SAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Let Unfamiliar Content in Reading Passages Scare You

SAT Tip of the Week - FullPassages in the SAT Reading Section encompass a wide array of content areas – there are scientific passages, literary excerpts, parts of famous historical documents, and much more. If you’re like me, you may think that having the opportunity to read all these different pieces is exciting. If you’re not like me (aka, less nerdy), reading these can be boring, or even scary.

The scary part comes when students get nervous about getting a passage on the SAT that’s about something they’re not comfortable with. Some students think that this makes the test harder, and some might even think they have to study up on different subjects to be prepared for this.

Luckily, this is unnecessary. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of content on these reading passages – every question can be answered without any outside content knowledge. All you need to do is use the information presented in the passage to answer the given questions – no special knowledge required.

A passage about gene mutations doesn’t take a degree in biology to ace. A passage from John Milton can be manageable without being the most well-read Junior in the country. Everything that you need to answer the passage-based questions will be directly present in the passages themselves (on the SAT, this is always the case).

In fact, having a lot of outside content knowledge can actually be a detriment to scoring well on that passage. One of the biggest dangers on the SAT Reading Section is using information that’s not in the passage to answer questions. Going beyond the text and making assumptions is a pitfall that many students fall into, especially for students who want to rely on their outside expertise because they think it will make answering passage questions about that topic “easier.”

For example, if I got a passage about Abraham Lincoln (my favorite president), I might get really excited and try to answer the questions using the knowledge I’ve accrued over my lifetime. This would be problematic because I would be tempted to choose the answers that made the most historical sense, or I would get frustrated when the answers weren’t totally historically accurate, rather than focus on the given text. In this case, I would have to be extra careful to justify all my answers solely using evidence from the text – something that is always necessary for these reading passages.

This leads to a sort of irony, that the passages that have content which is unfamiliar to a student might be the passages that are easiest for that student to do well on. Without background knowledge, students are forced to pay careful attention to the details of the text and base their answer choices solely off of that. So, instead of being afraid of complicated-looking passages, see them as the gifts they can really be!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: What Are You Risking When You Cheat on the SAT?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMost high school students know that it takes time and effort to properly prepare for the SAT. Unfortunately, there are some students who think that cheating on the SAT is the only way to obtain a high score. What they may not know is that test officials have put many barriers in place to prevent cheating on this exam. Still, every year there are students who stubbornly try to cheat on SAT questions.

Let’s take a look at what you will be risking by choosing to cheat on the SAT:

The Risks of Cheating
Not surprisingly, there are serious consequences for students who are caught cheating (and even for students who are under the suspicion of cheating) on this test. SAT testing centers assign a proctor to each group of students taking the exam – this proctor monitors the group and reports any questionable activity he or she may see.

For instance, if a proctor sees a student texting or otherwise using a cell phone during the test, that student will be asked to leave. When a student is caught cheating like this, the proctor will destroy the student’s answer sheet and report the incident to test officials. The student will then not be able to retake the test for a period of time set by the College Board, which may mean that the student has to delay their college application process.

Having one’s score canceled is another risk students take by cheating on the SAT. If testing officials find any irregularities in a student’s scores or performance on the test, they can open an investigation or cancel that person’s test scores altogether. And keep in mind, a student’s scores can be canceled even if they’ve already been submitted to colleges.

For example, testing officials may suspect cheating if a student earns a very low score on their first SAT attempt and a very high score on a retake – an unusually large discrepancy in scores like this will sometimes trigger an investigation, but of course, tremendous improvement in test performance doesn’t automatically mean a student has cheated. If a student’s test scores are canceled, they must prepare for the SAT again in order to retake it, which can definitely be an inconvenience.

Another important thing to remember is that if a student is accepted into a college based on an unearned SAT score, they may not be able to handle the level of academic rigor at that school. Furthermore, this student will have taken the place of another student who applied to the college with high SAT scores that were earned fairly.

Preparing For the SAT the Right Way
When it comes to the SAT, cheating is never a good idea. Instead, students should set a study schedule that allows them to gradually learn the material they will need to know.

At Veritas Prep, our skillful instructors earned scores on the SAT that placed them in the 99th percentile of test-takers, and students who take our prep courses benefit from these instructors’ practical knowledge! Our online and in-person course options allow students to choose the most convenient way for them to practice with the experts for this exam.

Our students receive individual attention that allows them to focus on what they need to do to improve. We offer tips on how to complete all of the questions on the SAT and still have time left to review answers. Our instructors understand how stressful it can be for students who are preparing for this challenging exam, so in addition to offering academic guidance, our instructors also offer much-needed support and encouragement. Students who work with our team of professional instructors get help every step of the way as they study for the SAT.

Our instructors at Veritas Prep know that most students want to do their best and earn high scores on the SAT, but cheating on this exam is never an option for them. We use quality study resources and materials to give students the tools they need to showcase their abilities on the SAT. As students move through our prep classes, they begin to experience increased confidence. Contact Veritas Prep today and let our instructors help you to true success on the SAT! And as always be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT and SAT Score Conversion

ACT vs SATMany students who plan to go to college choose to take both the ACT and the SAT – in many cases, students will take the ACT during their junior year of high school and complete the SAT during their senior year. The results of these tests help college admissions officials gauge whether an individual might be a positive addition to their student body.

While some schools will want to see scores for both exams, others request scores for either the ACT or the SAT. Naturally, if a student is applying to one of the latter schools, they will want to take both tests and submit the better of their two scores. This is where the process of score conversion comes in.

Take a look at how some students are using ACT to SAT score conversion to determine which score to submit with their college applications. Also, learn how our instructors at Veritas Prep can help students perform their best on both tests.

The Process of Score Conversion
The highest achievable score on the ACT is a 36, whereas students can earn up to 1600 points on the new SAT. Score conversion allows students to compare their scores on both exams to determine which is more impressive overall – this can be done using a concordance chart (PDF). Though the ACT and SAT are different types of tests, this chart equates their results in a reasonable way.

Students are able to garner a larger amount of total points on the SAT than on the ACT – as a result, a student’s ACT composite score can equate with a range of scores on the SAT. A score conversion can then help highlight the student’s academic strengths on their college application.

What if a student only takes one of the two tests?
A student who takes the ACT instead of the SAT may try to use a concordance chart to predict their possible SAT score based on their current ACT score, however, without having actually taken the SAT, the student will never know how they might have performed. A concordance chart is not a completely reliable predictor of a student’s performance on either exam – instead, it is meant to be used as a means of comparing the results of both standardized tests. A student can determine which of these two results they should submit to colleges by using the concordance chart to convert an SAT score to an ACT score (conversion to SAT format from an ACT score would help in the same way).

Expert Prep for the ACT and SAT
It’s important for students to begin with a thorough study program for both the ACT and the SAT. Veritas Prep offers SAT and ACT preparation courses that give students the tools they need to tackle all of the challenging questions on the test.

Both our ACT and SAT instructors have first-hand experience with these exams – in fact, our instructors at Veritas Prep must have exemplary scores on these tests in order to work for us, as we want our students to learn from the very best! Students who sign up with Veritas Prep will definitely have an advantage over their peers.

Learning Practical Strategies
We use top quality study materials and professional educational resources to teach our students how to approach the questions on the ACT, as well as on the SAT. For instance, we share tips on how to spot and eliminate wrong answer choices so students can find the correct answer in a more efficient way. We also assist students in dissecting their SAT and ACT practice tests to find the areas that need improvement.

As students prepare for the ACT, the SAT, or both, they can meet with our instructors online or in person and benefit from their skills and know-how. We provide students with plenty of encouragement, so they’ll feel at ease when they sit down on test day to tackle either the ACT or the SAT.

We are proud to guide students in achieving their highest potential scores on the SAT and ACT. Contact Veritas Prep today and sign up for our first-rate ACT and SAT prep courses.

Still need to take the SAT or ACT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources and free ACT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Why One-on-One SAT Tutoring is So Important

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHigh school students go about preparing for the SAT in a number of different ways – some students form study groups with friends to review vocabulary words and work on math problems, while others prefer to create a study schedule and practice for the SAT on their own. One of the most effective ways to prep for this test is to participate in one-on-one SAT tutoring. Discover several reasons why many students choose to work with a professional tutor as they prepare to tackle the SAT:

Tutoring Tailored to a Student’s Learning Style
When a student works one-on-one with a tutor, the instructor is able to tailor the lessons to the person’s learning style. For example, a tutor who is working with a student who’s a visual learner will likely use lots of graphs, charts, and written exercises during each session. Alternatively, a tutor working with an auditory learner may ask the student to read passages aloud and verbalize the steps of algebra or geometry problems.

Our tutors at Veritas Prep take the time to recognize a student’s learning style before the tutoring sessions even begin. Our experienced tutors know that incorporating a student’s learning style into each lesson goes a long way to helping them absorb the material – we’ve found that determining a student’s learning style beforehand boosts the overall quality of instruction.

A Supply of Useful Strategies
Some students think that taking a practice test, studying vocabulary words, and completing math problems are all they need to do to prepare them for the SAT, but there is another significant step to this process. In order to be fully prepared for the SAT, a student must learn test-taking strategies – these strategies help students simplify complicated questions and allow them to finish each section of the test before time is called. Students who sign up for one-on-one SAT tutoring at Veritas Prep can learn test-taking strategies from the best! We give students a range of strategies that can be applied with success on any section of the exam.

Getting an Answer to Every Question
Students who work one-on-one with an SAT tutor can get answers to all of their questions about this exam. Not surprisingly, students who get their questions addressed right away are able to thoroughly absorb the information and move on to the next topic. Plus, a student’s questions can help a tutor gauge whether the individual is truly grasping a concept. If there’s a topic that needs further review, a tutor and student can take the time to go back over the material. We want our students to sit down on test day with a feeling of confidence!

Personalized Tips Lead to Effective Study
Many students opt for one-on-one SAT tutoring because they know the benefits of personalized study tips. An example of a general study tip for students would be to memorize ten math definitions per week, however, an instructor working one-on-one with a student can personalize that tip by advising the individual to create a mnemonic for each word that relates to the student’s own life to make the strategy all the more effective.

Invaluable Encouragement
Studying for the SAT can be stressful for a high school student. Some students may encounter a section of the practice test that challenges them more than all of the others. This is where an encouraging voice can really help.

Our SAT instructors have been through the study process and have taken the exam, so they can easily empathize with their students. Most importantly, they’ve gone through the experience and achieved tremendous success on the SAT! Our tutors are also experts at providing advice to students who deal with test anxiety. We give students the academic preparation as well as the support they need to do their absolute best on the SAT.

At Veritas Prep, we give students the resources and encouragement they need to master the SAT. When it comes to the SAT, our students have the tools they need to enjoy an advantage over their peers. Check out our tutoring options and courses to find out which one is the best fit for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: 6 Strategies You Learn in High School That Will Help You Prepare for the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIf you’re anything like me, the SAT might seem irrelevant to your high school classes. I know the College Board says that the SAT tests the same skills you learn in high school, but let’s be real – it never feels that way. High school essays have different questions than SAT essays, high school math questions are much more detailed, and high school science content barely shows up on the SAT.

However, even with these and other differences, you shouldn’t totally divorce high school from the SAT. There is some important overlap between the two, and it’s important to use every resource you can to improve your SAT performance. Here are some solid strategies that will help you best use your time in high school to prepare for the SAT:

1) Build good vocabulary habits. The new SAT has done away with the notoriously obscure vocabulary questions the old SAT was known for, but there are still vocab words in context. When reading challenging texts for English class, be sure to look up words you don’t know and practice using them in appropriate ways to prepare for this type of vocab usage on test day.

2) Learn math content basics. It is true that SAT math does not align perfectly with high school math, but hey, numbers are numbers! Focusing in on high school math, especially on what you learned during your first few years of high school, can be a good way to establish basic comfort with a lot of the skills the SAT will test you on. Even if SAT-specific strategies are the most useful in answering SAT math questions, knowing how to do quick calculations and having a familiarity with important formulas will serve you well on this exam, especially with regards to time.

3) Recognize grammar rules. Many high school English curricula place a strong emphasis on grammar in writing, but lots of students tend to dismiss it as boring. Don’t be one of these students! Having a basic understanding of grammar rules is key to being confident on the SAT Writing and Language section. Even if you don’t remember all the exact rules and exact names of the things you learned in class, by paying attention, you will be more likely to spot mistakes and know how to correct them.

4) Get practice writing essays. The old SAT essay had almost nothing to do with anything you would write for high school, but the new SAT essay (the one that matters now) has some overlap with high-school-style assignments.

The new essay is all about argument analysis – a skill that many Social Studies and English classes in high school try to hone. If you practice these skills in class and work with your teachers to improve your writing ability, you will be more comfortable writing the SAT essay. Merely the act of writing itself tends to improve your overall writing ability, so think of all your high school assignments as making your writing clearer and stronger for the SAT down the road.

5) Develop good test-taking habits. The SAT is a standardized test, unlike many tests you will take in school. However, a test is a test, and there are mental strategies you can develop that will help you no matter what kind of test you’re taking, and a big one is discipline.

Tests are long and can be boring, so the more practice you have taking tests, the more you’ll be able to effectively deal with the feeling of just wanting to give up. Also, you can use the act of taking high school tests to practice things like bubbling in answers, getting better at timing, and knowing how to utilize multiple choice questions to your advantage.

6) Take the pressure off your SAT score. Practically everyone will agree that how you perform in high school is more reflective of your academic merit than how you fare on one exam some Saturday morning. Even so, the SAT is weighted pretty heavily in college admissions, so it’s a good idea to do as well as you can. The better you perform in high school, though, the less pressure you will have to do as well on the SAT.

Without the intense pressure to do incredibly well, many students find that they end up performing better on the SAT, since they are more relaxed and confident when taking the test. Therefore, living up to your potential in high school is a win-win situation: if you do well in high school, you’re likely to do better on the SAT, and even if you don’t do well on the SAT, you’ll have your good grades to fall back on.

The SAT and your high school classes may have more in common than you think. To achieve your best results on the SAT, it’s important that you apply the lessons you learn and the skills you acquire in high school to your preparation for the test.

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: Summer SAT Prep Courses

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT challenges a student’s skills in many different subjects – students must complete questions on reading, math, writing and language, as well as complete the essay (which is optional, but many high school seniors choose to write it anyway). Most students benefit from taking an SAT preparation course.

These types of courses are available to students at many times throughout the year, however SAT summer courses are an ideal option for many high school students (especially for students who are extremely busy with activities and other commitments during the school year). Consider some of the benefits of SAT summer programs for high school students:

Additional Time to Devote to Study
Students who take summer SAT prep classes have more time to focus on practicing for this important test. Alternatively, students who choose to prepare for the SAT during the school year must carefully plan their schedule so they have time to study for the test while keeping up with their school work and extracurricular activities. A student who wants to focus solely on mastering the SAT may want to put aside time in the summer for preparation. At Veritas Prep, we prepare students for the SAT during the summer and all year round!

Enjoying a More Flexible Study Schedule
Many students pare down their daily schedules during the summer so they have the chance to re-energize for the coming school year, which offers them more options when it comes to studying for the SAT.

For example, a student may decide to study for two hours in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so they can work at a part-time job in the afternoons – this leaves Tuesdays and Thursdays free to spend time with family and friends. Another student may study for a few hours each afternoon five days a week so they can babysit or spend time with friends in the evenings. When it comes to SAT prep, utilizing a summer program allow students more options regarding how to manage their studying.

