Time Management Tips for the SAT with the Optional Essay

Keep Calm Write FastIf you plan to sign up for the SAT, you probably know that the Essay section of the test is optional. Though you may not be excited about taking the extra time on test day to complete the Essay section, it may be a good idea.

Some colleges will ask for an SAT Essay score, so it’s smart to check the admissions requirements of the colleges you’re interested in before you make this decision. Some students write the SAT essay so they have the score in case it’s needed for a last-minute addition to their college list.

If you decide to take the SAT Essay section, there are a few tips to keep in mind so you can submit the most impressive sample of your writing, especially considering that like every other section of the test, the Essay section is timed. Even if you apply to take the SAT with extended time due to a disability, you’ll need to complete your essay within a limited amount of time, so it’s important that you manage your time wisely.

Create a Writing Schedule for Test Day
The SAT with essay time included lasts for a total of three hours and 50 minutes. You are given exactly 50 minutes to write your essay. Fifty minutes may not seem like enough time to write an essay, but it is if you adhere to a writing schedule.

This writing schedule doesn’t have to be on paper; you can make a mental schedule. You should dedicate five to ten minutes to reading the prompt and making an outline for your essay on scrap paper. Next, spend about 30 to 35 minutes writing your essay. This leaves you with approximately five to ten minutes for proofreading your work. After the timed Essay section begins, look at the clock or your watch to remind yourself that you should be finished making your outline within ten minutes of that time. Before you start to write your essay, glance at your watch and remind yourself that you should be finishing up approximately 35 minutes from that point.

A mental writing schedule can keep you from running short on time and rushing to finish. This is a useful strategy if you’re taking the SAT with extended time, too; you’ll just need to modify this schedule based on whether you’re receiving time and a half or double time to complete the Essay section.

Use Your Outline to Refocus
There are lots of reasons why it’s smart to take the time to make an outline before starting your essay. One of the best reasons to make an outline is that you can use it to refocus yourself if your mind wanders during the writing process. Looking at the organized ideas and details included in your outline can get your mind back on the right track. Also, your outline helps you to avoid forgetting any important points that can be the difference between a high-scoring essay and one that doesn’t represent your true talents.

Follow the Basic Essay Format
When you opt to take the SAT with writing time, you may wonder how to set up your essay. It’s best to use the basic essay format: You’re no doubt already familiar with the format, and it’s a good template for an essay that asks you to evaluate an author’s argument.

The Importance of Writing Practice Essays
The most effective way to remember these tips while completing the SAT Essay section is to practice them ahead of time. When starting your practice essay, check your watch to get an idea of how quickly you must work to read the prompt and finish an outline in ten minutes or less. After practicing a few times, you’ll develop a rhythm for your essay-writing that allows you to adhere to your schedule and finish without hurrying. The time you spend practicing also gives you a chance to become familiar with the topics found in SAT prompts so when you take the SAT with writing time, you aren’t venturing into unfamiliar waters.

At Veritas Prep, we are here to help students like you get the highest possible score on the Essay section of the SAT. We understand how to approach the Essay along with every other section, and our instructors can help you meet or exceed your goals for taking the SAT with essay time. We’ll evaluate your practice essay and provide you with tips on how you can achieve a high score in each of the three areas evaluated by SAT graders. We want you to score 8’s across the board on your SAT essay! Contact us today to get the strategies, guidance, and support you need to master the SAT Essay section.

What to Expect from Possible ACT Essay Prompts

SAT WorryToday, many students choose to write the optional ACT essay. Some write it because a Writing section score is required by the colleges they are applying to. Others write it because they excel in essay-writing and want to showcase their skills to college admissions officials. If you plan to write the essay, you’ll want to become familiar with the types of writing prompts given on this exam.

