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 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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

SAT Tip of the Week: Focus on Strategies, Not Scores!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullWhen most people take the SAT, they set target or goal scores for themselves. Statements like, “I need to get an 1800,” and, “I want to improve my Critical Reading by 50 points,” are common aims heard among high school students. Even though these thoughts are common (and make sense, since the ultimate goal of the SAT is to get the best score possible), it doesn’t mean that they are helpful in really improving on the test. In fact, focusing all of your energy on a target score can actually diminish your ability to perform better.

Just like how it is impossible to try to win a game (just think about it – what you’re really doing is trying to play well), it is equally impossible to try for a score on the SAT. What you’re really doing is trying to figure out how to take the test well. Given this, it is better to set goals directly involved with the specific aspects of the test than to aim for arbitrary score improvements!

Here are a few tips for healthy goal setting:

1) Focus your energy on the content of the test. This mindset puts all your energy into the nitty-gritty of test taking, and prevents distractions. Wondering whether getting a question right will bring you from a 750 to a 730 on the reading section does not make you more likely to recognize a misplaced modifier – in fact, such distraction actually hurts your ability to catch mistakes.

2) Better input, better output. As crazy as it sounds, by thinking less about your score, the more your score will increase. By getting better at each individual parts of the test, you will feel more confident about your ability to take the test as whole. In a self-reinforcing cycle, this will give you the energy to make more improvements on specifics, thereby leading to a greater overall score.

3) Take the long-term view. Focusing solely on scores puts too much emphasis on variable results from practice sections. Scores on individual practice tests can vary widely due to a variety of external factors. Focusing on long-term growth and deep understanding of the types of questions on the test will remind you that even if your score on a practice test temporarily went down (due to bad guessing, etc.), your arc of performance is bending toward improvement.

4) Don’t put yourself in a position to come up short. It is very easy to stress if you have a goal score in mind but are struggling to reach it. Avoid this dilemma by setting smaller, more content-focused objectives that you are more likely to achieve. Seeing yourself do well and accomplish your goals will give you the confidence necessary to jump into the harder sections of the SAT!

Above all else, remember that while a good score may be your ultimate goal, you can only get there by diving into the details.

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: Learn to Read Again

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI loved to read as a kid.  Getting lost in great book that took me to another world or time was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Do you remember the first book you ever read? Maybe it rhymed and had to do with pork products dyed a crazy shade of green? Unfortunately, as you get older and have to read certain books because they’re required, as opposed to you choosing them, it can suck a little bit of the fun out of it. When it comes to the SAT, you’ve probably noticed that the selected passages are about less than exciting and stimulating. Let’s take a look at a few tips to make getting through reading passages a little easier:

1) Prepare for Blah Blah Blah.

Let’s face it, if all reading passages read like Harry Potter, chances are you might not have the challenges you do with passages on 17th century Victorian governesses or what it’s like to be a warden in an 18th century military hospital. How can you prepare yourself for passages that would make you choose to watch paint dry?

Start by forcing yourself to read articles on topics that aren’t necessarily of interest. Not a sports fan? Try essays on the “moneyball” trend of using statistics in baseball. Not an economics fan? Pick up The Economist and learn about other global economies, trends and challenges. Your end goal isn’t necessarily to be an expert on the future growth potential of Philippines, but being able to skim and article and know that the country’s GDP has steadily grown in recent years, it’s the world’s largest producer of coconuts and pineapples and one of the United Kingdom’s largest trading partners might all be strong evidence that could come in handy as you’re tackling questions.

2) Read like you’re reading your Twitter feed, not instructions on how to win backstage passes to meet One Direction.

Granted, not every passage is going to be able to be summarized in fewer than 140 characters, but it’s important to do an initial read that allows you to recognize transitions, recognize scope, tone and purpose. If speed reading isn’t a strength, practice and improve your technique as you’re reading less-than-scintillating passages (per Tip #1).  As you’re speed reading, you’ll be processing multiple words at a time as opposed to reading each word individually.

Think about your Facebook feed. You can likely skim your news feed and get a good idea about what your friends are up to in under a minute, but if a particular post or photo catches your eye, you might stop and read it more carefully and comment.  That’s the difference between speed and active reading.

3) Know your question types & strengths.

The good news about reading passages is you get all the questions at once, and each question is weighted equally. Whether you read the passage before the questions or skim the questions before foraging for answers, the questions aren’t changing. There will be some that ask you about specific line references or meanings of words in context. These are typically easier (and quicker) to answer. There will be questions that test your recollection and comprehension of information that is directly stated as well as questions that ask you identify cause and effect or draw conclusions. These questions are often a little more involved.

However, since each question is weighted equally, play to your strengths and tackle the questions that are easier first (usually those line reference or vocab based questions). Save the more involved question for the end.  The more you familiarize yourself with how these questions are structured and some general strategies, the better equipped you’ll be to actively read and know where to look in the passage for evidence.

Take some time to now to strengthen your reading speed and ability to prioritize, and remember to treat SAT reading passages differently from your leisure reading.  A little extra attention before test day will pay dividends in the future.

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Choose and Use Essay Examples (Like “The Hunger Games”)

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI’ve decided that I want to use The Iliad and One Hundred Years of Solitude as essay examples. What’s the best way to apply these to prompts?

I can’t give you detailed, example-specific help with your question for two reasons:

1) I have not read The Iliad.

2) I have not read One Hundred Years of Solitude.

 

Fortunately, for the purposes of your SAT essay, that doesn’t really matter. Because you don’t know exactly what question you’ll be asked on your official test day, it doesn’t make sense to use up your study time coming up with specific ways to apply two specific essay examples. You’ll prepare yourself much more effectively by developing your ability to apply several examples to many different prompts in many different ways.

Let’s take The Hunger Games, a trilogy I’m pretty sure you’re at least reasonably familiar with, as an example. (Warning: spoilers!)

The first step is to check that you know your example in pretty deep detail. Do you know all the character’s names? Do you remember all the major plot points? Do you know the title and the author? If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider choosing a different example.

The second step is to check whether your example is “rich” enough to apply flexibly. For instance, if you tried to use “Humpty Dumpty” as an example, you’d quickly find that the story just doesn’t give you enough interesting material to work with. (Yes, from the nursery rhyme with a crown and king’s men and a wall. Yes, I know you wouldn’t actually use this as an example. That’s not the point.)

Humpty falls off a wall and can’t be fixed – and that’s all that ever happens. You can’t learn anything substantial about privacy, community responsibility, honesty, the value of work, the implications of changing technology, or the importance of education from Humpty’s story. The Hunger Games, by contrast, is remarkably rich: the story touches on countless themes including class, poverty, work, determination, honesty, secrets, selflessness, love, hate, family, technology, good and bad decisions, and community. You have plenty to write about.

The third step is to decide whether the example is tone-appropriate. Definitely avoid examples that are highly controversial or potentially offensive. Then, steer away from pop culture and personal anecdotes unless you’re confident that you can discuss them seriously. In most cases, classic books just sound more impressive as examples than young adult fiction novels. (Note: In a real essay, I wouldn’t recommend using The Hunger Games as an example. I’m just using it here because it’s so widely known.)

All that’s left is to get good at applying your chosen example flexibly. Recognize that a rich story can be applied to many different SAT prompts in many different ways, since SAT prompts are vague and rich stories give you so much material to work with. Here are some past official SAT prompts that The Hunger Games could fit into:

Should people pay more attention to the opinions of people who are older and more experienced?

No. President Snow was older and more experienced than Katniss, however his opinions about how the world should work were selfish and unjust.

Is it better to be idealistic or practical?

Idealistic. Panem would never have changed if the rebels had not clung to their ideas about how the world SHOULD be, instead of how the world WAS. Ideals led them to victory and to a better society.

Should books portray the world realistically or idealistically?

Idealistically. The Hunger Games isn’t realistic at all, but we learn a lot from it — the value of honesty, the importance of friends and family, the benefits of hard work, etc.

Are people too materialistic?

Yes. Materialism in The Capitol blinded Capitol citizens to what really matters: justice, community, morality, and humanity.

 Is learning the result of experiencing difficulties?

Yes. Through all the obstacles she faced, Katniss learned a lot about herself — how gentle and kind she really was, what kind of significant other she needed in her life, etc.

Is creativity the result of closed doors? 

Absolutely. Katniss learned to hunt as a result of a serious obstacle she faced growing up (lack of food).

Can dishonesty be appropriate in some circumstances?

Yes. It would have been counterproductive and foolish for Katniss to reveal to the districts of Panem how traumatized, emotionally broken, and fearful she was. Her “lie” to the people of Panem enabled a revolution that brought about a better society.

Is success the result of being extremely competitive?

No. The revolution survived because the rebels were desperate to create a more equal and compassionate society, not because the rebels wanted bragging rights for having won a war.

I could fill pages and pages with more examples. To answer a prompt about privacy, all I need to do is think of an instance in The Hunger Games in which someone kept a secret. To answer a prompt about adversity, I just need to think of a single instance in which a Hunger Games character was faced with a problem. There are so many secrets and so many conflicts/problems in the trilogy that I should have no trouble finding plenty of examples of both.

There is no single perfect way to apply an example to a prompt, and there is no single perfect example for a prompt. A rich storyline can adapt to almost any prompt – the trick is just to choose examples with rich content, and to recognize just how broad and vague SAT topics really are.

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

SAT Tip of the Week: Getting Comfortable with “No Error” Answers on the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI always pick too many or too few “no error” answers on the writing section. How do I get better at this? How many “no error”’s are there in each section? Help!

This is a pretty common issue. Plenty of students get nervous when they see no-error questions, and begin to notice errors that don’t actually exist. Others choose “no error” too often because they miss errors that do exist.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to overcome this problem. The best way to avoid it is to become really good at noticing the grammar mistakes that appear on the SAT. Fortunately, there aren’t many types of grammar mistakes – about thirteen, depending on how you count them – to keep track of. The Veritas Prep Writing 2400 curriculum covers all of them. Once you’re comfortable with all thirteen, you’ll be able to move through the writing section more decisively since you’ll never encounter a type of error you haven’t seen before.

