How to Spend Your Summer Months in High School

Study on the BeachIt may not seem like it now, especially if you’re looking outside at a pile of snow… but summer is right around the corner! Year after year, there is an increased focus from admissions committees at top schools on how students spend their summer months. While it is called summer “break,” we know that you need to spend your “break” being productive, too! We’ve compiled our list of the best ways to spend your summer months to maximize both preparedness and relaxation!

1) Strengthen your Candidacy

This one is general, but probably the most important. Summer months are your break from school, so you have opportunities to strengthen parts of your candidacy outside of your classroom performance. Here are some ideas for how to spend that valuable time:

Participate in a competitive academic program

Now is the time to apply to competitive academic summer programs. Admissions committees will evaluate how you have explored academic interests outside of your high school curriculum, and participating in an academic summer program is an excellent way to demonstrate your pursuit of academic interests outside of school. Any program that allows you to take additional coursework, study on a college campus or participate in research with a working professional is a great choice!

Participate in a meaningful volunteer opportunity

Admissions committees also care deeply about how you have supported your community and developed an interest in community involvement. If you reflect on your extracurricular activities and find that you have not been too involved in bettering your community, summer months are a great time to find a worthy organization and get your hands dirty!

Focus on test prep

If you’ve already taken the ACT or SAT and don’t have your desired score, you should spend summer months preparing to take the exam again. It’s easier to focus on test prep when you’re not knee deep in your AP Physics and Honors Literature class, so utilize the summer months to focus on test prep and increase your score before you begin the college applications!

2) Explore colleges – virtually or in person

Use your summer months to explore colleges in-person or virtually. While it’s not an ideal time to visit college campuses because the student population is much smaller than during the school year, it’s typically the best time for families to travel together. Make the most of your visits by meeting with an admissions representative personally, talking with current students and professors. If physically visiting campuses is not possible, take advantage of the World Wide Web and the fabulous resources available at your fingertips! Most colleges will offer virtual tours on their website and admissions representatives make themselves available for calls from prospective students!

3) Finalize your school list

One of the biggest mistakes we see students make is beginning their senior year without a finalized school list. By the time you step foot at your school as a mighty and all-knowing senior, you should have your school list finalized – a balance between reach, match and safety schools.

4) Enjoy yourself

Finally, it’s your break. Take a breather and enjoy yourself. Spend time with your friends and family, sleep in and soak up the sun. While it’s important to focus on college readiness, we also know that balance is key. Enjoy!


Do you need help with your college applications? 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 FacebookYouTube, 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!

Protect Your Investment – The Cost of the SAT Exam

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMost students who plan to take the SAT have a lot of questions about the test itself, as well as issues related to signing up for the test. One common question is: How much is it to take the SAT? The SAT does have a registration fee, so it’s natural that students will want to put forth their best efforts on the test. After all, they are investing both their money and time in the SAT. They want to earn scores that will get them into the college they want to attend.

Apart from concerns about what might be on the test, however, the one question that is likely to be on the mind of someone about to take it is: How much is it to take the new SAT? We have the answer, as well some ideas about what students can do to protect their investment in the SAT:

The New SAT Test Price
The new SAT test price is $45.00 without the optional essay and $57.00 with the optional essay. Paying this registration fee enables students to take the test and receive their scores. A scoring report displays a student’s test scores as well as how those scores compare to the scores of other students who took the test. This information plays an important role in the college admissions process. Not surprisingly, a student who pays the registration fee to take the SAT wants to perform well on the test in order to avoid paying again to retake the test.

Make Studying for the SAT a Priority
Fortunately, there are several things that students can do to perform well on the SAT the first time they take it. For one, students can think of their SAT prep as an extension of their schoolwork. This means a student must devote a certain amount of time each day to studying for the Critical Reading, Writing and Mathematics sections on the test. As a result, preparing for the SAT becomes a priority and part of a student’s daily routine. This approach allows a student to thoroughly absorb the material in a gradual way.

