I have never met a SAT student who enjoyed writing essay conclusions. I understand that conclusions are important and I appreciate a well-written one, but at heart I’m in the same boat; even though I’ve been a writing tutor for several years now, I still think that writing SAT-style conclusions feels redundant, uncreative, and boring. Fortunately, conclusions aren’t quite the monster that we tend to make them out to be.
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I’ve been a full time student for about fifteen years now–elementary, middle, high school, college. It wasn’t until I began teaching, though, that I really understood how to be a good student. My best students haven’t necessarily been the ones who scored highest, knew the most, or learned most quickly; they were the ones who studied, practiced, and listened in ways that maximized our communication and made the most of our tutoring hours together. A few of their best habits:
As a young test taker I remember the terror of looking up at a clock and realizing that I was only halfway through a sixty question exam while my time had dwindled to a measly ten minutes. Many adults still have stress dreams in which they are running out of time on a timed test (how unfortunate that so many cannot even escape this dread in their sleep!) The SAT is a beast of a timed test and many students have a hard time determining how to manage their time while taking this exam. While the timed nature of the test is daunting, there are a few concrete steps that can be taken to avoid a panic attack when the words “five minutes remaining” are uttered on test day.
For many hopeful college applicants, the essay can feel like one of the most stressful portions of the SAT. It is not simply that it is the first section of the SAT, which is certainly stressful, or that so little time is allotted to complete the essay, another legitimate concern, but also that there is no way to know the question that will be posed and thus no way to know if the right example will pop into the brain of the nervous test taker while he or she is taking the test. These are all valid concerns for all the college hopefuls out there, but all of these concerns can be addressed by studying for the essay in the right way, and yes, you can study for the essay! Here are three tactics that can help alleviate some of the stress of this section and prepare students to rock the SAT essay.
Using sophisticated vocabulary and writing really long paragraphs in high school essays has been a subject of intense debate. Some teachers love the added eloquence when a student includes a few large words, while others mark down for the use of a thesaurus and overstating what has already been written.
A lot of times on the SAT, students worry about the level of rigor and complexity associated with some of the more difficult questions on the math sections. Some people assume that in order to really succeed on the test, they have to be advanced in mathematics and skilled in high level topics. In reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The following interview comes from testprepstore.com. Testprepstore.com recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A session with Eric Fischer, one of Veritas Prep’s expert SAT instructors, to inquire about the SAT and get his take on the questions that many college applicants would like to ask with regards to SAT prep courses and how to be successful at achieving their desired SAT score.
Don’t read too much on Critical Reading? That’s right! Passages are many students’ least favorite part of the SAT, and understandably so. Many, especially the longer ones, are dense and full of detail. It’s harrowing to spend five or ten minutes trying to absorb everything, only to have to read parts of it over again in order to answer the questions.
Circle problems are one of the toughest things for students to master on the SAT math section. Moreover, geometry as a topic is always a cause for concern. Any type of question that brings in circles is difficult. Part of this stems from the fact that when you learn Geometry in school, you focus on a wide variety of quadrilaterals, proofs, and other concepts. But the SAT includes more circles and triangles, and less proofs and parallelograms. While the reference to simple shapes may bring you back to Pre-K, the complexity of some of these problems is anything but simple. Here is how the radius makes all circle problems easy to solve. The best thing you can do is to treat the radius like your north star. It will guide you in the right direction no matter what the question asks. Understanding the radius and knowing how to manipulate it in a variety of different problem structures will make mastering circles a piece of cake.
This is a class of problem that is among the most dreaded on the SAT: the hard pattern problem! DUN DUN DUN [Cue dramatic music]! Though this type of problem is not very familiar to many students since it is not often specifically taught in many high school math classes, the actual skills necessary to dominate these questions are straight forward. The general set up of this type of problem is as follows:
Singular focus is a lost art. Whether it’s studying for a test, preparing for the SAT, or getting a presentation together, the ability to shut everything else out and concentrate on one activity is almost impossible for most people in present day. The influx of technology, social media, and heightened obligations are culprits for this new phenomenon, which author Daniel Goleman addresses in his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Goleman, who is well known for his book Emotional Intelligence, is a psychologist who has spent years studying the ability to focus. Years after revolutionizing how people understood and defined someone’s “intelligence” as more than a transcript, he has also provided very interesting observations and notes on the ability to focus and concentrate.