The Different Types of ACT Essay Prompts
Each essay prompt on the ACT concerns a complex issue. For instance, one sample prompt released by the ACT concerns individual freedom and public health. Other writing prompts may deal with technology, the media, education, the arts, and other issues. Even if you don’t have a great deal of knowledge about the topic in the essay prompt, you can still write an essay that is organized, logical, and convincing. In fact, all of the information you need to complete the writing task is given to you in the prompt.

Your Task on the Essay
After reading the essay prompt, you’re given three perspectives on the issue. Your task is to develop your own perspective, then use evidence and examples to support it. Furthermore, you’re asked to analyze how your perspective is similar to or different from at least one of the given perspectives. Think about the possible counterarguments to your perspective and address them.

The individuals who grade your essay won’t be looking at whether you agreed or disagreed with the given perspectives: In fact, that part is irrelevant. Instead, they’ll be evaluating your essay based on its organization, use of supporting evidence, idea development, and language use. College admissions officials want to see a sample of your writing to find out if you can express your ideas in a coherent way. Many colleges will look at your ACT English, Reading, and Writing scores to get a full picture of your ability to interpret and communicate ideas.

Preparing for the Essay
The best way to prep for the essay on the ACT is to practice your writing skills. This includes working on organizing your ideas in the form of an outline before beginning your essay. Also, reading online newspaper and magazine articles gives you practice developing perspectives on current issues. You have only 40 minutes to write the ACT essay, so it’s a good idea to time your practice essays so you can establish a writing speed that doesn’t make you feel rushed. The professional ACT instructors at Veritas Prep have been where you are right now: They’ve prepared for and taken the ACT, including the essay. More importantly, each of our instructors earned a score on the ACT landing them in the 99th percentile. So when you sign up with Veritas Prep, you’ll be studying with tutors who have excellent teaching skills and impressive experience with the test.

Tips for Writing the Essay
The ACT essay is given on paper, so you’ll have space to jot down an outline and organize your thoughts. You’ll probably want to start writing your essay right away, but creating an outline is an effective strategy if you want to end up with a high score. Take the time to think about your perspective on the issue and make sure you have plenty of evidence to support it. Try to leave yourself with a few minutes at the end of the writing test so you can proofread and make small changes if necessary.

The instructors at Veritas Prep have the skills and knowledge to prepare you for the Writing section on the ACT along with the rest of the exam. We are familiar with the different types of ACT essay prompts and can guide you on the best approaches to them. Our strategies can help you to create an essay that fulfills all of the requirements necessary to achieve the highest score possible. We offer online courses that are convenient for high school students on the go, and we also have in-person ACT prep courses if you prefer that type of learning environment. Look at our FAQ page to find more information about our tutoring services, or give us a call or email to let us know how we can help you conquer the ACT essay!

The Pros and Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay-Writing Section

SAT WorryAs you read about the different sections on the ACT, you’ll notice that the essay (or Writing section) is optional. So should you do the ACT Writing section or opt out of it?

The best way to answer this question is to check out both the pros and cons of signing up for the ACT without the essay:

Pros of Skipping the ACT Essay

Saving Time
One of the advantages of signing up for the ACT without the essay is you can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for the exam. Preparation for the ACT Writing section means learning the scoring rubric to find out the elements necessary to achieve a high score. Also, you must spend time practicing your essay-writing skills to ensure that you’re ready to create an impressive essay. Skipping the ACT essay means you have more study time to dedicate to the other sections on the test. Plus, taking the ACT without writing time means your total testing period is shortened by 40 minutes.

Saving Money
The official website for the ACT displays one fee for taking the test with the Writing section and another for taking the ACT without the essay, so if you decide to skip the essay, you can save a little money on your testing fees. This can be important, especially if you have a tight budget for standardized tests taken in your junior and senior year in high school.

Sticking With Your Strengths
Perhaps essay-writing is not one of your strengths – when you take the ACT without the Writing section, time can be spent studying for the other sections of the test. You can focus on the Math, Reading, Science, and English sections to achieve scores that will impress college admissions officials. However, if you want to improve your essay-writing skills, our capable instructors can help you to achieve that goal. We can teach you strategies for how to set up a logical, well-organized essay and provide you with guided practice to help make your essay the best it can be.

Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay

Lacking a Requirement?
One of the cons of taking the ACT without the essay is that you may want to apply to colleges that list a score for the Writing section as an admissions requirement. In order to apply to those colleges, you would have to go back and take the entire test again to get an essay score. Checking to see if the ACT essay is a requirement for the colleges you plan to apply to is a wise idea. But keep in mind that you may want to add a college to your list later or even transfer to another school that requires an ACT essay score.

Skipping the Opportunity to Make an Impression
Another con of skipping the essay section on the ACT is that you’ll miss out on an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Earning a high score on the essay is sure to capture the attention of college admissions officials. If writing is one of your strengths, why not take the time to highlight that talent to colleges?

Missing Out on an Intro to College-Level Work
If you skip the ACT essay, you miss out on the chance to become familiar with college-level work. The task of writing this essay is similar to what you’ll be doing in your English classes as a college freshman. You’ll be writing a lot of papers for classes once you start working toward a degree, so why not give yourself the opportunity to dip your toe into the type of academic work you’ll be doing as a college student?

Whether you decide to take the ACT with or without the essay, we are here to help you prep for the test. You may want to start by trying a free ACT trial class taught by one of our professional, 99th percentile instructors. This will give you an idea of all that we have to offer you at Veritas Prep. Sign up for our test prep services and you have the choice of online tutoring, in-person courses, or On Demand instruction. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to learn what you need to know 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!

Applying to Business School with a Gap in Employment on Your Resume

Successful ApplicantOne of the biggest red flags Admissions Committees encounter during the business school application process is an employment gap on an applicant’s resume. This is unfortunate because for those afflicted, this is often an area that is usually out of the applicant’s control.

Most people are not looking to have an employment gap on their resume, and such periods of joblessness are usually the result of a series of unfortunate events. This problem was much bigger during the global economic crisis a few years back, but the effects of this event still remain on many resumes.

If you have a work gap on your resume, know that it is not the end of the world and that you are not alone on this front – how you mitigate this blip on your resume will be more important to MBA programs than the gap itself – however, don’t completely ignore this issue altogether. Do not treat a gap in employment as something that will not be a concern for the Admissions Committee.

At the very least, if it is a material employment gap, this issue should be addressed in the optional essay. As with most topics you discuss in your optional essay, your explanation and clarification of the employment gap should be concise and to the point. Admissions Committees are not looking for a long-winded string of excuses here – be direct, take ownership of the incident, and identify lessons you learned from it, if appropriate.

Another way to confront an employment gap is through one of the more traditional MBA application essays. If the reason behind the gap or the results of the gap have had a profound impact on your life or career (and it makes sense given the essay prompt), it may be appropriate to take a deeper dive into your situation. A full-blown response like this requires a more nuanced degree of thoughtfulness, so it will be key to do some self-reflection and really identify the underpinnings of your employment gap.

The business school interview represents another area where your employment gap can be addressed by a member of the Admissions Committee. This is probably the most direct way your employment gap will be explored. Keep your explanation simple and avoid making excuses or blaming others. A major mistake many in this position make is disparaging an old employer or an ex-boss. This may actually come across as unprofessional and it generally leaves a bad impression on the interviewer.

Do not let a past employment gap set the tone for your future success at business school. Be prepared to address your history, and take ownership of it in a way that positions yourself for success in the MBA application process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

Common Traits of SAT Writing Prompts and How to Best Prepare

SAT WorryOn the optional SAT Essay section, you have 50 minutes to analyze the argument an author puts forth in a passage. The content of the given passage remains a secret until you see it on test day, but you do have an opportunity to learn about SAT Essay prompts as you prep for the test. Studying the elements of SAT writing prompts can help you lay the groundwork for a stellar essay.