Practice with the Experts
At Veritas Prep, our talented instructors have first-hand experience with the SAT. In fact, the test scores of our instructors place them in the top 1% of all SAT test takers! In short, students who sign up for our SAT courses are protecting their investment by preparing with individuals who are experts on the test.

Students take practice tests to find out which skills they need to improve. They study for the test with first-rate resources such as our Veritas Prep SAT workbook and Vocabulary Builder. Our online and in-person instructors convey practical strategies to students to help them simplify their approach to any question on the test. With Veritas Prep, students are able to prepare for the SAT in a way that allows them to feel more confident as test day draws near.

Preparing and Planning for Test Day
Students who study for the SAT in a gradual way are setting themselves up for success on the test. As test day approaches, there are other things that students can do to further protect their investment in the SAT. One thing a student can do is to participate in regular physical exercise and get at least eight hours of sleep per night. These practices contribute to a student’s overall health and can help him or her to feel great on test day.

The night before the test, a student should plan to eat a healthful meal and go to sleep early. This can help a student to feel rested and ready to work. Instead of eating a high-sugar breakfast on test day, students may want to consider eating a protein bar or another protein-rich food that will supply them with lasting energy.

In addition, a student may want to set out the items that he or she needs to take to the test. These items include two pencils with an eraser, a photo ID, the test admission ticket, an approved calculator, a wristwatch and a snack. Setting out all of these items helps a student to avoid the stress of rushing around to find things on the morning of the test.

Our professional instructors at Veritas Prep assist students in protecting their investment of time and money in the SAT. Our SAT courses are ideal for students who want to learn effective tips and test-taking techniques that can boost their scores on the 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: Remember That the Test is Standardized

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT, as all of you know, is a whole different animal compared to most tests you take. In terms of time, content, and structure, it’s definitely not your average high school exam. While this difference can serve to make the SAT seem particularly difficult, it can actually be a boon to test takers.

Whereas high school tests operate by their own rules and procedures that vary class-by-class and school-by-school, the SAT is by definition a standardized test. And although standardized tests are usually thought of as a drag, in this case standardization makes taking the SAT a lot easier.

Since the SAT is standardized, it has to operate the same way every time – it always plays by the same rules, always has similar types of questions, always has the same instructions, and so on. How is this information helpful to a test taker? Here are three ways to use this knowledge to your advantage:

1) There are no surprises.
Since the SAT has to operate by the same rules on each of its versions, you know what you’re going to get on each exam. There are limited and delineated areas of content, so there’s no chance a question on advanced calculus will show up on your test. Keeping this consistency in mind can help alleviate some stress about the SAT, since you know that if you’ve studied hard, you’ll be prepared for anything the College Board throws at you.

2) Answer choices have to be totally and completely defensible.
Since the test is strictly standardized, there can only be one right answer on each question. Let me say that again: there can only be one right answer per question! No other answer choice besides the right one can be at all correct. If there were answers that were debatable or questionable, then the standardization mechanism of the test would fall apart – there would be no way for the College Board to definitively say who scored better or worse if some questions had two answer possibilities.

So, when taking the test, know that if you find yourself stuck between two answer choices, then you’re thinking about the question wrong in some way. While it can be hard on the ego to admit this, it will help you re-frame these difficult questions in your head and be more confident in your ultimate answers. 

3) Practice really can make perfect (or at least better).  
Going along with the first point, since you know what general questions are going to be on the test, you can know that you are practicing the right things. Unlike some high school tests where you spend days studying only to realize the test isn’t what you thought it was going to be, on the SAT, the real tests will look exactly like the practice tests. So, the more you practice, the more you’ll be prepared for the real thing – it’s as simple as that!

Instead of thinking of the standardization and repetitiveness of the SAT as annoying, now you can know that it is this exact standardization that makes it easier to succeed on this challenging exam.