As a junior, you’re actually really well positioned to get a leg up on the college admissions process. You still have some time to complete your testing requirements and you can start to research colleges before the crunch of application season. Here are some things you can get started on right away:
Techniques for studying for the SAT are as varied and numerous as the students who adhere to them. One student may swear that the only way to prepare for an exam is to study for six straight hours before bed once a week, while another might say the only way to succeed is to do two questions a day and then eat a grapefruit to help all the information stick. Though there are a variety of studying techniques with which many students have found success, there are a few core study practices that will create consistency and clarity within whatever practices already work for each student.
In the late 1960’s, Professor Walter Mischel at Stanford conducted a series of studies that examined the concept of delayed gratification. His research team offered preschoolers the choice of one reward immediately or two rewards if they waited for about fifteen minutes. The rewards were usually marshmallows and the study later became famous in popular culture, known as “The Marshmallow Test.”
One of the more challenging classes of math problems for any aspiring SAT master is what we in the biz calls the “Abstract Problem” (it even sounds confusing). This is simply an easy and all-encompassing term to describe problems that ask for an understanding of a concept rather than an exact number answer. “But we have only been taught to arrive at a numerical answer to difficult math questions!” you might exclaim. The truth of the matter is that conceptualizing difficult math topics is very hard to do without some input of real numbers. But with the input of actual computations, even confusing concepts can become crystal clear. Let’s look at an example:
I loved martial arts growing up, but used to absolutely detest drills. My teacher always insisted on placing the most physically demanding forms at the end of each drill session, so every other evening I spent my practice time dreading the end of the hour. Today, however, I apply the same strategy to teaching SAT classes: I have my students complete an essay (for many of them the most daunting part of the SAT) at the very end of each 3-hour class. Most of them complain or groan a little, but many have told me afterwards that the practice was very helpful!
Everyone makes a few New Year’s resolutions. Most of them are about getting in shape, reading more, and other activities that improve one’s livelihood. In 2015, if you are a high school student gearing up to take the SAT, you should start it off with a different sort of resolution. Resolve to study one hour each day until the test on Saturday, January 24th.
One of the most difficult things to teach students is how to avoid careless errors. Very few things are as frustrating as looking down at an answer sheet on the SAT and seeing that your process was correct for arriving at the right answer and yet some small error made you choose the wrong answer. Careless errors are in insidious blight on those who wish to achieve at the highest level on the SAT. Here are a few simple, practical steps that can be taken to ensure that you are being judged on your process not on some small arithmetic error.
1. Circle the answer choice. One of the easiest careless mistakes to make is simply answering for a variable that the question does not require. Luckily this is also one of the easiest mistakes to avoid. Simply circle of the desired variable or unknown and draw an equal sign next to it. This will ensure that you do not move on from this problem until you can complete that equation.
The SAT essay calls for a more formal and academic tone of writing than some students are comfortable with. Over my two and a half years as an SAT instructor, I’ve received an extraordinary number of questions about what formal tone should look like. Far too often, students mistake complexity for formality, misuse of advanced vocabulary or simply focus too much on tone that they forget the importance of strong content. Here are a few of the most common errors I’ve seen regarding SAT essay tone and how to avoid them.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, Winter Break is coming up. The semester has flown by with quizzes, tests, memorizing odd facts about Charlemagne and imaginary numbers. But before you can relax, you have to climb and conquer those treacherous peaks of your final examinations. Only then will you be able to rest and sleep long hours, forget about setting your alarm, and float into nothingness (with the exception of all that fun time hanging out with your friends and listening to Taylor Swift).
Free web resources can be useful supplements to your SAT study, but only when used correctly. Practice questions, essay hints, and sample passages vary widely in their correctness and helpfulness. At best, web resources can provide free information and explanations to aid your understanding of concepts. At worst, they can mislead and confuse students about the SATs expectations, format, and scoring system. Here are a few tips about making the most of what Google has to offer.
As the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey, (or a delicious vegetarian alternative) it is easy to put studying for the SAT to bed for a long winter’s nap. It is almost certain that taking a little bit of time to not think about standardized tests is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work. With a work out plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true of SAT studying as well. Students can use these three steps (which should take less than twenty minutes) four days a week to help continue the process of conquering the SAT, while still leaving you lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how tall you’ve become.