After completing a lot of SAT practice tests, I began to develop a mental checklist of possible errors. Today, whenever I run into an Identifying Sentence Errors question that doesn’t have an easily noticeable error in it, I go through my checklist: Subject-verb issues? Awkwardness? Is it a complete sentence? Misplaced modifiers? Is there anything wrong with the pronouns? If I still can’t find an error, once I’ve finished my checklist, I circle “no error” and move on.

I’ve found that there are usually a few “no error” answers in each section, but that’s a very, very vague estimate. Some sections might have only one, and other sections might have more. Instead of keeping count of how many “no error’s” you’ve circled, just take an extra moment to double (and triple) check any question you’re tempted to circle “no error” for. If you still don’t find something, be confident enough in your abilities to choose “no error” and move on.

The key to this is practice, which will help you get good enough at the grammar concepts on the SAT to be able to (1) have a harder time convincing yourself of errors that don’t actually exist, and (2) be better at catching real errors when they appear.

Best of luck!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

SAT Tip of the Week: Math Traps

GMAT TrapsYou’re near the end of the last math section on the SAT. You’re feeling confident; you’ve answered every question so far, and you only have a couple of questions left to answer. You know that you’re so close to that dream score you’ve been pushing for. You glance at the clock: four minutes remaining. You take a quick look at the third to last question:

 

 

RP - math problem 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question seems simple enough. If the can is eight inches tall, then four of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside the can. You circle D and move on, since you only have a few minutes left to answer the last two questions.

Unfortunately, if you choose D as the answer, you’d have missed one and a quarter points, which is enough to knock you out of the percentile you may have been aiming for. Newsflash: this seemingly simple math problem is a trick question! But before you groan and say to yourself, “How am I supposed to know when an SAT math question is just plain easy and when it’s a trap?”, heed this simple rule of thumb: on the SAT, trick 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 math questions at the beginning of the section in less than thirty seconds, if you do a problem 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.

Be sure to always pause and consider the question carefully, instead of circling the first plausible answer. Also, be sure to always give yourself extra time for the end of the section, since you’ll need to spend a couple of minutes on the tricky problems to avoid traps. Let’s take another look at that 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 our tricky problem. So, let’s start by “drawing” the nine inch pencil in the tin can:
RP - math problem 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

RP - math problem 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The more tricky math questions you practice working through, the better you will become at spotting traps and using strategies like drawing on the figures. Consider signing up for the SAT question of the day to keep sharpening your skills!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson, an 99th percentile SAT instructor for Veritas Prep.

SAT Tip of the Week: Looking for Roots

SAT Tip of the Week - FullArguably the most infamous subject tested on the SAT is vocabulary. My students moan when I present them with a lengthy list of hundreds upon hundreds of words they need to learn by test day. Many report that vocabulary-based questions are responsible for most of their missed points on the Reading Section, others complain that they’ve never even heard of at least half of the tested vocabulary words.

In fact, even Collegeboard, the company that makes the SAT, is dropping the vocabulary section from the new version of the test, which will come into effect in March of 2016. However, the following trick that will help you ace sentence  completion questions is still relevant to any of you students taking the SAT over the next six months.

The reason the vocabulary on the current SAT is so tricky is that the tested words tend to be unfamiliar. By unfamiliar, I mean words you don’t throw around in everyday conversation with your friends, family, and peers. On the SAT, you won’t see words like “lol”, “fomo” or “candid”. Instead, you’ll see words like “anachronism”, “strident”, “quotidian”, and “panacea”, all of which, I’m guessing, you haven’t recently dropped in casual conversation.  However, just because these words are unfamiliar, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to deduce the rough meaning of some of them simply by looking for recognizable roots, or parts of the words.

Take the word “anachronism”, for example. In the middle of the word I spot the root “chron” which reminds me of “chronological”, a word most of us are more likely to know than “anachronism”. So, if I were to make an educated guess, I’d wager that anachronism has something to do with time. And in fact, the dictionary definition of the word is, “A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.”

So how can I use this trick of looking at the roots of unfamiliar words to improve my scores on the SAT? Take a look at the following sentence completion question:

Many economists believe that since resources are scarce and since human desires cannot all be _____, a method of ____ is needed.

A) indulged… apportionment

B) verified…distribution

C) usurped…expropriation

D) expressed…reparation

E) anticipated…advertising

Let’s say that I narrowed my answer choices down to A and B, because the second word in each answer (apportionment and distribution, respectively) makes sense in the sentence (as both suggest that resources need to be divided because they are scarce). However, let’s say I couldn’t choose between A and B, because I know the meaning of “indulged”, but not the meaning of “verified”.

Before guessing between the two, I would scan the word “verified” for roots. In this case, I can spot the root “veri”, which I know is a version of “verus”, meaning true, accurate, or real. It makes much less sense, in context, for resources to be divided because human desires cannot all be true rather than for resources to be divided because not all human desires can be satisfied. So, my final answer is A.

Let’s take a look at another example:

Even in her fiction writing, Denise Chavez functions as a kind of historian in that she _____ the real experiences of Hispanic women through her characters.

A) predicts

B) defends

C) chronicles

D) averts

E) surmises

I can eliminate D and E, because it doesn’t make sense in context for Chavez to ward off or to make guesses about the experiences of her characters.  However, let’s say I was considering A because “predict” seems relevant to history, and B because defending the real experiences of hispanic women also seems relevant. Also, let’s say I’m unsure about C, because I don’t know what the word “chronicles” means. Note: rather than guessing at random between the three remaining choices, I would want to scan the unfamiliar word for roots.

In this case, “chronicles”, like anachronism, has the root “chron”, meaning “time”. So, given that the sentence is about an author being comparable to a historian, I’ll keep C for now. Does it make sense to call Chavez a sort of historian because she predicts the experiences of hispanic women? Upon consideration, it doesn’t, because historians record the past; they don’t predict the future. Does it make sense to call Chavez a sort of historian because she defends the experiences of hispanic women? That sounds more like an activist than a historian. So, I can eliminate the other answers through logic, and even though I don’t know the exact meaning of “chronicles”, I can reasonably assume the word fits in context, as it has to do with time. In fact, chronicles means to record, so the correct answer is indeed C.

I know some of you might be thinking that it’s unfair that you have to learn so many vocabulary words for so few questions, especially with the new, vocabulary-free SAT just around the corner. However, the skill you’ve learned today will prove valuable to you whenever you see unfamiliar words, which means that it will be especially relevant in college.

Building a strong vocabulary and looking at words critically aren’t skills you should only invest in for the SAT; they will come in handy for the rest of your education! And in case you’d like some further practice, take a look at the tricky question below. See if you can spot roots that you know in any of the words you are unfamiliar with! Also, be sure to look up the words after you finish the question, so you can learn new roots!

No longer narrowly preoccupied with their own national pasts, historians are increasingly _____ in that they often take a transnational perspective.

A) conciliatory

B) bombastic

C) mendacious

D) cosmopolitan

E) jocular

Correct answer: D. Cosmopolitan means worldly, and is derived from the roots “kosmo” (world) and “polites” (citizen).

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

SAT Tip of the Week: 8 Ways to Decide if You Should Take the SAT or ACT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOne of the questions nearly every college-bound student wrestles with is which college entrance examination is right for them. There are a number of widely-spouted, all-encompassing statements about these tests flying around, such as one test is a skills test and the other is an aptitude test, or one test is more suited to creative thinkers than the other.

The long and the short of it is that BOTH tests are skills tests and test a student’s ability to take each test. The best way to determine which test is right for a student is to take a practice test of each and see which test taking experience yields the highest score. With that said, here are a few important things to know when considering which test is right for a perspective student.

1) The SAT and ACT are both accepted by every top university.

Since about 2007, every reputable, four-year college has accepted both entrance examinations, however there are some differences in the exact requirements for submitting each test between schools. For example, Harvard College requires the SAT or ACT, with a writing component, and two SAT subject tests (they state the subject tests are optional if taking them poses a financial hardship), whereas Brown University does not require two SAT subject tests if the student submits an ACT score (Brown will also stop requiring the writing component of the SAT when it becomes optional in the next year).

The main thing to be aware of is what the individual requirements of the school or schools to which a student hopes to apply are.  In general, taking the SAT or ACT, with the writing component, and two SAT II subject tests will cover all bases for most schools.

2) The SAT Math slightly favors lateral thinking, but requires less specific knowledge.

The above statement is somewhat difficult to quantify and seems to be changing as College Board unveils its new SAT for 2016, however it has generally been the case that the most difficult questions on the SAT require more creative problem solving, such as drawing in lines and figures that are not given by the problems, and finding patterns that can be applied to solve seemingly untenable problems.

The ACT, however, tends to favor integration of different concepts in their difficult questions as well as some simple trigonometric knowledge, such as the Law of Sines and Co-Sines, and basic knowledge of sine co-sine and tangents and their inverses.

Neither requires higher knowledge than is covered in a basic Algebra 2 and Geometry class, and neither requires any knowledge of Calculus or Advanced Statistics. The ACT is also more likely to require the use of a calculator to determine an exact value, while the SAT favors abstract problems using variables and fractions that require no calculator use.

3) The ACT favors punctuation errors (especially commas), while the SAT favors conjugation and structure errors.

In general, the ACT writing is slightly more straight forward as it is all based on finding errors in and improving the structure of a passage.  The ACT writing is very similar to the third portion of the SAT writing section, where a student must improve a short passage. The main difference between the two, is that the ACT tests on a wider variety of punctuation errors and favors comma errors, while the SAT tends to focus on structural and conjugation errors. The SAT only really tests on commas in relation to their roll separating clauses.

4) The SAT Reading is slightly more straightforward than the ACT Reading.

The two reading sections of these tests are very similar – the only real discernible difference is that the SAT reading section is set up so the questions are chronologically related to the passage. That is to say, the questions can be answered as the student reads the passage and the order of the questions should more or less follow the order of the passage. The only questions that this does not apply to on the SAT are the questions which ask the passage’s main idea, and these can simply be skipped and returned to after reading the entire passage.

