Posted: Sunday, April 7th, 2013 | Filed under: SAT, SAT prep, SAT strategy, SHSAT | author: By Emily Sommer
Posted: Sunday, February 17th, 2013 | Filed under: college, SAT, SAT exam, SAT grading, SAT II, SAT prep, SAT scoring | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
NYC Middle School Student and SHSAT
Raising a NYC Middle School Student? Stay in the know about the SHSAT!
Raising kids in NYC is no easy task, and as all New Yorkers know, where your student goes to school makes all the difference. Thankfully, New York City has some of the country’s top public high schools, however it’s no easy game to get your student into one of them. These high schools are the city’s Specialized High Schools, and they have their own standardized test to rank students for admission: the SHSAT.
What is the SHSAT?
The SHSAT or Specialized High School Admissions Test is the test administered to eighth and ninth grade students in NYC to determine admission into 8 of the 9 city’s Specialized High Schools. Admission into the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts is determined by an audition. The SHSAT is created and scored by the American Guidance Service. It is currently (legally) the ONLY determinant for admission into the Specialized High Schools.
Posted: Friday, September 7th, 2012 | Filed under: ACT, ACT exam, SAT prep, SAT scoring, SAT strategy, SAT writing | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Exams via Flickr: Alex France
How much is too much? When it comes to the SAT, it’s a question that a lot of students (and their parents) wonder about. Few people just take the test only once; most take it several times, but how many times is too many? If twice, or three times, is good, wouldn’t four, five, or six times be even better? Well…probably not. A couple of factors come into play when you’re deciding how when, and how many times to take the SAT, so here’s a short guide to your testing schedule.
Take it More Than Once
Would it be great if you could just take the test once, and be finished? Of course it would. I mean…that would be great. That does occasionally happen, but unless you get a near-perfect score the first go-round, it’s smart to try again. Why?
Posted: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 | Filed under: SAT, SAT exam, SAT grading, SAT prep, SAT scoring | author: By Teddy Bergman
SAT Essay and ACT Essay
Many people aren’t sure how to approach the essay section on the SAT Test and the ACT Test. It doesn’t seem as straightforward as the other sections on an SAT or ACT, they think—you can’t drill it with flashcards, the way you can when you work on SAT vocabulary prep; you can’t memorize rules the way you do for SAT or ACT grammar prep, and it certainly isn’t as black-and-white as SAT math prep, ACT math prep, or ACT science prep. In some ways, that’s right—the essay is different than the other questions. It’s not multiple-choice, and all it gives you is a prompt question and a couple blank pages. Instead of being graded by a machine, essays are graded by two readers—usually teachers—who each give a score between 0 and 6. The scores are then added together to form a score between 0 and 12.
However, when you break it down, an SAT and ACT essay is really nothing to be afraid of. The readers are not expecting you to be Shakespeare, they’re not expecting you to be the next great American novelist, and they’re not expecting perfect penmanship. All they want to see is that you’re able to choose a side on the issue they present you with, and write a clear, concise essay that fully supports the argument you’re making. ACT essay prep and SAT essay prep are possible and necessary, and if you do solid prep work, and little structured brainstorming before you start writing, you can write a fantastic essay in the 25 minutes provided. Here’s how:
In your SAT essay prep or ACT essay prep, one of the best things you can do is come in prepared with some great examples. “But,” you may say, “how can I think of examples ahead of time if I don’t know what the question is yet?” Well, that’s true, you don’t, but you do have access to lots of past ACT essay questions and SAT essay questions, and if you take a look at them, in any of your books or online, you’ll start to see some patterns. SAT essay questions tend to take the form of a general question about society or human nature that can be answered many ways, like “Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities of the nation in general?” SAT essay prompts ask you to “Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.” ACT essay questions are a little more specific, and a little more relevant to the life of a teenager, like “Should schools adopt dress codes?” ACT essay prompts ask for your opinion, and ask you to explain it. Both ACT and SAT essay questions give you a lead-in to the question in which they present two possible points of view on the issue, which you can choose from when you start writing.
So, how can you prepare some examples? For the SAT essay, you can start making charts of four or five great examples from history and literature. Books you may have read in school like Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, and Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth are great for finding examples because they all have larger themes about society, personal responsibility, and how things can go wrong. Do yourself a favor, and fill out your chart with all the details you might want to have at your fingertips—you don’t want to be struggling to remember who wrote the book you want to use, or mix up the characters names. You can also note down some larger themes from each book, so it comes to mind when you’re thinking of examples.
As far as history goes, write down a few events or people who you know a lot about. There’s no point in trying to use examples that you’re not very familiar with—if you don’t know much about George Washington, it’s not going to help you very much to try to write about him. Instead, look for examples and events you’re knowledgeable about (maybe something you had to write a paper about in school) that reflects larger social themes. Civil Rights Movements, and polarizing characters in history who worked for social change are always helpful examples. Don’t forget recent history/current events—occupy Wall Street, for instance, would be a great example in an essay about taking responsibility for issues in your community, whether you want to argue that that it did work, and you should take responsibility, or that it didn’t work, and you shouldn’t. Just make sure you remind yourself of all the dates and facts beforehand.
Both the SAT essay questions and the ACT essay questions ask for examples about things that happened to you, and while it’s a lot easier to bring these to mind when you’re taking a test than it is to remember a book you read two years ago, it’s worth spending a little time thinking about. Particularly for ACT essays, it’s helpful to think about the question from multiple points of view: yours, maybe your parents or teachers, and perhaps the administration at your school, the local government, or the federal government.
