3.14 Reasons to Love Pi

Pie ChartEvery March 14, numerically expressed as 3/14, math nerds and test prep instructors celebrate the time-honored tradition of “Pi Day,” deriving plenty of happiness from the fact that the date looks like the number 3.14, the approximation of π. Pi (π) is, of course, the lynchpin value in all circle calculations. The area of a circle is π(r^2), and the circumference of a circle is 2πr or πd.

As you study for a major standardized test, you know that you’ll be working with circles at some point, so here are 3.14 reasons that you should learn to love the number π:

1) Pi should make you salivate.
On any standardized test question, if you see the value π, whether in the question itself of in the answer choices, that π tells you that you’re dealing with a circle. Some test questions disguise what they want you to do – you may have to draw in a triangle to find the diagonal of a square, for example – but circle problems cannot hide from you! π is a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a circle, so like Pavlov’s Dog, when you see that signal, π, you should respond with a biological response and conjure up all your knowledge of circles immediately.

2) Pi can be easily cut into slices.
Whether you’re dealing with a section of the area of a circle or a section of the circumference (arc length), the fact that a circle is perfectly symmetrical makes the job of cutting that circle into slices an easy one. With arc length, all you end up doing is using the central angle to determine the proportion of that section (angle/360 = proportion of what you want), making it very easy to slice up a circle using π. With the area of a section, as long as the arms of that section are equal to the radius of the circle, you can do the exact same thing. Just like an apple pie or pizza pie, if you’re cutting into slices from the center of the circle, cutting that pie into slices is a relatively simple task.

3) You can take your pi to go.
You will almost never have to calculate the value of pi on a standardized test: almost always, the symbol π will appear in the answer choices (e.g. 5π, 7π, etc.), meaning that you can just carry π through your calculations and bring it with you to the answer choices. If, for example, you need to calculate the area of a circle with radius 3, you’ll plug the radius into your formula [π(3^2)] and just end up with 9π, which you’ll find in the answer choices. With most other symbols (x, y, r, etc.) you’ll need to do some work to turn them into numbers. Pi is great because you can take it to go.

3.14) The decimals in pi are just a sliver.
If you ever are asked to “calculate” pi (which typically means that the question is asking you to approximate a value, not to directly calculate it), you can use the fact that the .14 in 3.14 is a tiny sliver of a decimal. For example, if you had to estimate a value for 5π, 5 times 3 is clearly 15, but 5 times .14 is so small that it won’t require you to go all the way to 16. So if your answer choices were 15.7, 16.1, 16.4, etc., you could rely on the fact that the decimal .14 is so small that you can eliminate all the 16s.

Other irrational numbers like the square root of 2 and square root of 3 have decimal places more in the neighborhood of .5, so you will probably need to work a little harder to estimate how they’ll react when you multiply them even by relatively small numbers. But π’s decimals come in small slivers, allowing you to manage your calculations in bite size pieces.

So remember – there are 3.14 (and counting) reasons to love pi, and learning to love pi can help turn your test day into a piece of cake.

Are you getting ready to take the SAT, ACT, GMAT or GRE? Check out our website for a variety of helpful test prep resources. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Subject Tests: Which Exams You Should Take and When to Take Them

SATA majority of colleges require or recommend taking at least two SAT Subject Tests, but they do not usually advise applicants as to which tests they should take. Students are then left to decide when to take their Subject Tests and how to interpret varying institution-specific guidelines about which subjects to choose and how scores will be used.

For students who don’t have a firm idea of where they want to apply, the best course of action is to take two Subject Tests that highlight their academic strengths. Most students will choose subjects that have some relation to their intended majors, but as there are so many more majors than there are Subject Tests so these matches do not need to be exact.

For example, an applicant planning on pursuing an environmental science major might like to take Subject Tests in Math II and Biology. Another student applying to the same program might choose instead to take subject tests in Chemistry and American History. Either would be perfectly reasonable choices. If a college has a more specific requirement, it will be clearly stated on their website, but for the majority of students, two tests in areas of strength will make for the best possible application for the widest range of colleges.

That being said, here are some points to consider about particular cases where it could pay to think more carefully about which SAT Subject Tests to choose:

Pay Attention to Specific Program Requirements
Some colleges and programs that take freshman applications will impose their own SAT Subject Test requirements. This practice is most widespread in STEM programs. For example, MIT requires applicants to take one Subject Test in math (Level 1 or Level 2) and one in science (Biology, Chemistry, or Physics). UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences requires test scores from the Math Level 2 exam and one science subject exam.

