Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. 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.

ACT Vocabulary Tricks and Tips

ReflectingStudying vocabulary should be on your schedule of things to do as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT. Numerous lists are available online that feature words commonly seen on the test.

Fortunately, there are many simple tricks and techniques to help you learn and remember ACT vocabulary words and definitions.

Personalize Your Flashcards
Flashcards are a traditional tool for students who are learning vocabulary for the ACT. But you can make your flashcards more effective by taking them a step further. Include the word, its definition, and a personalized sentence on each flashcard. For instance, if you’re learning the word “cunning,” you may create a sentence about your little sister such as, “My sister is cunning about stealing cookies out of the cookie jar.” The word “cunning” means “crafty” or “clever.” You’re more likely to remember a word and its definition when you study it in a personalized context.

The creators of the ACT are interested in measuring your understanding of words and how they are used as opposed to just the number of words you’re able to memorize, so it’s important to thoroughly understand each word you learn.

Expand Your Reading List
Another successful strategy to use when learning vocabulary for the ACT is to read a wide variety of material. For instance, if you usually limit your recreational reading to fiction, try reading some biographies or articles in science or nature magazines, or choose a subject you want to learn more about, such as an animal, a country, space travel, the Industrial Revolution, or a famous individual in history. You are more likely to be an active reader when delving into a subject you’re curious about.

When you vary your reading material, you are exposing yourself to larger amounts of unfamiliar vocabulary. As you read, make a list of the words you don’t know and look up the definitions later. Try to determine the definition of a word by looking at the context in which it’s used, then check the dictionary to see if you were right.

Use New Words on a Daily Basis
As you are focusing on learning ACT vocabulary, try using some of your newly acquired words in your daily life. Saying a word aloud in the correct context is an excellent way to solidify it in your memory. You could do this in your classes at school, during club meetings, or at home with your family. In addition, try including a few of the words in papers and other assignments for your English classes. Why not score some extra points on your schoolwork as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT?

Play Word Games
Playing word games is one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT. There are many online games that ask you to match a definition with the correct word or vice-versa. Some games test your speed at unscrambling letters to make a word that pairs with a definition. Various types of word games can be played by two or more people, so you can get together to play a game with a few friends who are also preparing for the ACT. Making the learning process fun with colorful graphics, music, and exciting challenges helps you add to your growing supply of words.

Take Several Practice Tests
Another effective way to prep for the Reading and English sections on the ACT is to take practice tests. This helps you to figure out which skills you’ve mastered as well as the ones that need work. If you’re worried about these two sections on the ACT, completing practice questions can make you feel more prepared on test day.

Our instructors achieved extremely high scores on the ACT, so when you study with us, you have access to the proven tips and tricks used by our instructors to learn ACT vocabulary. But the ACT tutors at Veritas Prep are more than experts at helping you learn ACT vocabulary: we can also teach you strategies you can use on all parts of the exam. Take advantage of our free trial class to become familiar with the material on the ACT and discover what our instructors at Veritas Prep can do to help you succeed on test day.

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

Can I Apply to College as a High School Junior?

walking studentThe traditional path to college involves four years of high school. Most people picture college-bound high school Seniors going to prom, attending parties, and spending a lot of time with their friends. But what about high school students who have different plans for themselves?

Some ambitious students might ask, “Can you apply to college as a Junior in high school?” The answer is yes. You can apply to college during Junior year. Discover some important details for students who want to forgo their Senior year in high school and move straight on to college:

What to Do Before Applying to College as a Junior in High School
Whether a student is a Senior or a Junior, they must fulfill the same requirements when submitting applications to colleges. Juniors in high school have to pay special attention to the various deadlines of the colleges they are applying to. This means they have to make a detailed timeline that allows them to take the SAT or ACT in plenty of time to submit their scores by the required deadline.

In addition, the student must submit an application, official transcripts, an application essay, letters of recommendation, as well as any other materials required by college admissions officials by the advertised deadline. It’s a good idea for high school Juniors to look at the specific application materials required by the colleges they are applying to. Generally, students can find a list of required materials on a college’s website. Having this information helps a Junior to create a reliable timeline of things to do.