The most helpful thing you can do, at the end of the day, is PRACTICE. When you’ve seen as many of these essays as we have, you realize that in some ways, they all start to look alike, and many of your favorite examples can be used again and again. Practice writing essays beforehand; practice using detailed examples, and developing a point of view. If you put in the prep time, and get used to brainstorming and writing a great essay in 25 minutes, when test day rolls around that essay will be a piece of cak
Posted: Thursday, July 26th, 2012 | Filed under: college prep, SAT exam, SAT prep, SAT strategy | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
What is Super Scoring and what does it mean for me? How does it affect my SAT process?
The SAT testing process is a long and daunting one. Hours of study, hours of preparation, hours of anxiety, and hours of test taking don’t make for a generally easy or enjoyable experience. Few things along this road make your life easier, so when you find something that does, grab a hold of it and use it for all its worth. One such thing is Super Scoring.
Super Scoring is the informal practice of poaching sectional scores from various SAT testings to make one optimal test score. Meaning, if you take the SAT multiple times, you can pick your best math score from one test, your best writing score from another test, and your best reading score from yet a different test to form a super score. Under the lens of Super Scoring, you can view your SAT testing as a process, and not a series of do or die moments.
To be clear, Super Scoring is not something the College Board – the company that creates and administers the SAT – does. It does not appear on your score report or your College Board home page. More importantly, Super Scoring is something that many college admissions offices engage in. And the practice is growing. Admissions officers want to see you in your best light, so they are considering your achievement on the SAT, through the lens of Super Scoring. When you visit schools, be sure to ask the admissions office if they Super Score.
As a student, you want to take full advantage of Super Scoring, and this means you should start your SAT process early. You want to be sure that you are giving yourself adequate opportunities to sit for the SAT test and do your best. Super Scoring thrives on having numerous test scores to choose from. Only by thinking ahead and planning your SAT test dates can you reap all the rewards of Super Scoring.
It’s the summer before your senior fall, and you’ve got a lot on your mind. You just finished off a big year, and you’re headed for an even bigger one. You worked hard, and it’s understandable that you want a break from the grind—SAT prep is probably not number one on your list of fun summer vacation activities. However (of course there’s a however), fall will be here before you know it, and it will hit hard—school, sports, extra-curriculars, SATs, college essays and college visits will blow in like a hurricane. You DO deserve to enjoy your summer vacation, but you also need to be thinking ahead to the fall, and figuring out what you could do now to prepare yourself—it’s all about balance and planning ahead. Here are our tips on making and enacting an SAT game plan:
Revisit your Score Reports
Begin by analyzing your SAT score reports from the spring. The SAT Online Score Report is a good place to start, and can tell you where you need to improve and gain the most points.
If you got gouged on the sentence completions, vocab is a great thing to get started on over the summer, since it takes a while to improve (and you can bring your flashcards to the beach!)
- If the math sections gave you trouble, take a closer look at the difficulty of the questions you got wrong. If you got mainly difficult questions wrong, and a few mediums, you probably want to focus on content, and making sure you’re solid on all of the math that will be on the test. If you did well on the difficult questions, but missed some easy ones, perhaps you’re making careless errors that could be avoided through being neater, checking your work, or slowing down and focusing on answering the questions that you can get right.
- If the writing sections tripped you up, you need to focus on improving your grammar skills (a little poolside reading, anyone?)
If you ordered the SAT Question & Answer Service for the May SAT, it should have arrived by now. Go over it with your tutor, and determine how many questions you missed, but could have answered successfully. Figure out what went wrong the first time around, and what you can do to solve those issues, and reach your target scores.
Drill the Material
Once you have identified areas of weakness and traps you are prone to falling into, it’s time to drill, baby, drill. Use content-specific tools such as:
- CATES Drill sheets for Math Content, Common Writing Errors, Reading Passages, and Sentence Completions
- Hot Words by Barrons
- Kaplan & Princeton Review Workbooks
- McGraw Hill Top 50 Skills on SAT Math, Reading, and Writing
Be Honest With Yourself
Think back to how you prepared over the past year. Did you REALLY give it your all? If you had it to do over again, there are probably things that you would do differently…if only they offered the SAT in October, so you could take another shot at it…oh wait, they do! Hooray! This time, give it everything you’ve got.
Time is running out. It’s easy to avert your eyes from the SAT/College Essay/Applications wave looming large on the horizon, but it won’t serve you very well, and it will make for a much more stressful fall term. Once school starts, it will be difficult to find time to dedicate to doing SAT prep right. Use this summer break wisely, and prepare yourself for what’s coming, so that it’s manageable, rather than overwhelming.
Set Weekly Goals
Once you have your priorities and resources in order, create a schedule for each week to help yourself stay on track with your test prep. Summer goes fast, and you don’t want to spend Labor Day weekend inside doing a summer’s worth of work—procrastination is a killer.
Consider the ACT
If you’re struggling to reach your target scores, and don’t feel that you’re getting closer, it might be a good idea to consider whether the ACT might be a better test for you. It is given in the first week of September, which doesn’t leave a lot of time, but the work you’ve done on the SAT will pay off on the ACT, too, and with a few tweaks, you might be able to shoot for a strong score on the September ACT (and be done with standardized tests!).