The engineering programs at Berkeley and San Diego have the same requirement that UCLA does, even though there are no Subject Test requirements at all for students in other majors. With this in mind, if you know you will be applying to a specific school, pay attention to their unique SAT Subject Test requirements (if they have any) and adhere to them.

Consider Foreign Language Proficiency and Placement
The College Board offers SAT Subject Tests in nine different languages. For some languages, you have a choice between a written test and a test with a listening component. Other language tests are only available in one format or the other. Many colleges accept SAT language exams for placement or credit in language courses, but don’t rush out to take one of these tests for that reason alone – especially if you’re not as well prepared as you could be. If you’re concerned about missing out on credit, wait until you make your college decision and then take the exam during the spring of your Senior year (only if you know it will benefit you).

Reasons to Take More Than 2 SAT Subject Tests
One good reason to add a 3rd SAT Subject Test is if you want to take one in a language of which you are a heritage speaker. In that case, you may want to make the Subject Test for that language your third exam. This way, you can show how proficient you are in a second language while still taking two other exams in subjects that you have studied in an academic setting.

Another reason to take an additional Subject Test is to fulfill less common school-specific requirements. For example, Georgetown is one of few schools to still recommend three SAT Subject Tests. At NYU, which has a test-flexibly policy, the admissions office will actually accept three Subject Tests in lieu of the regular SAT. If you plan to apply to schools like Georgetown or NYU, consider taking three SAT Subject Tests before submitting your applications.

Reasons to Skip the SAT Subject Tests
Some colleges have made SAT Subject Tests optional, or have even stopped considering them all together. For instance, At Columbia, subject tests are accepted but not required, and at the University of Chicago, they state,”SAT II’s are truly optional, and not sending us Subject Tests will not hurt your application.” If you are sure that your college application list does not include schools where Subject Tests are required, it’s safe to trust that “optional” really means “optional,” and skip the tests.

When to Take SAT Subject Tests
If you are applying to one or more schools where SAT Subject Tests are strongly recommended or required, the next decision that you must make is when to take them.

Don’t be afraid to take SAT Subject Tests early on in your high school career. If your school offers AP World History in the 10th grade and you know that you’ll be interested in taking the test for that subject, go ahead and start fulfilling your Subject Test requirements early. On the other hand, if you know that your school offers two years of a single subject (for example, 9th grade Chemistry and 11th grade AP Chemistry), wait to take your Subject Test for that subject at the end of the second year.

Since history and science Subject Tests correspond closely with year-long high school courses, it is best to take them immediately after you’ve completed the relevant course. The math and literature exams, however, draw on skills that are developed over a period of years, and so these do not necessarily need to be taken in conjunction with specific classes. If you’re taking literature or math, find a time around your Junior year when your schedule will allow you the time to study and work with practice tests.

Finally, if you’re taking a language exam, it is advisable to wait until the end of Junior year or the beginning of Senior year to take the test. This way, you’ll allow yourself the maximum amount of time to practice the language before the exam.

SAT Subject Tests are necessary for many students, but each individual has a lot of flexibility in deciding which ones to take and when to take them. And if you’re still uncertain about what tests to choose or how to prepare, consider getting in touch with an experienced tutor or admissions consultant here at Veritas Prep.

Do you need help navigating the college application process and determining which tests to take for the schools you are applying to? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique situation! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Anne Mathews is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in Los Angeles. 

The New SAT vs. the ACT: A Simple Test Comparison

Law School Images“Are ‘SAT’ and ‘ACT’ the same thing?” If you’ve been thinking about this question, you’re not alone. Many high school students are curious about the similarities between these two tests and how different they really are.

A quick SAT-to-ACT comparison can help you to decide whether to take the new SAT, the ACT, or both.

Scoring
The scoring scales for the ACT versus new SAT are very different. The highest score you can earn on the ACT is a 36. There are four sections on the ACT, and you receive a raw score for each section, which is changed into a scaled score ranging from one to 36. Your final score is the average of your four scaled scores. On the other hand, the highest score you can achieve on the new SAT is 1600. You receive a subscore for each section of the new SAT, and your final score is the sum of your subscores.