Who to Talk to Before Applying to College as a Junior in High School
Juniors in high school who are applying to college may feel overwhelmed by all they have to do in order to achieve their goal of getting into school early. One tip is to enlist the help of a high school counselor. This professional can handle the logistics involved with helping a Junior apply to college.

In addition, our online college admissions consultants at Veritas Prep have the know-how and resources to assist ambitious high school Juniors who want to start their college career early. Our consultants have worked in the admissions offices of the country’s top colleges, so they know the ins and outs of the admissions process. Students who sign up with Veritas Prep benefit from the experience of our consultants.

The Advantages of Applying to College as a Junior
One of the main advantages of applying to college as a Junior in high school is that students can begin delving into the subjects they are most interested in. For instance, a Junior who is anxious to start on the path toward becoming a physician doesn’t need to delay those plans for an additional year – they can simply skip Senior year in high school and start on that path. Another advantage is that the person will likely graduate from college sooner than expected. This gives the individual more time to spend on their chosen vocation. Most Juniors who apply to college are anxious to get started on their future plans.

The Drawbacks of Applying to College as a Junior
A drawback of applying to college as a Junior in high school is that a student doesn’t have an opportunity to include more accomplishments in their college applications. Alternatively, a Senior in high school has the chance to improve their final grade point average, take extra courses, and participate in more extracurricular activities. In addition, a Senior in high school can learn new strategies from Veritas Prep and retake the SAT or ACT to earn a higher score, whereas a Junior is on a tight schedule to prep for these exams. They must prepare by taking practice tests and then register to take the actual test. The student’s SAT or ACT scores must be submitted to colleges without delay.

So can you apply to college as a Junior in high school? Yes, you can, and our capable staff at Veritas Prep stands ready to assist you in accomplishing that goal! From SAT and ACT tutoring to college admissions consulting, we are ready to be of help. Contact our team today to learn more about our services designed to assist ambitious students like you!

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

ACT Registration Checklist and Testing Dates

ChecklistCompleting the ACT registration process is the first step toward sitting down to take the test. Having a checklist of things to do can help you to organize the process.

Learn about the steps you need to take, as well as some important things to consider, before you sit down to register for the ACT.

Create a Student Account Online
ACT registration can be accomplished very easily by visiting their official website, ACT.org. After creating an account, it takes about 40 minutes to complete the registration forms. There is a test fee that you can pay with a credit card via a secure payment system. Also, you must upload a photo of yourself during ACT test registration. This photo is used for identification purposes and will be put onto the ticket that you’ll take with you to the testing center.

Special Accommodations for the Test
If you have a disability, it’s possible to get special accommodations for the ACT. For instance, if you’re visually impaired, you may be able to arrange for a magnifying device or a reader. During the registration process, you have the chance to express the need for special accommodations. After registration is complete, you will receive an email explaining how to request testing accommodations. You must then work with the officials at your school to secure accommodations for the ACT. You will have to submit proof of a disability along with other documentation. Your school must submit the actual request for accommodations to ACT testing officials.

The Writing Test
The writing test on the ACT is optional. During registration, you can specify whether you want to take it. If you change your mind later about taking the writing test, you can log onto the website and make this adjustment. Keep in mind that you must make the change before the late registration deadline connected with your test date. There is an additional fee for the writing test.

Choose a Test Date and Location
You’ll have the opportunity to choose a test date as well as a testing center located near you. On the website, there is a chart that displays upcoming test dates as well as corresponding ACT registration dates. The ACT registration dates are the deadlines for anyone who wants to take the test on a particular day. It’s possible to register for the test after the deadline passes, but the ACT charges a late fee for that service. The test center locator on the website makes it simple for you to find a location that is convenient. Your test date and location will be confirmed after you finish the ACT test registration process.

Arranging for the Delivery of Score Reports
As part of your testing fee, the ACT sends your score report to four colleges. You can specify these colleges during test registration. You have the option of sending your score report to more than four colleges, but there is a fee for each additional request.