The ACT, however, is not chronological and therefore requires a student to read the whole passage first and then go back to answer each specific question. This can be an issue for many students who have problems with time management on standardized tests.

5) The ACT has a Science section, but requires very little specific science knowledge.

Apart from general scientific knowledge, such as how to read a graph and what entropy is, the scientific section of the ACT is really just a scientific reading test. This section does not require much specific knowledge about any scientific field, and is more similar to the reading comprehension section of the SAT or ACT than a true science test.

6) The ACT has an optional writing section.

The Writing Section on the ACT (and the newly revamped SAT) is optional, but is strongly encouraged, if not required, by most top schools. The main difference between the ACT and the SAT essay is the ACT favors a full paragraph acknowledging the opposing viewpoint to the one that the student chooses to argue. The ACT also gives the student the main arguments for each side, which requires less spontaneous generation of arguments by students.

7) The ACT has no penalty for guessing wrong answers.

Students should answer every question on the ACT, however they should only answer a question on the SAT if they can eliminate two or more answer choices.

8) The ACT is in four (or five if a student elects to do the writing) longer sections, whereas the SAT is split up into ten shorter sections.

The fact that the ACT is broken up into only five sections means that it is potentially easier to get stuck on difficult problems or mismanage time and not complete a large portion of the test. It is VERY important to skip problems that seem too difficult to attempt on the ACT because lingering on such problems early on in the test can be problematic for the whole section.

The SAT is also challenging in terms of time management, but stopping on one question that requires a lot of time early on in a section is less likely to hurt the entirety of a student’s score because the sections are more broken up. The SAT also requires students to shift between topics more quickly, so students who enjoy a variety of questions as opposed to focusing on only one academic area at a time tend to favor the SAT.

As stated above, the SAT and ACT are both tests that require a student to understand the structure of the test being taken, and how to best approach the question types. The best way to determine which test is best for which student is to take a free practice test, widely available online or through schools, and see which test seems to be a better fit.  From there, it is simply a matter of learning the techniques that are useful to approaching each exam, and using them to conquer the test!

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 and Google+, and follow us on 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: 3 Steps to Attack Wrong Answers on Test Day

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOne of the biggest mistakes students make while prepping for the SAT is fixating on the correct answer during practice tests and problems. While getting answers right is obviously the ultimate goal of the SAT, having too much of an obsession with the right answers during test preparation can actually be very harmful to your overall objective.

The reason for this is that focusing on the right answer takes away from the strategy and reasoning behind certain problems. You will never have the same exact problem on the actual SAT, so it does you no good to memorize the answer. Instead, focus on the process and it will pay dividends when the test comes.

Here is how you should properly review missed problems on practice SAT tests or homework:

1) Identify

First, you want to identify the type of question it is so you know if it is in an area that you struggle with, or it’s just this specific problem. For instance, if it’s an isosceles triangle problem, do you always have issues with geometry or triangles, or specifically with isosceles triangles. Getting down to the absolute specifics of your problem will allow you to properly pinpoint your areas of weakness in order to improve for the future.

2) Strategize

Once you have identified the specifics of the problem, figure out which strategy is best for you to use to attack these types of problems moving forward. Is it an algebraic problem that would be best solved by plugging in numbers, or are you better off testing answer choices? Once you determine the proper strategy for these types of problems, you will be way ahead of the game for similar future ones.

One way to check whether these strategies should be used moving forward is to redo the problem by either plugging in numbers, or testing answer choices or any other strategy of your choice. Only move forward if you now understand the conceptual aspect and are able to get the question right. Once you do this, you are ready for the last step of proper review.

You should keep a notebook where you chronicle all of the problems you got wrong, why you got them wrong and what you will do differently moving forward to get similar ones right in the future. While this is certainly time intensive, it helps you internalize the concept by dedicating more time to review.

3) Double-Check Other Errors

In addition to paying attention to the process, also check out the other errors you might be making. Maybe you aren’t labeling diagrams enough, or writing enough information down. Often students chalk up wrong answers to careless errors, but sometimes that is not enough. Until you figure out exactly what caused the careless error, it isn’t very helpful – you can’t just assume these problems will be fixed magically. Usually there is a reason for a careless error, whether it is not checking one’s work or relying to heavily on the calculator. Figure out the exact reason, and you will be in a much better position moving forward.

Determining the proper “why” of why you answered a practice question incorrectly is the proper way to attack wrong answers on the SAT. While you won’t be focusing on the actual answer, the ultimate result is getting it right in the future, and that’s what really counts on 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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help.

SAT Tip of the Week: Should You Enroll in Private Tutoring or a Group Class?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT is a coachable test, so any type of structured preparation is extremely beneficial and almost certain to help raise your score. Whether this is a class with others or one on one tutoring, any type of instruction is helpful. To decide which option is best for you though, here is a breakdown of the benefits of both group lessons and one-on-one tutoring:

Group Lessons:

These provide an atmosphere of collaboration for students. Much like a classroom, students are able to get into the normal groove of learning and work well with the other students in the class. The SAT is a stressful test and understanding that others are going through the same thing as them can be a very calming influence for individuals. Additionally, the idea of friendly competition and having a little extra push to do your homework or hone in and sharpen your test taking strategies comes in handy.

While it would be great if every student was self-driven and had intrinsic motivation, a lot of times external factors are what get the student going.  There is no problem with this as long as you can recognize this trait in yourself and realize that a group class might be your best option.

In terms of pure content, group classes are great as students ask a variety of questions, which helps everyone grow and review together. The one drawback to this approach for some students is that they have already mastered certain concepts, and reviewing them is not the best use of their time. However, this is a pretty rare phenomenon as most concepts take a few times to review and really internalize.

Reviewing old test and homework problems as a group also has one unexpected benefit. Sometimes, students will get a question right for the wrong reason. Getting a question right coincidentally doesn’t necessarily prove mastery of the concept, and understanding how to actually do the problem will pay dividends when the test rolls around. Having others in the class acts as a good safety net for students to check their work and ensure they understand both the strategies and the problems. While understated and unexpected, I have found that this is one the most beneficial aspects of group lessons.

One-on-One Tutoring:

One-on-one instruction provides a plethora of benefits. First and foremost, if you are a student who struggles to learn in large groups or needs more personalized attention, then one on one tutoring is way to go. Especially on the SAT, which is an incredibly teachable test, having individualized attention allows students to break down strategies and problems to the level that makes the most sense for them.

In terms of pacing, a one-on-one setup is also better as it allows students to go at a speed that is most comfortable for them. Whether that is jumping through more rudimentary concepts or slowing down and focusing on areas of weakness, having the ability to really steer the direction of your learning is a huge benefit on the test.

Finally, review in a one-on-one setting is one of the best things about individualized tutoring. This is the area where students really benefit, as their tutors can identify the areas where they are still struggling and offer even more attention and help. Having the ability to go over every problem that is incorrect or difficult proves to be extremely helpful for the actual test, as similar problems are sure to come up. The experience of reviewing them will allow students to excel on the test and achieve their target scores.

You can’t go wrong with SAT preparation. Choosing between these two options comes down to understanding the type of student you are and what environment you will flourish in.

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help

SAT Tip of the Week: Making the “Order of Difficulty” Rule Simple

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe concept of “Order of Difficulty” is something that can be extraordinarily helpful to any SAT test taker. In general, the SAT orders its questions from easy to hard and on the surface, it seems to be a pretty simple concept (this information is readily available on the College Board’s website). While this is extremely important and helpful to know, it is even more essential to analyze and understand how to use this to your advantage. So let’s talk about the “Order of Difficulty” and how you can benefit from it come test day:

 

Math Section

On the Math sections, for the most part, questions go straight from the easiest to the most difficult. The one exception to this is when you have two questions that look at the same table or graph. The first of these two questions will be simpler and the second will be much more difficult. The third math section, which is both multiple choice and grid, follows a similar pattern BUT restarts at question nine when the grid-in questions begin.

On this section, understanding the “Order of Difficulty” phenomenon can help you catch errors. If an early problem is taking you a lot of time, you are probably doing something wrong. These problems are designed to be simple and most test takers across the board get them right. If you find yourself struggling with question one or two, start from the beginning and you will almost surely identify an arithmetic error or find that you may have misunderstood the directions.

The opposite applies on later problems: if a later question takes you just a few couple seconds to figure out, chances are you fell into one of the College Board’s traps. In this case, restart the problem again and see if you can catch the error you made. Once you rectify this, you will most likely be able to answer the difficult question correctly – which will separate you from the pack – and allow you to then proceed with the rest of the section.

Writing Section

On the SAT Writing sections, the rule of “Order of Difficulty” also applies. The section with 35 questions will go from easy to hard for the first 11 questions of this sequence, and deal with improving sentences. The order of easy to hard restarts from questions 12 to 29 and reviews identifying sentence errors. Questions 30 through 35 do NOT follow the “Order of Difficulty” rule, so if problems are taking a while there, it is a good idea to come back to the troublesome questions later.

In this section, the advanced strategies for “Order of Difficulty” center on the idea of “no error”. Many students will be hesitant to choose a “no error” answer on a later problem because they feel as if they are missing some difficult, obscure grammar rule. Generally, this leads to students picking an answer that might sound awkward or “off.” Don’t fall prey to this temptation and remember it is very common for one or two of the later Writing questions on identifying sentence errors to not have any error at all. Unless you can point to a specific grammar rule, don’t choose an answer that sounds weird just because you feel the question MUST have an error – that is exactly what the SAT wants you to do.

Reading Section

The Reading Comprehension section is the one area of the SAT where the “Order of Difficulty” rule doesn’t apply as frequently. Here, all of the sentence competition questions increase in order of difficulty. However, once the passage-based reading questions start, there is absolutely no order in terms of question difficulty. This means that it is possible for an early question to be very difficult. If you are stumped on one of these, the best thing to do is to move on to the next question, as no single problem is worth a large portion of your time.

Unlike with passage-based reading questions, the “Order of Difficulty” concept is great for sentence completion problems. Generally speaking, easier words will be the correct answers on the earlier questions and more complex words will be the correct answers on the later questions. Even without understanding the specific definitions of some words, this pretty rudimentary concept can help eliminate some incorrect answer choices and improve your chances of getting the answer correct.

