Last Minute Advice for the SAT (sorry, the upload is flaky, so it's three pictures instead of a normal blog post)...
http://tinyurl.com/qxljxkj <-- There's the link!
According to the College Board, in the email it sent me: "The SAT® registration deadline is quickly approaching. You have until Sept. 22 to register online for the Oct. 3 SAT test day."
Hopefully, you’ve already started studying, but if you haven’t, please follow the advice below:
Study the word parts in the Barron’s SAT book (27th or 26th edition is best, but any edition from the last decade or so will do). Go through the vocabulary lists – you’ll know many of the words already, but learning the ones you don’t, and secondary meanings of the ones you do know, will help you score high on the SAT. This is a good thing to start EARLY, which is why I strongly suggest you start NOW. You’re not going to be able to memorize 4000+ words overnight, but you can do a reasonably good job within more than three weeks, especially when you already know many of them (the author doesn’t know what any individual student will know, so she had to list ALL the likely SAT words she could imagine).
Study Chapter 8 (the math strategies- you know, “tips and tricks” for solving math problems) in the Barron’s SAT book, or the corresponding sections in whatever review book you have. The Official SAT Guide from the College Board isn’t going to teach you to defeat the College Board’s tricks, since that would defeat the purpose of placing “tricks” in the questions, so you really should use a book from a publisher other than the College Board for this portion of your preparation. While the Barron’s book is best, a prep guide from Kaplan, Princeton Review, Gruber’s, or the like, would also do. Make sure you know when to add equations, eliminate obvious wrong answers, and how to avoid doing work you don’t need to do.
Also make sure you know when and when NOT to
· trust diagrams;
· to add lines to diagrams or redraw them completely,;
· use your calculator;
· “plug in” numbers into equations using variables
· “Backsolve” by testing each answer choice to see if it works;
· Guess the answer and move on.
Review the substantive math, especially geometry, exponents, coordinate geometry, basic statistics (i.e., mean, median, and mode), probability, and word problems. Review everything in Chapter 9 of Barron’s SAT by doing the review questions at the end of each subchapter (A through R), then reviewing the portions of each subsection that cover the subjects of the questions you got wrong or did not understand, even if you guessed the correct answer. See my previous blog entries for more details on this topic.
Make sure you understand parallelism, verb tenses, comparison errors, and misplaced modifiers, and the like, as well as the rules of punctuation, for the writing section of the SAT. Finally, read the essay chapter in Barron’s SAT and list examples and topics for the essay-building exercises. Also see my previous blog entries for advice on writing style and how to write a good SAT essay.
Basically, use common sense – if a sentence doesn’t sound right to you, don’t write it in an SAT or college application essay, and don’t pick it in multiple-choice questions. While there’s some choice you’ll miss a multiple-choice question by failing to choose an answer that looks wrong but is actually right, most of the time, the right answer actually sounds like the right answer in your head when you read it, and the wrong answers don’t, even if you don’t know why they’re wrong. If you wrote a sentence that doesn’t sound right to you, edit the sentence so it does. Using “fancy” vocabulary, punctuation, or grammar incorrectly will cause you to lose points that you could have saved by expressing the same ideas using words, punctuation, and grammar you actually understand.
All these suggestions can be found in many SAT review books, on my blog, and on other websites. It’s easy to find what you need to do, in great detail, but hard to do it unless you give yourself plenty of time, so please START NOW!
The results should be available in about two weeks, and score reports should be available in 3 to 8 weeks. If you took the writing test, you should get the results within 5 to 8 weeks. For information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” go to http://www.actstudent.org/scores/
If you’re looking to improve your ACT scores for next time, you should probably “get right back on the horse” and start studying again. Luckily, if you’re taking the SAT on October 3, the material you study for that, especially the math, should “carry over” quite well to your next ACT. Please make sure you know all the material in the “Math Facts” box at the beginning of each SAT math section – you really DON’T want to have to refer to that little box if you don’t have to do it – flipping through pages and figuring out what the SAT people’s notation means will waste time you really can’t spare, and memorizing the information will help you on the ACT, where they don’t give you the “basic” information contained in that section. See my previous blog entries on the math basics for further details.
