SAT Tip of the Week: Making Waves with Pablo

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

The right word usually isn’t the obvious one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: 2 Phones

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

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

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

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

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

(A) 14
(B) 16
(C) 18
(D) 28

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

(A) 0
(B) 2
(C) 4
(D) 14

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

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

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

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

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

(A) 4
(B) 9
(C) 11
(D) 20

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

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

So take that and put it in the new equation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Joanna Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT 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.

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 = 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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.