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: 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: Why One-on-One SAT Tutoring is So Important

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHigh school students go about preparing for the SAT in a number of different ways – some students form study groups with friends to review vocabulary words and work on math problems, while others prefer to create a study schedule and practice for the SAT on their own. One of the most effective ways to prep for this test is to participate in one-on-one SAT tutoring. Discover several reasons why many students choose to work with a professional tutor as they prepare to tackle the SAT:

Tutoring Tailored to a Student’s Learning Style
When a student works one-on-one with a tutor, the instructor is able to tailor the lessons to the person’s learning style. For example, a tutor who is working with a student who’s a visual learner will likely use lots of graphs, charts, and written exercises during each session. Alternatively, a tutor working with an auditory learner may ask the student to read passages aloud and verbalize the steps of algebra or geometry problems.

Our tutors at Veritas Prep take the time to recognize a student’s learning style before the tutoring sessions even begin. Our experienced tutors know that incorporating a student’s learning style into each lesson goes a long way to helping them absorb the material – we’ve found that determining a student’s learning style beforehand boosts the overall quality of instruction.

A Supply of Useful Strategies
Some students think that taking a practice test, studying vocabulary words, and completing math problems are all they need to do to prepare them for the SAT, but there is another significant step to this process. In order to be fully prepared for the SAT, a student must learn test-taking strategies – these strategies help students simplify complicated questions and allow them to finish each section of the test before time is called. Students who sign up for one-on-one SAT tutoring at Veritas Prep can learn test-taking strategies from the best! We give students a range of strategies that can be applied with success on any section of the exam.

Getting an Answer to Every Question
Students who work one-on-one with an SAT tutor can get answers to all of their questions about this exam. Not surprisingly, students who get their questions addressed right away are able to thoroughly absorb the information and move on to the next topic. Plus, a student’s questions can help a tutor gauge whether the individual is truly grasping a concept. If there’s a topic that needs further review, a tutor and student can take the time to go back over the material. We want our students to sit down on test day with a feeling of confidence!

Personalized Tips Lead to Effective Study
Many students opt for one-on-one SAT tutoring because they know the benefits of personalized study tips. An example of a general study tip for students would be to memorize ten math definitions per week, however, an instructor working one-on-one with a student can personalize that tip by advising the individual to create a mnemonic for each word that relates to the student’s own life to make the strategy all the more effective.

Invaluable Encouragement
Studying for the SAT can be stressful for a high school student. Some students may encounter a section of the practice test that challenges them more than all of the others. This is where an encouraging voice can really help.

Our SAT instructors have been through the study process and have taken the exam, so they can easily empathize with their students. Most importantly, they’ve gone through the experience and achieved tremendous success on the SAT! Our tutors are also experts at providing advice to students who deal with test anxiety. We give students the academic preparation as well as the support they need to do their absolute best on the SAT.

At Veritas Prep, we give students the resources and encouragement they need to master the SAT. When it comes to the SAT, our students have the tools they need to enjoy an advantage over their peers. Check out our tutoring options and courses to find out which one is the best fit for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Understanding and Utilizing Testing Accommodations on the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHigh school students want to be as prepared as possible when it’s time to sit down and take the SAT exam. Some students, however, may find themselves less prepared than others – especially if they have a physical disability, medical condition, or learning disability might wonder about the actual process of taking the test. Will they be able to get the assistance they need to do their best on the SAT? The answer is yes.

When it comes to the SAT, testing accommodations are available for students who truly need them. It’s a good idea for students in need of testing accommodations to make their requests as soon as possible so that the College Board has ample time to evaluate the details each request. Let’s examine the process of getting SAT testing accommodations as well as some of the resources available to high school students in need of them:

Who Is Eligible for SAT Accommodations?
In order to be eligible for SAT testing accommodations, a student must have a documented disability. Some examples of medical conditions and disabilities that may qualify a student for testing accommodations are diabetes, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, blindness, deafness, and some learning disabilities.

When the College Board considers a student’s request for testing accommodations, the members look at whether the student uses accommodations in classes at school. The basic question to consider is, “Does the student’s condition impact their ability to take the SAT?” If so, the request for testing accommodations is likely to be approved. For example, if a person has a disability that doesn’t allow them to sit for long periods of time, an accommodation may be made for that student to take a break during the exam. Or a student who is blind can request a Braille test book or even an audio version of the SAT.

