A few customers have asked me what SAT Subject Tests their children should take, and when. I’ve told them all the same thing – to check with the colleges to which their children are going to apply and see if the SAT Subject Tests are necessary for admissions, used only for placement, or not used at all. Some elite colleges and universities require two or three SAT Subject Tests. If you’re looking for a liberal arts education, I’d recommend the Literature, whatever foreign language with which you are familiar, Math Level 1 or 2, and the science at which you are best.
If you’re looking at majoring in science or engineering, perhaps you should read the following excerpt from the UC Berkeley application Site: http://admissions.berkeley.edu/selectsstudents
“UC Berkeley is among the more selective universities in the country, becoming more competitive each year. Due to student demand, selectivity varies among Colleges, and—in the College of Engineering—among majors; for example, it is more difficult to gain admission to the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences major than to the Mechanical Engineering major.
For applications to the College of Letters and Science and Natural Resources no consideration is given to the indicated major in the review process. However, for the professional colleges of Chemistry, Environmental Design, and Engineering demonstrated interest in the major is also taken into consideration. Furthermore, in the colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, Berkeley faculty in these disciplines have asked that readers place added emphasis on sustained achievement in mathematics and science, and have indicated a preference that these applicants take the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test and a science test (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) that is closely related to the applicant's intended major.”
In the end, you’re best getting in touch with the college of your choice if you want to know what SAT Subject Tests to take, and when. I recall arguing with my well-meaning but misinformed high school guidance counselor, who argued “You take these tests when you are at the PEAK of your knowledge –at the end of your senior year.” I ignored his advice, since it was past the PEAK of the application deadline for the colleges and universities that demanded I provide the scores with my applications at the end of December.
Deadlines and requirements vary from institution to institution, so please get the information directly from where you intend to apply. Think of the last time you took advice from someone who was dead certain he or she knew what he or she was talking about, convinced you to follow his or her advice, and cost you money time, or embarrassment when the advice was completely wrong? For example my friend insisted “They don’t ticket you for parking on the street overnight – that’s only in the winter when they’re plowing snow!” That one cost me fifteen bucks a long time ago, in a suburb far, far away… Did my friend pay my parking ticket? Nooo… Getting parking ticket’s one thing; missing out on admission to your dream college is something completely different – a whole new level of awfulness. Get the information from the college, not guidance counselors, your friends, or me… Hope this helps! J
Last-minute advice :
Treat the Night Before the SAT as an Important “School Night.”
Prepare for the SAT as Though It Were the First Day of School.
Remember back in grade school, when you were all excited the night before the first day of school? You laid out your new “back to school” clothes, made sure you had all your new pens, pencils, papers, folders, binders, etc., put them in your bookbag, and then had them ready when you needed them in the morning. It’s a good idea to do the same thing the night before the SAT.
Make sure you have layers of clothing in case it’s cold or hot in the exam room. Make sure you’ve already packed up your pencils, SAT-approved calculator (check the SAT website for details as to what calculators can and cannot be used), an eraser, a little prepackaged snack (you can eat it during one of the breaks), etc. Don’t bring your cell phone, any sort of tablet, or anything else; the last thing you want is to be disqualified because you brought something in that you weren’t supposed to have
It’s Not Party Time!
The night before the SAT is not a time to “party” or “experiment” with alcohol, drugs, or any other mood-altering compounds. Not only are alcohol and recreational drugs illegal (wow, that’d be awful to get arrested the night before the SAT!), as far as I know, there aren’t any common mood-altering compounds” that leave you in your best test-taking mental state the next morning.
Drugs and alcohol aren’t the only things that can get you in trouble before the SAT. It’s also not the night to eat much more, or a wildly different kind of food, than you normally eat. You don’t want an upset stomach, or other intestinal symptoms, when you’re taking the test. You definitely do not want to have to ask to use the restrooms during a test section. You do get some one-minute and five-minute breaks, but I’d rather not try to race to the toilet and back during a one-minute break, or have to “hold it” while the funky new cuisine I discovered” the night before is suddenly trying to exit in a hurry. Your fellow test-takers will also appreciate not having to hear or smell your intestinal distress during the exam.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
Go to sleep at the same time or slightly earlier than you would the night before an important day at school. Don’t overdo it. There’s no point in going to bed at 8 pm, just to wake up at 4 am so you’re already tired by the time the exam starts.
