Go to the URL below for all the information you need regarding ACT dates and registration deadlines. Do it as early as you can – you don’t want to be left out of the test center of your choice!
You might wonder why, besides the fact that I make money from it, I am writing about test prep at the beginning of summer. That’s a great question. The reason is simple – you need to start practicing really early if you want to get a top score. Math problem “tricks” are easier to learn a little at a time, and it’s
But perhaps the most important thing to practice over the summer is the verbal (you know, reading and writing, grammar, essay – I don’t mean it’s “Verbal” in that it’s administered orally) portion of the SAT or ACT. It is much easier to write a 25 or 30-minute essay if you’ve practiced multiple times, as I had to for English class in 10th and 11th grade. Even writing blog entries can help, especially if you organize them well. You really can’t learn very many new vocabulary words the night, or even the week, before the test. Memory doesn’t work that way, and my experience with verbal memory is that I remember words better as part of a story, joke, etc. In other words, learning new words in context makes a lot more sense than learning them as part of a huge word list in, say, the Barron’s SAT book, or reading a dictionary.
Don’t get me wrong- you really should use the Barron’s SAT book, and it’s word lists and flash cards because it does place them in sentences, but the words mean more to you if you learned them as part of something in your life. If you look up unfamiliar words when you are reading, you may be surprised as to their many meanings, the shades of meaning you didn’t know existed, and thus, learn something that will help you on the SAT or ACT. The SAT people, in particular, LOVE to test the use of secondary, less-common meanings of common words to see if you know that meaning of the word.
You can even look up naughty words and find out they’re not necessarily as naughty as you thought. For example, try looking up “pervert” and “ejaculate” in a dictionary or on dictionary.com. You can even look up the “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” (If you’re not familiar with that routine, here’s a link to the best-known version from “Class Clown” – THIS IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR SCHOOL - https://youtu.be/8dCIKqkIg1w ) and learn a little about their etymology (origins) and for classy, non-profane ways to say the same thing. For example, my brother and I called each other “highly contemptible person” for a while after looking up the definition of a common swear-word name people call each other. See – test prep can be fun!
Best of luck to you, and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have, or to set up tutoring sessions (hey, I have to make money too, you know? ;-) )
Official SAT Dates for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 and Information About the New SAT! (Practice Questions and everything!)
https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-us-dates - The tests before March 2016 will be the present SAT; the "new" SAT will be given in March 2016 and after. Knowing the test date(s) will also help you schedule your test preparation - event preparation works best when you
Need information about the new SAT? Here's a link to registration information, sample tests, and more!
From my quick look at some of the sample questions, the new SAT is not all that different from the old SAT, but I'll post more as I do a more thorough review. I've already pre-ordered the official College Board guide to the new SAT, and so can you, from just about any online book retailer, including Amazon, eBay, WalMart, Target, etc.
No matter what test you plan to take, make sure you don't miss the registration deadlines - you can even have the College Board send you reminder emails for the date(s) you want, so you register on time and avoid additional expense or even missing the final deadline.
LAST MINUTE ACT ADVICE
First- don’t panic. The test is tomorrow, so cram studying won’t help you.
Second, remember your calculator and extra batteries. You can’t use a cell phone or a calculator with a QWERTY (typewriter-like) keyboard. Your scientific or graphing calculator you use for math and science should be all right. You can actually use a calculator with a paper printout if you take out the paper.
Here’s the link to the official ACT calculator policy, so you can make sure your calculator is appropriate: http://www.actstudent.org/faq/calculator.html If you do this now, you will still have time to run by a store and get an appropriate calculator tonight, even if you have to go to a 24-hour drugstore.
Third, plan to bring a watch or a little timer – again, you CAN’T USE YOUR CELL PHONE DURING THE TEST. So you’ll have to “party like it’s 1989.” Apologies to Prince. But seriously, leave your cell phone at home. It’s useless to you, and you will run into problems if you are even suspected of using it. And what if some exam proctor takes your new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy before the test, and loses or breaks it? Or if you leave it in your car, someone breaks into it, etc.? BAD NEWS.
Fourth, make sure you know how long it takes to get to the test site. If you’re taking the test at your high school, you obviously know how to get there, but you should make a backup plan in case you can’t get there in the usual way. What I mean is, if you normally get a ride to school from your parents, make sure you know how and when to leave if you need to get there by transit, bike, or walking if there’s car trouble.
If you’re taking the test at a different site from your high school, GO THERE TODAY OR TONIGHT. Make sure you know how to get there. Make sure you have your identification with you, since the proctors (teachers, administrative aides or whatever staff is there) won’t know you, since you don’t go to school there.
Fifth, STUDY YOUR BASIC MATH FACTS. You can find them in this blog’s entries for January 30, 2014, December 24, 2014, and December 19, 2014. Mostly they’re the same ones contained in the “Math Facts” at the beginning of each SAT math section. While the ACT does give you the more complex math formulas if they’re needed for certain problems, the ACT will NOT give you the basic “math facts” such as the formula for the area of a circle, square, or triangle, or the properties of special right triangles. You should also know that the sum of the angles in a quadrilateral is 360 degrees, no matter its shape, and the area of a square is d2/2, where d is the length of the diagonal. Knowing the distance formula for Cartesian coordinates (you know, (x,y)) and the other distance formula – distance = rate x time would also help.
Sixth, spend a little time reviewing the ACT reading comprehension and editing (English) portions of the ACT. Review the answers to the ones you get wrong. There’s not much you can do to improve your vocabulary the night before the test, but you can learn or re-learn a few grammar rules by practicing.