Preparing for the Test
After going through the process of ACT registration, your next step is to prep for the test! That’s where we can help. At Veritas Prep, our talented instructors can provide you with tools that enable you to highlight your skills on the ACT. We’ll guide you through taking a practice ACT to reveal both your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the material on this test. In addition, we’ll pair you with an instructor who knows how to convey lessons with your learning style in mind. We’ll help you improve your test performance by giving you strategies to use on every section of the ACT.

When you sign up with Veritas Prep, you get to study with an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the test, so the study tips you receive are coming from someone who has taken and conquered the ACT! Our team is proud to provide quality ACT tutoring both online and in person. We use proven study resources in our classes so you know you’re getting practical information you can use on the test.

If you’re looking for the best in ACT prep, send us an email or give us a call today. Let Veritas Prep play a part in your victory on the ACT!

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

Understanding the ACT Essay Grading Rubric

writing essayThe writing test is one of the five sections that make up the ACT. Each student’s writing test is evaluated based on the elements in the ACT essay scoring rubric. The ACT writing rubric features four areas or domains. The four domains are ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. The scores a student receives in each of these domains contribute to a student’s total score on the essay.

Let’s examine the scoring process for the writing test and take a closer look at the ACT essay scoring rubric:

The Scoring System for the ACT Essay
Each student’s essay is evaluated by two individuals who are familiar with the ACT essay rubric. A score of one to six points is given for each of the four domains in the ACT writing rubric. The scores of both graders are added together to get a total score for each domain. If there is a discrepancy of more than one point between the individual scores of the two readers, then a third reader is brought in to re-evaluate the student’s essay. Otherwise, an essay receives a total score based on the domain scores awarded by the two readers.

Ideas and Analysis
The first item in the ACT essay rubric concerns ideas and analysis. Essay graders evaluate a student’s ability to understand and express the ideas contained in the given issue. In order to achieve a high score on the essay, students must also be able to understand the different perspectives offered on the issue. An essay should contain relevant ideas expressed in a clear, succinct fashion.

Development and Support
Students who achieve a high score in this domain offer solid evidence to support their points of view. In fact, they provide specific examples that help to support their perspectives. Students are able to convey their ideas in a way that is easy to understand. They take their audience into account as they craft their arguments. At the end of the essay, the reader should be able to see a student’s way of thinking regarding the given issue.

Organization
Students receive a score for the way they organize their essay. Their ideas should be organized in a logical way that lends to the reader’s understanding. A student must transition from idea to idea in a smooth way. An essay should have a clear purpose and end with a conclusion that sums up the student’s thoughts on the issue. A typical format for an ACT essay includes an introduction, three or four paragraphs in the body, and a solid conclusion.

Language Use and Conventions
Essay graders evaluate a student’s skill at using written language to clearly express ideas. A student’s grammar, spelling, and mechanics all play a part in a grader’s final evaluation of the essay. Incorrect punctuation and misspellings are a distraction for essay readers. A student who can use vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence style to convey ideas in an effective way will receive a high score in this domain.

Tips for Writing an ACT Essay
Students who want to excel on the ACT writing test should practice their essay-writing skills on a regular basis. This is all the more effective if a student studies high-scoring ACT essays. They can practice including all of the components necessary for an essay worthy of a high score.

Another tip for writing a convincing ACT essay is to learn new vocabulary words. Students can use these vocabulary words to fully express the ideas in their essay. Plus, learning these words can also be useful in answering questions in the reading section of the ACT. Students can also benefit from making practice outlines. A solid outline can help students organize all of their ideas and supporting evidence. Furthermore, an outline is a helpful guide if a student loses their train of thought while writing the essay on test day.

Our encouraging instructors at Veritas Prep can provide students with guidance on the essay portion of the ACT. Also, we can advise them on the various components of the ACT essay rubric. We hire instructors who achieved a score of at least 33 on the ACT: Veritas Prep students learn from tutors who have real-life experience with the exam! Choose from our in-person or online prep courses and gain the confidence you need to ace the ACT.

