How the SAT Works: Format Breakdown and Function

SAT Scantron TestIf you’re a junior or senior in high school, you’re probably planning to take the SAT. You know that the SAT is a standardized test taken by students across the country, and you know that college officials look at SAT scores when evaluating student applications. But have you ever taken a really close look at the parts of this well-known exam? Learning what’s on the new SAT and how the SAT works is an important first step in preparing for the test.

What Is the Purpose of the SAT?
The questions on the SAT are meant to reveal what you learned in your high school classes, so you should find that you’re already familiar with the types of material on this exam. In addition, the test is a way to evaluate whether you’ll be successful in your college courses. Of course, a high SAT score isn’t a guarantee of success in college, but the test serves as a way to measure your academic abilities.

The SAT Format
Reading, Writing & Language, and Math are the three tests that make up the SAT. There is also an optional Essay section. You have 65 minutes to complete the Reading section and 35 minutes to complete the Writing & Language section. In addition, you receive 80 minutes to complete the Math questions. As for the essay, you are given 50 minutes to write it.

The Reading and Writing & Language tests are multiple-choice. The Math test has multiple-choice questions as well as grid-in questions. Grid-in questions require you to figure out the answer to a math problem instead of selecting an answer option. The entire SAT takes about three hours and 50 minutes to finish. The total test time varies depending on the amount of breaks you’re given during the exam. You’re able to take the SAT either on paper or digitally.

The Reading Section
Taking a closer look at an SAT breakdown detailing the types of questions in each section can help you perform well on the test. The Reading section includes vocabulary in context, detail, function, inference, analogy, author technique, and main idea questions. After reading each passage, your job is to answer several multiple-choice questions about what you have read. This section has a total of 52 questions.

The Math Section
The SAT format for the Math section starts students off with relatively easy problems and gradually increases in difficulty. Geometry, trigonometry, algebra, and data analysis are all topics covered by questions in the Math section. You can use a calculator on some portions of the Math section but not others. There are 58 questions on the Math test.

The Writing & Language Section
There’s a Writing & Language section on the new SAT, as well. You’ll find several shorter reading passages here that are accompanied by questions. For each question, choose the answer option that corrects a grammar, punctuation, or structure error within the passage. Some questions include a “no change” option, which you should select if there is no error present. There are 44 questions in this section.

The Essay
The SAT essay gauges your ability to analyze the author’s argument, using evidence to support your points. You’re not called upon to agree or disagree with what the author is trying to convey. You have 50 minutes to write the essay. Though this is an optional part of the test, it’s a chance to highlight your ability to write an organized, thoughtful essay. Additionally, many colleges require their applicants to write this essay, so you will want to check with the schools you are interested in applying to.

Preparing for the Test
Now that you know the SAT breakdown and how the SAT works, you must make sure you’re prepared to dive in on test day. The tutoring program at Veritas Prep can provide you with simple strategies that help you navigate all sections of the exam. Each of our instructors has already proven their mastery of the test by earning a score in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so when you work with a Veritas Prep tutor, you’re studying with the best! We’ll have you take a practice SAT and look at your results to see where you can improve.

To make your tutoring sessions as effective as possible, we’ll match you with an instructor who is familiar with your learning style. Our online and in-person courses are designed to give you the resources you need to highlight your skills on the SAT. Call or email Veritas Prep today to learn more!

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!

Is Online English Tutoring Right for You?

writing essayAre you thinking of getting an English tutor? Online tutoring is an option chosen by many students who need a little bit of help in the subject of English. But how do you know if online English tutoring is the right choice for you? One way to get an answer to this question is to look at some of the unique features of online tutoring to determine whether it would enhance your learning experience.

A Nontraditional Learning Environment
When you work with an online English tutor, you can learn lessons in a nontraditional environment. For example, you may decide to reserve a study room at the local library for your online tutoring sessions. Alternatively, you may complete your sessions in a quiet café or in a room at home. If you’re comfortable receiving instruction outside of a traditional classroom, then working with an English tutor online may be the right choice for you.

If you want to practice for the Reading and Writing sections on the SAT, prep for the SAT subject test in Literature, or improve your grades in an AP English class, Veritas Prep has you covered! We can even prepare you for an AP English test. Our highly qualified instructors are experts in the subjects they teach, so we can pair you with an online English tutor who can help you achieve your goals in the subject of English.