Examples of Testing Accommodations for the SAT
The type of testing accommodations a student receives depends on their disability or condition. The Braille test booklet and audio test mentioned above are two examples of SAT testing accommodations. A student who is partially blind may request a magnifying machine or even a test book featuring large print. Alternatively, a student with a documented learning disability may receive an extended amount of time to complete the SAT, while a student with diabetes may be able to pause during the test to take a blood sugar reading or eat something to correct a fluctuation in blood sugar levels without being penalized for stopping the timer on the test. The accommodations given fit the individual situations of each student with a disability or medical condition.

How to Arrange for SAT Accommodations
Getting a testing accommodation for the SAT requires a student to submit a request in writing – they can do this with the help of their guidance counselor at school by submitting the request online. This request must include documentation from the student’s doctor as well as an explanation from the student as to how their disability or condition affects the test-taking process.

How Long Does it Take to Be Approved for SAT Accommodations?
It takes approximately seven weeks for the College Board to review all of a student’s documentation, so if you are a student who requires an SAT accommodation, it would be best to send all of your information in as early as possible. If there is a document missing or the board has a question for you regarding your situation, it’s likely to take longer to approve the request. Students interested in getting accommodations for the SAT should also be sure to note the deadlines for making a request and to submit their information for these requests well in advance.

At Veritas Prep, we provide valuable SAT preparation courses to students who want to submit their best work on this important exam. Each of our professional tutors scored in the top one percent of all students taking the exam, so the strategies and test-taking tips given to Veritas Prep students are coming directly from the experts! Call our offices at Veritas Prep today and learn how our convenient tutoring options can help you do your best on the test.

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!

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.

SAT Tip of the Week: 3 Huge Benefits to Studying in Short Chunks

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany students wait until the last minute to study for tests or do major projects. Before I get too far in, let me just say that for a long time I was one of those students (and sadly, sometimes I still am). Putting things off is easy to rationalize – after all, if you get the work done eventually, it doesn’t matter when you do it, right? Wrong! Waiting until the last minute is a bad habit and extreme procrastination almost invariably brings down the quality of whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

On the SAT, putting off studying until a week or two before the test is an all-too-common phenomenon. I know a lot of students who wouldn’t even think about the test until it was already almost upon them. Fun fact: many of those students didn’t do nearly as well as they wanted to.

It’s no secret that in order to do your best on the SAT, you have to put in the time. The test isn’t really about knowledge, but rather, is about being familiar with the questions and knowing how the test operates. With these two topics, cramming is of very little help. You can’t cram familiarity and understanding – you have to be disciplined over an extended and consistent period of time.

My recommendation for how to best manage your time studying for the SAT is to spend the two months leading up to your exam date studying in small, manageable chunks. Spending 30-40 minutes per day, three-four times per week, is a lot more helpful than spending 4 hours on one day the week before the official exam. It’s pretty easy to find 30 minutes of free time in a day; it’s a lot harder to find 4 hours.

This 30-minute chunk method is how I studied, and it had a lot of benefits for me. Here are 3 biggest ones:

  1. I felt like I really understood the test. Instead of seeing the SAT as an unpredictable monster, I came to be really familiar with how it worked. Spending a little time with the test on a consistent basis made me more comfortable with the structure and the patterns of the questions, so I knew what to expect on test day.
  2. I didn’t feel rushed to learn everything I needed to. Since I started months before my test, I knew that when I found a weak spot, I would have time to fix it. This gave me the confidence to be honest about my shortcomings. I could devote a week to the Writing Section if I found that I was bad at comma usage and still not feel like I was rushed to teach myself geometry. The feeling of having plenty of time made my stress surrounding the test significantly decrease.
  3. I found it much easier to focus for a half hour than it was to focus for 4 hours. I don’t know about you, but my attention span really isn’t that long. The best way for me to maximize my study time was to use short intervals of serious focus. Doing full practice tests is important, but if that’s your entire study strategy, you’re likely to get bored and burnt out pretty quickly.