“Order of Difficulty” is a fairly well known concept among test takers, and understanding it is essential. You will separate yourself from fellow test takers nationwide by working with this concept and turning it to your advantage.

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

 

 

SAT Tip of the Week: TRYangles!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullTriangles are one of the first shapes that we learn in elementary school, and yet they are often the source of much consternation on the SAT.  Though there is much to know about trigonometry that can require complex and intricate calculations, the knowledge of triangles required for the SAT is actually quite concise.  Here is a quick review of the basics of triangles and how they might be used on the SAT.

 

 

The Basics:

triangle01A triangle has three sides and three angles.  All the interior angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees.  In math speak : A + B +  C = 180.  This means if you have two angles of any triangle, you can always find the third (something that comes up frequently on the SAT). The largest side is opposite the largest angle and the smallest side is opposite the smallest angle.

 

Pythagorean Theorem:

Right Triangle

This is only useful for right triangles, but right triangles are great on the SAT because they give you all the information needed to find the area of a triangle (which, of course, is ½ A *B, or ½ base * height).  The pythagorean theorem states: A² + B² = C², which means if you have two sides of a right triangle, you can always find the third. Common right triangles that have easy to remember side ratios are triangles with a 3x-4x-5x relationship, and a 5x-12x-13x relationship.  These Pythagorean triples are useful because if two of the sides of a right triangle have this side relationship, the third must follow suit. For example if two sides of a right triangle are 10 and 8, then the third side must be 6 {6-8-10 is the same as 3(2) – 4(2) – 5(2), hence the “x” in the paragraph above}.

Special Triangles:

Split Equilateral Triangle

Identifying these special triangles saves a step when doing the work of the Pythagorean theorem. An equilateral triangle, when split in half, becomes a 30 – 60 – 90 triangle, which has the side relationship shown above of X – X √3 – 2X, where X is the side opposite the 30 degree angle.

 

 

Square cut into triangle

If you cut a square in half you get an isosceles, right triangle or a 45 – 45 – 90 triangle.  This has the side relationship S – S – S√2, where is one of the sides opposite the 45 degree angle.  These special triangles are given on the formula sheet of the SAT but it is very useful to commit them to memory, as it is quite time consuming to constantly refer to the formula sheet when you think you have encountered a special triangle.

 

 

An interesting characteristic of the sides of triangles is as follows:

abc triangle

If A=5 and B= 8, then 3 < C < 13.  C must be between 3 and 13.In triangle ABC, |B-C| < A < |B+C|. This is to say, any side on a triangle must be between the absolute value of the sum and the difference of the other sides of the triangle.

 

Here is an example question that will use some triangle knowledge:

“A rectangular pasture has twelve equally spaced poles on its southern border, and sixteen equally spaced poles on its eastern border.  A diagonal pathway from the eastern corner of the pasture to the center of the pasture is 40 ft.  How many feet of fencing would be required to build a fence around the entire pasture?”

12x 16x triangleThe first step is always to draw and label what is given.  We are given a rectangular pasture that has twelve equally spaced poles on its southern border, and sixteen equally spaced poles on its eastern border.  We label the distance between poles as X and we notice that we now have two sides of a triangle, one 12x and one 16x.

We remember the rules of Pythagorean triples and deduce that the diagonal of this triangle would have to be 20x.  We then look for what the problem is asking us to find.  We have to find the perimeter of the pasture, but all that is given is the length of a pathway from the eastern corner of the pasture to the center of the pasture.

AHA! We now know the length of HALF of the distance of the diagonal of the rectangular pasture!  We also know that the FULL diagonal is 20x.  We set up a simple equation to solve for X, remembering to double the length given from the center to the corner of the field.

2(40) = 20x

80 = 20x

x = 4

We then use our answer for X to find the length and width of the pasture and add everything together, remembering to multiply the length and width by two, to find the perimeter.

16 (4) = L = 64

12 (4) = W = 48

2W +2L = 2(64) + 2(48) = 224

Voila!  The perimeter of the whole field is 224ft, so that is how much fencing will be needed.

Triangles are a very useful tool that is often used in tandem with other math shapes and concepts on the SAT. Through an understanding of triangles, one can develop a greater understanding of many difficult problems 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 and Google+, and follow us on 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: How Are These Strategies Relevant to the Rest of My Life?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullQ: Studying for the SAT feels so useless. I know this will help me score higher on this test, but ten years from now I won’t really care about PIN, TAC, WYPAD, misplaced modifiers, or order of difficulty. Why should I even care about any of this? Why is the SAT testing me on things I’ll never actually have to know? Am I the only one who thinks this whole exercise is just a huge waste of time?

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one wondering–I get this question a lot. We all understand that standardized tests are important for college admissions, but the concepts in SAT curricula often seem too test-specific to be applicable to life beyond standardized testing. Fortunately, there’s more to SAT test prep than just test preparation: many of the skills covered are highly applicable to both academic and professional life.

Here are a few of the most useful things you can take away from your SAT prep course besides a higher SAT score.

  • An eye for grammar. We’ve all joked about grammar nazis, but the reality is that good grammar is a highly valuable skill both in school and in the working world. Every essay, application, resume, cover letter, and professional email you ever write will command more respect and be taken more seriously if it is grammatically correct. I personally don’t think it makes sense that most American students stop studying grammar after middle school; since poor grammar is so common in both school and work, strong grammar can be a great advantage in applying for jobs, making good impressions in letters, and achieving higher grades on written assignments.
  • Logical and quantitative thinking skills. A basic understanding of math will help you develop the quantitative side of your mind, making it easier to think critically about school subjects like science, economics, and engineering, as well as about useful life skills like budgets, finance, and investment. For example, you may not need to remember the acronyms PIN and TAC, but it’s important to understand that abstract concepts can be expressed concretely, and that working backwards is a perfectly valid way to solve a problem.
  • Formal prose writing skills. Sure, not everything you write after high school will be in the form of a five-paragraph essay–but introductions, topic sentences, transitions, conclusions, signposting, tone, logical flow, logical structure, and conciseness are essential elements of just about any piece of formal prose. Strong understanding of these elements can make your writing more convincing, interesting, and understandable, which can improve your grades, build your brand, and open up job opportunities.
  • Reading comprehension skills. SAT Reading passages expose you to and improve your ability to understand more complex and academic writing than many students are used to. Since reading is one of the primary ways we learn, both in school and at work, strong reading comprehension skills can make you a better student and a better learner in almost any field you pursue, either academically or professionally.
  • Ability to analyze and criticize written works. SAT Reading passages improve your ability to think critically about things you read by making you more aware of tone, purpose, style, organization, and other elements of writing that clarify authors’ intentions, perspectives, and arguments. By better understanding authors and their goals, you can better analyze their writing and are less likely to take them at face value. For instance, it is extraordinarily useful to be able to identify an newspaper article’s hidden political agenda, or to be able to read the mood of colleagues or business partners through their professional correspondence.

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

SAT Tip of the Week: More Fun Breaking Down the March 2016 Test

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe new SAT will be available in March 2016. The motivation behind changing the test was to offer a more accurate reflection of student’s ability and their intelligence, in addition to testing on material that is comparable to what is learned in school.

While the efficacy of this effort can be widely debated, there is no question that the new test will be remarkably different from the old one. Recently, the College Board just released four practice tests for the new SAT, and there are a couple of key differences and patterns to pick up on in order to excel moving forward.

The new test will be on a scale of 1600 points as opposed to the current test which is on a 2400 scale. Additionally, the new test removes the sentence completion aspect of the reading comprehension section. Doing this takes away the laborious task of memorizing vocabulary. Even with these changes, the new test is still extremely coachable – and focusing on a few specific areas will yield the greatest results for students looking to boost their scores on the new test.

TABLES AND GRAPHS

On the old test there were few graphs and tables for students to analyze and interpret. The new test has increased their emphasis on this skill, which means that test takers will have to be very sharp and analytical. A couple ways to improve your problem solving ability in this area is to work on analyzing tables and graphs more frequently in math and science classes. Seeing a wider variety of these types of problems and working with a more diverse problem set will allow you to sharpen your ability.

Furthermore, understanding the tricks and areas where the SAT will try to confuse you with the tables is also helpful. The way to do this is to actually get familiar with the types of questions that accompany the tables and graphs. A lot of times the graphs and tables might actually reflect a different data set than the one picture through manipulation and presentation. Similar to the note on the old test, often times figures may not be as they appear. The new test will try to confuse students in this manner as well. Practicing enough SAT problems will help students with identifying and polishing the skill of pattern recognition. This will ensure that they don’t fall prey to the traps the SAT purposely sets.

THE ESSAY

The biggest difference on the new test is the amount of time allotted to write an essay. The student gets double the amount of time (50 minutes) and also has to employ reading comprehension skills as they work with a passage to evaluate an argument. Additionally, the essay is not required by the College Board, but instead mandated by individual schools. All of this represents a significant shift from the current format. However, many of the same principles on crafting a stellar essay still apply.

For instance, the best way to score well on the actual test day is to do a lot of practice prompts. On the new essay, you can’t come in with prepared examples but you can follow a similar model and template for any essay, regardless of the prompt and passage. The key on this essay is to evaluate the author’s argument. To do that, the student should evaluate on the same criteria for any passage, regardless of subject matter. Picking a couple literary devices or other types of criteria to analyze will be extremely helpful to ensure a high essay score.

The new test is definitely different, but many of the old strategies still apply. A couple twists and shifts, and with ample preparation, any student can really excel. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and updates on the new 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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

SAT Tip of the Week: One Common Way to Avoid Being an Idiot When Identifying Idiomatic Phrases

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany of my students tell me that the most difficult questions in the Writing Section are those testing knowledge of idiomatic phrases. An idiomatic phrase is simply a phrase that is commonly used by native speakers; so an idiomatic phrase can be anything from the common way native speakers use prepositions – such as “in”, “around”, “of”, and “above” – to what aphorisms native speakers tend to use – such as “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” On the SAT you are typically only tested on your knowledge of idiomatic preposition use, not on your knowledge of aphorisms. For example, if you want to be truly prepared for the SAT, you should be able to hear the idiomatic error in this sentence: “I have the ability of listening carefully to my friends.” In English, we use the preposition “to” with the word ability, so the correct sentence would read: “I have the ability to listen carefully to my friends.”