One-on-One Instruction
Online English tutors are helpful to students who have trouble absorbing lessons due to the distractions found in a traditional classroom. In today’s high school classrooms, it’s not uncommon to see students checking their email, texting, and otherwise being distracted during a class period. If you’re a student who learns better one-on-one in an environment with few distractions, then you would likely find success studying online with an English tutor.

Choosing Your Own Instruction Schedule
Flexibility is one of the most unique features of online learning. Chances are good that you’re a busy high school student who participates in many clubs and organizations. You also have to dedicate time to completing school projects and homework assignments. Consequently, you may not be able to commit to meeting an English tutor in a particular place at a specific time each week. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to get high-quality English tutoring at a time that’s convenient for you. If you’re a student who loves the idea of having control over your tutoring schedule, online learning may be just what you’re looking for.

Using Technology During Each Session
Of course, if you study online with an English tutor, you’re already making great use of technology. An experienced online tutor uses several technological resources to enhance your English lessons. For instance, if you prepare for the Reading section of the SAT with an instructor at Veritas Prep, you get access to an interactive course syllabus and practice tests. In addition, if you have any questions outside of your tutoring session, you can use email to contact our English tutors. Online accessibility is one of the many things that make Veritas Prep the go-to choice of ambitious students in need of academic assistance. If you learn better with the help of technology, working with an online English instructor may be the most appropriate step for you.

An Additional Source of Support
While an online instructor is providing you with assistance with your English lessons, they are also giving you encouragement and support. This support can be invaluable, especially if you encounter a particularly difficult topic in your English studies. Often, a tutor can supply you with the push you need to persist with your studies until you fully understand a topic or lesson. The tutors at Veritas Prep provide you with strategies that can help you to learn more vocabulary words, easily identify main ideas, spot significant details, and master other skills necessary in the study of English.

If you’re ready to get the boost that comes from working with an experienced online English instructor, we can pair you with the right person at Veritas Prep. Our experienced instructors are capable of guiding you through the toughest English courses at your high school. Contact us to set up your first online tutoring session today!

SAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Let Unfamiliar Content in Reading Passages Scare You

SAT Tip of the Week - FullPassages in the SAT Reading Section encompass a wide array of content areas – there are scientific passages, literary excerpts, parts of famous historical documents, and much more. If you’re like me, you may think that having the opportunity to read all these different pieces is exciting. If you’re not like me (aka, less nerdy), reading these can be boring, or even scary.

The scary part comes when students get nervous about getting a passage on the SAT that’s about something they’re not comfortable with. Some students think that this makes the test harder, and some might even think they have to study up on different subjects to be prepared for this.

Luckily, this is unnecessary. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of content on these reading passages – every question can be answered without any outside content knowledge. All you need to do is use the information presented in the passage to answer the given questions – no special knowledge required.

A passage about gene mutations doesn’t take a degree in biology to ace. A passage from John Milton can be manageable without being the most well-read Junior in the country. Everything that you need to answer the passage-based questions will be directly present in the passages themselves (on the SAT, this is always the case).

In fact, having a lot of outside content knowledge can actually be a detriment to scoring well on that passage. One of the biggest dangers on the SAT Reading Section is using information that’s not in the passage to answer questions. Going beyond the text and making assumptions is a pitfall that many students fall into, especially for students who want to rely on their outside expertise because they think it will make answering passage questions about that topic “easier.”

For example, if I got a passage about Abraham Lincoln (my favorite president), I might get really excited and try to answer the questions using the knowledge I’ve accrued over my lifetime. This would be problematic because I would be tempted to choose the answers that made the most historical sense, or I would get frustrated when the answers weren’t totally historically accurate, rather than focus on the given text. In this case, I would have to be extra careful to justify all my answers solely using evidence from the text – something that is always necessary for these reading passages.

This leads to a sort of irony, that the passages that have content which is unfamiliar to a student might be the passages that are easiest for that student to do well on. Without background knowledge, students are forced to pay careful attention to the details of the text and base their answer choices solely off of that. So, instead of being afraid of complicated-looking passages, see them as the gifts they can really be!

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: Making Waves with Pablo

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

The right word usually isn’t the obvious one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

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

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

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

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.