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

5 Signs You May Benefit From Math Skills Help

help - wordsFor some high school students, math classes are a breeze, but other students have difficulty understanding various types of math concepts. A knowledgeable math skills tutor can be invaluable to high school students who need a bit of help in their math courses.

Students who can relate to the following five signs are likely to benefit from working with a math tutor.

Five Signs That a Student May Benefit from Math Skills Help:

1) Making the Same Mistakes on Math Tests
Though most students study diligently for math tests and quizzes, some of them find that they miss the same types of questions on every math test. After getting their graded test back, they take the time to review incorrect answers and rework the problems. Often, these students arrive at the same incorrect answers. Not surprisingly, this is a very frustrating and discouraging situation for a high school student.

The good news is that a math tutor can step in and partner with a student as they review incorrect answers on a test. Furthermore, the tutor can evaluate a student’s approach to solving math problems to find out what the student needs to change in order to get the correct answer. Sometimes a tutor’s perspective is a necessary element in a student’s success with math.

2) A Growing Collection of Unanswered Questions
Understandably, students who are struggling in math have a lot of questions. They might ask their math teachers for answers but don’t receive any that are helpful to them. Their teacher may be explaining math concepts in an unclear or confusing way. As these questions pile up, a student may start to feel discouraged. Can a math tutor help with getting a student’s questions answered in a satisfactory way? Yes! It helps that a tutor has the opportunity to get to know a student’s learning style. A tutor can explain a concept in a way that their student can understand. Once a student starts getting answers to questions, they are able to grasp more and more mathematical concepts.

3) A High Level of Math Test Anxiety
When a student is struggling in math class, they may feel anxious at the mention of an upcoming test. This is a definite sign that a student could benefit from studying with a math skills tutor. Of course, a tutor’s main responsibility is to help a student strengthen weak math skills. But a tutor is also a source of encouragement. The professional math tutors at Veritas Prep are experts at helping high school students build up their math skills as well as their confidence. Students who have confidence in their math skills are less likely to feel anxious about quizzes and tests.

4) Spending an Excessive Amount of Time on Math Homework
Students who sit for hours at their desk at home puzzling over math homework assignments may benefit from math tutor help. A student may spend hours trying to figure out how to approach a collection of math equations or spend a lot of time erasing answers and going back to review the steps in a problem. Tutors work with students to teach them specific ways to approach equations. Once a student learns how to approach different types of problems, they can quickly move through homework assignments.

5) Feeling Lost in Math Class
This is an unmistakable sign that a student could benefit from working with a math tutor. Each student sitting in a math class has a different learning style. A student who is struggling in math may not be comfortable with the way the lessons are being presented. This can be solved by getting some math help. Tutor-led study sessions can be tailored to a student’s learning style. The material is the same as the student received in math class, but the tutor presents it in a way that is more easily understandable to the student.

For students in need of math help, tutor-led instruction can be the answer. Veritas Prep tutors convey simple tips and strategies to students that can help them boost their performance on math tests and quizzes. We offer online tutoring that gives students the advantage they need to master all of the skills taught in their math courses. Contact our offices to find the help you need today!

Want more math help? Check out our YouTube channel, where you’ll find helpful math tips for both the SAT and the ACT. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter!

Improve Your Speed on the ACT Math Section Using Math Fluidity

stopwatch-620Speed is key on the Math Section of the ACT – you have only 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. However, this doesn’t mean you should spend one minute on each question, as not every question on in this section is created equal. Many questions (particularly Questions 1-30) are problems that you can solve in under one minute. In fact, you should aim to solve Questions 1-30 in less than 30 minutes – around 25 minutes is the goal.

That’s because some of the later questions, particularly the questions from Questions 40-60, will require more than a minute. Basically, you want to put aside extra time for the tricky questions at end of the section by completing the easier, earlier questions as quickly as possible. If you do Questions 1-30 in 25 minutes, then you have 35 minutes to do Questions 31-60.