So why are idiomatic errors so difficult to identify? Unlike common errors on the SAT, such as subject-verb disagreement or a misplaced modifier, there’s no one rule for identifying idiomatic errors. For the most part, students only spot an idiomatic error by noticing that a particular phrase “sounds wrong.” Unfortunately, this method isn’t foolproof: for one thing, you may not think a phrase sounds wrong if you aren’t very familiar with it. This is true for both non-native English speakers and native English speakers because the SAT sometimes tests old-fashioned and/or high-brow idiomatic phrases that you’ll only know if you read regularly. Therefore, even when you do notice a phrase that sounds odd to your ear, it’s difficult to know whether or not the phrase sounds funny because it’s truly wrong, or because you simply aren’t familiar with the phrase.

To illustrate, take a look at this question:

RP 1You may have noticed that the SAT test-writers are testing your knowledge of how English speakers typically use prepositions with the word “particular” and with the object “pockets”. When I show my students this question, most of them say that D sounds fine but that A sounds funny to them. However, they are wary of choosing A as their final answer, because they don’t know why it’s wrong. Normally, about half of my students choose A and half choose E (no error).

 

Here’s one quick tip I tell my students to use when they can’t decide if a sentence contains an idiomatic error: use the tested phrase in your own sentence. For example, if I were to use the word particular in a sentence, I might say: “I am not very particular about what I eat.”

So, when I use the word particular, I naturally use the preposition “about”, not the preposition “in”. Now I can comfortably choose A as my final answer, which is correct.

Now, I want you to try the same thing with the following example! If you encounter any “funny sounding” phrases, try using them in your own sentence to test whether or not they are idiomatically correct. And don’t peak at the explanation!

 

RP 2Explanation:

You may have noticed that the phrase, “Opposite to” sounds funny. If you tried it in your own sentence, such as, “opposite to me, my sister loves to bake”, you should have noticed that your sentence sounds unnatural. It’s much more comfortable to say, “Unlike me, my sister loves to bake”. So, in this case, the correct answer is A.

 

 

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

 

SAT Tip of the Week: Your 3 Step Beginner’s Guide to Study Planning

SAT Tip of the Week - Full The highest achievers on the SAT all have one thing in common, a ton of preparation time. The grand majority of these students also have another thing in common; they used their summers effectively in terms of studying for the test. This doesn’t mean that you have to hit the books 9-5 every day and effectively eliminate any possibility of a relaxing and rejuvenating summer. In fact, that type of approach would probably lead to burnout and actually be detrimental to your test performance.

Instead, planning an effective and feasible study plan for the summer is a much more fruitful approach. Most students who are taking the test in October or November are Seniors, as Juniors generally do not take the SAT for the first time until the spring of their 11th grade year. Many of the seniors who take the test in the fall are veterans of the SAT, having sat for the exam before. This means that the summer can be used to brush up on skills and review the areas of weakness that were holding students’ scores down on their earlier attempts.

VOCABULARY IS YOUR FRIEND

One of the best ways to take advantage of the extra time in summer is to schedule a consistent vocabulary session each day. These do not have to be extremely time intensive, as long as you dedicate 15-30 minutes on a daily basis to learning new words and reviewing old ones. Vocabulary is the one thing you can absolutely memorize for the test, and if you actually put in the time it is like picking up free points. Unfortunately, most students during the school year have a finite amount of time and decide to prioritize other elements of the test. During the summer, this is not an issue and you can use the extra time to really hone your vocabulary skills. Not only are there 19 sentence completion questions that are directly related to vocabulary, but there are also tremendous benefits on the essay and within the passage based section that come with learning your vocabulary.

BECOME BFF WITH YOUR SCORE REPORT

Another great thing to do during the summer is to review your score report, and identify the specific areas of weakness on your test. On the College Board website, go to the advanced report which tells you how you fared in different sub sections of each subject. If data and operations seemed to be an area that you struggled with in the mathematics section, then you should dedicate study sessions to doing more practice problems and reviewing the strategies associated with that topic. The same could be said about understanding the main idea in passage based reading or identifying apples to apples comparison problems in the writing mechanics section.

POLISH YOUR ESSAY

Finally, the summer is the perfect time to work on crafting a stellar essay. If you aren’t in English class during the summer and actively writing, your sentence composition and overall essay writing ability might temporarily flounder. A good way to counteract this and stay sharp is to set aside an hour a week to writing two practice essays. This will allow you to perfect your essay template and get comfortable with explaining strong examples in your body paragraphs.

All in all, summer is a great time to jump ahead on the SAT. Using an hour or two a day or even every other day, will pay major dividends when the test rolls around and summer ends. Happy Studying!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: Boost Your Score Over Summer in 13 Minutes a Day

SAT Tip of the Week - Full As the last day of school bell rings, the sun is shining, the beach is beckoning, and studying for the SAT is often the last thing on students’ minds. 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. The summer should be fun, but in less than an hour and a half a week (about 13 minutes a day!), students can keep sharp on the SAT without sacrificing their tans (please students, tan responsibly).

1. Do A Few Problems Every Day. The time necessary to do three or four math problems, three sentence completions, one reading passage, three improving sentences problems, and three identifying sentence error problems is actually quite small. Doing twelve problems, three times a week, shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes per week and is a good way to keep sharp even if you are spending most of your time sipping green juices by the pool. Just make sure to go through every type of problem to give you some practice changing your mindset to attack different types of questions. Set a clock for 13 minutes and see if you can get through all the problems in the allotted time. Try to do questions you find challenging but not impossible. If you make careless arithmetic errors, be sure to include some easy and medium problems so that you can practice avoiding such errors. You can also start self-selecting problems that are particularly tricky to give you more pointed practice. Do those math problems with only variables and no numbers give you problems? Spend a few days focusing on those. If you are working with a tutor, you can also ask them to design homework in this way.

2. Every Week, Do A Full Timed Section. This practice is helpful for making sure you are dealing with time effectively. Many students don’t do enough practice in a timed setting, so the idea of being timed on the actual test becomes overwhelming. Help acclimate yourself to this stress by normalizing the timed nature of the test. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish a section in the prescribed time. Make it a race against yourself to get closer to the time that is required. See if you can make it a game to see how quickly you can do problems without making errors. Finishing the SAT in time isn’t an easy task, so keep striving if it is challenging at first. Feeling like you have a handle on the timing of the SAT can go a long way toward helping you to feel confident during the test. Each section is just 25 minutes at most, but by the end of a nine week summer, you will have completed a full practice test in a timed manner (in addition to all other practice).

3. Learn A Little Vocab Every Week. Developing a system for vocabulary with regular learning and reviewing is crucial to developing a great SAT vocabulary. Look at five or six words every other day and at the end of the week, review the 20 or so that you have learned. Learning five or six new words should only take about five minutes, and though this sounds like some kind of scam work out product, just five minutes a day can produce fantastic results. In nine weeks students can add 200 vocab words to their repertoire and have thoroughly reviewed the words they already know. If you are using vocabulary lists in the SAT 2400 In Just 7 Steps book by Shaan Patel, remember to eliminate words you already know to maximize your efforts (though its a good idea to review all of the words, just in case). This method will actually prove extremely effective in creating long term memory for these definitions as gradual repetition is one of the best methods for forming memory. Challenge yourself to use all five words in a conversation the day you learn them.

The lower work load in the summer provides an opportunity to utilize your time for tons of fun activities, but it also provides time for other efforts (like college applications, extra curriculars, and the SAT). Remember, consistency and attitude are the two keys to success, so turn off all distractions, and use the summer to bolster your studying so you come out of it rested and ready to attack the test! We hope you have a wonderful summer, and thank you for letting us help you attack 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 and Google+, and follow us on 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: Here Are 3 Things You Should NOT Do When Aiming for a Perfect Score

SAT Tip of the Week - Full A lot of times, students focus on the things they should be doing to get a perfect score. This is a great attitude to have, as it puts the focus on students actively completing tasks. Many of these tips, like studying vocabulary on a daily basis and taking consistent practice tests form the foundation of a successful SAT plan. However, it’s also important to note that there are certain habits and strategies to avoid during preparation in order to get your best score possible. Here are 3 things you absolutely should not be doing if you want a 2400.

1. Studying Vocabulary once a week
Depending on your studying timeline and horizon, you will be learning anywhere from 30 to 60 new words a week. If you really wanted to, you could knock these out in one forty five minute session once a week. You would be able to memorize the words for that week, but over the long term this would be very detrimental to your score. Instead of this, you should be learning smaller chunks of words on a daily basis. By cramming them all in once a week, you limit the amount of times you are exposed to each word, as well as your ability to really concentrate on the more difficult words. There are countless studies out there that show studying in smaller chunks is the best way to memorize, and this is no exception. If you want a 2400, make sure not to only study vocabulary once a week. Even if you can memorize a decent amount of words, it won’t nearly be as effective as the recommended way for the 2400 plan.

2. Using your own strategies on practice tests
As the old saying goes, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten. The SAT is not like high school subjects, where there are a variety of ways to get to the correct answer. The SAT is an extremely coachable test that students do well on if they follow a specific criteria of strategies. The biggest problem many students have is that they will learn these strategies, but then it’s difficult at the onset to apply them when taking practice tests. So, in order to succeed on these early tests, students fall back on their comfortable strategies that unfortunately do not yield the results they are looking for. It’s important to remember that early practice test scores don’t matter; they are there to build your skills. Don’t be so fixated on the score that you build upon bad habits.

3. Stay up late
Some students feel it is a badge of honor to push themselves to the brink in terms of SAT preparation and the college process in general. It is an extremely stressful time, and doing this has diminishing marginal benefits. Of course the more work students put in, the better they will do, but this is only to a certain extent. Sleep is crucial to the brain performing optimally, and ensuring that you get enough sleep will allow you to perform better on practice tests and sections. Space out your study schedule so you can accomplish all of your goals and get a full night of sleep in.

