The PSAT (and new SAT) Writing instructions Are Missing Something

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I have a problem with the PSAT Writing instructional page.  There should be clear instructions for the “logical order” questions (look at # 5 above) that require the reader to order numbered sentences.  There are already numbers that are in black squares on the page for the writing questions.  And for the order questions, some students may just try to use those numbers (the black square ones) as if they are also the numbers for the sentences that you need to put in order.  The numbers you need to move around for #5 are in brackets- but why not tell the students that?

Why don’t the instructions include two lines that describe a bracketed series of numbers, [1], [2], etc…, that are in the paragraph and are specifically meant as sentence numbers for these order questions?  Many students don’t answer these correctly because they don’t know to look for the brackets.

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Some thoughts about that recent Kaplan 1/2 new SAT and 1/2 ACT test

Did you recently take that half SAT- half ACT 90 minute test from Kaplan?  Before you get worked up about your results, here are things you should know:

The tests were written by Kaplan’s writers- they are not real SAT questions from the SAT writers, nor are they real ACT questions.

The number of questions on these two tests was about 20% the number of questions one would have normally had during the two full tests.  So I would not think of the scores as “an accurate representation.”

The SAT Reading/writing and the ACT English have very similar types of grammar questions.  And- those grammar questions are very different than those on the current SAT.

For a real, full-length ACT, click here

For a real, full-length new SAT, click here

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Summary of math concepts (no calc section) on SAT Practice Test #1, New Format

There have been many anxious inquiries about the topics covered on the new SAT, especially the non-calculator math section.

Typical of the ETS writers, there are still plenty of fractions to simplify on this test.  There is also heavy emphasis on understanding how functions work and on systems of equations.

The following is a list of categories topics in the non-calculator section of practice test 1:

  1. substitution
  2. adding/subtracting complex numbers
  3. multi-variable word problems- how to assign the variables correctly
  4. function word problems- how to compose a function
  5. simplifying polynomials via addition/subtraction of like terms
  6. simplifying fractions with polynomials
  7. systems of equations
  8. how to predict points when given a point and a slope
  9. rules of combining like bases and their exponents
  10. equating corresponding coefficients
  11. solutions to single variable quadratic equations
  12. similar triangle ratios
  14. simplifying radicals

This shows a new emphasis on algebra II/trig/pre-calc topics.

Download the new SAT practices from the Khan Academy site.  Here are the answers.

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A GRE Vocab List- Straight from an ETS GRE Test

Those of you preparing strategies for the text completion and sentence equivalency questions on the Verbal sections of the GRE must already know that vocabulary study is essential.  Attached is a list of vocab words from the ETS official study guide’s DVD GRE practice test.  GRE words (Word file)

Preparing index cards yourself is better than studying pre-made ones.  Here’s a video on my recommended card preparation method: Index Cards

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GRE prep book review: Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions

ets quant bookBefore I write about this book, I want to stress that it is essential to practice taking the GRE via computer.  You can download the software here.


The 340 page QR practice book is the only math book of its kind by the test writers, ETS.  The introduction offers an overview of the test questions.  There are helpful strategies in the “Test Content”chapter.  It lists tips such as “translate word problems into algebra”, “process of elimination”, “connect to what you know.”

Chapters 3 through 7 offer math practice by type: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis, then mixed review.  Each of these chapters ends with answers and explanations.  The numbers of problems vary per chapter: 17 in one, 26 in another.

Who would benefit?

This book would be helpful to anyone’s GRE Quant prep.  One should work through it just to know where one stands; these are, after all, real ETS questions, unlike those by test prep companies.  This book is not enough to support a person struggling with math, however.  If one worked on the question with fractions raised to negative exponents in the mixed practice set and got it wrong, one gets a two-line answer that makes use of exponent rules one should already know.  However, those that had no idea what to do with fractions raised to negative exponents are in need of a more intensive prep book that has pages devoted to lessons on math rules.  Perhaps that person would not be sure what to do with other types of similar problems: integers raised to negative exponents, fractions raised to positive exponents, etc…  For that kind of support, I would recommend a test prep company’s book, like those of Manhattan Prep, Princeton Review or Kaplan.

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Video demonstrations of medium math solutions from test 10 in the College Board guide

The March test is in just a few days.  Here are some video demonstrations of medium math problems from test 10 in the College Board guide.  They involve probability, geometry, lines and absolute value.

p. 916 # 4

p. 916 #5

p. 917 #8

p. 917 #9

Good luck on Saturday!  Bring an eraser, pencil sharpener, pencils, charged calcuator, your ticket, ID, snacks and a water!

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Question from a student: how should I work on the four ACT reading passages?

If this is your first practice test, read the passages to get a feel for them.  Then you should try this strategy:

Divide your plan into into non-fiction and fiction/humanities-memoir strategies. The first passage is always fiction, so you will read the passage until you understand the conflict, then go right to the questions.

The last three passages are nonfiction: social studies, humanities and science. You can skip the reading and go right to the questions. The only exception is when the humanities is a memoir- then you treat it like fiction.

This skipping method will help you finish each passage within 8.5 minutes and still give you time to go back and confirm your answers!

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