Elements of the SAT Essay Prompt
All of the optional SAT Essay prompts adhere to the same basic template. First, the prompt instructs you to consider how the author of the passage uses evidence (examples or facts) to support their claims. Secondly, you’re asked to consider the author’s idea development as well as how they connect their claims with evidence. Third, you must consider the author’s use of elements such as their word choice to enhance their ideas. Though these are the basic elements of all SAT writing prompts, the passages vary from one exam to the next.

What to Expect in the Passage Given for the SAT Essay
The practice Essay prompts that are available reveal some of what to expect on the actual test. For example, one practice prompt may ask you to analyze a portion of a speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. on the injustice of the Vietnam War. Another may be a prompt connected to a passage from a book written by President Jimmy Carter, asking you to analyze his argument against the industrial development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Other passages available for students to use to practice their writing skills before taking the SAT are pieces written by contemporary authors such as Paul Bogard and Eliana Dockterman. But keep in mind that when responding to every SAT Essay prompt, the content of the passage is not as important as the quality of the author’s argument.

Preparing to Write Your Essay
The best way to prepare for the new SAT Essay is to practice writing essays with sample SAT writing prompts in mind. Also, get into the habit of jotting down notes as you read the passage. These notes can help you to include evidence that supports your analysis of the author’s argument.

Creating an outline before writing your practice essay is another effective way to prepare for this task. The typical outline features four parts: an introductory paragraph that includes your thesis sentence, a paragraph offering specific examples that support your thesis, a third paragraph covering details of how these examples support your thesis, and a concluding paragraph restating your thesis. Dedicating several minutes to creating an outline for your essay is worth your effort. If you happen to lose your train of thought while writing the actual essay, you can look at your outline to get back on track.

The Ingredients in a High-Scoring SAT Essay
In addition to studying the available SAT Essay prompts, it’s a smart idea to read several essays that received high scores. The new SAT Essay rubric reveals the specific features an essay must have in order to earn a high score. Write your essay using a practice prompt, then evaluate your piece using the rubric to get an idea of how you would have scored. By doing this, you can determine what needs to be put into and left out of your essay in order to earn a high score.

Want to practice with the best? The SAT instructors at Veritas Prep are experts at crafting high-scoring essays. We hire tutors who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so you’ll have access to teachers who know tips and tricks to simplify the essay-writing process. We’ll critique your practice essays and provide you with strategies for crafting a solid analysis of the passage.

We also offer free tutorials to give you an idea of how we can help you prepare for the SAT Essay section as well as all other parts of the test. And when you sign up with Veritas Prep, you can take advantage of either online or in-person courses for your convenience. Give us a call and let our instructors give you the advantage on the new SAT Essay section!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Why Are Some Schools No Longer Requiring Students to Complete the Optional SAT and ACT Essays?

Cornell UniversityToday’s high school student has the choice of either writing or skipping the essay on both the ACT and the SAT. Though many colleges don’t require students to submit an essay score, there are some that still do. This leaves many students wondering whether they should write the optional essay for the ACT and/or the SAT. It’s a good idea for students to find out if a college they are interested in requires an essay score for either of these two tests.

This brings up the question: Why do some colleges require SAT and/or ACT essay scores while others don’t? Take a look at the reasons why many colleges consider the SAT and ACT essays optional for all of their applicants:

Focusing on Other Scores
Some school officials feel that the scores on other sections of the ACT and SAT serve to adequately represent a student’s suitability for college. For instance, a college may focus on a student’s scores in the Reading and Writing and Language sections of the SAT – the Writing and Language section tests skills such as command of evidence, the proper use of words in context, and expression of ideas.

Though a student isn’t actually writing in these sections, their answers can indicate an understanding of these skills. Furthermore, college admissions officials can look at the subscores for these sections to get an idea of a student’s specific skills. Other college officials get a clear picture of a student’s skills by looking at their scores on the Reading and English sections of the ACT. With all of these other scores at their fingertips, many college officials don’t see the need for an essay score on standardized tests.