Feeling Prepared for the Test
A student who feels thoroughly prepared for the SAT will have more confidence in their abilities on test day. SAT summer prep classes give students the chance to build up a tremendous amount of confidence regarding the test, because in the summer, students have the free time they need to absorb the information conveyed during their lessons. They also have plenty of time to become familiar with, and practice, the strategies they learn during their instruction. Throughout the summer months, students can work to improve their weak areas so they can feel more at ease about specific subjects that will be on the exam. All of this preparation can add up to a stellar performance on test day!

Time to Study with Friends
During the school year, most high school students are busy with homework, club meetings, after-school sports and other activities. Though two friends may be taking the SAT at the same time later in the school year, they may not have time to study together due to their busy schedules.

However, two friends who take summer SAT prep classes are likely to have more free time to meet and go over study material before they take their exam. They could quiz one another or perhaps practice math skills by competing in online games. Studying for the SAT can be more effective, not to mention more fun, with the help of an encouraging friend.

Our team at Veritas Prep is proud to provide students with first-rate SAT prep. Summer programs that prepare students for the SAT as well as all of our other courses are taught by skilled instructors – we hire tutors who truly understand what it takes to ace the SAT, and students who work with us benefit from the knowledge and practical experience of our professional instructors. Contact us online or call us today to start preparing for the SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks! And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Stress Over the PSAT!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAs many of you already know, PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. What many people might not believe, though, is that “Preliminary” is the most important word in that title. Sophomores and juniors take the PSAT to prepare for the SAT exam, and that preparation is exactly what the PSAT is designed for.

The PSAT helps students determine what sections of the test they need to work on, what kind of score they could expect on the SAT, what SAT questions will look like, how to manage timing on the test, how to handle high-pressure situations, and a host of other things.

Each of these facets is important, and using the PSAT to get familiar with them can be a big boon to students’ scores come test day.

However, it’s crucial to not let the PSAT become a bigger deal than it really is. Except for those rare students in the top 1% of scorers that qualify for National Merit Scholarships, PSAT scores are only important to one person: the person who took the test. Even for those high-scoring students, the PSAT’s primary function is to get students ready for the SAT – the test that truly matters for college admissions.

PSAT scores are designed to help you do better on the real SAT. They are not meant to be a complete reflection on your academic ability or future success in college. For that reason, you should not stress out about the PSAT at all. The scores are meant to get you acclimated with your strengths and weaknesses; they aren’t intended to crush your confidence and make you overly worried about the SAT. When students get nervous before taking the PSAT, or worried after finding out their scores, that represents a real misunderstanding of the role of the PSAT.

To see why it’s totally fine to not treat the PSAT as a life-or-death occurrence, here’s how I approached the PSAT 2 years ago when I took it (yes, it was the old PSAT that corresponded to the 2400 scale SAT, but the general principles of the PSAT’s importance remain the same):

A few days before the PSAT, I looked over a review packet my school gave me and completed and scored the timed practice sessions. The night before, I looked over the practice test, reviewed a little vocab, and went to bed. It was pretty light studying, but I was feeling good – not stressed out at all. I took the test the next day and it seemed like it went well, but when I got my scores back, I had done a lot worse than I thought. Even still, I knew that that my score didn’t really matter, and while it did frustrate me a little bit, I refused to get stressed out and decided to keep a positive attitude as I got to work preparing for the real SAT.

Using my struggles on the PSAT as a framework for studying for the new SAT, I scored an equivalent of 430 points better on the SAT than I did on the PSAT. That’s an incredibly wide disparity, and it proves that a mediocre PSAT score is definitely not the end of the world.

Keep in mind that stress will make your score worse and increase the already enormous amount of pressure you probably feel to get into college. Your score will not be an accurate depiction of what your real SAT score could look like – the score you’d get with a positive attitude and calm demeanor.

So, how should you approach the PSAT? For starters, don’t act as if your future depends on it. Pro tip: it really doesn’t. It’s also important to remember that you can always bounce back from a sub-par PSAT score, and that the test is valuable for a lot more than just a score.

Think of the PSAT as a free check-up – a great way to practice for the real test that also provides a gauge of how you can expect to do on it. When you think of the PSAT like this, you’ll realize that there isn’t much to worry about. You don’t need to spend weeks studying for it, and you definitely don’t need to feel any anxiety about it. Just get acquainted with the test, do some review, and go take a test that only has the potential to help you.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: Understanding and Utilizing Testing Accommodations on the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHigh school students want to be as prepared as possible when it’s time to sit down and take the SAT exam. Some students, however, may find themselves less prepared than others – especially if they have a physical disability, medical condition, or learning disability might wonder about the actual process of taking the test. Will they be able to get the assistance they need to do their best on the SAT? The answer is yes.

When it comes to the SAT, testing accommodations are available for students who truly need them. It’s a good idea for students in need of testing accommodations to make their requests as soon as possible so that the College Board has ample time to evaluate the details each request. Let’s examine the process of getting SAT testing accommodations as well as some of the resources available to high school students in need of them:

Who Is Eligible for SAT Accommodations?
In order to be eligible for SAT testing accommodations, a student must have a documented disability. Some examples of medical conditions and disabilities that may qualify a student for testing accommodations are diabetes, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, blindness, deafness, and some learning disabilities.

When the College Board considers a student’s request for testing accommodations, the members look at whether the student uses accommodations in classes at school. The basic question to consider is, “Does the student’s condition impact their ability to take the SAT?” If so, the request for testing accommodations is likely to be approved. For example, if a person has a disability that doesn’t allow them to sit for long periods of time, an accommodation may be made for that student to take a break during the exam. Or a student who is blind can request a Braille test book or even an audio version of the SAT.

Examples of Testing Accommodations for the SAT
The type of testing accommodations a student receives depends on their disability or condition. The Braille test booklet and audio test mentioned above are two examples of SAT testing accommodations. A student who is partially blind may request a magnifying machine or even a test book featuring large print. Alternatively, a student with a documented learning disability may receive an extended amount of time to complete the SAT, while a student with diabetes may be able to pause during the test to take a blood sugar reading or eat something to correct a fluctuation in blood sugar levels without being penalized for stopping the timer on the test. The accommodations given fit the individual situations of each student with a disability or medical condition.

How to Arrange for SAT Accommodations
Getting a testing accommodation for the SAT requires a student to submit a request in writing – they can do this with the help of their guidance counselor at school by submitting the request online. This request must include documentation from the student’s doctor as well as an explanation from the student as to how their disability or condition affects the test-taking process.

How Long Does it Take to Be Approved for SAT Accommodations?
It takes approximately seven weeks for the College Board to review all of a student’s documentation, so if you are a student who requires an SAT accommodation, it would be best to send all of your information in as early as possible. If there is a document missing or the board has a question for you regarding your situation, it’s likely to take longer to approve the request. Students interested in getting accommodations for the SAT should also be sure to note the deadlines for making a request and to submit their information for these requests well in advance.

At Veritas Prep, we provide valuable SAT preparation courses to students who want to submit their best work on this important exam. Each of our professional tutors scored in the top one percent of all students taking the exam, so the strategies and test-taking tips given to Veritas Prep students are coming directly from the experts! Call our offices at Veritas Prep today and learn how our convenient tutoring options can help you do your best on the test.

Are you trying to decide whether to take the SAT or the ACT? Register for our upcoming free online SAT vs. ACT Workshop to gain a better understanding of each test and decide which one is right for you. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Making Waves with Pablo

SAT Tip of the Week (4)Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the SAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re all set to download Kanye’s new album “Life of Pablo” – even a month later – but can’t quite remember what it’s called. Wasn’t it Swish at one point? Maybe Waves? Importantly, if your (beautiful, dark, twisted) Fantasy is to enjoy Graduation because you’re on your way to (early, not late) Registration at the school of your dreams, take an SAT lesson from the College Dropout himself:

The right word usually isn’t the obvious one.

For Kanye, that’s the title of the album: after plenty of debate and deliberation (and beef with Wiz Khalifa), he dropped the “obvious” one-word titles and went with a title that took just about everyone by surprise. He had to dig a little, and whether he’s comparing himself to Pablo Picasso as an artist or Pablo Escobar as a larger-than-life figure, he found some meaning that’s not obvious on the surface but makes sense when you dig a little deeper. And that’s the SAT lesson.

For you, that of course means that when you’re looking at Vocabulary in Context questions on the SAT Reading Section, you’ll be tempted to make a single-word answer. For example, consider this problem from the Official SAT Study Guide:

As used in line 19, “capture” is closest in meaning to:

(A) Control
(B) Record
(C) Secure
(D) Absorb

Likely the most obvious synonym for “capture” in that list is “secure” – if you were to capture a butterfly, for example, you’d secure it in a net or a jar (poke holes, please). But your job isn’t to find the best synonym for “capture” but instead to determine which word would best fit in its place in line 19. And that’s where the Kanye lesson comes in: you have to go back to the passage and the wording around line 19 to find the deeper meaning. Starting a bit above that line, you have the context:

Because these waves are involved in ocean mixing and thus the transfer of heat, understanding them is crucial to global climate modeling, says Tom Peacock, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most models fail to take internal waves into account. “If we want to have more and more accurate climate models, we have to be able to capture processes like this,” Peacock says.

With that context in mind, steal another lesson from Kanye West: who does Kanye love the most? Not Kim or North… but himself. And that’s where the “do it yourself” strategy comes in. Remove the word “capture” – before you even look at the answer choices – and think about what word you’d personally put there. You know that the researchers want to better understand those processes, so they want to observe/study/record them. That’s what makes B, “record,” correct.

The problem really has little to do with the word “capture” given in the problem, and everything to do with the context around it. The key is to not be so concerned with the word in the question itself, but rather to treat it as a blank and determine what type of meaning that blank needs to convey. Then you can go to the answer choices, and like Kanye (who used to love this passage about Waves, but now maybe not) you may find deeper meaning and a more-surprising word or phrase to decide upon.

Are you trying to decide whether to take the SAT or the ACT? Register for our upcoming free online SAT vs. ACT Workshop to gain a better understanding of each test and decide which one is right for you. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: 2 Phones

SAT Tip of the Week (3)Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the SAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re firm believers in the art of telecommunications. As Kevin Gates has been informing the world the last couple months, it’s important to have two phones (and maybe two more) to get the job (or various jobs) done. Which jobs is he talking about?  The SAT Math Sections of course!

When tackling the SAT Math Sections, you need to have “two phones,” or multiple strategies.  Some are “the plug” – plugging in answer choices, or at least using them as assets – and some are “the load” – just rolling up your sleeves and doing a load of math to grind out the answer. And of course you should always have other strategies (two more phones, and then even more phones, as the chorus goes): picking your own numbers, using process of elimination, guessing intelligently, etc.

So, let’s talk about some of the “phones” you’ll want at your disposal on the SAT Math Sections.

“The Plug”
Notice that KG leads with “The Plug” before “The Load” – of course everyone on test day should be ready to do some algebra and arithmetic, but the savviest of test-takers are very ready to use the answer choices to their advantage, and look for every opportunity to save time by doing so. Consider the problem:

Jack is now 14 years older than Bill. If in 10 years Jack will be twice as old as Bill, how old is Jack?

(A) 14
(B) 16
(C) 18
(D) 28

Here you could set up the algebra, or you could go to “the plug” and plug in the answer choices to see which one fits the setup. Since Jack is 14 years older than Bill, that means that Bill would be (for each answer choice):

(A) 0
(B) 2
(C) 4
(D) 14

Now look to see which pairing, when each is increased by 10, would have one double the other:

24 and 10 (no)
26 and 12 (no)
28 and 14 (yes), so C is the correct answer.

Here you could go to the “load” and slog through some algebra, but seeing that you can just plug in the answer choices allows you to turn your mind off for a few seconds and answer the question that way.

“The Load”
Often, you’ll see that there isn’t a shortcut available for an SAT problem or that the math itself is straightforward enough that you should just do it. That’s why it pays to have a second “phone” – each is going to be valuable in different circumstances. For example, consider the problem:

If 5x + 6 = 10, what is the value of 10x + 3?

(A) 4
(B) 9
(C) 11
(D) 20

Here, you’d do just as much work going from the answers to the problem (you’d have to take each answer, then set that equal to 10x + 3, then solve for x…) so you might as well load up on algebra and do it the straightforward way:

5x + 6 = 10
5x = 4
x = 4/5

So take that and put it in the new equation:

10(4/5) + 3 = 8 + 3 = 11, so C is our correct answer.

More than 2 Phones?
As Kevin Gates is careful to note, often 2 strategies (or phones) just aren’t enough. And for those looking to score above 700 on the SAT Math Sections, you’ll almost certainly want to have more tools in your toolkit. Another involves picking your own numbers to test the algebra. Consider the problem:

The expression (5x – 2)/(x + 3) is equivalent to which of the following?

(A) (5 – 2)/3
(B) 5 – (2/3)
(C) 5 – 2/(x + 3)
(D) 5 – 17/(x + 3)

Here, you’ll be glad you have another phone in your pocket. Since the given expression and the right answer have to be equivalent regardless of the value of x, you can pick your own value of x and see which answer matches. Rather than go through an ugly load of algebra, you can pick an x that makes the math clean (try x = -2, for example, since all the denominators are x + 3; if x = -2, then you’ve set the denominators to 1 and made the arithmetic really simple):

If that’s true, then the given expression becomes (5(-2) – 2)/(-2 + 3), which ends up at -12. Clearly A and B don’t match, so you can then plug in to the answer choices. For D, the correct answer, you’ll see a fit:

5 – 17(/-2 + 3) = 5 – 17 = -12, which matches the given expression, so D is right. And by using another strategy, you were able to skip some ugly algebra and save time for other problems where you need to have time for “the load” of algebra.

So remember, on the SAT Math section, you always have more than 2 phones – and that’s essential if you want to be an SAT baller. While you’re hustling on the SAT Math grind, remember those multiple “phones” in your toolkit, and your score will be the next thing that’s ring, ring, ring.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: Reading Like Rihanna Means Less “Work”

SAT Tip of the Week (2)As we return to Hip Hop Month in the SAT Tip of the Week space, let’s turn out attention to Reading. And who better to teach Reading than RiRi herself? Ironically, her current hit “Work” provides probably the best example of how to reduce the amount you have to work on SAT Reading passages.

Quick: get the song “Work” stuck in your head (or get it playing on your phone). What’s the most notable thing about the lyrics she’s singing? For most of the chorus, she’s not even singing them. “Work work work work work” becomes “Wu wu wu wu wu.” She’s going through the motions and ignoring most of the words, glossing them over (almost like she herself is thinking “let’s just get past this and get to the Drake part”). She’ll fully articulate “work” and “dirt” the first time or two she says it, but then she’ll play the “you already know what I’m saying so let’s just get through it with as little effort as possible” part.

Oddly enough, that’s how you should approach Reading on the SAT. It’s just too much work to try to process every single word, so like Rihanna you’ll want to skim through portions that aren’t essential to your understanding and then lock in when it’s truly important. Rihanna’s genius on “Work” is that she rises to the occasion when she has to deliver, but she’s comfortable glossing over what doesn’t matter. Here’s how you can read like Riri.