I urge you to resist putting off studying for the SAT – if you start studying early and keep yourself on a regular, manageable study plan, your anxiety about the test will fall while your SAT score will jump.

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 Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Improve Your SAT Score the Second Time

SAT Tip of the Week - FullEvery year, high school seniors sit down in testing centers across the country to take the SAT. They know that college admissions officials will consider their SAT score along with their letters of recommendation, transcripts, and essays, so a good performance on this test is critical.

Some students aren’t satisfied with the score they receive the first time they take the SAT, so they make the decision to retake the test. Naturally, these students want to know how to improve their SAT scores so they can perform well on the test the second time around. Let’s take a look at some simple tips that can lead to SAT score improvement:

Examine the Results of Your First SAT
Students who take the SAT receive a score report that includes a lot more than their final scores – the report offers a detailed breakdown of the student’s performance on the exam. These results can be tremendously helpful to a student who wants to pinpoint their weakest areas on the SAT. For instance, looking at your detailed score report, you may notice that you answered a large percentage of algebra questions incorrectly, but performed well on questions that involved data analysis. With this information, you can avoid spending too much time reviewing your strong skills and focus instead on sharpening your weaker skills.

Focused Study
A student who knows where they went wrong on the first test has the tools for improving his or her SAT scores the second time around. After analyzing your first SAT results, it’s time to create study aids that can strengthen your skills that need attention.

For example, you might learn that you need to expand your knowledge of concepts that will be tested in the new SAT Math section, so it’s a good idea to find a list of concepts commonly tested on the SAT and creates mnemonics for each of them. These mnemonics all might relate to your family or favorite hobbies so they are easy to practice and remember, and can help you improve your score on this section as a result. Finding study tactics such as this and utilizing them to focus on your areas of weakness will be key to improving your SAT score.

Evaluate Other Aspects of Performance on the First Test
In some cases, there are other factors that influence a student’s performance on the SAT. It’s worthwhile to think back to the day of the test to examine what these other factors might be. Perhaps you weren’t feeling well on test day. A student who has a terrible cold or cough is not likely to do their best on the exam. Or maybe you didn’t slept well the night before, which could have caused you to be tired and unfocused during the exam. By analyzing what went “wrong” on test day, you can work to avoid these problems the second time around.

Also, some students experience test anxiety: they arrive to the test well-prepared, but feel very anxious in an actual test-taking situation. As a result, they aren’t able to focus on the material. If this sounds like you, fortunately, there are ways to deal with test anxiety that can improve SAT scores. Students who are feeling good and have a sense of confidence are able to showcase their skills on the SAT and truly improve their scores.

Prep with the Experts
When it comes to the SAT, improvement is achievable with the right kind of instruction. At Veritas Prep, students have the opportunity to choose from a variety of SAT tutoring options so they can have their questions answered and issues addressed, and are able to retake the test with confidence.

Whether you’re taking the test for the first time or looking to improve your current SAT score, we are proud to assist you in any way we can. Contact our staff at Veritas Prep today and get started on the journey toward your best score on the SAT!

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!

SAT Tip of the Week: The Importance of “Stepping Back”

SAT Tip of the Week - FullWhen you’re taking the SAT, it’s easy to get lost in the moment concentrating on the test. You’re so focused on doing well, answering all the questions, double checking your work, and staying within the time limits that it’s easy to neglect thinking about the ways to actually be successful on the test.

One way I’ve found to make sure I don’t get distracted from my purpose is to consciously take a second to pause and remind myself that I know how this standardized test works. The SAT is standardized, which means it always operates in the same way; I “step back” to use that knowledge to my advantage.

Not really sure what I’m saying? Let me explain. So right now, as I’m writing this article, I am fully aware that there is always only one right answer on each SAT question. I’m aware that the answers to reading passages always have direct evidence from the text. I’m aware that all SAT math questions can be solved using uncomplicated math. But when I actually take a test, sometimes the pressure gets to me and I forget these vital tips. I’ll agonize over two different answers I think might be right, or I’ll find myself using calculus to try to solve a problem. When you’re desperate for points, things like this can happen.