One way to improve your speed on the Math Section is to develop what I call “math fluidity.” That means recognizing how common patterns, formulas and special rules can help you solve any particular problem. To illustrate, take a look at the following triangle problem:

Triangle ABC (below) is an equilateral triangle with side of length 4. What is the area of triangle ABC?

ACT Triangle 1

 

 

 

The first step to any geometry problem is writing down what relevant common formula you’ll need to solve the problem; i.e. whenever I’m asked the area of a triangle, at the top of my work space I’ll write:

A = (b*h)/2

Having the formula in front of you will be helpful because right away, it’s clear that although we have some information, we don’t have all the information we need to solve this problem – we have the base of the triangle (4), but not the height. Since the height of an equilateral triangle always goes from one angle to the opposite side, where it forms two 90-degree angles, drawing the height of an equilateral triangle creates two identical triangles, as shown below:

ACT Triangle 2

 

 

 

Many students would now conclude that they need the Pythagorean theorem to solve for the height (that line bisecting the equilateral triangle). This is where math fluidity comes in. Although you could use the Pythagorean theorem, it’s much faster to instead recognize what type of triangle you are dealing with.

Whenever you split an equilateral triangle in half, you create two 30-60-90 triangles. These are also called “special right triangles” because they always follow the rule that the shortest side is always “x,” the side opposite the 60-degree angle is always x√3, and the hypotenuse is always 2x. See the triangle below:

ACT Triangle 3

 

 

 

So, rather than spend any time solving for the height of the our triangle by using the Pythagorean Theorem, recognize that because the hypotenuse is 4 and the base is 2 (of either of the smaller triangles), and because the triangle is a right triangle, the height must be 2√3. Therefore, the area of the larger triangle is  (2√3)(4)(1/2), which equals 4√3.

Instantly recognizing that the two smaller triangles are 30-60-90 triangles only saves a little bit of time – if you can regularly shave off 20 seconds on question after question by recognizing special rules or how best to apply formulas, you’ll accrue saved time that can later be spent on harder math questions. Speaking of which, math fluidity also applies to tricky questions – similar to what we previously saw, recognition will break down hard questions into easier, faster steps.

So, let’s take a look at a more difficult question. Note, this next example is especially relevant for students shooting for 99th percentile or perfect scores. Although many students can solve the following question if given enough time, few students can solve it quickly enough to get it correct on the ACT. Here’s the problem:

In triangle ABC below, angle BAE measures 30 degrees. What is the value of angle AED minus angle ABE?

A) 30ACT Triangle 4
B) 60
C) 90
D) 120
E) 150

 

Although there are several ways to solve this problem, math fluidity will help with whatever approach you choose. As I mentioned earlier, it is always best to start by writing down a relevant formula, as it will include what information you have and what information you need. In this case, I’m looking for AED-ABE. Because I’ve also been given the measure of angle BAE, I’ll write down:

BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED

Here’s where math fluidity comes in; the second formula is based off a theorem that you probably learned (and then forgot!) in your geometry class. I do recommend (re)memorizing it for the ACT as follows: a measure of an exterior angle of a triangle is equal to the sum of the measures of the two non-adjacent interior angles.

ACT Triangle 5Are you drawing a blank? If so, take a moment to think about why that statement is true. If the smaller two angles of a right-angle triangle, as shown at left, are 40 and 50, then if we extend a line as shown to form the adjacent exterior angle x, then x + 50 = 180, so x = 130.

 

Also, 40 + 50 + 90 = 180, since the sum of interior angles of a triangle always add up to 180. So, if x + 50 = 180, and  40 + 50 + 90 = 180, then x+ 50 = 40 + 50 + 90.

Removing the 50 from both sides, we can conclude that x = 40 + 90, or x (the adjacent  exterior angle of one interior angle) is equal to the sum of the other two interior angles.

Now, returning to our original problem:

If BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED, then:

30 + ABE = AED

AED – ABE = 30

Therefore, our answer is A, 30.