The Admissions Essay
Many colleges consider the SAT and ACT essays optional because they prefer to focus on a student’s admissions essay. There are some colleges that prefer to set the topic for the essay instead of leaving it to the discretion of the SAT or ACT. They like to have control over what their applicants are writing about as well as the number of words they use.

Furthermore, they want to give their applicants as much time as they need to craft their essays before turning them in with their applications. Consequently, students don’t have the added stress of finishing an essay within an allotted amount of time. School officials feel they can get a good indication of a student’s knowledge of vocabulary, sentence structure, creativity, and ability to express ideas by evaluating the person’s admissions essay. They don’t see the need to factor a second essay into their decision.

High School Literature and English Classes
Other school officials believe that looking at a high school student’s grades in English and Literature gives them enough information to determine whether the applicant would be a good fit at the college. They can see whether a student has taken on the challenge of increasingly difficult courses over their high school career. In addition, if a student has taken honors English classes throughout high school, that is a definite sign of someone with excellent reading and writing abilities. These colleges feel that they get a better indication of a student’s skills by looking at their coursework over a long period of time.

Awards, Honors, and Recognition for Writing
Often, colleges that don’t require students to do the essay on the ACT or the SAT look at whether a student earned any writing awards or honors during high school. For instance, one student’s application may note that they were recognized by a literary magazine for a poem they wrote. Another student may have received recognition from their school for an editorial they wrote for the local newspaper. Prizes and honors for writing endeavors can help convince college officials of a student’s writing abilities.

At Veritas Prep, our professional instructors show students how to sharpen their essay-writing skills as well as prep for every other portion of the SAT and the ACT. We hire instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on both tests because we want our students to learn from the very best teachers! Our students have access to test-taking strategies that can simplify every question on both the ACT and the SAT. Contact Veritas Prep today and tell us how we can help you get into the college of your dreams.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! 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!

Early Thoughts on UNC Kenan-Flagler’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

MBA@UNCApplication season at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 application essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s essay prompts:

 

Essay 1Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA.
Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals; why this career option appeals to you; and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree? (500 words)
This is a very involved career goals essay, so you’ll want to make sure you compartmentalize each component of the prompt to ensure you are properly answering the question. 500 words is generally seen as a lengthy word count among the essays of other top business schools this year, but with all of the components in this essay, it is critical to stay concise with your response and move things along.

Addressing your response to this prompt via a relevant story that captures your passion for your desired career path is a great way to stand out while still informing the Admissions Committee of your post-MBA goals.

Essay 2: Optional
What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words)
These questions can be difficult for many candidates to answer, but for an MBA application, candidates must be unafraid to highlight what makes them truly unique. Remember, unless you say it, the Admissions Committee will never know, so don’t be bashful here.

Focus on the “distinguish” aspect of the prompt to highlight not only what makes you unique, but also what you could potentially bring to campus. Try to avoid basic responses here – dig deep to think through your personal and professional strengths and connect them to UNC student life and what you could contribute to the Kenan-Flagler community.

Essay 3: Optional
If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum (300 words)
Only answer this question if you realistically fall into this bucket. If your GMAT score is materially lower than the average score listed for Kenan-Flagler students, then the school would probably define you as a “low test score” recipient. If you have worked in an analytical function or plan to take pre-MBA coursework, this essay would be a good opportunity to highlight these aspects of your profile to address the potential red flag of your score.

Essay 4: Optional
Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words)
This is a more traditional optional essay, so only use it if it feels absolutely necessary (given that the school already has a few outlets to address typical optional essay topics). This essay tends to be a good area to show an aspect of your personality, passion, perspective or professional career that has not been discussed otherwise in your application.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Kenan-Flagler that should help you get started for this admissions season.

Applying to UNC or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.