Math Questions
When making an SAT-to-ACT comparison, you’ll find that both tests include questions on advanced math concepts such as geometry and trigonometry as well as algebra. Of course, knowledge of arithmetic is necessary on both tests. One difference between the two Math sections is that you’re given 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the ACT and 80 minutes to complete 58 questions on the new SAT. You’re also allowed to use a calculator throughout the Math section on the ACT, but your calculator use is limited on the new SAT.

Science Questions
One major difference in the new SAT versus ACT test is that there’s no specific Science section on the new SAT. However, some of the skills you use in science class are tested in other sections on the new SAT. For instance, in the Math section you’re often asked to analyze the information given on a chart or graph, and the Reading section contains passages that cover science-related topics. The ACT does have a section of Science questions – earth science, chemistry, and biology are among the sciences found on the ACT. You must answer a total of 40 questions in 35 minutes in the Science section of the ACT.

Reading Questions
When making an SAT-vs.-ACT comparison, you’ll see that the Reading sections on both tests share a lot of similarities. The Reading sections on both exams feature several passages accompanied by questions. The SAT has five passages, while the ACT has four. In addition, the two tests share many of the same question types. For instance, they both have main idea, detail, vocabulary-in-context, and inference questions. In addition to those, the new SAT has data reasoning, technique, and evidence support questions. You’re given 35 minutes to finish 40 questions on the ACT and 65 minutes to finish 52 questions on the new SAT Reading section.

Writing and English Tests
There is a Writing & Language section on the new SAT that requires you to improve on phrases found within the given passages. There may be grammar or punctuation errors in the passage or problems with sentence structure. You’ll read the passage and select the better options for the underlined phrases.

The ACT has an English section with passages that also contain underlined phrases. Your task is to find a better alternative to the phrase or, in some cases, select the “no change” option. Once again, there may be grammar errors or problems with punctuation, sentence structure, or organization. You are given 45 minutes to finish 75 questions in the English section on the ACT and 35 minutes to complete 44 Writing & Language questions on the new SAT.

The Essay
When it comes to the essay on the ACT vs. new SAT, both tests make this section optional. For the new SAT Essay section, you’re required to analyze an argument and offer evidence as to why the author’s argument is valid or invalid. Alternatively, the ACT Essay section presents you with three different perspectives on a particular issue, and your job is to evaluate each of them. On both essays, your score depends on your ability to organize your thoughts, present evidence, and convey your ideas in a clear way.

Are “SAT” and “ACT” the same? In some ways, the answer is “yes,” but in many others, the answer is “no.” Regardless of which test you take, our professional instructors can help you practice for it. Look at our video tutorials and sign up for our in-person or online test prep courses today!

Want to learn more about how the SAT and ACT differ? Attend one of our upcoming free live online SAT vs. ACT workshops to determine which exam is right for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Find the Best Math Tutoring Program for You

student reseachWhen you want to sharpen your math skills, getting a math tutor can set you on the path to achieving that goal. Perhaps you’re encountering some challenges in your AP math course at school and want a tutor to help you address those issues. Or maybe you’re studying for the math section on the SAT or preparing to take the AP math test and could use some extra guidance. Whatever your reasons, hiring a math tutor can make all the difference in your performance.

Take a look at some of the qualities shared by the best math tutoring programs available today and you’ll see why it’s a good idea to work with a tutor yourself:

Experienced Instructors
If you want to improve your skills in math, you have to learn from an instructor with both expertise and experience. Your instructor must be familiar with whatever type of math you are focusing on, and they should also know plenty of strategies that will provide you with ways to overcome the challenges you’re having in math.

For instance, an experienced instructor can look at the way you solve an algebra problem and then give you suggestions on how to make the problem more manageable. You may find that making one small change in the way you solve an algebra problem can have a big effect on your level of accuracy.

The best math tutors use their experience to benefit you. Our instructors have over-the-top qualifications when it comes to helping students. For example, our SAT instructors scored in the 99th percentile on the exam. We only hire tutors who are genuine experts in the subject they are teaching.

Helpful Study Resources
Another quality possessed by effective tutoring programs is a supply of helpful study materials and resources. Your tutor should have teaching aids and practice exercises that contribute to your understanding of a topic or skill. In addition, the study materials should suit your learning style. For instance, if you are a visual learner, then your tutor should include graphics, colorful charts, and diagrams in the session. If you don’t know your learning style, your tutor can help you to determine what it is. Tutors in the best math tutoring programs know how to conduct sessions that make the most efficient use of your time and effort.