To solve this problem, I need to consciously extricate myself from the pressures of the test and take a deep breath, remembering that the SAT has to follow certain rules every time. This is what I mean by “stepping back.” Once you “step back,” you’ll likely see a flaw in your thinking that was causing you to mess up on the problem in the first place. Maybe you’ll notice an assumption you were making about the passage, and now that you’re clearheaded and can remember that assumptions should not be made on the SAT, you’ll see that only one of the answers is justifiable in the passage.

It might seem scary to do this process, since taking a pause mid-test could cost you precious time. In reality, that is far from the truth – stepping back only takes a few seconds and will allow you to clear your mind, thereby eliminating time wasted agonizing over tough problems.

The SAT is not a test that you will do well on if you aren’t aware of what kind of test it is. The SAT is a standardized test that has to operate by certain rules and principles – it’s easy to forget this when your whole mind seems focused on how to fix a comma splice. Taking a moment to remember what you have to do is a valuable exercise that will help maintain a useful perspective on the test day.

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 Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: Earn Scholarships for Good SAT Scores

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMost high school seniors recognize the importance of doing their best on the SAT because they know that good SAT scores can help them get into the college of their choice. But what they may not know is that many colleges actually offer scholarships for SAT scores that are above average.

Students who achieve high SAT scores can qualify for a number of different scholarships that can help them pay for tuition, basic college supplies, and more while they are working towards their degrees. This makes it all the more critical for students to showcase their skills on this exam. Consider some facts about the SAT and how you can earn scholarships as a result of your hard work on this challenging test:

A Closer Look at SAT Scores for Scholarships
There are many colleges that offer scholarships for students who excel on the SAT, however, the specific requirements of these scholarships differ from school to school. For instance, one college may have a scholarship that’s open to students who score between 1330 and 1600 on the SAT, while another college may have a scholarship that requires students to have a minimum score of 1440 on the SAT. In many cases, both a student’s SAT scores and GPA are taken into account in examining their scholarship applications, as schools want as much information as possible about the academic work of a student before awarding them a coveted scholarship.

In addition to varying in value, these scholarships can also differ in the number of semesters they cover. In applying for these scholarships, you will want to check with the schools themselves to ensure you know exactly what terms their scholarships have before actually submitting your applications for them.

Why Do Colleges Offer Scholarships Based on SAT Scores?
Not surprisingly, colleges want to accept students who are going to succeed in their intellectual endeavors and add value to their programs, and typically, students who earn high SAT scores are likely to excel in their future college courses.

But an impressive SAT score is just one indication that a student is going to flourish at a particular school. Other indications of a promising student include a high GPA, dedication to extracurricular activities, and even volunteer work, which is why scholarship requirements will vary so much from school to school and include some of these other factors. All colleges want to accept students who will be excellent representatives of their school, and offering scholarships is one way to do that.

How to Find Colleges That Offer Scholarships for High SAT Scores
One way you can locate scholarships awarded for high SAT scores is to just do a basic online search – it should be relatively easy for you to find information about any scholarship on the web. If you have an interest in attending a particular college, it may be wise to also search the school’s official website for details of the scholarships it awards for high SAT scores. Talking to your high school counselor is another way to learn about college scholarships related to performance on the SAT, as your counselor should have access to many helpful resources you can utilize in your search.

How to Earn a High Score on the SAT
The first step toward winning this type of scholarship is to earn a high score on the SAT! Scholarships have deadlines just as college applications do, so it’s a good idea to research the cutoff dates for the scholarships that interest you. Scholarships are well within the reach of well-prepared students who approach the SAT with confidence, so taking a practice test will be a good place to start to build this confidence and help you determine what subjects to focus on in preparing for this test. Through this proper preparation and research, you’ll be well on your way to earning your own SAT scholarship.

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!

