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The SAT essay calls for a more formal and academic tone of writing than some students are comfortable with. Over my two and a half years as an SAT instructor, I’ve received an extraordinary number of questions about what formal tone should look like. Far too often, students mistake complexity for formality, misuse of advanced vocabulary or simply focus too much on tone that they forget the importance of strong content. Here are a few of the most common errors I’ve seen regarding SAT essay tone and how to avoid them.
Free web resources can be useful supplements to your SAT study, but only when used correctly. Practice questions, essay hints, and sample passages vary widely in their correctness and helpfulness. At best, web resources can provide free information and explanations to aid your understanding of concepts. At worst, they can mislead and confuse students about the SATs expectations, format, and scoring system. Here are a few tips about making the most of what Google has to offer.
As the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey, (or a delicious vegetarian alternative) it is easy to put studying for the SAT to bed for a long winter’s nap. It is almost certain that taking a little bit of time to not think about standardized tests is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work. With a work out plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true of SAT studying as well. Students can use these three steps (which should take less than twenty minutes) four days a week to help continue the process of conquering the SAT, while still leaving you lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how tall you’ve become.
Last week, we discussed how to break down the Writing Section of the SAT. Today, we’re focusing on Math.
The future is now, and that does not simply mean that we must all Instagram pictures of puppies wearing hats on an hourly schedule (that said, it would be a shame to keep such pictures to yourself). There has never been a greater capability of connecting with people across the globe, and this means that learning does not simply have to take place in an “in person” classroom. Live Online classes and tutoring allows eager students to access the best educational methods for SAT prep.
I have been out of my formal education, and certainly out of high school for many years now but I still have stress dreams where the time is slowly running out on a standardized test. I’m stuck on a hard problem and am waffling between two answers: “What does it mean if these two points are co-linear!” I scream and wake up in a cold sweat. If this describes your own dark dreams, you are not alone. Negotiating timing on a test is tough, but there are a few great tricks that will help you to zoom through some of the tougher sections and complete the SAT without feeling that stress.
There are very few people whose idea of a good time includes spending hours outside of regular school poring over SAT material. With all the other constraints on a high school student’s time, is it worth it to do an SAT prep course? The honest answer is yes. The SAT is very important to the university admissions process and the skills necessary for lifting an SAT score can be learned over a much shorter period of time than it takes to dramatically change a four year GPA or achieve success in extracurricular activities. In terms of results for the time put in, success on the SAT is a lot of bang for your buck, and the skills learned in SAT prep are applicable to any standardized or multiple choice test.
The time has come. The SAT is finally here. After months of preparation, this Saturday, October 11, is the day to finally demonstrate your skills to the College Board. In terms of studying, the SAT is not like a midterm so there is no benefit to cramming. In fact it can have an adverse effect on your score.
Anxiety can often feel like an indestructible creature of mythical strength. If it is not enough that students must learn five hundred vocabulary words, spend hours drilling algebra (everyone’s idea of a fun Friday night), and learn to identify hidden grammatical mistakes, students must also fight the dragon of anxiety which paralyzes with its powerful breath and leaves students feeling defeated before they even begin. Anxiety is a mighty beast, but there are ways to combat this force and slay the dragon of fear so that you can focus on what really matters: answering the questions on the SAT correctly.
Have you ever had a fight with a parent, a partner, or a friend that was about one thing but was really about something else? Maybe mom yells that she can’t believe you left the milk out when really she’s mad that you watched the new episode of Homeland without her? Things are not always what they seem, and the SAT is just as guilty of hiding what it truly wants as your Homeland watching parent. So how do we approach a problem where the true skill that is being tested is not obvious? As in life, the real trick is digging down to what is really going on and addressing the true nature of the problem. Here is an example where this technique can be used:
The SAT test is the best way to back up your academic aptitude in the current college admissions process. While the SAT may not be reflective of your intelligence level or intellectual prowess, the fact remains that college admission officers use the test as a barometer of candidates’ academic strengths. The reason for this is simple – it’s the one standardized measure that colleges are able to use when comparing candidates. It’s impossible to compare GPA’s across the board when there are a variety of variables at play.
There is no better way to study for the SAT then taking official College Board practice tests. Just trying these problems alone will give you familiarity for the cadence, structure, and outline of the test. There are a few things you can do to maximize your effectiveness when using the practice tests.
