Tag Archives: SAT

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.02.39 AM

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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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 successful “morning of” preparation to take the Dec 6 SAT

early morning

Yesterday I woke up around 6:15 to start my SAT morning.  I made coffee, grabbed a water, two pieces of chocolate, two Kind bars and half a bagel, and packed those up in my baggalini bag.  I did about five minutes of jumping jacks and running-in-place.  I chose to eat a bowl of chicken-noodle soup in order to get the nutrition without weighing down my digestive system.

I am glad I left extra early: 7:15 for a 7:45 deadline to arrive.  I missed the turn for the school and parked in the most completely inconvenient part of the parking lot for the test location.  I had to work through a byzantine stretch of silent dimly-lit corridors with zero signs posted until I heard the din of teenagers crowded in the main entrance.  Next time, I’ll definitely check out the location ahead of time!

The staff was well-organized and seated us quickly.  My proctor put up a digital timer, so the digital watch with silent timer that I had diligently researched was completely unnecessary.  He allowed the five minute break after every two sections, although he cut it short if he saw everyone was back in the room.  During my breaks I used the restroom, drank a lot of water, sipped coffee, and ate either parts of a Kind bar or chocolate.

I felt physically and mentally strong during the entire test, so I would definitely repeat this morning prep in the future!

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Save Time and Eliminate Possibilities with These Four SAT Math Grid-In Tips

scantronMath is the toughest part of the perfect SAT score goal for me.  The fact is (and you can check this with the scoring guides at the end of the first four tests in the blue book) there is almost no room for error or blanks.  This is in contrast to the Critical Reading where you can leave three blank and still score an 800!

The tips below are specifically about the 18-question math section(s) on the SAT.  Hopefully you’ve noticed that this section is quite different in appearance than the 16 and 20-question sections.  After question 8, it has a grid-in section with no multi-choice answers!

Did you also realize that the order of difficulty is different?  …that there can be no negative answers? … that you must bubble in the answer, but you don’t have to write it in the squares?  … that you should never try to fill-in a mixed number?

Let’s start with the order of difficulty.  This 18-question section doesn’t go from easy to hard in a straight shot like the other sections; it goes easy to hard from 1-8, then easy to hard from 9-18.  What does that mean for you?  That means if number 7 or 8 is giving you the sweats, you should choose to collect easier points (they are all worth the same, you know!) by starting number 9 in the grid-in and come back to those later.

The second point is simple: there is no option to bubble-in a negative sign, so the answer will NEVER be negative!

The third point is for those of you that are always worried about time- and who isn’t?  If you are confident that you don’t need to handwrite the numbers in order to correctly bubble them in, then don’t handwrite them.  It’s only a suggestion to do so, not a requirement.  The writers don’t want to be blamed because you mis-bubbled 1/3 as 1/(space)3 by accident.

Finally, always bubble in the improper forms of fractions instead of their mixed numeral forms (if they are top-heavy).  In other words, don’t try to bubble 53/4 for “five and three-fourths”.  It will be read as “fifty-three fourths”.  Instead, bubble in the improper version: 23/4.

Remember to work with focus and speed on the math, and make sure to time yourself as you practice the blue book tests.  Best of luck on next Saturday’s test!

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Postponed SAT = Extra Time to Sharpen Skills

So you have an extra week or so before the postponed SAT.  How can a student make the most of that time?

First, buy a copy of the McGraw-Hill SAT 2013 review book if you don’t have one already.  As I’ve said in a previous post, I’m in no way affiliated with the company, I just think their book is the most comprehensive and reader-friendly one out there in terms of strategies and drills.

Take a test

Complete the diagnostic test at the beginning of the book.  You’ll need about three and half hours.  Keep your essay concise: intro/2 pgh body/conclusion.  The math section, the sentence completion and the large writing section are in order of difficulty; you don’t get extra points for hard questions- but you do get a penalty for getting them wrong.

Self-Assessment and Improving Skills

Starting with the essay:

Turn to your essay and read it in no more than thirty seconds. Think like a grader and ask, “Did you

-clearly answer the question?

-transition from paragraph to paragraph?

-support your thesis with logical reasoning?

-acknowledge the opposing point of view?”