Focus when:
1) You see transition/structural words like “however” and “therefore.” These words signal what the author is doing. “However” (or conversely, but, on the other hand…) tells you that the direction of the argument is changing. What comes after that is going to refute what came before it, and that’s usually where an argument or thesis takes shape (for example, an old theory seemed true, BUT new research shows that it has flaws). “Therefore” (or thus, consequently, etc.) typically shows what the author’s point is (whether it’s the main point of the passage or just of that paragraph). And “also” (or furthermore, moreover, additionally) means that the author is adding more evidence for a point. Those signals are good places to focus, because that’s where the author is telling you what she’s trying to accomplish with the sentences around it.

2) You see topic sentences. Not all SAT passages are well-organized, but when they are you’ll generally see topic sentences at the beginning or end of a paragraph and of the passage. These help you to determine the content and direction of what you’re reading.

3) There is italicized text at the top of the passage. This section is crucial – many SAT passages are excerpts from larger articles/chapters/books, and they can start quite abruptly without context. The italicized portions give you that context and allow you to have a feel for what you’re about to read so that it doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Ultimately your goal in reading the passage is to take 1-2 minutes to identify the author’s general point (why did she pick up the pen?) and to have a good feel for where you’d return to find answers (for example, the first paragraph or two may be about the initial theory for why something happens, the middle portion of the passage is about the research that disproved it, and the end talks about what new research the author proposes). If you can come away with a good understanding of “the author is advocating for X, and I know where to go if they ask me about Y” you’ve done your job with little work and you have plenty of time to focus on the questions.

Skim when:
1) The passage gets into dense details. These can be confusing or just labor-intensive, taking time to read, but details are only important if a question asks about them. Every passage will contain several details that don’t have questions about them, so save your time and energy and only focus on the major themes during your first read.

2) You’ve identified the purpose of a paragraph or section, and just want to make sure that the author doesn’t change gears. This is Rihanna’s “Work” at its finest…it’s not that she’s skipping the word “work” entirely, but that she’s saving her energy to get to “what’s new” in the verses.  She addresses each word, but casually, and that’s how you should skim. If you know what the author is doing, let your eyes run over each word but only lock in when you see that something is changing. If the author, for example, is listing 3-4 examples, you can skim that. But when the author says “however, there are exceptions” that means that something has changed. What was true isn’t always true, and that’s new information that’s probably important.

Remember, the Riri Reading method doesn’t mean that you’re skipping words entirely – it’s just that you can selectively choose which words/sentences are worthy of effort. Reading an entire passage is a lot of work (work, work, work, work), but if you’re choosy about where you expend that energy and time, you can save way more than FourFive Seconds per passage and be on your way to your dream school. Just remember to bring an Umbrella.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: Hotline Bling Is an SAT Thing

SAT Tip of the Week (1)It’s Hip Hop Month in the “SAT Tip of the Week” space, where you’ll learn that that Drake is a university in Iowa (where The Motto is, of course, Veritas) as well as a rapper from Toronto, and that the Common app is a great way to prepare for your Future. So let’s start with Drake, because even if your SAT score started at the bottom, now you’re here. If you’re reading this…it’s NOT too late.

It’s been hard to go anywhere over the last year without hearing Drake’s recent hit “Hotline Bling” (which was not only a monster #1 hit but also a Super Bowl commercial), so there’s a fair chance that as you drive to go take the SAT you’ll get Hotline Bling stuck in your head. And that’s exactly what you want.

Why?

Because, as the song goes, when you hear that Hotline Bling, that can only mean one thing. And there are several “Hotline Blings” on the SAT; recognizing them can save you plenty of time and dramatically raise your accuracy.

Hotline Bling: SAT Math
Positive vs. Negative
For example, on the Math sections, you might see a statement like x > 0 or y < 0. Hotline bling! Greater than zero or less than zero as definitions in an SAT Math problem can only mean one thing: you’d better check the sign of your answer (positive vs. negative) because greater than 0 means positive and less than 0 means negative, and putting those definitions in problems is a huge signal that positive/negative matters.

The expression is equivalent to…
Whenever you see the words “expression” and “equivalent” in an SAT Math problem – usually “The expression (given expression) is equivalent to which of the following?” or “Which of the following is equivalent to the expression shown above?” – that’s a Hotline Bling. That can only mean one thing: you’re going to have to use the answer choices.

Either you’ll try to make the given expression look more like the answer choices (for example, if the answer choices don’t have parentheses or a denominator, you’ll need to work on the given expression to get rid of the parentheses and denominator) or you’ll be able to pick your own numbers. Consider the following example, which appears courtesy the Official SAT Study Guide:

The expression (5x-2)/(x+3) is equivalent to which of the following?
A) (5-2)/3
B) 5 – (2/3)
C) 5 – (x)/(x+3)
D) 5 – (17)/(x+3)

Notice that you HAVE TO use the answer choices here. Without them, you don’t know what to start doing with the given expression. And even with them, it may seem difficult to get a 5 all alone away from the fraction (like answer choices B, C, and D).

That can only mean one thing: this is a great problem on which to try picking your own numbers. If you were to say, for example, that x = -2 (making your math easy by setting the whole denominator of the original equation equal to 1), you’d know that you have [5(-2) – 2]/(-2+3). That means that you have -12 as the value of the given expression when x = -2, so now you can test the answer choices. Clearly A and B do not work, so then check C and D. C then equals 4 while D = -12, so only choice D spits out the right answer when numbers are involved.

Hotline Bling to the rescue – the words “equivalent” and “expression” can only mean one thing…you’d better get the answer choices involved, and there’s a high likelihood that this is a pick your own numbers problem.

Hotline Bling: SAT Writing
Singular vs. Plural
Whenever the answer choices for a Writing problem include the singular and plural form of the same pronoun or verb (“it” vs. “they”; “is” vs. “are”) that can only mean one thing: you need to find the subject and match it up singular or plural.

Homophones
Whenever the answer choices include multiple words that sound the same (they’re / their / there; it’s / its; you’re / your / yore), that can only mean one thing: the test is checking whether you know which version of the word means what. The apostrophe in those words is for a contraction (they are / it is / you are), so if you’re not trying to form a contraction, eliminate it. These problems should be quick, free points.

Addition/Subtraction
Whenever a question asks whether the author should add or delete a sentence, that can only mean one thing: it’s not a matter of personal preference, but a matter of understanding what the author is trying to accomplish. In these cases, you must read the context of that paragraph and determine what the author’s purpose is, then gauge whether adding or deleting anything would be true to that purpose. These questions aren’t about style at all – they’re about the author’s intent, so you have to read a wider scope of information to make sure you know what that purpose is.

Hotline Bling: SAT Reading
Vocab-in-context
Whenever a question begins with, “As used in line…” (e.g. “As used in line 68, ‘hold’ most nearly means…”) that can only mean one thing: you have to understand the meaning of the sentence that the line number points you to, and not just rely on your knowledge of the word itself. These questions always include multiple answer choices that could mean the same thing as that word itself, but only one that you’d actually use in that sentence. So when you see those questions, don’t try to answer them on answer choices alone; instead, think about what word you’d use in that sentence and find a word that closely matches yours.

Ultimately, Hotline Bling on the SAT is all about recognizing knee-jerk reactions: if “___” appears, that can only mean one thing, so you know exactly what to do next. The list above isn’t a list of all SAT Hotline Blings, but a good start. As you study for the SAT, pay attention to all those Hotline Blings that tell you the one thing you should do next, and soon enough, you’ll be thinking, “Ever since I left the city you…” as you think about your high school friends and foes from far away in a dorm room at your dream school.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Perfect Essay on the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOn the old SAT, the essay questions were often vague philosophical prompts asking you to develop and support your position on the topic. This opened itself up to all sorts of shenanigans by students, like blatantly lying about personal examples (I’m guilty…) or using examples from classic novels to show off their smarts.

On the new SAT, the format of the essay is different. Now the SAT is about analyzing how an author develops her argument and convinces readers of her point. This difference means that the same old strategies won’t cut it anymore. Luckily, there’s an effective way to make the new essay as formulaic as the old essay, giving students a useful framework that they can always use, regardless of the prompt

First, here are the directions for the essay. The top of the page will read something like:

As you read the passage below, consider how (the author) uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

After the article, the instructions for the essay will be:

Write an essay in which you explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience that (author’s argument is true). In your essay, analyze how (the author) uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his/her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with (the author’s) claims, but rather explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience.

At first glance, these directions might seem vague. “Evidence,” “reasoning,” and “stylistic or persuasive elements” are sometimes too broad to conceive an essay out of. Here’s where my strategy comes in.

On every essay, I like to have three go-to techniques that I always look for when reading the article and can use in my essay. These three are pathos, logos, and ethos – modes of persuasion that are present in practically all argumentative writing, these three techniques are easy to apply to an SAT essay. Plus, analyzing how the author uses these intellectual terms will show your grader that you have a high-level command of rhetorical analysis, and set you up for a classic five-paragraph essay. Let’s break down these techniques further:

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Authors use pathos to draw readers into their pieces and connect them with the story. You can often find examples of pathos in anecdotes, calls to action, or appeals to a common purpose.

Logos is an appeal to logic.  Authors use logos to make their pieces more intellectually persuasive and consistent. You can often find examples of logos in the use of data, statistics, or research. You can also find logos in trains of reasoning: if x happens, then y will also happen, because of factor z (or something akin to that).

Ethos is an appeal to ethics, character, or credibility. Authors use ethos to add authority or legitimacy to their arguments. This can be done by demonstrating that the author is qualified to make the argument he or she is making. It can also be done by citing experts or authority figures who let the reader know that the author’s claims are backed up by sound evidence or opinion. As such, ethos is often present in quotes from experts or citations of authority figures.

These three techniques – pathos, logos and ethos – are specific and complex enough to let you write a sophisticated new SAT essay, as well as broad enough to allow you to find and analyze them in any article the SAT essay throws at you. This combination of factors creates a structure of analyzing how the author uses pathos, logos and ethos to build his or her argument that is a great way to approach the new SAT essay.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: The Importance of Knowing What Will Be On the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullNow that the SAT has changed, students all over the country are spending their time making sure they keep up with the new content and questions that might now be on the test. Learning about new content is valuable – clearly, you have to know the subjects being tested in order to do well. But in the scramble to brush up on trigonometry and America’s founding documents, students seem to be forgetting another big change on the test: its format.

The new SAT is structured differently than the old SAT in terms of section length, order, scoring, and instructions. To do your best on this exam, it is imperative that you come into test day knowing exactly what it is going to look like. If you walk in thinking it will be like the SAT last year, you will be in for a shock.

The main reason it’s so important to know the structure and form of the test is that people get better scores when they can focus all their attention on the actual questions, rather than the instructions. For me at least, being nervous that I’m doing something wrong or not knowing what will come next on the test would only hurt my score.

So, it is well worth every student’s time to use a day of studying to familiarize themselves with the instructions, structure, and types of questions that will be on the SAT. Pop onto the College Board’s website or get your hands on an official practice test and read over all the directions on the test, down to the last word. True, much of this will be tedious and unnecessary, but you don’t want any surprises on test day. Reading through the new SAT will yield some important information about what the new test looks like. A sampling of important changes is below:

  • There are now only 4 main sections on the SAT: Reading, Writing and Language, No-Calculator Math, and Calculator Math. These sections are all longer than 25 minutes, whereas the old test had sections that were all shorter than 25 minutes.
  • There is no penalty for answering incorrectly. This means that when you are bubbling in your answer sheet, you should definitely guess on all questions to which you don’t know the answer.
  • Some questions will require you to analyze an article and a chart in tandem. So don’t freak out when you see a graph on the reading section!
  • The new essay, which is optional and 50 minutes long, asks you to analyze an author’s argument rather than craft an opinion of your own. If you aren’t careful to understand what the essay is asking for, your resulting work won’t yield a high score.

When I just took the March SAT, I witnessed firsthand the negative consequences of not being familiar with the new test. As the essay started, a student sitting to my right raised her hand and tried to ask the proctor a question about the essay. He wasn’t allowed to answer, and the student remained confused about what to do. While I hope that the student ended up scoring well on her test, I advise you to not make the same mistake she did.

Study up and make sure nothing about the structure about the new SAT catches you off guard, and you will be set on your way to a good score. If you are comfortable with the way the test operates and how it will look on test day, the peace of mind that you’ll have is one little advantage that you’ll have over all the other students who didn’t put the time in to prepare.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Prepare for the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe majority of high school students who choose to take the SAT understand the importance of studying, but they often don’t know exactly how to prepare for this crucial exam. Test preparation can be much less stressful when you learn a few simple strategies. Let’s examine a few SAT study tips so you can know what’s involved in preparing for this important test:

Take a Practice Test to Evaluate Your Skills
When preparing for the SAT, the item at the top of every high school student’s to-do list should be to take a practice test. The results of this test will help determine where to focus your study efforts as you continue to prepare for the real SAT.

Devise a Study Schedule
Once you know your practice test results, it’s time to create a study schedule. Some students like to keep an SAT study schedule in their smartphone or laptop, while others prefer to make a schedule in a traditional notebook.

Any schedule you create should include several hours of SAT study per week – in fact, it’s helpful to look at SAT preparation as a part-time job. Each day of your schedule must include the specific material that needs to be studied, as well as the time spent on each topic.

For example, you may decide to dedicate two hours each day of the week to SAT preparation. On Monday, set aside 30 minutes for completing algebra equations and 30 minutes for tackling data analysis problems. The first 15 minutes of the second hour can be spent on quick sentence correction questions, and the remaining 45 minutes of that hour can be for essay-writing practice. The other days on your schedule can then cover different subjects so you are well-prepared on test day.

Creating a detailed SAT study schedule such as this will make it easy for you to keep track of what you need to tackle on any particular day. Plus, you’re then able to enjoy a sense of progress as you review what you’ve completed in previous study sessions.

Create Study Aids for Challenging Subjects
Study aids can be effective for both the Math and Verbal Sections of the SAT. Prepare with a simple study aid that can be used each day. For instance, if you are working to boost your algebra skills, you might have a collection of worksheets featuring equations of varying difficulty. You can then complete a few worksheets each day and go back to review any incorrect answers. Similarly, in preparing for the Verbal Sections of the SAT, if you are having difficulty remembering the differences between various homophones, it may be helpful to create flashcards to practice studying these words.

Start a New Routine of Healthy Habits
When considering how to prepare for the SAT, test-taking students often envision themselves completing math exercises, analyzing unfamiliar words, and writing essays. But there are additional ways to prep for the SAT that can affect a student’s performance.

For example, eating healthier foods and drinking more water each day can build up your energy in the weeks before the test. You may want to think about replacing unhealthy snacks with healthier options, such as replacing soda with low-sugar drinks. It’s also important to get plenty of sleep as test day approaches, as well as the night before the actual test. Some students feel so good as a result of these changes that they continue their new routines long after test day has passed!

Take Advantage of SAT Resources
Veritas Prep offers many free resources to help you with your SAT prep, including live-online SAT workshops (where you can have your SAT questions answered in real-time by one of our 99th percentile instructors), fun and informative YouTube videos, and more helpful articles like this one.

And for more structured help studying for the SAT, Veritas Prep also has a variety of tutoring options. Each of our tutors at Veritas Prep achieved an SAT score that placed them in the top 1% of students who took the test, so our students receive test-taking strategies and advice from individuals who have truly conquered the SAT! Contact Veritas Prep today and let us tell you more about our invaluable SAT prep options.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

3 Things We Learned From the First New SAT (That You Should Know, Too!)

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAfter months of speculation and conversation, the first iteration of the “new SAT” was administered this past week and weekend by the College Board.   While previous administrations of the SAT have been marred by historic snowstorms and typos on testing booklets, it seems that the big news around this test is the test itself.