Which one seems out of place when trying to excel on the SAT? Everyone has heard about the importance of studying vocabulary and taking practice tests – bedrock principles to succeeding on the test. However, one unique tip that can have a dramatic effect on your score is a consistent sleep routine. How awesome is that? Sleeping, something we all love, can help boost our SAT score tremendously! Sleep is the secret “X” factor that can take your scores to the next level.
A calculator is one of the most underutilized tools on the SAT. It’s the one device that the College Board permits, which actually makes problems easier. Yet, I see students consistently fail to take advantage of the technological marvel that is the calculator. It’s true that you can solve every problem without a calculator. However, it becomes more difficult and more time consuming – two things we try to mitigate on the SAT.
There are few tasks in life that require as much concentrated, uninterrupted, and intense focus as the SAT. In its current format, the test lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes. Even with the brief breaks during the exam, it can feel like a mental marathon. Like top endurance runners, you can use certain strategies to improve your performance and prevent your focus from wavering at any point during the test.
The SAT essay is daunting for many reasons: the time limit, the fact that prompts aren’t revealed until the test begins, and the significance of the SAT Writing score. While it’s important to address all of these obstacles (and to remember not to stress too much about them!) it is equally important not to forget about the core element of the essay itself: writing well. Here are a few SAT-customized tips to keep in mind.
Once you’re familiar with the Passage-Based Reading section of the SAT, it’s usually easy to eliminate three out of five answer choices, even on difficult questions. Selecting the right answer from the remaining two, however, can be considerably more challenging. Many test-takers simply guess, resigning themselves to a 50% chance of picking the right answer. Fortunately, there is a better way to tackle this problem.
The SAT, like so much in this big beautiful world, is a complex assemblage of pieces. It is, therefore, a complex task to improve one’s score on the SAT as it involves an understanding of the different parts of the test. There are, however, a few simple steps that can help start the process of improving one’s score that many people may not even realize are necessary. Here are three simple changes that can help to significantly improve your score and can, with the aid of other strategies, help you to rock the SAT.
When approaching a reading passage on the SAT, it can feel overwhelming to go through all of the information in the passage and extract the little tidbits that are truly useful in answering questions. While it is wonderful to read in a more lackadaisical way when sitting at the beach with a tale of vampire love affairs, this method of reading is more about following plot and big picture than about gleaning important details. If you feel like you have trouble wading through the information and finding what is important, fear not! There are a few strategies that may help you to navigate the reading section more effectively.
One of the biggest differences between the SAT and other non-multiple choice tests is that for nearly every question on the SAT, the correct answer is right in front of you! Given that the answer is right there, the real trick is figuring out how to use this to your advantage. Let’s look at an example to show us how we can use these answer choices to our advantage.
For those of us who grew up speaking English, we rarely find a personal benefit from translating English into another language. One big exception to this is in the math world. We may find ourselves able to understand the most erudite texts with ease, but figuring out how to interpret mathematical terms can be difficult without a little translating. Here is a quick and easy guide to help translate our language of communication into a language of computation.
Some of the most difficult kinds of problems in the math section of the SAT are the problems where there doesn’t seem to be enough information present to solve. Fear not brave test-taker! Often times, a problem that seems to be lacking simply has information hidden somewhere in the question. But like the great detectives of the past, it is possible to use our wits to find this information. The first step is to know the common shapes hidden in SAT math questions.
For those of us who grew up speaking English as our native language, grammar can be somewhat of an afterthought. We take for granted that the linguistic constructions that we use when we are arguing with our parents or flirting with a prospective prom date employ a regimented structure that we may not realize we are using. Basic understanding of piecing a sentence together is necessary for really taking that grammar score to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of the basic grammatical elements that make up our language.
Preparing for the SAT is a lot like working out. In order to maximize results, it’s best to put in a little bit of work everyday. If you are trying to bench-press 300 pounds, you won’t get there in one work out (if you do, you probably have a career in professional weightlifting ahead of you). Similarly, if you are trying to score at the highest level on the SAT, it’s best to prepare with at least a little work each day. Here is a sample five day, thirty minute a day, brain work out plan that will leave you ready for brain swimsuit season (OK, that’s not a thing, but it will leave you ready to attack the SAT).