Look, you’re not going to learn that much the night before the SAT. Take an hour or two to review and work on areas that still trouble you, but you’re not likely to break a lot of new academic ground during that time. If you can master a couple of problem types during that period, you’re doing well. If you just review things you already knew, that’s great, too! (Tip of the hat to Dr. Suess).
Don’t bother to try to study in the morning before the exam, and don’t take your review book to the test site. You won’t learn anything useful in that short a period, and the last thing you want is to be accused of using the review book or other material to cheat, which brings me to my final point.
Don’t Try to Cheat.
It’s wrong and you’ll probably get caught. Good luck getting into any college with THAT on your record.
That’s all for now. Good luck on the SAT!
“Hey, have you seen my modifier? I must have misplaced it.” Nah, that’s not what I mean. The “modifier” I’m writing about is a clause that “modifies” (basically describes, gives us details about, qualifies, whatever you want to say) another word or phrase. The placement of a modifier is very important, not only on the SAT and the ACT, but also in any good piece of writing.
For example, let’s look at the sentence “Because he was drunk in public, the police officer arrested the old wino.” Was the police officer drunk in public, and going around arresting people while intoxicated? I hope not, and that probably wasn’t the writer’s intent. So let’s rewrite it as “The police officer arrested the wino because he was drunk in public.” While that’s still a little ambiguous, since “he” could refer to the police officer or the wino (unless we already know one of them is female), it’s less likely to make the reader think some drunk cop was staggering around harassing homeless alcoholics. Perhaps an even better revision would be “The police officer arrested the old wino, who was drunk in public,” or even “The police officer arrested the wino for public intoxication.”
A very old Groucho Marx joke (not that there are any new ones- Groucho’s been gone a long time) went something like “On safari in Africa, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How it got into my pajamas, I’ll never know!” The reason it’s funny (come on, it’s at least worth a little chuckle) is that our brains automatically correct the misplaced modifier to make the sentence make sense. Groucho lets us know “No, the modifier is in the correct place; the ELEPHANT was in my pajamas!” (Insert rimshot here).
When answering sentence correction problems on the SAT or ACT, remember the modifier should be immediate next to the noun it modifies. The noun should come right after the comma that ends the modifier. Instead of writing “Old and rusty, the storage unit manager had to cut the lock off with bolt cutters,” write “Old and rusty, the lock had to be cut off with bolt cutters by storage unit manager.” While the latter sentence is still poorly written, it might be the best of several horrible choices given on the SAT or ACT, since it’s grammatically correct, even though it’s clunky. A better rewrite of the same sentence would be “The storage unit manager had to cut the old, rusty lock off with bolt cutters.”
So another SAT date is coming on Saturday. My, how the time flies! Here are a few sentence-correction, sentence-completion, and reading tips to use on the SAT. (Also, feel free to read the rest of my blog for other tips you can use to boost your SAT score on SATurday… *ducks thrown objects*).
First, we’ll discuss some usage matters:
Latter and Former
These words can be used to compare only two people, places, or things – no more, and no less. The “latter” is the second of the two nouns; the “former” is the first. So if you run into an ACT or SAT question containing a sentence like “While ice skating, snowboarding, and downhill skiing are all exciting winter sports, I greatly prefer the latter,” you’ll know that the sentence cannot be correct, since the sentence compares more than two things. In this case, we can’t tell if the speaker prefers snowboarding or downhill skiing. The same applies to “the former.” If we substituted that into our sample winter sports sentence, we wouldn’t know if the speaker preferred ice skating or snowboarding.
Who and Whom
“Who” is a subject; “Whom” is an object. In other words, “Who” does something; the thing may be done to a “whom.” Consider these sentences: “The umpire yelled ‘Who threw that bat?’” WHO-ever it was, was the person who threw the bat. “At whom did he throw the bat?” shows that the “whom” is the subject. Also consider the famous Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, which incorporates the quote “… and therefor never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” If you’re not sure whether to use “who” or “whom,” try substituting “him.” If “him” sounds right in the blank, then “whom” is the right word. If “he” would work better; then use “who.”
Not Only…But Also….
If you see answer choices that deal with “not only…but also,” as in “Jeannie is not only an excellent scholar, but also a talented athlete,” choose the one that uses those words in that order – “Not only [what the subject is] but also [something else the subject is].” Don’t fall for “She is not just only…but she is also….” or “Not only is she …. but she is also,” or any other variation.
Trust Your Instincts.