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

By Rita Pearson

Answer ACT Reading Questions By Matching the Author’s Tone to the Answer Choices

ReflectingOne of the best ways to attack the Reading Section on the ACT is to look for reasons to eliminate answer choices. In other words, rather than try to find evidence for each answer choice to determine whether or not it is correct, you can identify reasons as to why you can eliminate answer choices because they are incorrect.

In this post, I’ll be covering one easy trick you can use to eliminate at least one answer choice on a surprisingly high number of questions in the ACT Reading Section – matching the author’s tone to the choices. Quickly read the following excerpt:

Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, perhaps better known as Leo Tolstoy, is largely considered the most prolific Russian novelist in history. Most famous for his two long novels War and Peace, which he penned in 1869, and Anna Karenina, which he wrote in 1877, Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction. While not the beginning of his literary career, his rise to prominence began when he accounted his experiences in the Crimean War with Sevastopol Sketches, his first acclaimed work. Soon after, between 1855 and 1858, he published a self-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, recounting through fictional characters his own childhood with a sentimentality he later rebuffed as poor writing. Toward the end of his life, Tolstoy became more of a moral thinker and social reformer, transitioning from poplar novelist to evangelical essayist.

Even after a quick read-through, you should be able to describe the author’s tone. (And if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, now is the time to start!) That is, you should be able to ask yourself, “Is the author’s tone laudatory? Is it critical? Is it neutral? Is it persuasive?” and so on. In short, you should have a general sense of whether or not the author has a positive, negative, or neutral stance towards their subject, and you should also have a sense of the degree – i.e. is the author strongly critical, or do they just have some reservations?

Now, go ahead and write down what you think the author’s tone is in the above excerpt.

In this case, the author’s tone is laudatory, as the author calls Tolstoy “prolific” and  a “master of realistic fiction.” So, keep in mind that descriptive terms – adjectives, descriptive phrases, and the like – will clue you in on what the author’s tone is.

Now that we’ve identified the author’s tone, take a look at the following question*:

According to the passage, it could be concluded that the novel War and Peace was:

(A) The first of Leo Tolstoy’s works to be published.
(B) Leo Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance.
(C) Written by Leo Tolstoy after he wrote his self-autobiographical trilogy.
(D) Written by Leo Tolstoy using inspirations from his experience in the Crimean War.

Without rereading the passage, I can immediately eliminate one of the answer choices. Why?  Because it is distinctly different than the author’s tone. The author is praising Tolstoy, so answer choice B, which comes off as critical (Saying that the book is Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance is pretty dang snarky!), couldn’t be the correct answer.

Let’s use this strategy again on a few more questions. First, read the following excerpt and identify the author’s tone:

“A handicapped child represents a qualitative different, unique type of development… If a blind child or a deaf child achieves the same level of development as a normal child, then the child with a defect achieves this in another way, by another course, by another means; and, for the pedagogue, it is particularly important to know the uniqueness of the course along which he must lead the child. This uniqueness transforms the minus of a handicap into the plus of compensation.”

That such radical adaptions could occur demanded, Luria thought, a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active, a supremely efficient adaptive system geared for evolution and change, ceaselessly adapting to the needs of the organism – its need, above all, to construct a coherent self and world, whatever defects or disorders of brain functions befell it. That the brain is minutely differentiated is clear: there are hundreds of tiny areas crucial for every aspect of perception and behavior. The miracle is how they all cooperate, are integrated together, in the creation of a self.

In this passage, the author’s tone is positive. The author uses the words  “dynamic,” “active” and “miracle,” and cites another author (in the first paragraph) who uses the word “unique.” Thus, these descriptive phrases allow me to conclude that the author takes a positive tone towards his or her subjects of handicaps and the brain.

Now, let’s take a look at some questions. The goal of this exercise is simply to notice what answer choices we can eliminate (not what the correct answers are) without rereading by simply noticing which tones of the answer choices does not match the tone of the author.

The author’s main purpose in the second paragraph is to show:

(A) how he has come to think differently about the brain.
(B) why sickness often causes a contraction of life.
(C) when he had made new discoveries about the brain.
(D) which of his subjects helped him redefine the term “norm.”