That is the true way to a 2400. Happy Studying!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: One Common Error You Want to Stop Doing When Aiming for a 2400

SAT Tip of the Week - Full A worry I often hear from my students is that despite the fact that they’ve taken numerous practice tests and learned new test-taking strategies, there’s just one section on the SAT that they haven’t achieved their dream score on. With only a few weeks until the SAT, a student will nervously reveal that although she’s improved on both the Writing and the Math Sections, her Reading scores haven’t jumped up. This student is especially confused because their study practices have been effective in all other areas – so why, they ask me, am I getting stuck only in this section?

Of course, every student studies differently, so working with a tutor or a parent who can observe your study methods and your test-taking habits often proves to be an enormous benefit. At the same time, in my two years of teaching the SAT, I’ve noticed that many students make the same mistake when it comes to tackling a “problem section” – they overdo it. The student who keeps missing questions involving circles and triangles, it turns out, spent hours last Sunday first rereading his notes from the in-class geometry review, then reviewing questions he’d missed on previous practice tests, and then finally squeezing in a practice math section before he began to work on the back-breaking load of chemistry homework due on Monday. The student who’s been struggling on the Reading Section has stopped studying Math and Writing altogether, and now does back-to-back practice Reading sections.

There are a few problems with ‘marathon’ and ‘single-focus’ study sessions like these. The first, and arguably most important, is that your brain simply isn’t built to pay attention to a difficult task for more than approximately one hour. This is because your brain has two main ways of functioning: focusing and daydreaming. (The science-y terms for these two modes are: “task-positive network” and the “task-negative network”, as described in this cool article from the New York Times.

After enough time focusing on anything that requires brain-power, whether that’s studying SAT Reading questions, or, as discussed in the NY-Times article, arguing with your siblings over whose turn it is to do the dishes, your brain is going to switch from focus-mode to daydreaming-mode, and you won’t be able to pay attention to what’s in front of you.

I know that when the SAT is a few weeks away, you feel like you should spend every spare moment working on your problem area; however, you’ll find that if you divide your “marathon sessions” into manageable chunks, you will be able to think more clearly when you study. That’s why I tell my nervous students – much to their surprise – that I want them to study less and to relax more. Rather than study for four straight hours, I say, study for an hour, and then take a 15 minute break – whether that’s going for a walk around the block, listening to a few songs, or having a healthy snack. Repeat this hour of studying followed by 15 minutes of relaxing two to three times, and then do something entirely different, such as going on a jog.

The second big problem with studying one type of question or one section for many hours at a time, without breaks, is that you’ll stress yourself out. I’m not kidding! You are already going to feel nervous if you’re not scoring as high as you’d like on a certain section on the SAT, and if you sit at your desk studying only the questions you feel the worst about for hours on end, you may continue to perform poorly even after learning new problem-solving techniques, because you will be too stressed to form new habits. Many of you are at the age when you are learning to drive: imagine if every time you practiced driving at night, your mom made you drive for five straight hours, in the heavy rain, without stopping – not even to go to the bathroom! Eventually, you wouldn’t want to drive at all. So, during a SAT study session, if you miss a bunch of problems on the Reading Section, sometimes it’s better to spend your next hour studying Math questions (or questions from whichever section you feel more confident doing), and then returning to studying the Reading Section, rather than continuously doing something you find stressful.

You may have heard the saying, “Stop and Smell the Roses.” When it comes to studying for the SAT, doing just that can make all the difference

Plan on taking the SAT in the Fall? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter! Here’s another article by Rita on scoring a perfect 2400.

By Rita Pearson

SAT Tip of the Week: 4 Ways to Rock that Reading Passage

SAT Tip of the Week - Full The Reading Passage is difficult for two reasons: the passages are often complex and you aren’t given much time to read and answer all of the questions. As I tell my students, one of the most effective ways to deal with this conflict between absorbing the main ideas in the passage and finishing the questions in the allotted time is reading strategically.

Reading strategically involves reading parts of the passage that contain the author’s main ideas, such as the introductory paragraphs, and reading parts of the passage that are specifically cited by the questions, all while answering questions as you go.

If you follow this technique, you often won’t have to reread the passage, because you’ll be answering questions that correspond to the parts of the passage that you just read. In fact, if you follow Veritas Prep SAT techniques, you will only have to reread the passage in one circumstance: when you are stuck between answer choices, and you cannot find any unambiguous problems in the remaining answer choices. Unambiguous problems in answer choices include assumptions or information not discussed in the passage, or hyperbolic descriptions of an element in the passage. In such circumstances, here’s what you should do:

1. Cross out the obviously incorrect answer choices. That way, when you come back to the question later, you won’t have to reread incorrect answer choices.

2. Skip the question – for now! All questions are worth the same amount of points. Don’t waste time on a tricky question.

3. Continue to answer remaining questions. It’s better to answer as many questions as you can. And sometimes, the information you need to answer the tricky question is in fact located later in the passage!

4. Return to any skipped questions after completing the section. Reread relevant paragraphs that cover the main subjects also referenced in the question. For example, if I had been stuck on the following question:

The author mentions the Blackfeet (lines 34-40) primarily because:

(A) they appreciated the plains

(B) they were experts in using the resources of the rivers

(C) they cared about the ecology of the plants

(D) river travelers learned a lot from them

(E) local people were in awe of them

Then I would want to reread lines 34-40:

The Blackfeet, the lords of the Great Plains and the prairie’s most serious students, would no sooner have dined on catfish then we would on a dish of fricasseed sewer rat. The mucus-covered creatures of the muddy river bottoms, the Blackfeet thought, were simply not the best the plains had to offer; far from being palatable, catfish were repulsive, disgusting.

Let’s say that in my first go-around, I’d crossed out C, D, and E, because the lines do not mention ecology, travelers, or local people. In this case, rereading can help me choose between A and B – neither of which have unambiguous problems – because I can now pay attention to lines that I’d only skimmed before, such as the description of the Blackfeet as the prairie’s “most serious students”. The correct answer in this case is A. The Blackfeet clearly used the plains for food, but their use of rivers is not mentioned.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter! Here’s another article by Rita on scoring a perfect 2400.

By Rita Pearson

 

SAT Tip of the Week: Here is How You Break Down Subject Verb Agreement

SAT Tip of the Week - Full Whenever I talk with students about subject-verb agreement, there is at least one precocious youngster whose eyes glaze over as they wait for something more “challenging”. As basic as subject-verb agreement can seem, even those students who have an impressive grasp of grammar can have a difficult time identifying the true subject and verb of a sentence. The best way to get good at identifying subject-verb issues, as well as many other errors, is to get good at identifying the parts of a sentence. Here is an example of a rather complex sentence.

“Throughout history, and even into the modern era, the upper class, in order to be able to identify the struggles of those of a station of less privilege, have had to be willing to step down from their ivory towers and walk a mile in a very different pair of shoes.”

This sentence has a complex structure, which makes it difficult to identify the subject and central verb. To identify the core structure of the sentence, it is important to break the sentence into its component parts.

“Throughout history”, “in order to be able to identify the struggles of those of a station of less privilege”, “from their ivory towers”, and “in a very different pair of shoes”, are all prepositional phrases with the most important prepositions in bold. Prepositional phrases, like all descriptive phrases, can be removed from the sentence without removing the subject and the verb.

“and even into the modern era”, is a subordinate clause because the word, “even”, is acting as a subordinate conjunction. This subordinate clause is being joined with the preceding prepositional phrase using the coordinating conjunction, “and”, and a comma. This all sounds very technical, but stay with me! The important thing to remember is that there are a number of phrases in a sentence that will not contain the subject. These include phrases that start with prepositions (“in”,“with”, etc.), subordinate conjunctions (“although”, “even if”, etc.), relative pronouns (“who”, ”that”, etc.), or participles (mostly words ending in, “-ed”, and, “ing”, that do not come before a verb of, “to be”, like, “am”, or, “was” ). These phrases do not contain the core elements of the sentence and should be able to be removed from the sentence without removing the subject or the verb. Another good rule of thumb is that if a phrase is descriptive and set off by commas, it probably doesn’t contain the subject. Here is the example sentence without these non-essential phrases.

“The upper class have had to be willing to step down and walk a mile.”

In this new sentence, it should be much easier to identify that the subject is, “the upper class”, and the verb is, “have”. It should be noted that many nouns that apply to multiple individuals are, in fact, singular. “Everyone”, “no one”, “the group”, “the company”, and many other nouns of this type are singular. “The upper class” is not plural, nor is it particularly helpful to think about those who make up the upper class as a single entity in the sentence. It would be much better to say “members of the upper class”. Voila! The sentence has been corrected! This correction has the added benefit of fixing the agreement problem between the singular, “upper class”, and the plural pronoun in the phrase, “from their ivory towers”.

The simple task of identifying the subject and verb can often be surprisingly challenging. While grammar is a complex system, by understanding where the subject and verb are not, it becomes much easier to identify where these central pieces of a sentence are and where the error might be. 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 and Google+, and follow us on 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: How to Stay Sharp Over the Summer

SAT Tip of the Week - Full One of the biggest barriers to success on the SAT is summertime. For most students entering their senior year, the summer represents the first time during their SAT prep experience that they will have a prolonged break from school. After months of prep, you probably took the test in either January, March, or May, but still didn’t get that exact score they were hoping for.

Some students fall into a false sense of security during the summer months and don’t stay sharp. The October date represents the next available time to take the test, and while that seems like a far off time in June, it’s actually just around the corner.

Staying sharp and actively preparing throughout the summer is an absolute necessity for students seeking a top score. In reality, it would be even better if students were able to take advantage of the summer months to advance their skills and take their score to the next level. However, sometimes, the allure of a break and “leisure” time after an academically rigorous semester makes students want to kick back and rest. Don’t be like the others, understand that if you want to get into your top school, you need a top score.

Understanding this reality, here are a few tips that can keep you sharp during the summer without truly overextending your mind and feeling too stressed out.