A Selection of Tutoring Options
The best tutoring program for you is one that fits neatly into your weekly schedule. At Veritas Prep, we tutor students online and in person. Some students like to sit down face to face in the same room with their tutor, while others prefer to choose their own environment and work with a tutor via the Internet. The choice is up to you. We know that students like you are busy with classes, family activities, clubs, and other obligations. That’s why we make it easy for you to get the help you need in math while maintaining your typical schedule.

Flexible Tutoring Sessions
Undoubtedly, flexibility is one of the main qualities of the best math tutoring programs. You may sit down for one tutoring session with a list of questions about a lecture given by your math teacher at school. Your tutor can clarity some of the terms and concepts outlined by your teacher so you better understand the material. By the time the session is complete, you should have satisfactory answers to all of your questions.

During your next session, you might show your tutor a homework assignment and ask for help on some of the most puzzling problems. Your tutor can partner with you to figure out how to approach each of the problems in an effective way. Flexible tutoring allows you to get the specific assistance you need at the time you need it.

If you want to find the best math tutor, then look no further than Veritas Prep. We have a team of experienced instructors and a proven program that gives you the help you need with any type of mathematics. We invite you to look at our FAQ page to find quick answers regarding our services. You’ll see even more information on how we find and hire the best math tutors in the business! Contact Veritas Prep today and get started with our first-rate math tutoring program.

SAT Tip of the Week: Calculator Use on the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAt Veritas Prep, our instructors are asked a variety of questions about the new SAT. Some students want to know about the difficulty of the test, while others wonder about the types of questions that will be in each section. One of the most common questions we get is, “What calculators are allowed on the SAT?” Students know that they’ll encounter 58 questions on the Math Section of the new SAT and want be prepared for all of them.

Learn the answer to the above question and find out whether students really need to bring a calculator on test day:

Can You Use a Calculator on the SAT?
Yes, students can use one of the acceptable calculators for some SAT math questions. Students must, however, keep in mind that there are portions of the math section where they are allowed to use a calculator as well as portions where they are not allowed to use one. In addition, a student isn’t required to use a calculator on any part of the test – it’s up to the individual as to whether they need a calculator to answer the questions.

What Calculators Are Allowed on the SAT?
There are certain types of calculators allowed on SAT math questions. Students should be familiar with the guidelines for approved calculators if they plan to take one along on test day. Though calculators are allowed on some SAT math questions, they can sometimes be a hindrance when solving certain types of problems. For example, if a student uses a calculator to answer a question for reassurance rather than trusting their knowledge, they may lose valuable test time. Some questions can be answered more quickly without the help of a calculator. Part of the challenge of the math section on the new SAT is deciding whether or not to use a calculator on any given question.

Types of Calculators to Leave at Home
Some students get really excited when they hear that they will be able to use a calculator on some math problems of the new SAT. Unfortunately, in their excitement, they may forget that they can only bring SAT-approved calculators with them. For instance, it’s likely that a student has a basic calculator on their smartphone, but these devices aren’t allowed into the testing room, so students who show up on test day expecting to use the calculator on their smartphone for the exam will be disappointed.

There are also other devices that are not on the list of SAT-acceptable calculators. A student should not bring a calculator that needs to be plugged into a wall socket, a calculator with a paper tape in it, or one that makes noises when its buttons are pushed. All of these would interfere with the concentration of others in the testing room, so they will not be allowed in. In addition, students should never bring a new calculator that they’re unfamiliar with – students should be concentrating on submitting their best performance on the test, not trying to figure out how to perform functions on a new calculator.

Do Students Need a Calculator to Succeed on the SAT?
It’s up to each individual, though it is recommended that students taking the new SAT bring along an appropriate calculator just in case. But for some students – especially students who rarely use a calculator in their math courses, regardless of what type of math they’re working on – a calculator can get in the way of their thinking. If a student feels at ease answering questions without a calculator, then they should go with what is comfortable.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable instructors teach tips and strategies that can guide students to success. We can advise students on when to incorporate a calculator into their work and when to put their calculator aside. Along with expert instruction, our professional instructors provide students with the encouragement and support they need to feel at ease on the Math Section as well as every other section of the new SAT. Contact Veritas Prep and give us the opportunity to study with you for the new SAT!