With a new scoring scale and updated content, the new SAT is attempting to test more college-relevant skills. Gone are obscure vocabulary and penalties for guessing incorrectly. Rather, students are seeing a much heavier focus on algebra, context-based reading questions and grammar.

We spoke with several test takers and collected anecdotal feedback from this weekend’s test and wanted to share some interesting findings and advice:

1) For students who did not register for the (optional) essay, there was an additional 20 minute experimental section, or fifth section. The purpose of the section was to pre-test new potential test questions and it will not impact test takers’ scores in any way. However, test takers also won’t receive any feedback on how they performed on this section. Students who completed the essay did not take this section.

While there was some information circulated online about the experimental section, College Board didn’t indicate when the section would be administered, if it would be a regular part of the SAT moving forward, or how many markets and test centers  delivered test forms containing the extra section.

Lesson for students: Prepare for the unexpected! While extra questions might create additional anxiety and fatigue, at the end of the day, they will not make or break a student’s score. If the section happens to be delivered before the rest of the exam, give the questions an honest attempt and think of it as a warm-up.  If College Board shifts to incorporating experimental questions into the already established sections, it still should not impact study plans or test day strategy. Students are already planning on three hours of testing (and 154 questions), and in most cases, experimental questions are camouflaged well enough that they cannot be distinguished from actual questions that count.

2) Algebra counts! As advertised, algebra plays a prominent role on the new SAT, and overall, the math questions seemed to reflect the topics presented in the College Board’s previously released practice tests. Advanced concepts such as circles, trigonometry and imaginary numbers will be tested, but won’t make up the bulk of the questions on the test. For older, non-traditional students who are a little rusty in math, a strong refresher is probably in order.

Lesson for students: If you’ve been paying attention in high school math classes, nothing should be unfamiliar. However, pacing is going to be a challenge, especially on the non-calculator section, so practice techniques that will make you more efficient. Veritas Prep teaches students several strategies that can be leveraged to solve questions that are reasoning-based and more “SAT-focused” rather than pure math-focused. Often, you can leverage answer choices or manipulate questions to make the math much simpler (and quicker).  Above all, be careful not to fall back onto school-oriented math strategies just because they’re familiar – they might get you the right answer, but you may be wasting time that could be spent on the tougher math questions.

3) Use evidence and context to your advantage (on the verbal!) While the new test has eliminated obscure vocabulary, the College Board has introduced new questions that ask you to find evidence to support answers. The good news is that you’re rewarded for knowing the answer as well as  finding the evidence because these questions comes in pairs (so two points for the price of one)!

Lesson for students: If you don’t love the topics, it may be a struggle. Passages are a little longer, and there are 10-11 questions per passage so you don’t have the luxury of being able to skip a passage and hope for something more interesting on the next page.  However, pacing on the reading passages seems to be less of an issue on the new test since students can gain some momentum by focusing on one topic (and passage) rather than having to switch gears (and passages) more frequently. This should also help with college thinking as you’ll often have more time to do a deeper dive into one single topic.

While the new test likely still has some kinks to work out, it seems that the experimental section was the biggest surprise of the weekend. And if the biggest surprise was one that didn’t technically count, then that’s probably better than anything Mother Nature (or a rogue printer) could throw at students.

At Veritas Prep, we remain committed to ensuring our students are well prepared for anything the SAT might present.  We encourage you to learn more at a free online seminar soon! And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

SAT Tip of the Week: You Waited Until the Last Minute to Cram for the SAT, Now What?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIt’s the week of the first New SAT and despite the warnings you may have heard from others, you’ve waited until the last minute to begin studying. As with any other test at school, it should come as no surprise that students who participate in last-minute cramming for the SAT are not going to be able to showcase all of their skills on this important exam – they simply aren’t likely to remember any of the information from their cram sessions.

In order to properly prepare for the SAT, a student has to study in a gradual way over a period of months. As such, if you find yourself cramming for the SAT, you should first and foremost consider rescheduling the test. Of course, there’s a fee for rescheduling the SAT, but taking the test without being prepared is likely to be a waste of time – chances are good that you will have to retake the test anyway. However, if you have delayed studying for the test and would still like to take it anyway, there are some last-minute SAT tips that can be of some help. Let’s check out three examples:

Complete a Practice Test
One of the most important elements of last-minute SAT prep is to take a practice test, with a timer actually set for each section in order to get accustomed to finishing in the allotted number of minutes. The results of this practice test will reveal the skills that need work. This is one of those last-minute SAT tips that can make a limited amount of study time all the more effective, and if a student finds that they need to improve several skills, then it’s best for the person to begin with the skill that needs the most improvement.

Focus on the Areas That Need the Most Attention
Another effective last-minute tips for SAT prep is for students to focus their energy and limited time on their weakest subject. For example, you may complete a practice test and see that you need to sharpen your algebra skills. Your first move should then be to find practice problems (either in math textbooks or online), complete the problems, and check your answers. If an answer is incorrect, you should work your way back through the steps of the problem to figure out what went wrong. This may be time-consuming, but you may find that you have made the same type of mistake in several problems, and correcting that mistake could help you improve your overall score on the next SAT practice test you take.

Or, you may examine your practice test results and see that you need to work on your vocabulary skills in the reading section. To improve in this area, you might then look for a list of words commonly found on the exam, and make flashcards with the word on one side of a card and its definition on the other. By practicing with the flashcards, you may be able to absorb a dozen new words (however, you had taken several months to practice with flashcards, you would likely be able to absorb several dozen new words by test day).

Employ Simple Strategies When Completing Practice Questions
One last-minute SAT prep tip is to absorb a few basic test-taking strategies and start putting them into practice. One such basic tip is to eliminate answer options that are obviously incorrect. This will allow you to narrow down the number of possible answers and makes the question seem more manageable. Being able to simplify questions is always a plus on the SAT! Last-minute tips for the math section include drawing the diagrams referred to in geometry problems and writing down the steps of algebra equations in the test booklet. Sometimes, seeing the steps of a problem in black and white can help lead you to the correct answer.

We are proud to help students demonstrate their skills on the SAT. Students who ssigns up for one of our course options benefit from the knowledge and test-taking experience of our professional SAT tutors and have the opportunity to learn many helpful test-taking strategies over a longer period of time. Don’t procrastinate on your preparation; contact the team at Veritas Prep today and get started on the path to mastering the SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: 3 Huge Benefits to Studying in Short Chunks

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany students wait until the last minute to study for tests or do major projects. Before I get too far in, let me just say that for a long time I was one of those students (and sadly, sometimes I still am). Putting things off is easy to rationalize – after all, if you get the work done eventually, it doesn’t matter when you do it, right? Wrong! Waiting until the last minute is a bad habit and extreme procrastination almost invariably brings down the quality of whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

On the SAT, putting off studying until a week or two before the test is an all-too-common phenomenon. I know a lot of students who wouldn’t even think about the test until it was already almost upon them. Fun fact: many of those students didn’t do nearly as well as they wanted to.

It’s no secret that in order to do your best on the SAT, you have to put in the time. The test isn’t really about knowledge, but rather, is about being familiar with the questions and knowing how the test operates. With these two topics, cramming is of very little help. You can’t cram familiarity and understanding – you have to be disciplined over an extended and consistent period of time.

My recommendation for how to best manage your time studying for the SAT is to spend the two months leading up to your exam date studying in small, manageable chunks. Spending 30-40 minutes per day, three-four times per week, is a lot more helpful than spending 4 hours on one day the week before the official exam. It’s pretty easy to find 30 minutes of free time in a day; it’s a lot harder to find 4 hours.

This 30-minute chunk method is how I studied, and it had a lot of benefits for me. Here are 3 biggest ones:

  1. I felt like I really understood the test. Instead of seeing the SAT as an unpredictable monster, I came to be really familiar with how it worked. Spending a little time with the test on a consistent basis made me more comfortable with the structure and the patterns of the questions, so I knew what to expect on test day.
  2. I didn’t feel rushed to learn everything I needed to. Since I started months before my test, I knew that when I found a weak spot, I would have time to fix it. This gave me the confidence to be honest about my shortcomings. I could devote a week to the Writing Section if I found that I was bad at comma usage and still not feel like I was rushed to teach myself geometry. The feeling of having plenty of time made my stress surrounding the test significantly decrease.
  3. I found it much easier to focus for a half hour than it was to focus for 4 hours. I don’t know about you, but my attention span really isn’t that long. The best way for me to maximize my study time was to use short intervals of serious focus. Doing full practice tests is important, but if that’s your entire study strategy, you’re likely to get bored and burnt out pretty quickly.

I urge you to resist putting off studying for the SAT – if you start studying early and keep yourself on a regular, manageable study plan, your anxiety about the test will fall while your SAT score will jump.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Improve Your SAT Score the Second Time

SAT Tip of the Week - FullEvery year, high school seniors sit down in testing centers across the country to take the SAT. They know that college admissions officials will consider their SAT score along with their letters of recommendation, transcripts, and essays, so a good performance on this test is critical.

Some students aren’t satisfied with the score they receive the first time they take the SAT, so they make the decision to retake the test. Naturally, these students want to know how to improve their SAT scores so they can perform well on the test the second time around. Let’s take a look at some simple tips that can lead to SAT score improvement:

Examine the Results of Your First SAT
Students who take the SAT receive a score report that includes a lot more than their final scores – the report offers a detailed breakdown of the student’s performance on the exam. These results can be tremendously helpful to a student who wants to pinpoint their weakest areas on the SAT. For instance, looking at your detailed score report, you may notice that you answered a large percentage of algebra questions incorrectly, but performed well on questions that involved data analysis. With this information, you can avoid spending too much time reviewing your strong skills and focus instead on sharpening your weaker skills.

Focused Study
A student who knows where they went wrong on the first test has the tools for improving his or her SAT scores the second time around. After analyzing your first SAT results, it’s time to create study aids that can strengthen your skills that need attention.

For example, you might learn that you need to expand your knowledge of concepts that will be tested in the new SAT Math section, so it’s a good idea to find a list of concepts commonly tested on the SAT and creates mnemonics for each of them. These mnemonics all might relate to your family or favorite hobbies so they are easy to practice and remember, and can help you improve your score on this section as a result. Finding study tactics such as this and utilizing them to focus on your areas of weakness will be key to improving your SAT score.

Evaluate Other Aspects of Performance on the First Test
In some cases, there are other factors that influence a student’s performance on the SAT. It’s worthwhile to think back to the day of the test to examine what these other factors might be. Perhaps you weren’t feeling well on test day. A student who has a terrible cold or cough is not likely to do their best on the exam. Or maybe you didn’t slept well the night before, which could have caused you to be tired and unfocused during the exam. By analyzing what went “wrong” on test day, you can work to avoid these problems the second time around.

Also, some students experience test anxiety: they arrive to the test well-prepared, but feel very anxious in an actual test-taking situation. As a result, they aren’t able to focus on the material. If this sounds like you, fortunately, there are ways to deal with test anxiety that can improve SAT scores. Students who are feeling good and have a sense of confidence are able to showcase their skills on the SAT and truly improve their scores.

Prep with the Experts
When it comes to the SAT, improvement is achievable with the right kind of instruction. At Veritas Prep, students have the opportunity to choose from a variety of SAT tutoring options so they can have their questions answered and issues addressed, and are able to retake the test with confidence.

Whether you’re taking the test for the first time or looking to improve your current SAT score, we are proud to assist you in any way we can. Contact our staff at Veritas Prep today and get started on the journey toward your best score on the SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: The Importance of “Stepping Back”

SAT Tip of the Week - FullWhen you’re taking the SAT, it’s easy to get lost in the moment concentrating on the test. You’re so focused on doing well, answering all the questions, double checking your work, and staying within the time limits that it’s easy to neglect thinking about the ways to actually be successful on the test.

One way I’ve found to make sure I don’t get distracted from my purpose is to consciously take a second to pause and remind myself that I know how this standardized test works. The SAT is standardized, which means it always operates in the same way; I “step back” to use that knowledge to my advantage.

Not really sure what I’m saying? Let me explain. So right now, as I’m writing this article, I am fully aware that there is always only one right answer on each SAT question. I’m aware that the answers to reading passages always have direct evidence from the text. I’m aware that all SAT math questions can be solved using uncomplicated math. But when I actually take a test, sometimes the pressure gets to me and I forget these vital tips. I’ll agonize over two different answers I think might be right, or I’ll find myself using calculus to try to solve a problem. When you’re desperate for points, things like this can happen.

To solve this problem, I need to consciously extricate myself from the pressures of the test and take a deep breath, remembering that the SAT has to follow certain rules every time. This is what I mean by “stepping back.” Once you “step back,” you’ll likely see a flaw in your thinking that was causing you to mess up on the problem in the first place. Maybe you’ll notice an assumption you were making about the passage, and now that you’re clearheaded and can remember that assumptions should not be made on the SAT, you’ll see that only one of the answers is justifiable in the passage.

It might seem scary to do this process, since taking a pause mid-test could cost you precious time. In reality, that is far from the truth – stepping back only takes a few seconds and will allow you to clear your mind, thereby eliminating time wasted agonizing over tough problems.

The SAT is not a test that you will do well on if you aren’t aware of what kind of test it is. The SAT is a standardized test that has to operate by certain rules and principles – it’s easy to forget this when your whole mind seems focused on how to fix a comma splice. Taking a moment to remember what you have to do is a valuable exercise that will help maintain a useful perspective on the test day.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: Earn Scholarships for Good SAT Scores

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMost high school seniors recognize the importance of doing their best on the SAT because they know that good SAT scores can help them get into the college of their choice. But what they may not know is that many colleges actually offer scholarships for SAT scores that are above average.

Students who achieve high SAT scores can qualify for a number of different scholarships that can help them pay for tuition, basic college supplies, and more while they are working towards their degrees. This makes it all the more critical for students to showcase their skills on this exam. Consider some facts about the SAT and how you can earn scholarships as a result of your hard work on this challenging test:

A Closer Look at SAT Scores for Scholarships
There are many colleges that offer scholarships for students who excel on the SAT, however, the specific requirements of these scholarships differ from school to school. For instance, one college may have a scholarship that’s open to students who score between 1330 and 1600 on the SAT, while another college may have a scholarship that requires students to have a minimum score of 1440 on the SAT. In many cases, both a student’s SAT scores and GPA are taken into account in examining their scholarship applications, as schools want as much information as possible about the academic work of a student before awarding them a coveted scholarship.

In addition to varying in value, these scholarships can also differ in the number of semesters they cover. In applying for these scholarships, you will want to check with the schools themselves to ensure you know exactly what terms their scholarships have before actually submitting your applications for them.

Why Do Colleges Offer Scholarships Based on SAT Scores?
Not surprisingly, colleges want to accept students who are going to succeed in their intellectual endeavors and add value to their programs, and typically, students who earn high SAT scores are likely to excel in their future college courses.

But an impressive SAT score is just one indication that a student is going to flourish at a particular school. Other indications of a promising student include a high GPA, dedication to extracurricular activities, and even volunteer work, which is why scholarship requirements will vary so much from school to school and include some of these other factors. All colleges want to accept students who will be excellent representatives of their school, and offering scholarships is one way to do that.