SAT Tip of the Week: The SAT Does NOT Define You!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT is a major source of worry for a lot of students, and this worry can affect their scores in a negative way. When even thinking about the test fills a student with anxiety and dread, he will be unconfident and unable to achieve his potential.

In order to overcome that worry, we first need to understand where it comes from. Students tend to make the SAT a bigger deal than it is – they think it is the measure of how smart they are, they think it will completely determine where they go to college, and on the extreme end, they make it out to be the biggest moment of their lives, acting as if doing poorly on the SAT will ruin their futures forever.

To these students, or any students who worry about the SAT, here’s what I say: the SAT does not define you. It doesn’t tell you how smart you are. It is not the only thing (not even close) that matters for getting into college. It certainly doesn’t tell you whether you’re a good person, or even a good student. All the SAT does is tell you how good you are at playing the game of the SAT.

Of course the SAT is an important test – if it wasn’t, nobody would take it and this whole blog wouldn’t exist. But even though the SAT is important in itself, it’s even more important to put the test in perspective. Does the SAT help you get into the colleges you want to go to? Yes, so you should definitely try to do your best. The SAT can be one aspect of a well-rounded college application that will help you reach your higher education goals. Is taking the SAT the biggest moment of your life? Does your score dictate your future happiness and tell you what job you will have in 10 years? No, no, and no! The SAT is a college admissions test – it’s crucial to stop pretending that it’s more than that.

Here’s the advice that I give my SAT classes when I’m teaching: treat the SAT like anything else you want to do well on. Study hard and try to do the best you can, but always keep the bigger picture in mind. I like to think of the SAT as a win-neutral test – if you do well, great! Your application will look that much better. If you don’t do so well, that’s also fine. You can always try again, and there will still be plenty of great colleges that want you to be a member of their communities. When you’re getting stressed out about the SAT, take a deep breath, step back, and remind yourself that you’ll still be you, no matter how many points you get on the test.

The best part about having a healthy perspective on the SAT is that it can even help you score higher. The more you understand just how the SAT matters and what it shows about you, the more relaxed and level-headed you’ll be. With those qualities, your score can do nothing but improve.

When you finally realize what role the SAT should really play in your life and start to see that you have all the tools necessary to crush it, you’ll be well on your way to a good attitude and a good score.

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 Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: 5 Things You Need to Do the Week Before the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullImagine it’s Saturday, the weekend before your official SAT test date. You’ve studied hard, learned the material, and maybe even taken one of our super helpful SAT courses. The question is, What more do you need to do to get ready? How should you spend your last week before the SAT?

First order of business: take a deep breath. Your brain is probably screaming at you that you’re underprepared. Maybe you’ve had nightmares about sleeping through your alarm. Don’t listen to these thoughts – you’ll be okay! Let’s take a look at 5 thoughts you should be having the week before the SAT:

1) Take a Practice Test
Now it’s time to get down to one last bit of hard work. If you haven’t taken a full-length, timed SAT practice test recently, doing one the Saturday before your test is a good idea. I sat down and took a full practice test the week before my real test and got my best score yet. With all the practice I’d been doing and great new score in front of my eyes, I was filled with confidence and energy going into the real test the following week. Think of it like a practice run – treat your practice like it’s the real thing, so that when you do get to the real test, it won’t seem so alien.

2) RELAX
The next thing you should do is important: RELAX. Take another deep breath. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done. Don’t fret over memorizing small details and remembering the names of all the SAT strategies you’ve learned – your goal for this week should be to get your mind in a good, comfortable spot. The worst thing to do is to try to cram a ton of studying in at the last minute. That leads to stress, and stress hurts scores. So, I’ll say it again: try to relax.

3) Become Familiar with the Test Structure
It’s also important to be familiar with the structure of the test before test day. Be sure to review the instructions for the sections as well as how to fill out the Scantron before showing up to the test. You want your focus test day to be spent entirely on the actual test questions; knowing the rules before going in will allow you to have laser-like focus on the test. The instructions, the timing of the sections, and the Scantron always are the same. Familiarize yourself with them once and you’ll be okay; the SAT never throws curveballs.