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!

SAT Tip of the Week: 6 Strategies You Learn in High School That Will Help You Prepare for the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIf you’re anything like me, the SAT might seem irrelevant to your high school classes. I know the College Board says that the SAT tests the same skills you learn in high school, but let’s be real – it never feels that way. High school essays have different questions than SAT essays, high school math questions are much more detailed, and high school science content barely shows up on the SAT.

However, even with these and other differences, you shouldn’t totally divorce high school from the SAT. There is some important overlap between the two, and it’s important to use every resource you can to improve your SAT performance. Here are some solid strategies that will help you best use your time in high school to prepare for the SAT:

1) Build good vocabulary habits. The new SAT has done away with the notoriously obscure vocabulary questions the old SAT was known for, but there are still vocab words in context. When reading challenging texts for English class, be sure to look up words you don’t know and practice using them in appropriate ways to prepare for this type of vocab usage on test day.

2) Learn math content basics. It is true that SAT math does not align perfectly with high school math, but hey, numbers are numbers! Focusing in on high school math, especially on what you learned during your first few years of high school, can be a good way to establish basic comfort with a lot of the skills the SAT will test you on. Even if SAT-specific strategies are the most useful in answering SAT math questions, knowing how to do quick calculations and having a familiarity with important formulas will serve you well on this exam, especially with regards to time.

3) Recognize grammar rules. Many high school English curricula place a strong emphasis on grammar in writing, but lots of students tend to dismiss it as boring. Don’t be one of these students! Having a basic understanding of grammar rules is key to being confident on the SAT Writing and Language section. Even if you don’t remember all the exact rules and exact names of the things you learned in class, by paying attention, you will be more likely to spot mistakes and know how to correct them.

4) Get practice writing essays. The old SAT essay had almost nothing to do with anything you would write for high school, but the new SAT essay (the one that matters now) has some overlap with high-school-style assignments.

The new essay is all about argument analysis – a skill that many Social Studies and English classes in high school try to hone. If you practice these skills in class and work with your teachers to improve your writing ability, you will be more comfortable writing the SAT essay. Merely the act of writing itself tends to improve your overall writing ability, so think of all your high school assignments as making your writing clearer and stronger for the SAT down the road.

5) Develop good test-taking habits. The SAT is a standardized test, unlike many tests you will take in school. However, a test is a test, and there are mental strategies you can develop that will help you no matter what kind of test you’re taking, and a big one is discipline.

Tests are long and can be boring, so the more practice you have taking tests, the more you’ll be able to effectively deal with the feeling of just wanting to give up. Also, you can use the act of taking high school tests to practice things like bubbling in answers, getting better at timing, and knowing how to utilize multiple choice questions to your advantage.

6) Take the pressure off your SAT score. Practically everyone will agree that how you perform in high school is more reflective of your academic merit than how you fare on one exam some Saturday morning. Even so, the SAT is weighted pretty heavily in college admissions, so it’s a good idea to do as well as you can. The better you perform in high school, though, the less pressure you will have to do as well on the SAT.

Without the intense pressure to do incredibly well, many students find that they end up performing better on the SAT, since they are more relaxed and confident when taking the test. Therefore, living up to your potential in high school is a win-win situation: if you do well in high school, you’re likely to do better on the SAT, and even if you don’t do well on the SAT, you’ll have your good grades to fall back on.

The SAT and your high school classes may have more in common than you think. To achieve your best results on the SAT, it’s important that you apply the lessons you learn and the skills you acquire in high school to your preparation for the test.

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!

By Aidan Calvelli.

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: 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.

Why?

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.

Homophones
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.

Addition/Subtraction
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
Vocab-in-context
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: The Most Useful Math Tip You Will Hear This Year

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIn the world of test prep, there are a number of promises made about “one trick” that will bring up your score 800 points with almost no effort!  This is almost always an oversimplification and the tips are either so broad they are  not useful, or much more complicated in practice than in theory.

This tip is not a panacea for all of your testing challenges, but for those who struggle with the math section of the SAT or ACT, this one technique has been extremely helpful for approaching difficult math problems. So what is this incredible technique?

Write down all the given information and plug it into an applicable equation.