Anyone who really wishes to achieve success on the SAT should not only be able to identify what makes up a correct answer, but also what makes an incorrect answer. The anatomy of an incorrect answer choice is not as complex as one might expect and gives students an important tool in selecting the correct answer choice: the power to eliminate all the other, less deserving options. The most common characteristic of an incorrect answer choice is the fact that it cannot possibly be correct given the context of the problem.
One of the worst feelings in many student’s young test taking lives is furiously working away at some standardized test, and really feeling that they are NAILING IT, only to look up at the clock and realize they have five minutes to complete the next fifteen problems. Time management can be extremely tricky on the SAT, but there are a number of things that can be done before the test to insure that time is used effectively.
Of the errors on the SAT, the idiomatic error can seem to be the most difficult to spot. Though these kinds of errors are particularly tricky, there are some clear steps that can be taken to help prepare for the dreaded error of idiom.
What is an idiomatic error?
Essentially, an error of idiom is a mistake in the word or words, often prepositions, that are used in association with other words, often verbs. An example would be the previous phrase, “used in association with”. It would be incorrect to say “used for association with” or “used in association to”. There are literally thousands of idiomatic phrases in English. For this reason, it can be very difficult to strengthen this particular skill, though there are ways to increase one’s ability to spot an idiomatic error.
Considering how ubiquitous a piece of punctuation the comma is, it is surprisingly misunderstood. The comma has a number of uses that are described quite thoroughly here, but the most common comma errors on the SAT are comma splices, omission of commas when used with a conjunction to combine two independent clauses, and misuse of commas with the word ‘which’.
A lot of students, after they have gotten their first score, feel unsure whether or not they should take the SAT again. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to endeavor to conquer the four hour test after it has already been battled, but here are a few things to consider when deciding what to do.
One of the biggest tricks the SAT uses is to confuse students is putting a question in theoretical terms instead of in practical terms. This simply means the questions on the SAT will sometimes reference a general term, for example an even integer, rather than giving a concrete number that fits that description, such as two or four.
When students, even those who consider themselves strong in math, get to the final two problems of the SAT, many begin to sweat like they are about to embark on some epic journey from which they may never return. The hard probability problem makes students very uncomfortable, but in reality most harder math problems simply require one or two more steps than less difficult problems. Probability questions are actually some of the simplest to solve.
The essay begins the SAT and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a five paragraph essay in 25 minutes, but there are a few steps that can make the essay a piece of cake!
1. Make An Essay Template
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. The essential make up of a five paragraph essay is simple. There is an introduction which presents the topic, states the thesis, acknowledges the opposition, and lays out how the essay will argue its point, three body paragraphs which use examples to support the thesis, and a conclusion which restates the thesis and briefly reminds the reader what it has just read.
In grammar, as in life, agreement can be tricky. Subjects and verbs have to agree, verb tenses have to agree, sentence structures have to agree, and pronouns have to agree. Much agreement is necessary for a sentence to function properly, but one of the trickiest of the many agreement issues that can pop up on an SAT is the hidden agreement issue between some non-pronoun and its referent. This can be particularly tricky to spot, but with a little practice it will be easier than buying a pie (making a pie is actually pretty tough to do well).
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do on an SAT question is to see something that isn’t there. The SAT provides test takers with enough information to solve the questions, but sometimes the information is not stated explicitly. The easiest way for the makers of the SAT to disguise information is to give written description rather than a picture. Luckily, it doesn’t require Picasso’s eye for line to translate words into pictures. Here is an example:
Studying for the SAT is a fantastic idea and really the only way to ensure that you will succeed on the SAT, but not all studying is created equal. I have encountered a number of mistakes students make while studying from watching “Sex In The City” because they think it is a good place to look for essay ideas, to studying non-Euclidean geometry to study for the math.
In my tenure as an SAT teacher I have heard all explanations imaginable as to why the reading on the SAT is the most boring and awful reading in the known universe. Students tell me the reading is too dense, too dry, too descriptive, too hard.
There is no arguing with the fact that some of the passages on the SAT are less than thrilling, but in order to score at the highest level on the SAT, students must find a way to stay present and actively consume the material. There are a couple of techniques that can help with this process and allow students to answer questions about the passage effectively.
As trembling hands turn the first page of the SAT, the heart of students drops like a rock. This first problem is a WORD problem and word problems are IMPOSSIBLE! The student drops his or her head. How can the test begin with such a hard problem? Be of good cheer young test taker, not all word problems are created equal.