Better yet, read your math texts (your SAT and ACT review books, any math texts or review books you might have on algebra or geometry) and look online (e.g., www.purplemath.com ) to understand the underlying principles completely. I find that once I understand the principles, I can’t really forget an important formula, since I can always derive the formula from other formulas and principles. For example, if you understand the Pythagorean Theorem, you can’t forget the formula for the distance between two Cartesian coordinate points, since it’s just the Cartesian expression of the Pythagorean Theorem and are just expressions of the two legs of the right triangle formed by differences in x and y values of the two points and the straight line between the two that forms the hypotenuse (assuming the two points don’t have the same x or y values, in which case their difference is just the distance along a straight line parallel to the x or y axis)…
You can easily do the same with the formula for the Cartesian coordinates of all points on a circle (just substitute the radius of the circle in for d, and the coordinates of the center of the circle (h,k) for x1 and y1 See, for example, http://www.regentsprep.org/regents/math/algtrig/atc1/circlelesson.htm .
One difference between SAT and ACT math is that trigonometry is on the ACT – make sure you understand what affects the period and amplitude of a trigonometric function, the trig identities, and how to determine the sine, cosine and tangent of a given angle of a triangle. Many people use SOH CAH TOA as a mnemonic, but I prefer “Oscar Has A Headache Over Algebra.” Just write SIN, then COS under that, then TAN under that, then write O/H next to SIN, then A/H next to COS and O/A next to TAN.”
For the verbal/English/Writing parts: Practice your critical reading under timed conditions, and review your grammar and vocabulary for the SAT, and it will go a long way in helping you with the ACT as well. I strongly suggest the Barron’s SAT and Barron’s ACT review books for both. The Barron’s ACT problems are actually harder than most actual ACTs, but that will work to your advantage.
Also, practice writing essays where you take a stand on issues, such as current events. Take a look at any newspaper’s editorial page or online forum. Basically it’s just “What is the issue?” “What do you think about it?” “What evidence do you have to support your opinion?” Don’t be intimidated by the last part; if you have an opinion, you must have a reason WHY you have that opinion. Just go from there. See my previous blog posts on how to write essays for the SAT and ACT.
Some advice on law school admissions essays (this should also "apply" to college and private prep/high school admissions)...
Thanks to Shawn P. O'Connor of New York City's Stratus Prep for writing this, and to Daniel Bornstein, Esq., for sharing it on LinkedIn so I could find it...
Are you taking the ACT on Saturday, September 12, 2015? Then please read my previous blog entries regarding what you should know for the ACT. For example you should know, the math formulas contained in the SAT’s “Math Facts” printed at the beginning of each section , since the ACT does not give you those math facts, although it will give you more complex formulas (e.g., the volume and surface area of a sphere, the compound interest formula).
However, memorizing math formulas isn’t the main thing with which you should concern yourself at this point if you’re taking the writing (essay) part of the ACT. Saturday’s ACT will be the first ACT essay that involves reading three different viewpoints, reacting to them, and presenting your point of view. Here’s a link to the first sample essay prompt, concerning “intelligent machines:”
Let’s look at the instructions, quoted here:
In your essay, be sure to:
• analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
• state and develop your own perspective on the issue
• explain the relationship between your perspective and those given
Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial
agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.
Use the space below and on the back cover to generate ideas and plan your essay. You may wish to consider the following as you think critically about the task:
§ Strengths and weaknesses of the three given perspectives
• What insights do they offer, and what do they fail to consider?
• Why might they be persuasive to others, or why might they fail to persuade?
§ Your own knowledge, experience, and values
• What is your perspective on this issue, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
• How will you support your perspective in your essay?
Here’s a link to the 6th sample essay response to the “intelligent machines” prompt, which got a score of 6 (get it? The ACT people put the samples in order from a score of one to a score of six – very clever. ;-) ) : http://www.actstudent.org/writing/sample/six.html
Do you see why that’s a high-scoring essay? It’s effective, insightful, and it addresses the viewpoints in such a way that it shows the writer understands them, and uses them to help develop and express the writer’s own viewpoint. So how can you write an essay like that?