This may sound like an obvious technique, but often times even advanced students don’t do this one extremely useful and beneficial step.  Let’s take a look at how this technique works in practice to see just how useful it can be:

Farmer Charmer is building a stable for his prize winning ponies. The length of the stable needs to be twice the width.  In the center of the stable, a circular area must be set apart with a separate fence, the diameter of which is one half the width of the stable.  If the area of the stable is 800 square feet, how much fencing is necessary to build an outer fence and the inner circular fence of the stable? 

This is a classic multistep problem.  The actual computations involved are simple (which is true for all math on the SAT and ACT), but in order to see what computations must take place, the somewhat complex verbiage needs to be re-written in a way that looks more like a traditional math problem.

Write down all the given information…

The problem says that the length of the stable is twice the width.

L = 2W

The problem also says the area of the stable is 800 square feet.  We can rewrite this given using the area formula.

L x W = 800

Finally the problem says the diameter of the circular fence is half the width of the stable.

D = ½W

We are solving for the perimeter of stable plus the circumference of the circle. This should be written out and marked with a star so that we know we are finished when it is solved.

*2L +2W +D(Pi) =

Now that we have all the givens written down, all we have to do is…

Plug it into an applicable equation.

All that is left to do is plug in all the variables into the applicable equations. Let’s start by substituting 2W for L in the area equation, and then plugging the solutions into all other previously written equations:

W x 2W = 800

2W^2 = 800

W^2 = 400

W = 20

L=2W

L = 2(20)

L = 40

D = ½ W

D = ½ (20)

D = 10

*2L + 2W + D(Pi)

2(40) + 2(20) + 10(Pi) = 120 + 10Pi

And voila! We have our solution.  Almost all computational problems on the SAT can be approached by writing the givens and then plugging the variables into the relevant equations.  Remember, this isn’t a cure-all for all of your math challenges, but it is one of the best tools to have in your tool belt.  Happy test taking!

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

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

New SAT Math Section

New SATIn March of 2016, the current SAT will transform into the new SAT. At Veritas Prep, we know that high school students in the class of 2017 are curious about the changes in the new SAT math section. What types of questions will there be? Will the questions still be in multiple-choice form? Take a look at some information that can help students know what to expect when they sit down to take the math section of the new SAT:

What Areas of Math Are Covered on the New SAT?

Questions in the new SAT math section test students on the fundamentals of algebra as well as challenge their skills in problem-solving and data analysis. Students will also encounter questions that involve quadratic, higher-order, and linear equations, as well as several questions that will test their skills in geometry, complex numbers, and trigonometry. The questions on the newest version of the test use real-world scenarios and are similar to the types of questions students will encounter in future college math courses.

Multiple-Choice and Grid-In Questions

The math section on the new SAT includes 45 multiple-choice questions and 13 grid-in questions. Most students are familiar with multiple-choice questions, but they may not be familiar with grid-ins, also known as student-produced-response questions. When completing a grid-in question, a student works out the problem and writes the answer in the appropriate place on the answer sheet. Next, the student blackens the answer bubble below each written number, decimal point, or fraction line, and the answer bubbles are arranged in grids on the answer sheet. These types of questions give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to come up with answers on their own.

Are Students Still Allowed to Use Calculators on the Test?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Students are allowed to use calculators to complete 38 of the questions in the math section. The remaining 20 questions must be completed without a calculator. Of course, students can write on scratch paper or even the test booklet when solving a math problem without a calculator.

Tips to Follow When Studying for the New Math Section

One easy tip to remember when tackling multiple-choice questions in the math section is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. This will make a question look more manageable and prevent a student from wasting time with the wrong answers.

Another tip to help students on the math section is to plug each possible answer option into the equation contained in the question, and to write down and work through the equation on paper. Putting the problem down on paper is easier than trying to mentally juggle the various parts of a complicated equation, and can also help students work through each problem in a fast and efficient way.

Looking for keywords in a math question is another way to narrow down the answer options. Some examples of keywords include “quotient,” “sum,” “difference,” and “product.” When students spot these keywords along with others, they’re better able to understand what a question is asking.

Preparing for the New SAT Math Section

We offer several tutoring options both in person and online to students who want to prep for the math section of the new SAT. Our skillful tutors provide expert instruction based on practical experience. We review the results of practice tests with students to help pinpoint the areas in need of the most improvement, and once those areas are identified, we offer test-taking strategies to students that can boost their performance. In short, students who work with Veritas Prep are getting help from the experts!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!