The groans I hear when I ask my students to memorize a new list of vocabulary words makes it seem as if I have asked them to do some impossible task akin to carving a replica of Michelangelo’s David with a dull set of dentistry tools. “It’s so tedious!” they say. To me, it does not seem more tedious than trying to slingshot exploding birds into precariously designed structures harboring evil green pigs, but what do I know? The question remains: what is the best way to learn vocabulary?
Last week, we discussed how to break down the Writing Section of the SAT. Today, we’re focusing on Math.
The future is now, and that does not simply mean that we must all Instagram pictures of puppies wearing hats on an hourly schedule (that said, it would be a shame to keep such pictures to yourself). There has never been a greater capability of connecting with people across the globe, and this means that learning does not simply have to take place in an “in person” classroom. Live Online classes and tutoring allows eager students to access the best educational methods for SAT prep.
I have been out of my formal education, and certainly out of high school for many years now but I still have stress dreams where the time is slowly running out on a standardized test. I’m stuck on a hard problem and am waffling between two answers: “What does it mean if these two points are co-linear!” I scream and wake up in a cold sweat. If this describes your own dark dreams, you are not alone. Negotiating timing on a test is tough, but there are a few great tricks that will help you to zoom through some of the tougher sections and complete the SAT without feeling that stress.
There are very few people whose idea of a good time includes spending hours outside of regular school poring over SAT material. With all the other constraints on a high school student’s time, is it worth it to do an SAT prep course? The honest answer is yes. The SAT is very important to the university admissions process and the skills necessary for lifting an SAT score can be learned over a much shorter period of time than it takes to dramatically change a four year GPA or achieve success in extracurricular activities. In terms of results for the time put in, success on the SAT is a lot of bang for your buck, and the skills learned in SAT prep are applicable to any standardized or multiple choice test.
The time has come. The SAT is finally here. After months of preparation, this Saturday, October 11, is the day to finally demonstrate your skills to the College Board. In terms of studying, the SAT is not like a midterm so there is no benefit to cramming. In fact it can have an adverse effect on your score.
Anxiety can often feel like an indestructible creature of mythical strength. If it is not enough that students must learn five hundred vocabulary words, spend hours drilling algebra (everyone’s idea of a fun Friday night), and learn to identify hidden grammatical mistakes, students must also fight the dragon of anxiety which paralyzes with its powerful breath and leaves students feeling defeated before they even begin. Anxiety is a mighty beast, but there are ways to combat this force and slay the dragon of fear so that you can focus on what really matters: answering the questions on the SAT correctly.
Have you ever had a fight with a parent, a partner, or a friend that was about one thing but was really about something else? Maybe mom yells that she can’t believe you left the milk out when really she’s mad that you watched the new episode of Homeland without her? Things are not always what they seem, and the SAT is just as guilty of hiding what it truly wants as your Homeland watching parent. So how do we approach a problem where the true skill that is being tested is not obvious? As in life, the real trick is digging down to what is really going on and addressing the true nature of the problem. Here is an example where this technique can be used:
The SAT test is the best way to back up your academic aptitude in the current college admissions process. While the SAT may not be reflective of your intelligence level or intellectual prowess, the fact remains that college admission officers use the test as a barometer of candidates’ academic strengths. The reason for this is simple – it’s the one standardized measure that colleges are able to use when comparing candidates. It’s impossible to compare GPA’s across the board when there are a variety of variables at play.
There is no better way to study for the SAT then taking official College Board practice tests. Just trying these problems alone will give you familiarity for the cadence, structure, and outline of the test. There are a few things you can do to maximize your effectiveness when using the practice tests.
Which one seems out of place when trying to excel on the SAT? Everyone has heard about the importance of studying vocabulary and taking practice tests – bedrock principles to succeeding on the test. However, one unique tip that can have a dramatic effect on your score is a consistent sleep routine. How awesome is that? Sleeping, something we all love, can help boost our SAT score tremendously! Sleep is the secret “X” factor that can take your scores to the next level.
A calculator is one of the most underutilized tools on the SAT. It’s the one device that the College Board permits, which actually makes problems easier. Yet, I see students consistently fail to take advantage of the technological marvel that is the calculator. It’s true that you can solve every problem without a calculator. However, it becomes more difficult and more time consuming – two things we try to mitigate on the SAT.