With just a quick look at this question, I can immediately eliminate answer choice B. This option takes a negative tone towards sickness, which is clearly out of line with the author’s tone.

Simple enough! Let’s try another question:

The quotation in the first paragraph is used in this passage to support the idea that:

(A) children with handicaps should be studied in the same way as children defined by physicians as “normal.”
(B) deficits need to demonstrate intactness in order to be judged acceptable.
(C) neural or sensory mishap occurs in children as well as adults.
(D) development of children with handicaps may proceed in positive yet quite distinctive ways.

Once again, you will notice that the tone of one of the answer choices stands out as distinctly different from the author’s tone: answer choice B is unusually harsh in tone (judging a deficit “acceptable” comes off as rather cold, if not outright inhumane), so I can make the decision, even without rereading the quote, to eliminate B.

The more adept you get at noting the author’s tone, the more naturally this strategy will come to you. So, next time you do a practice reading section, try incorporating this strategy into your studies.

*Note that I can use the matching tone strategy on these questions because they all reference the purpose of the author (namely, they begin with the phrases “according to the passage,” “the author’s main purpose,” “the quotation is used in this passage to support,” etc.). However, if the questions had asked about a different point of view than the author’s, I wouldn’t be able to use this strategy.

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By Rita Pearson

ACT Scores to Get Into an Ivy League School

Harvard Business School GuideIt’s likely that any high school student who wants to apply to several Ivy League colleges knows that these exclusive schools have especially high standards. For instance, an applicant must have impressive SAT scores and a well-written admissions essay along with glowing letters of recommendation. Students who are applying to these schools must be able to achieve high ACT scores for Ivy Leagues. These eight schools see an excellent ACT score as one indication that a student will be able to excel in challenging courses. Consider the typical ACT scores for Ivy League college students and learn what you can do to perform well on this difficult exam.

A Look at the ACT

What is the ACT? The ACT is a standardized test that gauges a student’s skills in the subjects of math, reading, science, and English. The results of the ACT reveal a student’s understanding of high-school-level material. An impressive ACT score means that a student has grasped high school work and is ready to move on to more challenging material. The ACT is usually taken during a student’s junior year of high school. Taking the ACT during junior year allows a student plenty of time to retake the test if necessary. Also, most high school students want to take the ACT during their junior year so they can tackle the SAT in their senior year.

Ivy League Schools and High ACT Scores

When it comes to ACT scores, Ivy League college applicants should earn a score of at least 32. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36 and a score of less than 31 is not likely to earn a student a place in the Ivy League.

ACT scores are important, but they aren’t the only thing taken into consideration by Ivy League schools. Admissions officials also look at a student’s academic performance during all four years of high school. They take special notice of students who sign up for challenging courses. A student who takes on the challenge of more difficult material is demonstrating an intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning. These are both important qualities in an incoming freshman.

In addition, Ivy League admissions officials pay attention to a student’s extracurricular activities, including sports teams, clubs, volunteer work, and more. They like to see students who dedicate themselves to worthwhile pursuits. So although a student does need a high ACT score for Ivy League acceptance, it does not override every other qualification.

Tips for Earning Impressive ACT Scores

High school students who want to earn ACT scores for Ivy Leagues should start by taking a practice test. The results of a practice test are invaluable as a student starts to craft a study plan. One student may find that they need to focus a lot of attention on improving their performance in plane geometry, while another student may see the need to improve their punctuation and grammar skills. The results of a practice test give students the opportunity to use their study periods in the most efficient way. Another tip for students who want to earn their best ACT score is to make studying for the ACT a part-time job. Preparing for the ACT in a gradual way over a period of months is the most effective method of absorbing all of the necessary material.

Our diligent instructors at Veritas Prep have navigated the ACT and achieved scores in the top one percent of all who took the test and teach strategies to students that allow them to showcase their strengths on the ACT. We instill in our students the confidence they need to earn high ACT scores. Ivy League admissions officials are sure to take notice!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on FacebookGoogle+, YouTube, and  Twitter!