Seventh, be in bed by 10 pm, 11 pm at the latest. An all-night cram study won’t help you; your brain can’t retain huge amounts of new information, so you’ll only make yourself too tired to focus on the test. Finally, DO NOT TAKE YOUR STUDY MATERIALS TO THE TEST SITE. Studying right before the test will help even less than studying the night before, and you won’t be able to concentrate on the materials, most likely. Additionally, you don’t want to be accused of attempted cheating by trying to sneak in test prep materials, you don’t want to have to put them off in some corner and possibly lose them, and so on. Good luck on the test!
Don’t forget your calculator! Students frequently ask me what kind of calculator they can use, if they have to clear the memory, etc. The answer is no, you do not have to clear the memory, but you should make sure your calculator is on the list of approved graphing calculators, is a scientific calculator, or is a simple four-function calculator (you know, the kind you might take shopping, that does basic arithmetic and maybe percentages). Don’t bother to bring an adding machine, any smartphone, laptop, or any device that can access the Internet. I strongly suggest you leave your iPhone or Android device at home; I’d hate to hear of someone having his or her iPhone taken away then lost or stolen, or even worse, of someone being accused of trying to cheat on the test, perhaps because he or she had his or her phone in his pocket, didn’t realize it was there, felt it buzz, and took it out during the test to turn it off… That situation would definitely lead to many replies of “Yeah, right, I’m SURE that’s why you had your phone out during the SAT…” if the hapless student complained.
A graphing calculator can be a huge aid on the SAT, especially where you are asked to determine the graph of a function. You may be shown several graphs and asked to pick the correct graph of a given formula. You may be asked for the x- or y-intercept of a linear function. You may find that graphing a function may be the best way to solve other problems. However, a graphing calculator CAN’T help you if the exam proctors won’t let you use it. Here’s the link to the SAT calculator policy, including the list of approved calculators:
Here’s a link to the official “SAT Test Day Checklist:”
Do not forget your admission ticket and your identification. You may not be admitted to the test without them. Do NOT bring a pen. You MUST write the essay in pencil; essays written in ink will receive a grade of zero. One thing I did notice is that a pencil sharpener is not included on the list. Your best bet is to bring a bunch of sharpened wooden #2 pencils. There’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed to bring a pencil sharpener in, but you can try. It seems far-fetched that a little plastic pencil sharpener with a cap on it to hold the shavings can be seen as anything that will let you cheat or make a mess, but you never know what’s going to happen when something’s not on the list. Technically, the same list permits only two pencils per person, but I’m fairly certain you can bring more if you want. And if they make you get rid of some, you’re only out a few pencils, just as you’re only out a cheap plastic pencil sharpener if they take that away.
Location, Location, Location!
If you’re taking the SAT at an unfamiliar location, i.e., not at your school, GO THERE THE DAY BEFORE. You want to know exactly how long it will take you to drive, walk, take the bus, etc. to get there on time. You can even use Google Maps to chart out how long it take to drive, ride a bike, walk, or take public transit to the site, and when you should leave to get there on time. I wish you the best of luck getting into the test and getting a decent score if you get there late – you’ll need it.
Speaking of luck (okay, writing of luck, O Literal One … ;-) ), there’s an old joke about the mother of a successful man telling her friend all about her son’s achievements. The woman brags about how her son’s successful in business, has won many awards, is wealthy, has a beautiful wife and fine children, etc. The woman’s friend keeps responding with “Wow! Your son’s so LUCKY!” The mother finally responds “Yes, and the harder he works, the luckier he gets!” Or in samurai terms – “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” If you check everything in advance, you won’t get an unpleasant surprise when you least expect it, and can least afford it.
This also helps with travel – calling or emailing to confirm reservations, etc. can save you a LOT of grief and conversations like “You cancelled my hotel reservation?” “Yes, your card declined, and we tried calling you at 7 tonight.” “I was in a plane 25,000 miles above the ground!” “I’m terribly sorry, but we’ve already reserved your room for this weekend.” Translation “It’s not my problem, so please leave.” But I digress.
Guess Who’s Telling You to Guess?
I’m telling you to guess; that’s who! The standard advice in any review book, from any prep course, or just about anyone else familiar with the SAT, is “Guess if you can eliminate one or more choices as obviously wrong.” That’s great advice, since if you eliminate one answer from each problem, you have four left, and the ¼ probability of you guessing correctly multiplied by the one point you gain – ¼ - greater than the ¾ probability you will guess incorrectly multiplied by the ¼ point you will lose (3/16). In other words, if you guess correctly on one such question, but incorrectly on three others (which is what you’d expect from random guessing here), you gain one point, and lose ¾ of a point.
Of course, you don’t know for certain that you’ll guess correctly ¼ of the time; there’s a very small chance you’ll guess all wrong answers (¾ to the fifth power, a very small number ), and an even smaller chance you’ll guess all right answers ( ¼ to the fifth power, which is an even smaller number). However, you’re most likely to get 1 of every four guesses correct. So guess! Who dares, wins!
This brings us to the big question. Should you guess if you have no flipping idea what the correct answer is? Your chances are 1 in 5, so for every five such questions, you could reasonably expect to get one right and four wrong, which means you’d gain one point, but also lose four times ¼ of a point, which is just one point. One minus one is zero; so the most likely outcome is that you’d simply gain nothing. So guessing blindly isn’t likely to hurt you, but it’s also not likely to help you. Do it if you want. And hey, let’s be real here - If there are *that* many questions on the SAT (say, five, ten or more) where you truly have NO idea of the correct answer, you may need to do some more preparation and take it again in October, November, or December. And if that turns out to be the case, you’ll be glad you took the SAT in June, when you still had plenty of opportunity to retake the test.
With that, I wish you the best of luck! Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
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.