How to Find Colleges That Offer Scholarships for High SAT Scores
One way you can locate scholarships awarded for high SAT scores is to just do a basic online search – it should be relatively easy for you to find information about any scholarship on the web. If you have an interest in attending a particular college, it may be wise to also search the school’s official website for details of the scholarships it awards for high SAT scores. Talking to your high school counselor is another way to learn about college scholarships related to performance on the SAT, as your counselor should have access to many helpful resources you can utilize in your search.

How to Earn a High Score on the SAT
The first step toward winning this type of scholarship is to earn a high score on the SAT! Scholarships have deadlines just as college applications do, so it’s a good idea to research the cutoff dates for the scholarships that interest you. Scholarships are well within the reach of well-prepared students who approach the SAT with confidence, so taking a practice test will be a good place to start to build this confidence and help you determine what subjects to focus on in preparing for this test. Through this proper preparation and research, you’ll be well on your way to earning your own SAT scholarship.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: The SAT Does NOT Define You!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT is a major source of worry for a lot of students, and this worry can affect their scores in a negative way. When even thinking about the test fills a student with anxiety and dread, he will be unconfident and unable to achieve his potential.

In order to overcome that worry, we first need to understand where it comes from. Students tend to make the SAT a bigger deal than it is – they think it is the measure of how smart they are, they think it will completely determine where they go to college, and on the extreme end, they make it out to be the biggest moment of their lives, acting as if doing poorly on the SAT will ruin their futures forever.

To these students, or any students who worry about the SAT, here’s what I say: the SAT does not define you. It doesn’t tell you how smart you are. It is not the only thing (not even close) that matters for getting into college. It certainly doesn’t tell you whether you’re a good person, or even a good student. All the SAT does is tell you how good you are at playing the game of the SAT.

Of course the SAT is an important test – if it wasn’t, nobody would take it and this whole blog wouldn’t exist. But even though the SAT is important in itself, it’s even more important to put the test in perspective. Does the SAT help you get into the colleges you want to go to? Yes, so you should definitely try to do your best. The SAT can be one aspect of a well-rounded college application that will help you reach your higher education goals. Is taking the SAT the biggest moment of your life? Does your score dictate your future happiness and tell you what job you will have in 10 years? No, no, and no! The SAT is a college admissions test – it’s crucial to stop pretending that it’s more than that.

Here’s the advice that I give my SAT classes when I’m teaching: treat the SAT like anything else you want to do well on. Study hard and try to do the best you can, but always keep the bigger picture in mind. I like to think of the SAT as a win-neutral test – if you do well, great! Your application will look that much better. If you don’t do so well, that’s also fine. You can always try again, and there will still be plenty of great colleges that want you to be a member of their communities. When you’re getting stressed out about the SAT, take a deep breath, step back, and remind yourself that you’ll still be you, no matter how many points you get on the test.

The best part about having a healthy perspective on the SAT is that it can even help you score higher. The more you understand just how the SAT matters and what it shows about you, the more relaxed and level-headed you’ll be. With those qualities, your score can do nothing but improve.

When you finally realize what role the SAT should really play in your life and start to see that you have all the tools necessary to crush it, you’ll be well on your way to a good attitude and a good score.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Weather Postponement: What This Means for You

snow studentIf the College Board ever wanted to make a splash, they sure picked a doozy of a weekend to say au revoir, sayonara and adios  to the “old SAT.” Winter Storm Jonas is primed and ready to pack a punch that will likely impact thousands of test takers. What’s a test taker to do after months of preparation?

If you’re scheduled to take the SAT this weekend (January 23/24) anywhere along the Mid-Atlantic, I-95 East Coast corridor, read on. And if you’re scheduled to take the SAT this weekend and don’t live anywhere close to the East Cost, still read on – even if you’re not directly impacted by winter weather this weekend, it’s good to plan ahead in case something happens that derails your test day experience.

Get the 411

Where’s the first place to go for information? College Board has a dedicated page on their website where they post real-time updates. Don’t trust what your friends are posting on Facebook or Twitter. Official word will come from College Board via this site as well as local media outlets, so turn on your local news and radio stations if the web page has issues.

Should your test center close, there may be a few options:

  • Some test centers are shifting students to other nearby centers. You’ll need to print a new ticket (via their online account) and bring that ticket to the new center.
  • If your center is closed (and no new center is assigned), do NOT go to another center. You won’t be admitted as a walk-in.
  • If you’re on a waitlist, and the center is closed, the waitlist request is closed. You won’t be eligible for makeup testing and will need to register for a new test date.

SAT Reschedule?

 Word on the street is that some centers have already closed and are rescheduling for SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20. If you find yourself in this position, don’t panic! Take a deep breath and remember a few important things:

You will not forget everything you’ve just learned overnight, but it’s important to stay “fresh” over the next 4 weeks. Have you ever had a test in school that you wish you had a little extra time to study for? Well, now is your chance to make the most of that extra study time. This extension is a great opportunity to strengthen some areas of weakness. Take a look at your last practice test and identify some topics that you’d like to improve upon. Do you forget some of those special triangles? Do you have trouble remembering some of the less common prepositions? Are you still working on speed reading? Pull out your SAT study guide and complete a few extra drills, improve your pacing, and take an extra practice test or two.

For Multi-Taskers: What if …

. . .  you registered for BOTH the January (old SAT) and March (new SAT) tests? You might be looking at testing on February 20 (old SAT) and March 5 (new SAT), but you can still take both in a two week window. Remember that any studying will help, but be smart about what you’re studying. For example, algebra is algebra. It’s not going to change tremendously across both tests, so prioritize some of your studying based on common elements. Both tests contain reading passages of varying lengths, so also work on speed reading.

. . . you registered for BOTH the January (old SAT) and February ACT (February 6th)? Again, you can still take both in a two week window, but consider shifting your focus to more difficult math, longer reading passages, and writing/grammar for the next two weeks (ACT emphasis) and then switch back to some of the more SAT-specific topics (vocab, shorter reading passages, etc) after the ACT.

Above all, don’t panic. You’ve done the work and put in the time, and whether you test this weekend or in a few weeks, you’re still going to have the opportunity to put forth your best effort on the SAT. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some real world practice, head outside and figure out how long it will take to shovel a driveway that’s 10 meters long if you can only remove 2 cubic feet of snow at a time and snow if falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour. (I’m pretty sure that one won’t show up on the SAT, but the practice can’t hurt.)

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

SAT Tip of the Week: Commonly Misused Words

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHomophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings (and usually different spellings). For example, there is a massive difference between “I proposed to my fiancée with five carats,” and, “I proposed to my fiancée with five carrots.”

The SAT will occasionally test certain differently-spelled homophones (there is a small chance that you will have to choose between words such as fair and fare, as you will see in your practice tests), but it very frequently test the most commonly misused homophones – those involving possessive pronouns and contractions. Let’s take a look at the drill below:

“[Its/It’s] a shame,” she sighed. “[They’re/Their/There] on [they’re/their/there] way to taste [your/you’re] famous chili and yet [your/you’re] stuck [they’re/their/there] at the airport. I’ll do my best to make sure they appreciate it in all [its/it’s] glory!”

These three sets of homophones are very frequently tested on the SAT – and very frequently misused in day to day communication. Their commonality is that they all involve possessive pronouns (its, their, and your), and contractions (it’s = it is; they’re = they are; you’re = you are).

To the academic elite – a group you seek to join as you pursue acceptance to college – the misuse of these common words tends to be a major sign of poor education, so make sure that you get these right on test day and in your application essays.

Its vs. It’s

Its is the possessive form of it. If an object possesses something (e.g. your phone has a case), then you’ll use its (e.g. “I never take my phone out of its case.”).

This is often misused because you’re used to putting ‘s for possessives, but keep in mind, you don’t do that for other pronouns, either! If he has something, that thing is his (not he’s or him’s). Is she has something, that thing is hers (not she’s or her’s). And if they share something, it is theirs (not they’s or them’s). So if it has something, that thing is its thing.

It’s, on the other hand, is a contraction for “it is.” (e.g. “Where is your textbook? It’s (it is) in your locker.”)

There vs. Their vs. They’re

There refers to a place. (e.g. “I’d love to visit Barcelona; I hear it’s beautiful there.”)

Their is the possessive for the pronouns they and them. (e.g. “The Lakers are in last place in their division.”)

They’re is the contraction for “they are.” (e.g. “Who are The Beatles? They’re only the most famous band in world history.”)

Your vs. You’re

Your is the possessive pronoun for you. If you own something, people will say that it is yours. (e.g. “Go to your room!”)

You’re is the contraction for “you are.” (e.g. “You’re grounded!”)

With these rules in mind, let’s look at the answer for that drill we saw earlier:

It’s a shame,” she sighed. “They’re on their way to taste your famous chili and yet you’re stuck there at the airport. I’ll do my best to make sure they appreciate it in all its glory!”

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: 5 Things You Need to Do the Week Before the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullImagine it’s Saturday, the weekend before your official SAT test date. You’ve studied hard, learned the material, and maybe even taken one of our super helpful SAT courses. The question is, What more do you need to do to get ready? How should you spend your last week before the SAT?

First order of business: take a deep breath. Your brain is probably screaming at you that you’re underprepared. Maybe you’ve had nightmares about sleeping through your alarm. Don’t listen to these thoughts – you’ll be okay! Let’s take a look at 5 thoughts you should be having the week before the SAT:

1) Take a Practice Test
Now it’s time to get down to one last bit of hard work. If you haven’t taken a full-length, timed SAT practice test recently, doing one the Saturday before your test is a good idea. I sat down and took a full practice test the week before my real test and got my best score yet. With all the practice I’d been doing and great new score in front of my eyes, I was filled with confidence and energy going into the real test the following week. Think of it like a practice run – treat your practice like it’s the real thing, so that when you do get to the real test, it won’t seem so alien.

2) RELAX
The next thing you should do is important: RELAX. Take another deep breath. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done. Don’t fret over memorizing small details and remembering the names of all the SAT strategies you’ve learned – your goal for this week should be to get your mind in a good, comfortable spot. The worst thing to do is to try to cram a ton of studying in at the last minute. That leads to stress, and stress hurts scores. So, I’ll say it again: try to relax.

3) Become Familiar with the Test Structure
It’s also important to be familiar with the structure of the test before test day. Be sure to review the instructions for the sections as well as how to fill out the Scantron before showing up to the test. You want your focus test day to be spent entirely on the actual test questions; knowing the rules before going in will allow you to have laser-like focus on the test. The instructions, the timing of the sections, and the Scantron always are the same. Familiarize yourself with them once and you’ll be okay; the SAT never throws curveballs.

4) Treat Your Body Well
An oft-overlooked part of preparation is treating your body well. Be extra conscious about eating well and getting a good night’s sleep during the week before your test (not just the night before). You’ve put in all the hard mental work of learning the strategies, so you don’t want to waste that by treating your body poorly.

5) Study LIGHTLY
If you really do feel worry-free, it can be a good thing to look over a few SAT concepts. You definitely don’t want to stress yourself out by doing too much work, but light practice sessions have benefits. Looking over previous questions you’ve struggled with or maybe even doing one section each night can be low-stress ways to keep the SAT in your brain.

The big thing to remember is that you’ve put in the work over a long period of time. You’re ready. The week leading up to your test date should be one of excitement, not anxiety. Just remember, as my favorite economics teacher always said, “The truth is in you; just let it out!”

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

The Last SAT: Here Are 3 Things to Do on Test Day to Rock the Final 2400 Exam

SAT 2400If you’re trying to nail the final 2400 SAT, then you’re probably trying to figure out which tips (given the endless amount of SAT strategies already out there) will truly impact your score. While I do recommend using these remaining two weeks to improve your grasp of content and of strategies (viz., don’t skimp on learning vocabulary words or on practicing tricky word problems), there are a few key habits that you should implement on test day to ensure you perform at your highest level.

1. Be Aware Of Order Of Difficulty
Imagine it’s test day. You’re near the end of the long Writing Section. You’re feeling good; so far, you’ve answered every question with confidence, and you only have a couple of questions left to answer. You know you’re close to that dream score you’ve been working hard for. You take a quick look at one of the final grammar-based questions before you begin the paragraph corrections:

 

rita-1

 

 

 

 

This question seems easy enough. There aren’t any glaring mistakes, such as subject-verb disagreement. And if you ignore the descriptive phrases (such as “Not very particular in nesting sites…”) you’ll notice that the sentence also makes sense, meaning there aren’t any problems with sentence construction. You may be tempted to choose E, No error, and move on.

Unfortunately, if you did think the answer was E, you fell for a classic SAT trap. There in fact is a mistake in this sentence! So let’s consider it more carefully. For example, when you look at A, rather than just giving a knee-jerk answer, try using the phrase “not very particular ___ …” in your own sentence. How would you say “my sister is not very particular ____ what she wears”?

Hopefully, you realized that you would say “my sister is not very particular about what she wears”. Therefore, “particular in” is an idiomatic error, because in English, we say “particular about”.

Maybe you’re groaning and thinking to yourself that you’ll never be able to tell the difference between plain easy questions and tricky questions on the SAT. However, if you pay attention to Order of Difficulty, you actually can predict when you are likely to see tricky questions. That is, on the SAT, difficult questions tend to appear near the end of the section, say about the last 5 – 6 problems. So, although you may be able to do a writing or math or vocab question at the beginning of a section in less than thirty seconds, if you do a question at the end of the section easily and in little time, chances are you fell for a trap! In fact, if a problem at the end of the section seems strangely easy, an alarm bell should go off in your head. So, my first tip for you is this: on test day, whenever you are at the end of a section, be sure to always pause and carefully consider an ostensibly easy question, rather than just circling the first plausible answer.

2. Skip and Return
Skipping tricky questions on multiple-choice tests (so as to return to them later) is one of the oldest tricks in the book, so I’m sure you’re familiar. However, I want to break down this trick a little further, because although many students do use this strategy, not all of them do so as well as they could.

First off, let’s identify under what circumstances you should absolutely skip, versus when you should stick it out. You should skip whenever:

-You don’t understand what the question is asking, or the question really confuses you.
-You can’t eliminate more than one answer choice.

Some test prep companies recommend guessing when you can eliminate just one answer. The reasoning is that you have a 25% chance of guessing correctly, which will outweigh the ¼-point guessing penalty that is in effect on the 2400 SAT. However, this isn’t really good advice, because students rarely guess without any partiality towards certain answer choices. In other words, when students are presented with four answer choices, they are more likely to choose some answers than others. And unsurprisingly, the College Board leverages this by purposely making some answer choices look more appealing than others on difficult questions. So, when you guess between four answer choices, you actually don’t have a 25% chance of guessing correctly. Your chance of guessing correctly will always be lower than 25%. Therefore, only guess if you can eliminate two or more answer choices.

Take a look at the following difficult question from a SAT Reading Section:

rita-2

 

 

 

Can you eliminate more than one answer? If you can’t, this is the type of question you should skip and leave blank.

Can you eliminate more than one answer? If yes, you should work through this question as best as you can, even if you can’t instantly identify the correct answer. Although you sometimes will have to skip some hard questions because they are either too confusing or too time-consuming, you should not skip every single difficult question on the SAT. In fact, being able to work through hard questions is what sets apart top test takers.