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re a native speaker of American English. If a sentence choice sounds weird or “off” to you, and another one sounds better, pick the one that sounds better. Trust your instincts. If it sounds like something someone whose native language is not English would say or write, it’s probably wrong.
Yes, I know many sentences that comply with the rules of grammar sound weird and wrong to the average person, but those are still in the minority (and you probably know many of the rules that exist, but that most people don’t follow unless they are writing in formal English). If a sentence sounds a little too formal, it may well be correct in “SAT Land,” but it may also be a “smart kid answer,” designed to fool students who don’t know the right answer, but figure a “smart kid” would know why the answer that sounds weird and “stiff”is correct. Don’t fall for it.
If your only reason for picking an answer is “It sounds like something the kid who always gets 100s on his English tests would say,” don’t pick it. Instead, pick the answer choice that expresses the idea of the sentence being corrected WITHOUT changing it, and that does so directly and succinctly (“succinctly” means “without using unnecessary words”).
If a sentence is in the passive voice (e.g., it reads “The ball was thrown by John” instead of “John threw the ball”), is redundant or otherwise uses unnecessary words – e.g., “The ball was red in color.” (Yes, nothing can be red in any other way, so we don’t need to write that) or “Because I went to the store was the reason why I had apples to share at work today.” (You don’t need “was the reason why;” “Because” alone explains the cause quite well.)
Now a little more on sentence structure:
Independent and Dependent Clauses
An independent clause is a clause (group of words) that is a sentence all by itself; thus it is “independent.” Independent clauses are also called “strong clauses.” A dependent clause is a clause that is not a complete sentence.
Basically, you should know that words like “because,” “since,” “although,” or phrases like “despite the fact that” (really just a wordier way of writing “although”) change an independent clause into a dependent clause. “I went to the store this morning” is a complete sentence, so it is an independent clause. “Because I went to the store this morning,” is a dependent clause.
Simply adding “because” makes all the difference. When we read the first sentence, “I went to the store this morning,” we hear a complete thought and perhaps we think “That’s great; you went to the store this morning. How wonderful for you.” However, the second, dependent clause “Because I went to the store this morning,” is not a complete thought. It “leaves us hanging” when we hear it; we’re thinking “Because you went to the store this morning - What HAPPENED? You weren’t hungry because you bought coffee and a doughnut? You got in trouble at work because you were late as a result? TELL ME!” If it’s not a complete thought, it’s not a complete sentence, and unless it’s attached to an independent clause, it’s not the right answer.
Also, you should know that, to combine two independent clauses, you need to use a semicolon ( you know , one of these à ; ), or a conjunction such as “and,” “but,” “then,” etc., or add a “because,” “since,” or other word that turns an independent clause into a dependent clause.
Read the Blurb!
The little italicized blurb before an SAT critical reading passage often tells us important information, even though it’s easy to overlook. For example, it may tell you when the passage was written, the author’s background, the occasion for which the passage was written, all of which may give you a clue to the author’s worldview.
Skim the Passage, Read the Questions, and Re-Read the Passage for Detail.
Some SAT guides encourage you to read the questions FIRST, then mark the line numbers mentioned in “detail” questions (that is, questions like “The meaning of the word ‘chicken’ in line 5 is closest to a. poultry; b. afraid; c. girl; d. flightless bird; e. producer.”), then actually read the passage. Personally, I don’t find that helpful, since I’ll just end up reading the lines around the referenced lines in the detail questions, leading me to the point that I may as well just skim the whole paragraph, and then skim the whole passage.
Others encourage you to read the passage before reading the questions, which is closer to my technique. Your best bet is to read the whole thing quickly (i.e., skim it), get an idea of what the passage is about, then look at the questions, going back to find support for the answers you choose in the actual passage. It makes the “detail” questions easier to answer, since you know the context in which words are used, and the situation about which the author was writing.
Also, skimming and re-reading for detail makes it much more likely that you will answer “support” questions correctly, since you’ll be looking for the actual words in the passage that support or contradict assertions in the questions. One SAT trick is to include answer choices that sound true, and may well BE true, but are NOT stated or strongly implied in the passage. You can be tricked if you actually know something about the subject of the passage, if the answer choice is something you know is true (e.g.., “Advertisements often imply things that aren’t true, even though the statements in the advertisements are themselves true,”) but is NOT stated in the passage (perhaps the passage is about other troublesome aspects of advertising, but not the misleading nature of many ads).
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.