  1. Read Leisurely. Keeping your mind sharp and reading actively will work wonders for your SAT score. In general, students who enjoy reading for fun and have done it since childhood do better on the reading comprehension section. Even if it isn’t your favorite thing to do, picking up your favorite series or diving into a new fiction book is very helpful for the test. It helps build vocabulary, keeps your mind active, improves your reading stamina, and also forces you to critically think. All of these skills are very helpful, and will pay off at the end of the summer. Aim for one book a week. While this may seem like a lot, try it and after the first week you will see it’s no more than thirty to forty five minutes a day of straight reading. Make it easy on yourself by picking a book or genre you like to keep your interest up, and allow you to stay continually motivated.
  1. Study Vocabulary. Studying vocabulary is something you can do every day, no matter where you are. As this is the only part of the test that requires memorization, your performance on vocabulary is highly correlated to effort. If you put in the time, and make vocabulary a challenge, the summer is the perfect time to use this to stay sharp. It will keep your mind active for ten to fifteen minutes a day, and add consistency to your routine. Building this habit will allow you to snap right back into the heavier test prep once you resume that.
  1. Take a prep course or online class. Taking an academic enrichment course is another way to keep your mind active and it allows you to pursue an interest you like, or get a leg up on the SAT or ACT. These courses are less of a commitment than school, and you don’t have the added pressure of performing well for a grade. Instead, you can take this at your own pace, and the results are indicative of the effort you put in. It’s another great way to stay in a routine, to make sure your mind is sharp when the SAT ramps up again.

All of these tips follow a similar model; keep your brain active and engaged and make sure that you don’t lose all the progress you have made up to this point when it comes to getting ready for the test. Happy studying this summer!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: Breaking Down the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullWe’ve all heard it before, the only constant in life is change. Sometimes change can be a good thing? One could argue the Sammy Hagar Van Halen (this might be before your time, but they were a California rock band formed in the ‘70s) was far superior to the David Lee Roth Van Halen. Or for a slightly more timely example, one could argue we’ve yet to see the best of One Direction in the post-Zain Malik era. Regardless, change is a constant, and that applies to standardized testing as well.

Any time a testing agency decides to make significant changes to an assessment, there’s going to be considerable uncertainty amongst not only test takers and schools, but also within the testing agency itself. Contrary to what most students would like to believe, testing agencies don’t just dream up new ways to torture students for the fun of it. The reality is that changes are driven by end users and the market. In the two most recent mainstream examples of standardized test changes:

  • When ETS decided to revise the GRE, many of those changes were driven by a need to position the exam to compete with the GMAT exam in the graduate management space.
  • When GMAC decided to update the GMAT and add integrated reasoning, that change was driven by business schools who were looking for an assessment that would test skills not currently being evaluated.

So why is the SAT changing when it just changed in 2005? One might argue that the rising popularity of the ACT (more U.S. students take the ACT than the SAT in spite of both exams seeing growth) fueled this change. Others might point to 2005 addition of the writing section that was not and has not been readily embraced by schools. Regardless, the College Board is responding to a growing and dynamic market and a need to continually evolve in order to stay relevant.

Some initial information has been released around the skills that each assessment will evaluate, as well as timing and length and some initial practice tests. However, it’s important to note that College Board issues the caveat that “these draft test specifications, sample questions and other materials are just that — drafts — and will systematically evolve over time.”   Many updates are designed to “test the waters” to see how schools (and even test prep companies) will react. Technically no content is final or set in stone until the first exam is delivered, but as College Board releases additional material, we’ll learn more.

So what’s a student (and parent) to do? 

First, it’s important to think about your timeline. What year are you currently finishing? Which exam are you planning to take next? PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10,  PSAT/NMSQT and SAT will all be a part of the SAT Suite of Assessments.  While there are some companies that have begun to develop materials based on the initial samples questions, Veritas Prep is waiting until more concrete test specifications are released before developing new curriculum. However, that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck. There is core content that the SAT tests such as algebra and reading passages, and Veritas Prep has plenty of expertise with those skills. How you’re asked to respond e.g. multiple choice, student-produced response, etc is irrelevant, especially knowing that even some response channels / mechanisms are up for debate.

So in the mean time, there are a few things you can do

  1. READ! College Board is touting less vocabulary and more “words in context” questions. Students who are taking the SAT during / after March 2016 should spend time learning the building blocks of words such as Greek and Latin roots, English prefixes and suffixes and then reading as much as possible to see how words are used in various contexts. The Economist and The Wall Street Journal are two great examples. And remember reading doesn’t have to be limited to paragraphs. Find articles that include graphs that might appear on the math section and practice interpreting the data.
  1. Focus on mathematical building blocks. Regardless of question formats or proportional content mixes, College Board has committed to testing algebra, geometry and basic fundamentals. Spend time now re-enforcing those fundamentals. Know and understand triangles, especially those “special ones.” (I’ll give you 30, 60, or 90 reasons why those will be important!)   Balance equations, memorize some of those trickier square roots. Clean up the basics so you’ll be ready to tackle the more advanced stuff when it’s time.
  1. Brush up on those grammar skills. Remember, you shouldn’t write like you speak. And you probably don’t speak like you write. Spend some time refreshing those grammar skills, diagram a few sentences, and work on identifying errors and inconsistencies.

So in short, while we know a little bit, there’s still a lot we don’t know. But, take a deep breath because NO ONE knows a lot, and anyone claiming to know a lot is preying on the fact that the SAT is known to cause anxiety. For now, Veritas Prep is sticking to what we do best: finding the best talent to teach content and skills, not tricks. As soon as we know more, we’ll be hard at work developing curriculum that is in line with what the Veritas Prep has long been associated with: quality and effectiveness.

In the meantime, we do offer tutoring for those of you who can’t wait to get started on the new SAT. But as mentioned above, we’ll be tutoring those core skills from our other materials, not test-specific question types and strategies for the new SAT. For anyone already thinking that far ahead this is good news – we won’t waste your time teaching to a test that isn’t set just yet, but instead we’ll arm you with the necessary foundation so that when the new test is set you’ll have a much easier time mastering those nuances that the College Board is still busy creating.

Still planning to take the SAT 2400 scale? We can help! We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Joanna Graham is the Director of Academics at Veritas Prep and  former Director of Field Marketing at the Graduate Management Admission Council.  Her belief that education is a true gamechanger and should be accessible to all has led to her to spent more than 15 years in the standardized testing and admissions consulting industries. 

 

SAT Tip of the Week: Should I Retake the SAT?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullBy now you have received your SAT score in the mail. For some, it will be a welcome relief. You will have achieved your target score and can concentrate on college applications for senior year. For others, you missed the score by a wide margin and are dead set on retaking the test. For these two groups, there is no true analysis or consideration for taking the SAT again. However, not everyone falls into one of these categories.

Some students will have done well, but feel they can do better on a certain section or feel with more time and preparation they can get a substantially better overall score. Others feel like they didn’t put enough time in and are nervous about the time commitment the SAT takes, but still feel that they should take it again. There a ton of different scenarios for students in terms of thinking about whether they should retake it or not, and here are some important factors to consider.

Can you do a lot better on one specific section? Most schools, large public universities non-withstanding, take super scores. This means that they will look at your best score on individual sections, even if they happened on different test dates. So, your score is enhanced if you did particularly well on math and reading in May and then focused on writing for the October test. This is one of the tricks that allows your score that is reported to college exceed your abilities for any one single test. It is a huge hack on the SAT, and if you are in a position to bring up one section it is highly recommended to take full advantage of the opportunity.

Did you not put forth a full effort? The SAT isn’t like school. During a normal class you have periodic quizzes that matter to your final grade, so you are extrinsically motivated to prepare. For the SAT, the only score that matters is on the day of the test. Up until that point, students can convince themselves and rationalize that they will work harder the next week and on the next practice test. Unfortunately, some students will perpetually procrastinate until the day of the test when they ultimately receive a lackluster score. This happens to a lot of students so don’t feel bad if you are in this group. Instead, you should get ready for the next test and use the score as motivation to constantly improve and work harder to make sure the next test is reflective of your true abilities.

Were the test day intangibles off? Even if you prepped fully, there are those students who slept poorly, felt under the weather, or had a small desk. There are a host of reasons that could lead to a sub-optimal performance on the day of the test, and some students may feel like they tried their best and don’t want to take the test again. If something like this happened to you, it is highly recommended to retake the test. Testing conditions on average are pretty good, so the chances are high that the next time you take the SAT, you won’t deal with outside issues and achieve a score reflective of your ability.

There are many more reasons to take the test again, but here are three of the most prominent. Best of luck with your further preparations for the test!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

 

SAT Tip of the Week: Here is How You Break Down Your Score Report

SAT Tip of the Week - FullLast week, SAT scores became available online. Generally students focus on one number: the overall total out of 2400. Some will focus on the breakdown of the three sections: reading comprehension, writing, and math to see which areas they excelled in and which still need work. This bird’s eye view evaluation is a good way to measure your overall progress in terms of your score, but looking at it from such a distant perspective does not give you the tools you need to improve for the next test.

In order to do this, the best thing you can do is look even deeper into the section breakdowns, to look at the types of questions you missed and which specific areas you should devote more time to, and which you can be confident in for future tests. Areas are specific. It’s not just how many math problems you got correct, but actually figuring out how many geometry type questions you got right and how many you missed. An evaluation at this level will provide the insight necessary to allow you to succeed.

For writing, it’s helpful to break down your essay as well as the multiple choice questions. The essay is a more holistic review. Look at your score, and reread the essay from a grader’s perspective. Was your word choice too simplistic? Was your organization of paragraphs confusing or did it flow? Identify the areas of weakness, and make a note to start honing in on these facets of the essay for future practice tests. At this point you know what your strengths are on the essay; it’s time to improve the weaknesses.

In terms of the multiple choice section, figure out which specific skills you are good at, and which you need help with. If you scored exceptionally well on grammatical relationships between words, but struggled on phrases and clauses, then that is the area you should devote the majority of your preparation time moving forward. While it may be easier and more fun to reinforce your strengths, the true score growth comes from carefully targeting your weaknesses and making sure you are able to improve on them on future practice tests and the real thing.