4) Treat Your Body Well
An oft-overlooked part of preparation is treating your body well. Be extra conscious about eating well and getting a good night’s sleep during the week before your test (not just the night before). You’ve put in all the hard mental work of learning the strategies, so you don’t want to waste that by treating your body poorly.

5) Study LIGHTLY
If you really do feel worry-free, it can be a good thing to look over a few SAT concepts. You definitely don’t want to stress yourself out by doing too much work, but light practice sessions have benefits. Looking over previous questions you’ve struggled with or maybe even doing one section each night can be low-stress ways to keep the SAT in your brain.

The big thing to remember is that you’ve put in the work over a long period of time. You’re ready. The week leading up to your test date should be one of excitement, not anxiety. Just remember, as my favorite economics teacher always said, “The truth is in you; just let it out!”

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 Aidan Calvelli.

The New SAT: Scoring

SAT Scantron TestThe new SAT is due to arrive in March of 2016. Along with changes in content, there is also a new SAT scoring system. It’s important for students to understand the new SAT scores before diving into the latest version of the test. Take a look at the specifics regarding the scoring system for the new SAT and discover some tips that can help students earn a high score on the test:

A Look at the New SAT Scoring System

On the new SAT, the highest total score a student can earn is 1600. Students receive a separate score for the optional essay. The new SAT consists of two main sections: One section tests a student’s skills in reading and writing, while the other section tests a student’s math skills. Scores for each of the two sections are then added together to get the person’s total score on the test.

The New SAT Score Range for Each Section

Students can score between 200 and 800 on the reading and writing section of the SAT. The scoring range is the same for the math section. A student who scores an 800 on the reading and writing section as well as on the math portion of the test would achieve a perfect 1600 on the SAT.

Examining a Student’s Performance on the SAT

The new SAT scores allow both students and colleges to get a more in-depth look at an individual’s performance on the test. For instance, an SAT score report now features cross-test scores given to students for specific skills. including analysis in science, history, and social studies. The cross-test score scale ranges from 10 to 40.

There are also seven subscores that assess a student’s performance in specific areas. For instance, a student receives a subscore that reflects how well they recognized words in context, while another subscore reveals how well a student did with questions related to problem-solving and data analysis. These seven subscores paint a more detailed picture of a student’s abilities in several areas.

Scoring the Essay on the New SAT

The highest possible score for the SAT essay is eight points. There are two test graders who evaluate each student’s essay, and each of these graders gives an essay a score of one to four points. The essay graders are looking here at a student’s ability to comprehend the whole passage in addition to the student’s ability to analyze the evidence in the passage and write an organized, concise essay. These two scores are added together to equal the total score for the essay – if both scorers give an essay four points, then the student has earned a perfect score on the essay.

Advantages of the New SAT Scoring Scale

The system of scoring on the new SAT doesn’t penalize students for guessing, so students have the opportunity to benefit even if they aren’t certain about an answer. Another advantage of the scoring system on the new SAT is that students can now determine where they can improve their performance by looking at the details on the redesigned score report.

Converting SAT Scores

High school students who’ve taken the current version of the SAT may wonder if they now have to take the new version. The answer is no. For a few years, most colleges will accept scores from the current SAT as well as the version coming out in the spring of 2016. Students who took the current version of the SAT can also perform a new SAT score conversion with the help of a conversion chart.

Tips for Achieving an Impressive Score on the SAT

Taking practice tests is an excellent way to prep for the new SAT. The results of a practice test allow students to see what they need to work on as test day approaches.

At Veritas Prep, we have several tutoring options designed to fit the needs of individual students. Our professional tutors teach students simple strategies that can help them to navigate even the toughest question on the new SAT. Students who sign up with Veritas Prep work with instructors who scored in the top one percent of individuals who’ve taken the SAT. In short, Veritas Prep is the place for students who want to study with the best! Check out our selection of helpful prep courses at Veritas Prep today!

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!