It’s simple; follow the directions. Not to be flippant, but if you give the ACT people what they want - a thoughtful answer, they’ll give you what you want – a high score. One effective way to write an essay is just a variation on the essay writing method I’ve already detailed in an earlier blog post.
First, have an introductory paragraph where you address the prompt, the three perspectives, and your perspective. Then address each perspective, using examples to show why you are, or are not, convinced by their arguments. Pretend you’re reading something on an Internet forum or a newspaper’s opinion-editorial page, and read each perspective like something posted online by a friend, a relative, an enemy, or even a “troll.” Why do you agree with the statement? If you agree, you’re probably thinking “It’s just like when I saw/I read/I did….” Whatever completes that thought is your supporting example.
Alternately, why do you DISAGREE with the perspective? If you saw something posted online that you really didn’t like, you’d think “That’s really stupid because everybody knows/I experienced/I read/I’ve been told [facts and principles that contradict the statement in the post].” Whatever you ‘d put in the brackets is your example supporting your argument against that perspective.
You can even argue that one perspective is right in some cases, and the others are right in different cases, as long as you explain when each principle applies, and when it doesn’t. In fact, it’s likely you will feel the need to do so, since the issues addressed in these topics are chosen because they allow for MANY different viewpoints and perspectives.
The writing test wouldn’t be much of a test if it just asked you an obvious question with only one correct answer, such as “Should you wash your hands after using the toilet?” So it’s going to ask questions about the balance between individual liberty and laws enacted to preserve security or save lives and public money, or the benefits and drawbacks of technology, and so on.
While in one sense, it’s harder to write an essay that requires nuance and sensitivity, since you do have to develop your own viewpoint and think of examples and counter-examples, it’s actually easier in the sense that you have great freedom to develop any idea that relates to the essay prompt and the perspectives into you own perspective. In other words, as long as you can express ANY idea that responds to the prompt and the perspectives in a reasonably coherent and grammatical manner, you can get a good score on this essay.
If you have problems with essay structure, spelling, punctuation, and grammar, please review those sections in your SAT review books and online (there are MANY free resources). A little review will help a lot.
For this essay, your best bet is to address the pros and cons of each perspective in one paragraph each, then state your perspective on the same topic, and how it relates to those perspectives, with your own examples. Again, this isn’t any different from a post on Facebook or someone’s blog, except your grammar, punctuation, and spelling count for more on the ACT than when you’re posting as “wizkid1234” on trollblog.com (no idea if that’s a real site, but it should be, right?).
[Note: Actually, your spelling, punctuation, and grammar also matter online, since most people will dismiss or just stop reading posts with tons of spelling and grammatical errors in them, thinking “Uh huh, some jerk who can’t spell ‘nuclear’ wants to criticize the Iran nuclear deal. No one has time for that. Bye-bye, El Trollio!”]
Remember, there are more ACT dates coming if you’re not happy with your score on this test – that’s an advantage of taking the September ACT! You’re not stuck with this score if you get “caught out” on too many questions you can’t answer. I hope this helps!
For another sample ACT and writing sample, try http://www.act.org/aap/pdf/Preparing-for-the-ACT.pdf , at pages 54 to 55.
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Taking the October or November SAT? Hey, even if you’re taking it in December or later (but before March 2016), please follow this advice. DON’T JUST DO THE TESTS. If your review book has chapters that teach grammar, math techniques, and test-taking tips, READ THEM. The official SAT guides from the College Board have gotten better, and actually have useful advice these days. If you are using the Barron’s SAT book (Sharon Weiner Green & Ira Wolf), definitely READ THE CHAPTERS.
You really want to practice the math tricks and techniques in Chapter 8, do the math review in Chapter 9, and do the chapters on sentence completion, sentence correction, and passage reading. You’ll do better on the test if you’ve had the techniques explained to you, rather than just figuring them out intuitively by working out problems. You also should review the vocabulary sections, especially the word roots, and use the yellow flash cards in the back to learn vocabulary words. If you don’t have this book, and you need a review book, you can easily get it at Barnes & Noble or online (it’s cheap on Amazon.com – less than $11 – its price is dropping because the new SAT is coming in March 2016). Barron’s SAT (27th Edition). I strongly recommend that you get it and read it!
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.