Looking at this question again, let’s say that you were able to eliminate C, steadfast, and E, frank, because you know both of those words have positive connotations and you’ve figured out that the word in the blank must have a negative connotation. However, now you feel stuck, because you don’t know what convivial, steadfast, or clandestine mean.

The good news is that you can continue to work through this problem, even though you don’t know the exact definitions of the words. So, rather than guessing randomly between the three, or deciding to return to the question later, you could use two Veritas Prep strategies to continue to eliminate answer choices. Notice that convivial has the root viv. If you know Spanish or Latin, you can intelligently guess that viv probably means life. This means that answer A likely has a positive connotation, and should be eliminated. Also, notice that fortuitous sounds like fortune, which means that it also has a good chance of being related to the word fortune, another word with a positive connotation. Thus, you should eliminate answer D, and choose B, which in fact is the correct answer.

Now that we’ve talked about when you should skip versus when you should stick it out, let’s talk about when you should skip and return. Take a look at the following math problem, which was taken from near the end of a SAT Math Section :

 

rita-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question seems simple enough. You might think to yourself that if the can is eight inches tall, then four of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside the can. However, this question is from the end of a SAT section, so it shouldn’t be easy to solve.

So when should you skip a question like this, to return to later?

I recommend skipping a question like this when you don’t have a lot of time. For example, let’s say you still have 4 math questions, and you only have 4 minutes left, and you can only eliminate one answer – answer choice D, because it’s too obvious an answer. Unless you can quickly think of a method for working through this problem, I would advise skipping it, and returning to it if you have any remaining time.

Note: At the end of this blog post, I’ve included an explanation for this problem. Once you finish reading these test-day tips, try to solve the problem yourself before reading the explanation.

3. Set Pacing Goals
One of the most avoidable ways students miss points on the SAT is by not working quickly enough. Thus, it’s essential that you set pacing goals for yourself whenever you do practice sections. For example, if you regularly don’t finish the 35-question Writing Section, then you should try to do the first half of it (approximately questions 1-18) in no more than twelves minutes. That means that at around question 9, you should check your watch to see if you’re on target. If you’ve spent more than six minutes on the first nine questions, then you’re falling behind, and you need to speed up.

Note that it isn’t a good idea to check your watch either after every single question, as that will just disrupt your flow. It’s also ineffective to check your watch only near the end of the section, as that may not leave you enough time to finish. Thus, it’s essential that you set simple but effect pacing goals for yourself (i.e., every 5 minutes, I finish 9 questions) so that on test day, you can keep track of your pace. Pacing goals will be different for different students, so use these next two weeks to develop goals that work for you.

Before you take a crack at that hard math question with the pencils, I want to give you one last piece of advice. Studies show that resting before a major exam is just as essential as studying, so, be sure to get a good night’s sleep on the two nights leading up to the test. You’ll only perform at your best on test day if you take good care of yourself!

Explanation for math problem:

One great way to deal with geometry-based questions at the end of the math section is to draw on the provided diagrams as you think your way through the problem -in other words, thinking visually. Doing will help you consider possible solutions you may otherwise overlook, such as in this tricky problem. So, let’s start by “drawing” the nine inch pencil in the tin can:
rita-4

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, the pencil sticks out of the can. But, seeing the pencil sticking nearly straight up from inside the can gives me a new idea: what if the pencil were tilted? Couldn’t a pencil longer than eight inches fit inside the can? And if so, what would be the longest possible length of a titled pencil that could fit entirely inside the can?

To get a better grasp of this idea, I would draw the longest possible tilted line that fit inside the can, meaning a line starting in a bottom corner of the can, and stretching to the top corner, like so:

rita-5

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the line that represents the longest possible length of a pencil that fits entirely inside the can is also the hypotenuse of a right triangle with side lengths of 6 inches and 8 inches. Because I can identify the side lengths of this triangle as multiples of the lengths of a 3-4-5 triangle, I know the hypotenuse is 10 inches, meaning that any pencils less than or equal to 10 inches long can fit inside the can. Therefore, my answer is B: only two of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside of the can.

Good luck on the final 2400 SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

 

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Improve Your SAT Writing, Vocabulary, and Comprehension

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAs you probably already know, the newest version of the SAT is coming out in March of 2016, and as such, there are plenty of changes in the Critical Reading and Writing portions of the test. As a result, many students are wondering how to improve their writing skills and vocabulary for this section of the test. Let’s take a look at some tips you can use as they prep for the reading and writing portions of the new SAT:

How to Improve SAT Writing Skills

The Writing and Language section on the new SAT requires students to read passages and answer questions about them. For example, one question may ask a student to make changes to a sentence to clarify a point. Another question may ask a student to correct a punctuation error or improve a sentence’s structure.

Although the Writing and Language test is in multiple-choice form, a student still needs to be able to recognize the best answer option. One tip to follow when preparing for this section is to read a variety of articles on different topics, such as science, history, and the humanities. Pay close attention to how the sentences flow and determine what changes could be made to improve them – remember to also examine the punctuation and grammar in these articles to try to spot any mistakes. This sort of practice will allow you to become accustomed to evaluating and proofreading all types of written work.

How to Improve Vocabulary for the SAT

In the past, students studied vocabulary for the SAT by memorizing lists of words. On the new SAT, however, it’s important for students to understand the multiple meanings of these vocabulary words. The same vocab word can have different meanings depending on the context of a sentence, so you must be able to look at a word in the context of a sentence and choose its correct meaning from the list of options.

Taking practice tests is one way for you to sharpen your skills when it comes to recognizing vocabulary words in context. Another way to learn more vocabulary words and practice recognizing them in context is to read newspaper and magazine articles. If you encounter an unknown word in any article or book, you can refer to the dictionary to become familiar with its definitions – dictionaries are some of the most valuable resources a student can have.

Tips for Improving Reading Comprehension Skills

Many high school students want to know how to improve reading comprehension, as the SAT questions in the Reading section require students to understand the meaning behind an author’s work. This section on the new SAT contains a few passages, and students must answer questions related to each passage.

Along with questions about the author’s intention, there are also questions about the author’s style and tone. For example, a question may ask what an author is trying to convey by using a particular phrase – this is where a student’s reading comprehension skills come into play. A student who understands what the author is trying to convey can determine why the author employed particular words or phrases in the text.

One way you can improve your reading comprehension skills is by reading classic works of fiction. You can then practice this skill by dissecting a passage sentence by sentence to figure out what an author is trying to convey. (plus, there’s a chance that you may encounter questions on the new SAT that involve a classic work of literature). Reading newspapers and online articles can also help you practice spotting the main idea of a piece. And of course, taking practice tests is always helpful to get into the habit of reading in a focused, critical way.

At Veritas Prep, we have a selection of tutoring options for students who need assistance preparing for the Critical Reading and Writing sections of the new SAT. Our professional tutors teach strategies to students that allow them to handle SAT questions with confidence. We also offer a free test for students who want to gauge their skills before starting to prep for the SAT. Check out our in-person or online courses and start preparing for the SAT today!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

4 Predictions for 2016: Trends to Look for in the Coming Year

Can you believe another year has already gone by? It seems like just yesterday that we were taking down 2014’s holiday decorations and trying to remember to write “2015” when writing down the date. Well, 2015 is now in the books, which means it’s time for us to stick our necks out and make a few predictions for what 2016 will bring in the world of college and graduate school testing and admissions. We don’t always nail all of our predictions, and sometimes we’re way off, but that’s what makes this predictions business kind of fun, right?

Let’s see how we do this year… Here are four things that we expect to see unfold at some point in 2016:

The College Board will announce at least one significant change to the New SAT after it is introduced in March.
Yes, we know that an all-new SAT is coming. And we also know that College Board CEO David Coleman is determined to make his mark and launch a new test that is much more closely aligned with the Common Core standards that Coleman himself helped develop before stepping into the CEO role at the College Board. (The changes also happen to make the New SAT much more similar to the ACT, but we digress.) The College Board’s excitement to introduce a radically redesigned test, though, may very well lead to some changes that need some tweaking after the first several times the new test is administered. We don’t know exactly what the changes will be, but the new test’s use of “Founding Documents” as a source of reading passages is one spot where we won’t be shocked to see tweaks later in 2016.

At least one major business school rankings publication will start to collect GRE scores from MBA programs.
While the GRE is still a long way from catching up to the GMAT as the most commonly submitted test score by MBA applicants, it is gaining ground. In fact, 29 of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top 30 U.S. business schools now let applicants submit a score from either exam. Right now, no publication includes GRE score data in its ranking criteria, which creates a small but meaningful implication: if you’re not a strong standardized test taker, then submitting a GRE score may mean that an admissions committee will be more willing to take a chance and admit you (assuming the rest of your application is strong), since it won’t have to report your test score and risk lowering its average GMAT score.

Of course, when a school admits hundreds of applicants, the impact of your one single score is very small, but no admissions director wants to have to explain to his or her boss why the school admitted someone with a 640 GMAT score while all other schools’ average scores keep going up. Knowing this incentive is in place, it’s only a matter of time before Businessweek, U.S. News, or someone else starts collecting GRE scores from business schools for their rankings data.

An expansion of student loan forgiveness is coming.
It’s an election year, and not many issues have a bigger financial impact on young voters than student loan debt. The average Class of 2015 college grad was left school owing more than $35,000 in student loans, meaning that these young grads may have to work until the age of 75 until they can reasonably expect to retire. Already this year the government announced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, which lets borrowers cap their monthly loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. One possible way the program could expand is by loosening the standards of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Right now a borrower needs to make on-time monthly payments for 10 straight years to be eligible; don’t be surprised if someone proposes shortening it to five or eight years.

The number of business schools using video responses in their applications will triple.
Several prominent business schools such as Kellogg, Yale SOM, and U. of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (which pioneered the practice) have started using video “essays” in their application process. While the rollout hasn’t been perfectly smooth, and many applicants have told us that video responses make the process even more stressful, we think video is’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we think that closer to 10 schools will use video as part of the application process by this time next year.

If a super-elite MBA program such as Stanford GSB or Harvard Business School starts video responses, then you will probably see a full-blown stampede towards video. But, even without one of those names adopting it, we think the medium’s popularity will climb significantly in the coming year. It’s just such a time saver for admissions officers – one can glean a lot about someone with just a few minutes of video – that this trend will only accelerate in 2016.

Let’s check back in 12 months and see how we did. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2016!

By Scott Shrum

SAT Tip of the Week: The Most Useful Math Tip You Will Hear This Year

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIn the world of test prep, there are a number of promises made about “one trick” that will bring up your score 800 points with almost no effort!  This is almost always an oversimplification and the tips are either so broad they are  not useful, or much more complicated in practice than in theory.

This tip is not a panacea for all of your testing challenges, but for those who struggle with the math section of the SAT or ACT, this one technique has been extremely helpful for approaching difficult math problems. So what is this incredible technique?

Write down all the given information and plug it into an applicable equation.

This may sound like an obvious technique, but often times even advanced students don’t do this one extremely useful and beneficial step.  Let’s take a look at how this technique works in practice to see just how useful it can be:

Farmer Charmer is building a stable for his prize winning ponies. The length of the stable needs to be twice the width.  In the center of the stable, a circular area must be set apart with a separate fence, the diameter of which is one half the width of the stable.  If the area of the stable is 800 square feet, how much fencing is necessary to build an outer fence and the inner circular fence of the stable? 

This is a classic multistep problem.  The actual computations involved are simple (which is true for all math on the SAT and ACT), but in order to see what computations must take place, the somewhat complex verbiage needs to be re-written in a way that looks more like a traditional math problem.

Write down all the given information…

The problem says that the length of the stable is twice the width.

L = 2W

The problem also says the area of the stable is 800 square feet.  We can rewrite this given using the area formula.

L x W = 800

Finally the problem says the diameter of the circular fence is half the width of the stable.

D = ½W

We are solving for the perimeter of stable plus the circumference of the circle. This should be written out and marked with a star so that we know we are finished when it is solved.

*2L +2W +D(Pi) =

Now that we have all the givens written down, all we have to do is…

Plug it into an applicable equation.

All that is left to do is plug in all the variables into the applicable equations. Let’s start by substituting 2W for L in the area equation, and then plugging the solutions into all other previously written equations:

W x 2W = 800

2W^2 = 800

W^2 = 400

W = 20

L=2W

L = 2(20)

L = 40

D = ½ W

D = ½ (20)

D = 10

*2L + 2W + D(Pi)

2(40) + 2(20) + 10(Pi) = 120 + 10Pi

And voila! We have our solution.  Almost all computational problems on the SAT can be approached by writing the givens and then plugging the variables into the relevant equations.  Remember, this isn’t a cure-all for all of your math challenges, but it is one of the best tools to have in your tool belt.  Happy test taking!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

The New SAT Writing Section

student reseachThe new version of the SAT has three main parts: the Math, Critical Reading, and Writing and Language sections. There is also an essay question that is now optional for students. In the Writing and Language section, students must find and correct various types of errors in the given passages.

Most high school students practice the skills necessary for this section every day. For instance, they use these skills when proofreading reports written for English and history classes, and while taking tests in English classes. Check out some information that reveals what students can expect on the new SAT Writing and Language section, and learn a few tips that can assist students as they work their way through this part of the test:

The Format of the Writing and Language Section

The multiple-choice format of the writing and language section should be familiar to most students in high school today. Students taking the new SAT will be given 35 minutes to answer 44 questions. They are required to read each passage and answer the questions that relate to it. In many cases, several of the questions relate to just one passage, so on the new SAT, students don’t have to read a separate passage for each question in this section.

What Skills Are Tested in the Writing and Language Section?

Some questions in the new SAT writing and language section require students to choose the word that fits best within the context of a sentence. Also, students are asked to decide what changes should be made to improve the clarity or organization of an argument. There are also questions that test a student’s knowledge of proper sentence structure, punctuation, and usage. Though students are given a set of answer options, they must know how to go about improving the language in a passage.

The Passages in the New SAT Writing and Language Section

The passages in this section cover a number of different topics. One passage may be about a particular era in history, while another passage might relate to science. Other possible topics include the humanities, careers, and histories. The creators of the new SAT chose topics for passages that students are likely to encounter in their college courses. In a way, this section of the new SAT serves as an introduction to the type of work a student might tackle in college.

Tips for the Writing and Language Section

Taking a timed practice test is the first step toward preparing for this section of the new SAT. The results of this practice test can help a student to determine which skills need strengthening, as well as help set a test-taking rhythm to ensure that the student completes all of the questions within the allotted time.

It’s also a good idea for students to peruse the answer options as well as the questions before reading each passage. A student who has an idea of what to look for is able to read in a more focused way. Another helpful tip is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. This helps to narrow down the choices and reduces the amount of time a student spends on each question. On many of the questions, students have the ability to choose the “no change” option as the answer, so keep that in mind as well.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable instructors convey strategies to students that can help them to approach this section with confidence. We teach students how to make every question more manageable, from professional instructors who have all scored in the 99th percentile on this challenging exam. Contact our offices today and choose the instruction option that’s right for you!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Effective Time Management for the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullStudents planning to take the new SAT may be wondering about the time management aspect of the test – will they have enough time to finish all of the questions in each section? Take a look at the breakdown of time allotted for each section of the test and find out what you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend on each SAT question:

A Look at the Various Sections on the New SAT

The new SAT timing breakdown is different from the current SAT. Test time, length, and content have been adjusted to meet the goals of the new standard. Students now have 65 minutes to complete the reading section, 35 minutes to finish the writing section, 80 minutes for the math section, and 50 minutes for the optional essay. The total time for the new SAT is approximately 180 minutes.