For math, you should see how you did on the easy questions vs the medium and hard ones. The best thing to do to raise your score is to make sure you answer all the easy ones correctly. If you are still making errors, do your best to clean those up before moving onto the medium and hard questions. In terms of breaking down the specifics, it’s similar to the writing breakdown. If you are doing well in Algebra and Functions, but struggle in Data, Statistics, and Probability then do more data and statistics problems.

Finally, for reading the first thing to do is check out how many sentence completion problems you got wrong. If you got less than 17 out of 19, the first thing you should be doing to move up your reading comprehension score is to memorize vocabulary. It is the simplest way to boost your score. After this, find if you are struggling with meaning of passage questions or literary element problems. When you do passages moving forward, be especially cognizant of this in order to improve your reading comprehension skills.

Your SAT score report provides a wealth of information; you just need to know how to use it. If you follow these steps, you will maximize the opportunities given to you. Best of luck prepping for the June 6th exam!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

SAT Tip of the Week: How I Scored in the 99th Percentile

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAs another testing season comes to an end. I want to share my personal experience on the SAT. After all, the first time I took it in high school was in the late spring – perhaps just like you!
I always have been fascinated by standardized tests. From ERB’s in elementary school to the ISEE, which is the standardized test Los Angeles private schools used for middle and high school, I was always intrigued by the questions. It’s probably a strange obsession to have, but for some reason I like to learn all about any type of standardized test and try to get a perfect score.

I was able to do that on the ISEE, and I really wanted to replicate the performance on the SAT.

I had been familiar with the SAT long before high school as I took it to get into a program in 8th grade. So from that point on, I was really interested in the test, but it didn’t truly pique until 10th grade when I took the PSAT. I scored in the 99th percentile, and my future college counselor called me into his office to tell me that if I had a similar score in 11th grade I could get a lot of scholarship money as a National Merit Finalist.

I began studying for the PSAT with the hopes of getting a perfect score. I made two mistakes. First was buying a company textbook as my guide. Many test prep companies create their own tests (not Veritas Prep), and these are not filled with official questions so they don’t give an accurate gauge of what you will actually do on the test. The second was playing high school football. I got a severe concussion that ended my football season two weeks before the PSAT. Not only was my memory spotty, I couldn’t concentrate for long periods of time. My PSAT in 11th grade was 25 points (250 equivalent on the SAT) lower than my 10th grade score, which ruined any chance of a national merit scholarship.

This was a disappointment but it also motivated me to give the actual SAT test my all. From January of 11th grade to the test day, I learned everything I could about the SAT. I took 15 practice tests, did thousands of problems, improved my grammar skills, and outlined a great essay. With a tutors guidance, I learned every intricacy, every type of question, and every vocab word imaginable. On test day, I got a perfect score on Math and Reading, but my writing score inhibited me from getting a 2400.

For about a month, I thought my 99 percentile was good enough, but something was still bugging me. Halfway through the summer, my college counselor told me I should take the test again so I started prepping one more time. This time, I only focused on writing as I wanted a super score 2400, because that’s what the schools I was looking at counted. Come October, when I took it the second time I got a perfect writing score and still nailed reading and math. It was one of the most fulfilling feelings; to put forth such effort and be repaid with the best possible score. It actually motivated me to work even harder the rest of senior year, as it showed me I could accomplish goals if I set my mind to them.

While this sounds cliché, that’s one of the unsung benefits of the test. The perfect super score allowed me to get a full scholarship to USC, which has always been my dream school. All of these reasons are why I am still so passionate about the SAT and helping other students fulfill their potential on the test. While some students get really anxious about the test, I like to frame it as an opportunity to really distinguish yourself on a grand scale. Take the challenge! Happy studying!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: Why You Should Take the 2400-Scale Test

SAT Tip of the Week - Full The current SAT is only available for a few more tests. In March of 2016, the College Board is officially introducing a completely redesigned test that will go back to the 1600 scale and have a shift in focus.

While the new test will certainly be coachable, there are a wide variety of benefits to preparing for the current one if you are entering your junior year. You know what is going to be on it, you have plenty of time to prepare, and you can put one of the more stressful aspects of the college process behind you before the second semester of 11th grade starts to ramp up.

The new SAT is still somewhat of a mystery. While we know the broad strokes of what will be on it, and the types of concepts they will be focusing on, the College Board themselves probably haven’t figured out the test in its entirety. With the SAT, and any standardized test, you want as much information and material on it as possible to prepare. The current SAT has tens of official College Board tests to practice on. It has thousands of questions and the strategies are finely tuned at this point.

The test in its current form is extremely coachable and anyone who is willing to put the work in, will have massive rewards in terms of the score. It is not to say that this won’t happen on the new test as well, it’s just that the current 2400-Scale SAT is a known quantity. It is a proven test with proven methods that work. While it’s not easy, it is a fairly simple plan that just requires time, dedication, and flexibility. If you have those three things, then the current test is for you.

A lot of incoming juniors are also worried about not having enough time to prepare for the test. While it is true that taking it once during the spring of your junior year and then again in the fall of senior year is optimal, it’s not the only option. Plenty of students have excelled taking the test in the fall of junior year. If you spend the whole summer taking a course and preparing, you will be more than ready for the fall test. Then if you want to take it again, you will have options for November, December, or even January which gives you even more time prepare.

Being done with the SAT by the spring of junior year relieves a huge burden of stress and anxiety for many college applicants. The second semester of 11th grade and the first semester of 12th grade are the hardest two academic periods of high school. If you are able to ease the level of anxiety by removing the SAT as a factor, it can make college applications and schoolwork a lot easier for students. Happy Studying!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

SAT Tip of the Week: How To Attack Problem Areas on the Math Section

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT is a beast of a test, and not some seemingly ferocious beast that turns out to be cute and cuddly: it is a true monster with fangs and all. While acknowledging that the SAT is a force to be reckoned with, like all monsters, the SAT has certain “Problem Areas” that students tend to find more dangerous than others (the fangs and fire-breath, to continue our already stretching metaphor). Here are three techniques to help conquer these problem areas and thus de-fang our foe. OK, enough metaphor!

1. Learning Vocabulary: Memorizing vocabulary is time consuming, but need not be hard. Here are two good techniques to help memorize a lot of vocabulary.

Repetition:

Repetition really is the easiest way to build long term memory. Take a word and a definition that you don’t know. Look at it once then wait one minute. Now look at the word and try to think of the definition. Its tough right? Now take that same word and repeat the definition seven times. Now wait one minute. Maybe remember the word is a bit easier? Did you get it? If not try it again. Repeat the word and definition seven times. Now wait two minutes. I bet you can still recall the definition! This process can be used for a whole list of words. For some reason, seven seems to be a good number of repetitions to make things stick. Do this for ten words, wait five minutes, then quiz yourself. Reward yourself with five minutes of a TV show you love while you are waiting, just make sure you don’t get so into the show that you forget you are studying.

Narrative or Picture Creation:

Memory is aided by activating different parts of the brain. The language area is most used in memorizing novel words, but anything that creates a narrative or picture will help to create memories that stick much easier. As an example, lets take the word obstinate, which means stubborn. The sounds in this word can be associated with some image that both conveys sound and definition. When I think of this word I picture my friend Nate, except he is composed of a rock called Obsidian and telling a green peace worker that recycling glass is stupid. Obstinate: stubborn.

2. On Hard Math Problems, Start With What You Know

Here is an example of a challenging math problem:

DG May 6th

Each tick mark is equally spaced from the next, which letter represents –y?

 

The first place to start with something like this would be to plug in numbers. If I assume each tick mark is 1 and plug in 4 for x, I get x=4, y=-2, and -y-x = -2 . According to the equations, -y-x should equal 8. This is a bit of a pickle! Rather than give up, let’s start with what we know. If we define each tick mark as 1, than what we know is as follows:

 

x+2 = x-y therefore,

2 = -y or y = -2

and

x+4 = -y-x   substituting y for -2 we get x+4 = -(-2)-x —> x+4 = 2-x —> 2x = -2 —> x = -1

 

Let’s put it all together by putting our new numbers into the equations given by the problem. If z = 1, y = -2 and x = -1, our new number line will read as follows:

DG May 6th2

 

 

-y = 2 which would correspond with point C, and we are done! This question required a little algebra, but wasn’t too bad once we stated the things that were told to us by the question.

 

 

3. If An Error Is Hard To Spot, Check Nouns, Passive Voice, Awkward Phrases, and Idioms

Let’s look at an example sentence:

After a decline in the modern era of feminine characters that exhibit little agency and define themselves through their male relationships, there has been a resurgence with fictional characters that embody a classical form of femininity.

After reading this sentence with and without prepositional and descriptive phrases to see if an error pops out, the first possible non-obvious errors to check are noun agreement, passive voice, and awkward phrases. A noun agreement error is generally a problem with nouns that should all either be plural or singular, but are, in fact, different. For example, “The boys always wore their required trousers, but never their hat.” In this case “boys” wear “trousers” and should also wear “hats”. The noun error is not a problem with the above sentence. Passive voice is a reversal of normal sentence construction, often using the word “by”. For instance “The ball was thrown by John,” instead of the active “John threw the ball”. Passive voice isn’t always wrong, but it’s often stronger to put a sentence in the active voice. It is also important to check for any of the classic indicators of awkward phrasing like “being”, “is because”, or sometimes “having been”. Neither of these issues are present in the example sentence.

If there aren’t errors with verb agreement, pronouns, parallelism, redundancy, awkward phrasing, or modifiers, essentially the only errors left are problems of idiom. These can be really tough to spot, but they aren’t impossible. These are generally problems with prepositions, specifically prepositions that don’t match the words that comes before them. There are two phrases with prepositions in the underlined portion: “resurgence with” and “form of”. The phrase “form of” seems alright. You could put that in a different context and would sound fine: “Copying is just another form of flattery.” The phrase “resurgence with”, on the other hand, seems weird: “There has been a resurgence with new orders.” It should be “resurgence of new orders.” Voila! We have identified the idiomatic error!

These are just a few techniques to help with problem areas of the SAT, but, with a little practice, they may help to slay the beast called the SAT. Happy studying!

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 and Google+, and follow us on 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.