long hours, forget about setting your alarm, and float into nothingness (with the exception of all that fun time hanging out with your friends and listening to Taylor Swift).
Free web resources can be useful supplements to your SAT study, but only when used correctly. Practice questions, essay hints, and sample passages vary widely in their correctness and helpfulness. At best, web resources can provide free information and explanations to aid your understanding of concepts. At worst, they can mislead and confuse students about the SATs expectations, format, and scoring system. Here are a few tips about making the most of what Google has to offer.
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?
Last week, we discussed how to break down the Writing Section of the SAT. Today, we’re focusing on Math.