Completing the Writing and Language Section

According to this SAT time breakdown, students have just 35 minutes to complete the writing and language section. One effective step students can take to make sure they complete every question in this section is to take several timed practice tests. If a student runs out of time during a practice test, they have the opportunity to make some time-saving adjustments. Plus, working through practice tests helps students to establish a rhythm that allows them to finish every question.

One tip to reduce the time spent on each question is to skim the question as well as the answer options before reading the passage. By doing this, students are able to hone in on the correct answer and save valuable SAT writing time. especially when several questions are related to a single passage.

Another tip is to reread the sentence that contains the word in question. For instance, some questions require students to choose the short phrase that fits best in a sentence. Looking at the sentence as a whole instead of just the answer options can help a student to find the one that makes the most sense.

Finishing the Math Section

In the SAT time schedule, the math section consumes the largest portion of time. There are 20 questions that students must work out without a calculator and 38 questions that can be solved with a calculator. The SAT time breakdown for the math section allows students approximately one minute and 25 seconds per non-calculator question, and one minute and 45 seconds for each calculator-approved question. This breakdown of minutes and seconds gives students an idea of how quickly they need to work. Along with taking timed practice tests to work on their speed, a student can save valuable minutes by skipping challenging problems and returning to work on them later.

Finishing the Critical Reading Section

In the SAT time schedule, the critical reading section is the second longest in duration: 65 minutes. Students sometimes become anxious about their timing on the critical reading section due to the lengthy passages. But several questions on the test may relate to a single passage.

Taking timed practice tests helps students to pinpoint the types of questions that puzzle them. During a practice test, it’s a good idea for students to put a mark next to questions that prove difficult. One student may find that they are stumped by questions relating to how an author conveys an idea, while another student needs to work on identifying context clues in a passage. Once students are able to identify stumbling blocks, they can prep for the test by strengthening those skills.

Tips for Writing the SAT Essay

The new SAT allows students 50 minutes to complete the optional essay. Students may want to go with the standard five-paragraph format so they can include all of the necessary evidence in their essay. After reading the prompt, it’s a good idea to use some of the test time to create a rough outline and jot down pieces of evidence to include in specific paragraphs. Outlines are valuable resources, especially if a student loses their train of thought.

Our professional tutors at Veritas Prep stand ready to help you with time management as well as any other aspect of the new SAT. We offer both online and in-person SAT prep courses. Contact our offices today!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

The New SAT Essay

stressed-studentStarting in March of 2016, high school students across the country will be introduced to the new SAT. Like the current test, the new SAT has sections that challenge a student’s reading and math skills, as well as an essay, which is now optional. Students who choose to write the essay now have 50 minutes instead of just 25.

Let’s learn more about the new SAT essay, discover some helpful tips students can use when tackling this portion of the exam, and determine whether it’s necessary for every high school student to write an SAT essay.

Writing the Essay on the New SAT

Students who decide to write the SAT essay begin the process by reading a passage. Next, they must follow the essay prompt and craft an essay that analyzes the passage. A student’s essay must clearly explain how the author of the passage made their argument, and should include examples and evidence from the passage to support their analysis. In addition, they should point out persuasive elements used by the author and highlight words that add to the writer’s argument. A student writing an essay for the new version of the SAT does not take a stand on the argument put forth by the author of the passage – this is one of the main differences between the current SAT essay and the new SAT essay.

Skills Tested in the Essay Section

The essay on the new SAT tests a student’s reading comprehension skills, as a student must be able to both read and understand the passage in order to write an analysis. The essay also tests a student’s ability to recognize evidence used by the author to persuade readers toward a certain point of view.

Most importantly, a student’s ability to take this information and create a clear, organized essay is put to the test. The essay section on the new SAT gives students the opportunity to sample the type of writing they will be doing in their college courses – the ability to analyze an argument is a valuable skill that college students can use in practically any course.

Tips for Writing an Impressive Essay

Writing practice essays is the best way for students to prep for this portion of the test. After reading a practice prompt, it’s a good idea for students to make an outline for the essay and jot down critical pieces of evidence and pertinent details. An outline will also help a student organize all of the parts of an essay and make note of important points to include in their piece. In some cases, an outline can help a student to refocus if they lose their train of thought during the test.

At Veritas Prep, we assist students in learning how to write a compelling essay for the SAT. Our talented instructors have practical experience with the SAT and know what it takes to craft a stellar essay, so students who work with our professional tutors are receiving instruction from the experts!

Should Every Student Write the Optional Essay?

Most students want to know if they should write the optional essay. The answer depends on where a student wants to go to college. There are some colleges that require an applicant’s SAT essay score and some that don’t – it’s a smart idea for students to check with the schools they plan to apply to. Some students make the decision to take the essay portion of the SAT so they can offer a college solid proof of their excellent writing skills.

In addition to offering guidance on writing an essay for the SAT, our online tutors at Veritas Prep help students study for all of the other sections on the exam. Students learn valuable test strategies that they can use on test day to boost their performance from tutors offer who encouragement every step of the way. We know that preparing for the SAT can be stressful, and we are here to help!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

New SAT Math Section

New SATIn March of 2016, the current SAT will transform into the new SAT. At Veritas Prep, we know that high school students in the class of 2017 are curious about the changes in the new SAT math section. What types of questions will there be? Will the questions still be in multiple-choice form? Take a look at some information that can help students know what to expect when they sit down to take the math section of the new SAT:

What Areas of Math Are Covered on the New SAT?

Questions in the new SAT math section test students on the fundamentals of algebra as well as challenge their skills in problem-solving and data analysis. Students will also encounter questions that involve quadratic, higher-order, and linear equations, as well as several questions that will test their skills in geometry, complex numbers, and trigonometry. The questions on the newest version of the test use real-world scenarios and are similar to the types of questions students will encounter in future college math courses.

Multiple-Choice and Grid-In Questions

The math section on the new SAT includes 45 multiple-choice questions and 13 grid-in questions. Most students are familiar with multiple-choice questions, but they may not be familiar with grid-ins, also known as student-produced-response questions. When completing a grid-in question, a student works out the problem and writes the answer in the appropriate place on the answer sheet. Next, the student blackens the answer bubble below each written number, decimal point, or fraction line, and the answer bubbles are arranged in grids on the answer sheet. These types of questions give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to come up with answers on their own.

Are Students Still Allowed to Use Calculators on the Test?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Students are allowed to use calculators to complete 38 of the questions in the math section. The remaining 20 questions must be completed without a calculator. Of course, students can write on scratch paper or even the test booklet when solving a math problem without a calculator.

Tips to Follow When Studying for the New Math Section

One easy tip to remember when tackling multiple-choice questions in the math section is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. This will make a question look more manageable and prevent a student from wasting time with the wrong answers.

Another tip to help students on the math section is to plug each possible answer option into the equation contained in the question, and to write down and work through the equation on paper. Putting the problem down on paper is easier than trying to mentally juggle the various parts of a complicated equation, and can also help students work through each problem in a fast and efficient way.

Looking for keywords in a math question is another way to narrow down the answer options. Some examples of keywords include “quotient,” “sum,” “difference,” and “product.” When students spot these keywords along with others, they’re better able to understand what a question is asking.

Preparing for the New SAT Math Section

We offer several tutoring options both in person and online to students who want to prep for the math section of the new SAT. Our skillful tutors provide expert instruction based on practical experience. We review the results of practice tests with students to help pinpoint the areas in need of the most improvement, and once those areas are identified, we offer test-taking strategies to students that can boost their performance. In short, students who work with Veritas Prep are getting help from the experts!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: 5 Steps to Increase Your Speed

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany 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!). I have personally had the unfortunate experience of waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming of a clock winding down to zero as I have pages of questions left unanswered.

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. Whether you are taking the old version of the exam, or the new format, there are a number of ways that you can increase the your pace on the SAT:

1) Practice in a Timed Setting

It is surprising how many students sit down for the SAT having never actually timed themselves on any full SAT sections. Doing SAT practice problems is great, I will never chastise anyone for doing these, but there is simply no substitute for replicating the actual timed conditions of the SAT. You don’t have to take a full length timed SAT every week; you don’t have to be a hero! Simply do a timed section when you feel comfortable with the format. Work until you run out of time and mark the questions attempted and skipped.

After the time is up, go back and finish up the other problems so you have a chance to attempt all the problems even if your time management is still being developed. Being prepared for the SAT is imperative to being able to use time effectively on the test day, and part of preparation is knowing what twenty five minutes feels like and what spending too much time on one question feels like. There is no substitute for practice.

2) Create a General Template for an Essay

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. If you are taking the old format of the SAT, use a little time to brainstorm examples. Essentially all a brainstorm consists of is the position on the question and the examples that will be used in the argument.

If you are taking the new format of the SAT, use the time to identify stylistic elements, logical elements, and evidence used in the document. The new format is an analysis essay, but its set up is the as the previous test same. You simply need to set up an introduction with a clear thesis that the document is effective or ineffective because of the three elements listed above. Read the essay and mark any sections that fall into those three categories – once this work is done, the essay is practically written. All a student must do now is plug these specifics into the general essay template and the essay quickly writes itself. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the clock in this section as it is easy to get behind (you should start writing by the 15 minute mark on the new format).

3) Answer Questions From the Section of the Text Being Referenced

The answer to all reading test questions are in the passage. Anyone who has had me as a tutor is likely tire of hearing that mantra, but it is as true as the sky is blue. It is not simply that the answer is in the passage though, but it is also the case that the answer is in the part of the passage referenced by the question. If the question asks for what the author is doing in a specific few lines it is best to search for the answer in those lines (and the lines directly before and after those lines). The biggest waste of time on the reading section in either format of the test is random searching of the passages. Mark the passage so you know which sections deal with what general topic. By simply writing one word by a paragraph you can save yourself a fair bit of time searching through the passage.

4) Skip Hard Math Questions IMMEDIATELY

For most students who wish to achieve SAT success at the highest level, all questions will need to be attempted, but should a student encounter a question that is difficult for them to answer, the student should skip the question immediately and come back to it later. The SAT gives equal weight to every question, so spending six minutes on one question and coming up with no answer not only hurts a student on that question, but also on every question that follows. A student should attempt to answer every question that they can, so if the student does not even get to four questions at the end of a section , they have no way of knowing if they would have been able to more easily answer one of the final questions.

The SAT questions are presented in order of difficulty, but difficulty is relative. What’s hard for one person might be simple for another, so do not waste time being baffled by a question. Be baffled, then if you have answered all the questions that you feel you can approach easily, go back to the questions where you didn’t know how to start and do SOMETHING. Write out formulas, label givens, eliminate answer choices that don’t make sense. Sometimes, doing the first step will lead to others and an impossible question will become possible.

5) Do NOT Focus On The Time

Wait, didn’t you just say to make sure to keep an eye on the clock? A little glance at the clock is fine, but you should be so used to the timing of the test that you feel whether or not you are spending too long on a question. If you realize that you are running out of time, don’t panic! Do your best to complete the questions you can with accuracy and take a glance at the questions you have left so you can attempt those that seem possible to complete quickly. Perhaps you will get one or two more questions correct, instead of getting all the remaining questions wrong because you rushed through them.

The biggest thing a student can do on the day of the test to make sure that they are pacing themselves properly is to practice often in advance and to breathe! The stress of the day can make people jittery and poorly focused, but preparation and breathing help to eliminate these problems and prepare students to rock the SAT. So what are you waiting for? Get out that timer and start practicing!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

The New SAT: Scoring

SAT Scantron TestThe new SAT is due to arrive in March of 2016. Along with changes in content, there is also a new SAT scoring system. It’s important for students to understand the new SAT scores before diving into the latest version of the test. Take a look at the specifics regarding the scoring system for the new SAT and discover some tips that can help students earn a high score on the test:

A Look at the New SAT Scoring System

On the new SAT, the highest total score a student can earn is 1600. Students receive a separate score for the optional essay. The new SAT consists of two main sections: One section tests a student’s skills in reading and writing, while the other section tests a student’s math skills. Scores for each of the two sections are then added together to get the person’s total score on the test.

The New SAT Score Range for Each Section

Students can score between 200 and 800 on the reading and writing section of the SAT. The scoring range is the same for the math section. A student who scores an 800 on the reading and writing section as well as on the math portion of the test would achieve a perfect 1600 on the SAT.

Examining a Student’s Performance on the SAT

The new SAT scores allow both students and colleges to get a more in-depth look at an individual’s performance on the test. For instance, an SAT score report now features cross-test scores given to students for specific skills. including analysis in science, history, and social studies. The cross-test score scale ranges from 10 to 40.

There are also seven subscores that assess a student’s performance in specific areas. For instance, a student receives a subscore that reflects how well they recognized words in context, while another subscore reveals how well a student did with questions related to problem-solving and data analysis. These seven subscores paint a more detailed picture of a student’s abilities in several areas.

Scoring the Essay on the New SAT

The highest possible score for the SAT essay is eight points. There are two test graders who evaluate each student’s essay, and each of these graders gives an essay a score of one to four points. The essay graders are looking here at a student’s ability to comprehend the whole passage in addition to the student’s ability to analyze the evidence in the passage and write an organized, concise essay. These two scores are added together to equal the total score for the essay – if both scorers give an essay four points, then the student has earned a perfect score on the essay.

Advantages of the New SAT Scoring Scale

The system of scoring on the new SAT doesn’t penalize students for guessing, so students have the opportunity to benefit even if they aren’t certain about an answer. Another advantage of the scoring system on the new SAT is that students can now determine where they can improve their performance by looking at the details on the redesigned score report.

Converting SAT Scores

High school students who’ve taken the current version of the SAT may wonder if they now have to take the new version. The answer is no. For a few years, most colleges will accept scores from the current SAT as well as the version coming out in the spring of 2016. Students who took the current version of the SAT can also perform a new SAT score conversion with the help of a conversion chart.

Tips for Achieving an Impressive Score on the SAT

Taking practice tests is an excellent way to prep for the new SAT. The results of a practice test allow students to see what they need to work on as test day approaches.

At Veritas Prep, we have several tutoring options designed to fit the needs of individual students. Our professional tutors teach students simple strategies that can help them to navigate even the toughest question on the new SAT. Students who sign up with Veritas Prep work with instructors who scored in the top one percent of individuals who’ve taken the SAT. In short, Veritas Prep is the place for students who want to study with the best! Check out our selection of helpful prep courses at Veritas Prep today!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Plan Months Ahead, Not Weeks Ahead!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMy experience as an SAT private tutor for Veritas Prep has taught me many things beyond the core strategies that students need to learn to succeed on the test. Of course, the strategies we teach in our SAT courses are essential for success, but I have learned that many other additional factors will affect the degree of success and the amount of improvement that a student will be able to achieve on the SAT.

One of the biggest keys to maximum success, I have found, is to plan months ahead, so that it is possible to spread out the tutoring sessions over a period of months, not just weeks!

The total amount of tutoring hours is important, of course, but those tutoring hours and sessions are most effective when they are spread out over a decent period of time, so that the student is able to pace herself or himself appropriately. For example, two 2-hour sessions per week is a good pace – at that pace, a student can receive 36 hours of tutoring over a period of 9 weeks, or about 2 months.

