Posts Tagged ‘SAT prep’

Do I Need a Tutor?

Friday, December 7th, 2012
College Tutor

Student and Tutor

Over the past several decades the popularity of tutoring has skyrocketed, and what once seemed like a luxury is now looking increasingly like a necessity. Particularly in competitive, high-achieving areas like New York, it’s almost the new normal. There are any number of subjects in which tutoring is common, but the greatest growth has been in the area of standardized testing. From seventh graders preparing for the SHSAT or ISEE, through high school juniors studying for the SAT and ACT, all the way up to college graduates taking the LSAT and the MCAT, more and more people are finding that tutoring is a good choice for them. (more…)

5 Key Steps to Improving Your SAT Scores on the Beach

Thursday, July 26th, 2012


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!).

Does High School prepare you for the SAT?

Monday, July 9th, 2012
High School and the SAT

High School and the SAT

One of the critical phases of your high school academic career comes in the beginning of your junior year of high school. This is the time you should begin to look ahead and consider when in the upcoming months you’d like to take your first attempt at tackling the SAT.  It can be a daunting choice, as it is the rare person who enjoys or relishes the opportunity to take a standardized test.

Adding to the anxiety of taking this standardized test is all that is unknown about it.  Most people have little sense going into this time of what material is covered on the SAT or how the SAT test is formatted.  Unlike so many other tests – the Regents and the APs included – your teachers are not teaching toward the SAT test, nor do they often cover the specific questions on the test.  This places a student in a hard spot, having to seek out the SAT exam and educate his or herself on the SAT outside of the classroom.  From the sound of this, it may seem that high school does little to prepare you for the SAT test, but this actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

All of the material that the SAT bases its questions on most students will have completed by the end of the 10th grade.  You will have had enough experience in your English classes reading and analyzing literature and expanding your vocabulary to begin to tackle the reading sections of the test.  You will have written enough persuasive essays and learned enough grammar to dive into the writing sections of the SAT, and, finally, if you have completed Geometry and Algebra II you will be more than ready to understand how the SAT tests math.  All in all, by the end of 10th grade most students will have the information to answer most of the SAT test problems.  The real question becomes how to use that information.

The tricky part of the SAT is that it is not a test of intelligence, or even really a test of your command of the material you have covered in school.  Finally, the SAT is a test of how well you take the SAT. It defines its own rules and asks questions in its own ways.  The core skill to develop for the SAT is to understand how the SAT tests you.  The SAT phrases questions in intentionally confusing ways and frames its problems in a manner that you will not have seen at school.  The College Board, the people who make the SAT, are designing a test that they want a majority of people to score a 1500 on, and so they intentionally try and mess you up.

This is the part of the SAT that high school doesn’t prepare you for, the particular nuances and contours of the SAT questions themselves.  The process of decoding questions and understanding what is really being asked of you takes time and practice.  This is where an experienced SAT tutor can come in handy.  SAT tutors are specially trained to show you the ropes of the test and help you maximize your score by allowing you to bring the full force of your knowledge to bear on the test.  Another way to prepare yourself for the SAT is to take frequent mock tests. The best way to learn about the test is to practice taking it. CATES offers free mock tests every weekend, so come on by and take one as soon as you can.

SAT Prep Books

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

What SAT test prep book should I buy? How do I know I am choosing the right one?

Many people find the SAT process daunting at every step of the way and the selection of study materials is no exception.  At most mega bookstores there is an entire section devoted to Study Aids.  How would anyone know what SAT test prep book to choose between the countless volumes published by Kaplan, Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, Barons, and Petersons just to name a few.

The short answer is, there is no wrong answer. Each SAT prep book has value, tests students on vital SAT material, and will help a student understand the SAT test better.  In certain ways, SAT Test Prep books are like clothes, and everybody has a different perfect fit.  You can’t go “wrong” choosing anything as long as your feel like you are learning and being challenged.

The somewhat longer answer is that all but one of the SAT test prep books are the “wrong” choice for an SAT Prep book.  Barons, Peters, McGraw-Hill, and the rest of their peer companies do not design, administer, and write the SAT exam. The College Board does.  The College Board also publishes its own book entitled, “Ten Real SATs.”  This book is the vital resource for anyone preparing for the SAT test.

Ten Real SATs” is dominated, as the title suggests, by ten complete, actual SATs. There are tests that have actually been administered and are identical to the SAT test you will take. Only with this book can you get a realistic understanding of exactly what the SAT test is like.  For many students, a copy of “Ten Real SATs,” and some time with a tutor who can explain the ins and outs of the exam and strategies needed to excel, are sufficient to achieve great success on the SAT exam.  So if you are looking to buy a single SAT Test prep book, this is the one.

How Many Times to Take The SAT

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

When should I take the SAT exam?  How many times should I take it?

The SAT exam is offered several times each year: in January, March, May, June, October, November and December.  There’s no limit to how many times you can take the SAT (though there’s an additional fee each time you do).

So if you can take the SAT over and over and over again, until you get the score that you want, there’s no need to study, right?  Wrong.  Without taking the time to prepare for the SAT, you won’t understand how to take the test.  You won’t know the vocabulary covered in the Critical Reading Section or the rules of grammar you’re expected to know for the Writing Section.  You won’t know how to write an SAT essay, or what material is covered on the SAT Math.  There’s no substitute for making the effort to prepare effectively.

Moreover, depending on which colleges you’re applying to, a lousy SAT score could count against you.  Some colleges and universities take your strongest Writing, Critical Reading, and Math scores, even if they’re from three different tests; others want to see your best composite score; and some want to see your scores from every time you’ve taken the SAT exam.

Don’t get cocky about being able to take the SAT as often as you want.  Each time you take the test, stay as focused and be as prepared as you would be if it were the only time you’d ever be able to take the test.  You’ll want to take at least three practice SAT exams, in addition to taking the PSAT, before you take the SAT.  Getting a tutor can give you a huge advantage in helping you to understand material that’s particularly challenging for you, and to figure out how to prepare effectively.

Many students find success in taking the SAT three times. The first time is simply about getting through the SAT Exam, the second time about getting in the range of your target  SAT score, and the final time is about nailing that score.  Similarly, many students find success taking their third test in the fall of their senior year. A year older, with the distractions of junior year in the past, students are often most ready to nail the SAT Exam.

You can take the SAT exam as often as you want, but make sure you’re smart about planning when to take the SAT and how to prepare for it.