Tutoring at such a pace is much more effective than trying to cram a large number of hours into a couple weeks, or a few weekends. The difference is that by studying the right way, the time between tutoring sessions will be able to play a valuable role in the student’s learning process because:

  • The material from each session has time to sink in.
  • The student has time to complete more practice sections and practice tests as homework in between sessions.
  • With the student doing more homework between sessions, the tutor is able to review more of the student’s work and monitor the student’s progress over a longer period of time. This allows the tutor to give the student better, personalized, and more detailed feedback.

The time to allow the material to sink in is especially important! Even if a hard-working student is able to do a large amount of homework assignments in a short period of time, that still does not make up for the lack of time between lessons.

Our vocabulary memorization strategies emphasize the importance of studying vocabulary every day, and especially of reviewing previous vocabulary words every day. This is because every day (and overnight), a person’s brain is processing and re-processing all the things he or she learned and studied – vocabulary a student studies sinks more deeply and more firmly into his or her memory the more days he or she reviews it.

The same process occurs with the material from each tutoring session sinking into the student’s brain. There is no substitute for at least a few days of studying – and especially, a few nights’ sleep – to give the student’s brain time to fully digest each lesson.

Dear families of prospective tutoring students: please plan months ahead, so that you give the student and his or her tutor the period of time they need to arrange a schedule of tutoring sessions at an appropriate and steady pace. Your advance planning will pay off big time with the student’s test score improvement!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Geoffrey Caveney is a Veritas Prep SAT Instructor in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University. In addition to SAT tutoring, Geoff has extensive experience teaching and coaching chess players. Chess taught Geoff that the right psychological mindset is just as important as the right strategies, and he brings this and other insights to his SAT tutoring.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Good SAT Essay

SAT Tip of the Week - FullEven though you get a whole 25 minutes to piece together your SAT essay, the grader who reads it will only take around 1-2 minutes to evaluate it. You might think this is annoying or unfair – after all, you probably put a lot of thought into your essay and want the reader to appreciate your hard work. However, this is the reality of the situation, and it’s your (and our!) job to figure out how to take advantage of it. So how should you go about doing this? The answer is simple to understand, and not much harder to do: Clarity.

In your high school essays, you might have been taught to write with nuance, to “show not tell.” This is good advice for other writing assignments, but not for the SAT essay. The rushed graders are unlikely to notice detailed intricacy in your essay, but they will recognize a clear, direct argument.

The best way to make a clear argument (in my words) is to “hit the reader over the head” with the point you’re trying to make. Going over the top in restating and explaining your main argument – which will show up in your thesis statement – is a foolproof way to ensure the reader will know exactly what you are attempting to say. My advice is to start with a strong thesis in the intro paragraph, but also include a restated version of that thesis statement in all of your body paragraphs. The goal of the examples in your body paragraphs should be to relate them back to your thesis, so framing the thesis in each of those paragraphs leads the grader to make that connection naturally.

It’s key to make sure that your examples are clearly related to your thesis, as well. The more it’s clear why you chose those examples, the better the argument the grader will think that you’re making. The best kind of example is an obvious one that is well explained, not a subtle one that requires a ton of confusing exegesis.

Alright, so now you know you have to be clear, but you may be asking, “What exactly does being clear look like?” Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Here’s an example of a recent SAT essay prompt with a corresponding clear and unclear thesis:

Prompt: Do good intentions matter, or should people be judged only according to the results of their actions?

Clear Thesis: It is most fair to judge people based on the goodness of their intentions because humans cannot absolutely control the effects their actions have on the world.

Unclear Thesis: Since the results of our actions are shaped by factors that may or may not be outside of human control, it is best in most cases to judge people based on what we perceive their intentions to be, although it is often difficult to accurately tell what people’s intentions really are.

The clear thesis gets right to the point. It doesn’t beat around the bush, introduce ambiguous claims, or contradict itself. The unclear thesis wavers, and it’s difficult to even follow what argument it is trying to make. As is evident in these two examples, the clearer your thesis is (and the more clear your examples are) the better the grader’s understanding of your essay will be. And of course, the better the grader’s understanding, the better your score!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: Stop Saying That You Are Not a Good Test Taker!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThere are a number of ways that human beings self-sabotage. There are the obvious things that we do, such as making ourselves late or not trying to do things for fear that we will fail, and then there are the more insidious ways that we self-sabotage, such as telling ourselves that we “can’t” do or aren’t “good” at various things.  It is certainly true that most human beings are not born with the ability to be rock stars on standardized tests, but that does not mean that the skills necessary to succeed on an SAT can’t be learned.

The truth is that saying, “I’m not a good test taker,” gives that statement truth, but no one is good at anything until they become good at it.  So instead, change that statement to, “I’m going to be a great test taker!” and use the following strategies to take the fear of being bad at taking exams and transform it into the motivation to be great.

1) Acknowledge Your Feelings

Fear of failure is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it something that should be discounted. If a student feels anxiety, it is best to acknowledge that feeling so that it can be addressed properly. See if you can identify what specifically is causing the fear.  Is it a specific section of the SAT? Is it the thought of time running out?  Is it a worry that you will make arithmetic errors on the math section? All of these are valid concerns that can be approached with practical steps.

Remember, fear is essentially a projection of a negative outcome into an unknown (and unknowable) future! Think of something that you can work on right NOW that can help to address the particular source of your anxiety – for example, if you are worried about arithmetic, plan on doing some math problems that require a lot of arithmetic and be super specific about how you line up your equations and draw every single step.  This will show you that you are capable of doing the task. Don’t live in the future, focus on what can be done right now!

2) Change Your Mindset

Changing one’s mindset is an active process that involves acknowledging thoughts that are not helpful and attempting to focus on other thoughts that are more helpful.  Instead of being disappointed at your wrong answers, look at all the answers you got right.  What are you already good at?  Acknowledging that you have a number of skills that have already been developed not only gives you confidence, but also helps to focus your studying on the things that need the most work.  These are not things you are bad at, these are things you are soon to be good at!

3) Allow Time For Sleep

Your body needs sleep.  For most people 6-9 hours is an appropriate amount of sleep, but listen to your body.  If you feel that you are not giving yourself enough time to sleep, your body can suffer from sleep deficiency which can reduce mental and physical acuity.  It is worth mentioning that substances like caffeine have similar effects on the body to adrenaline, so it may be that avoiding coffee when you feel anxious will help to reduce the physical manifestations of anxiety like an increased heart rate and feeling of jitters.

4) Organize Your Time

This involves doing tasks in the moment rather than worrying about the future.  Create organized study schedules that address whatever SAT concerns you have and help to build the skills that you feel you need the most help with.  Create a list of the things you would like to work on in order of importance and then set aside time to practice each in turn. Over preparing is a great way to reduce anxiety – if you are truly prepared for an exam, you have very little to feel anxious about.  Especially work on that vocabulary: knowledge of vocabulary will not only help with the completing the sentences questions, but will also help you feel confident in deciphering complicated reading sections.

5) Visualize The Outcome You Want

In general, approaching tests with a positive attitude has a tremendous effect on real outcomes.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that positive visualization is associated with success in various pursuits.  Take a few minutes before you go to bed to visualize yourself receiving the score that you desire on the test.  This can go a long way to convincing yourself that you are capable of success.

The moral of this story is that telling yourself you are bad at things does nothing to actually accomplish anything practical, it simply affirms a destructive opinion and gives you permission to believe bad things about yourself.  So acknowledge your feelings, then start working on practical things that will help you become the test taker you are capable of being.  You can do it!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: Be the Best of the Best on the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI’m not particularly brilliant, despite what my grandmother will tell you after a glass of wine. NO ONE (not even Grams) would describe me as a genius, especially when they hear the things I yell at the TV during a UNC basketball game. So how did I score in the 99th percentile on one of the most competitive standardized tests in the country? I am certainly diligent, and it did take some hard work and practice, but there was nothing I accomplished that I feel like another hard working young person couldn’t accomplish as well. In order to dominate the SAT, you really only need to focus on 6 things:

1) Know the SAT

The SAT is a very specific test that is set up in a very specific way. Even with the changes that are occurring with the format of the 2016 SAT, the style of questions and the tactics used by the SAT writers are fairly consistent from year to year. I have looked at so many SAT’s at this point that I can often point out the wrong answers in a question just because of how they are phrased.

This is not a magic trick and can be learned with practice. For example, the SAT does not favor overly specific or overly all-inclusive answers, and it also favors fractions over decimals because they are easier to work with without a calculator. These are small pieces of information that make the SAT much easier to approach, so start looking at practice tests today and work with an instructor who really knows the SAT well to learn how to easily identify test writer tactics.

2) Is the Answer in the Passage?

This is the question you should be asking when you are tackling a reading analysis question. All of the answers in the Reading Comprehension section are based on things directly stated in, or heavily implied by, the passage. Questions also usually ask you about a specific portion of the passage, so the better question would be, “Is the answer in this portion of the passage?” There are times when a section is continuing from something that comes before it or establishing something that comes after it, but usually you are looking for what is directly stated in the lines that are referenced in the question.

Never say an answer “could” be true! It either is or it isn’t correct, and that is based on whether or not the answer is accomplished by, or stated in, the passage. The final caveat is the answer is usually the same idea represented in the passage but restated in different words, so don’t be distracted by plagiarized words from the passage that aren’t actually part of a full correct answer.

3) Show Your Work and Know Your Terminology

Avoid “silly” mistakes by writing out all your steps in the Math section! Be very careful not to lose negatives and to distribute anything outside of parentheses to all the terms in the parentheses. Also, review your basic math terms in advance of the test (i.e. Natural Numbers, Whole Numbers, Rational Numbers, Geometric and Arithmetic sequences, etc.). Know what isosceles, equilateral and right triangles are and what those distinctions mean. Overall, the biggest part of answering math questions is knowing what the questions are asking, and the worst feeling in the world is knowing how to answer a question but then bubbling in the wrong answer because you made a silly mistake.

4) Start Working on Problems That Aren’t Obvious

If you don’t know how to solve a problem, just start working on it anyway. The easiest way to start is to write down your givens and any applicable formulas. Often time, this can at least give you a hint as to what you are able to accomplish. If the unknown you are looking for is a part of the given equation, try to solve for it – if not, see if you can use the information given to solve for other things that might help you ultimately find the answer. Feel free to use real numbers if problems involve equations but does not give you numbers. This may help you to figure out a range of answers or could provide insight into what the equation will produce. Just make sure not to sit there and do nothing, there is always something to try!

5) Know the Parts of a Sentence

It sounds pretty basic, but just identifying what the subject, verb, and (sometimes) object in a sentence can be very helpful in determining the most common errors in SAT Identifying Sentence Error questions. Also be sure you can recognize a prepositional phrase, an introductory phrase, and descriptive phrase, as these are also useful in identifying incorrect parts of sentences.

6) Check for What Could be an Error When Correcting Sentence

There are really only a finite number of things that could be wrong in a sentence, so, especially in the Identifying Sentence Error questions, look for what could be wrong. Does the underlined portion contain a subject, verb, pronoun, idiomatic phrase, or punctuation? If you know what could be wrong, its much easier to see if something is wrong. As an example, one tricky error occurs when multiple words that are supposed to represent the same object or objects disagree. For example:

There is no way to know if the problems with the neighbor’s homes are caused by the roof or if they are caused by cracks in the foundations that have gone unnoticed.

This is very tricky, but the problem here is with number of items mentioned. There are multiple “homes” and the sentence refers to multiple “foundations,” so to use the singular “roof” is incorrect. These errors of numbers can be hard to spot, but if you are looking for them, you can certainly learn to identify them.

With all of theses tools you are set to achieve at the highest level on the SAT.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: Asking Questions to Answer Questions

SAT Tip of the Week - FullSAT Critical Reading passages are known to be a bit…well…boring. They can range from obscure 19th century literature to scientific articles on the principles of walking. Although some students might find these forays into otherwise-never-read writing interesting, most students are understandably turned off by what they have to read. I never blame students for feeling this way; what I do fight against is letting a lack of interest in a passage detract from a student’s score.

Even though it is hard, it is crucial to be engaged in a passage even if the content isn’t exciting. The best way to get yourself to be engaged and prepare yourself to answer the passage-based questions is to have an internal dialogue with yourself as you read. For me, I’ve always found that asking questions is a great way to stay on task and think critically about the passage at hand. Here are a few good general questions to begin the process of activating your internal voice when approaching SAT reading passages:

  • How does one part of the passage relate to the rest of the passage?
  • What purpose does placing this section of the passage here serve the author?
  • Where is the author using evidence, and where is he or she sharing his or her opinion?

Equally important is asking questions internally once you get to the actual SAT questions relating to the passage. Actively questioning the answer choices is a great way to make sure that you understand the question and don’t get tricked by trap answer choices. Here are a few good questions to ask when attacking a specific problem:

  • Was this actually stated in the passage, or is it merely plausible? (Remember – avoid assumptions!)
  • Where does the author support this claim?
  • Does the answer fit in with how I understood the passage? With how the passage was directly written?

Keeping a running dialogue of these types of questions helps you both to remain focused and to identify correct answer choices.  Let’s see how this strategy can be applied to a real SAT problem. Consider the following passage:

The Space Race, which occurred between 1957 and 1975, began when the Soviets launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, into space. For the Soviet Union, Sputnik was a tremendous technological achievement. For the United States, it was an embarrassing wake-up call. The United States had previously been regarded as the forerunner in the new field of space exploration, but Sputnik proved that the Soviets were viable contenders for that role.

When I read that passage, a couple key questions come to mind. Some questions occur as I read, others afterwards; it is important to know yourself in order to realize when your internal dialogue will be beneficial and when it will be distracting:

  • How (or does) the author define the Space Race?
  • “Wake-up call” seems figurative. What does the author mean by it and where can I justify that?
  • What is the value in talking specifically about the events in the Space Race?

Once you’ve thought about or answered these questions, it’s time to go on to look at the SAT problems. Keep the understanding you derived from your questions in mind as you think about how to approach the problem presented to you. Now lets look at a specific question related to the passage:

The author most likely uses the phrase “wake-up call” in line 5 in order to:

(A) emphasize the bitterly competitive nature of the space race

(B) highlight the need for the United States to begin its own weapons development program

(C) imply that the Soviets did in fact contact the United States government to notify them of the launch

(D) convey the shock and humiliation the United States felt when it heard about Sputnik

(E) suggest that any American attempt to launch a satellite at that time would be doomed to fail

My favorite strategy is to ask a challenging question directed at each answer choice. This ensures that I am critical of each answer choice and don’t give any answer the benefit of the doubt. The best questions are ones that are framed in such a way that they either eliminate or affirm an answer choice, since this obviously leads you to the correct answer on the problem.

For answer choice A, I’d ask: Is the space race bitterly competitive, or is bitterly too extreme a word?

For B, C, and E, I’d ask: Are the details from the answer choices actually present in the text? Respectively, does the US need to make its own program? Did the Soviets contact the Americans? Is there a suggestion of failure?

For D, I’d ask: Does a wake-up call usually go along with shock?

Answering these questions, I found that “bitterly” was, in fact, an inaccurate description of the situation; the US had no discernible need to start a program; there was no mention of any notification; there was no suggestion of failure; wake-up calls do involve being surprised, which goes along closely with shock. Through this analysis, I can eliminate choices A, B, C, and E, leaving me with just the correct answer, which is D.

As you can see, asking the right questions and keeping yourself engaged is a great way to stay focused and think critically about SAT passage-based reading questions.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.