Give yourself a grade from 1 to 6.

Not happy with your writing?  Check out the Sample Essays starting on p. 485 of the SAT book and use the same questions to grade them.  Take a piece of paper and slowly copy an essay that earned a 6/6 in the book, thinking to yourself- “this sentence is the answer to the question…  this sentence helps introduce the next paragraph…” and so on.

Next is the math section.

Open to the answer key at the end of the test.  Mark your answers either with a check when they’re right or with an “X” – on top of the choice you circled- when they’re wrong.

  • Now that you have four remaining choices, try the question again.  Read it very carefully.   Every math problem requires some scribbling: whether it’s drawing a shape, filling in missing angle or side measurements, writing an equation, substituting, etc…  The more you info you add, the more will be magically revealed!
  • If the question and answers are in variable form, you needed to plug-in an easy number, like “2”, into the question’s expression and work it out.  When you arrive at a solution, put a star next to it.  Then plug-in that same “2” into the answer choices.  You will have the right choice when the starred number shows up again.
  • For questions that have answer choices which are numbers, you could always test those choices in the given problem.  Start with choice C.  If you work out an answer that is too big, decide if you should try D or B next.

Still can’t get it?  Note the correct answer listed for that problem in the answer key.  Do you see why that is right?  If not, read the explanation in the section that follows the key.

Next is the critical reading section.

Again, open to the answer key at the end of the test you took.  Mark your answers either with a check when they’re right or with an “X” – on top of the choice you circled- when they’re wrong.

  • Now that you have four remaining choices, try the question again.  Put the question in your own words.  Notice if the question has a line reference and then look back there and re-read it, including the lines above it and below it.  If it has no line reference, then remember that the questions go in order of the passage and deduce where the answer should be based on the line references in other questions.
  • Still stuck?  One more tip: process of elimination is very helpful here.  Start being super-critical about the three answer choices left.  Is choice A an idea that is not actually found in the passage?  Remember, this isn’t English class, do not read between the lines, i.e., do not infer information that isn’t literally written there.  Is choice B the right idea, but does not answer this question?  Is choice C illogical?  Again, you can use the explanations after the key if you still don’t see it.

Last is the writing section.

Again, open to the answer key at the end of the test you took.  Mark your answers either with a check when they’re right or with an “X” – on top of the choice you circled- when they’re wrong.

  • Now that you have four remaining choices, try the question again.  Not sure if there’s some obscure grammar rule being showcased?  Flip through the “Essential Grammar Skills” in McGraw-Hill, starting on p. 512.  Review lessons such as pronoun cases, parallelism, dangling and misplaced modifiers.
  • The trimming sentences section is worth a review as well.  A common SAT trick is to mask subject-verb agreement by throwing in distracting phrases.  For example, “The team, crowded with 20 players, were not comfortable traveling by bus. ”   Did you notice that “team” and “were” do not match?

Finally, as the rescheduled “big day” approaches, keep calm.  Refer to my other post about test day tips.

Good luck!

The Ridgewood High School test center has rescheduled the November 3rd SAT.  It will now be on November 17th.  The next SAT after that will be December 1st.

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An ACT/SAT Test Day To-do List

bring a snack!

bring a snack!

1. Get at least two nights’ sleep of eight hours to feel well-rested. If you try to go to bed *too* early, you make wake up too early. But make sure you don’t stay up late. This will be more helpful to you on this challenge to your mental endurance than cramming will be.

2. Eat breakfast, and don’t stray from your usual menu. This isn’t the day to have a big stack of pancakes when you’ve been eating cereal and juice everyday. Even though the test is a few hours, eating extra food in the morning will make you sleepy. Cereal, fruit, toast, and yogurt are all good choices. Then…

3. Bring a snack. Nuts, granola bars, a banana, some water… these are light foods that will keep your body happy.

4. Dress in layers so that you can cool down or warm up if necessary.

5. Make sure you have your calculator, (with extra batteries) and sharpened pencils.  Have a photo ID; check this site for more info: http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/id-requirements

6. Get your body’s circulation going through exercise or active yoga. Just 20 minutes should work to bring you out of sleep mode. During the test, don’t slouch over and lean your head on your hand; your brain will start switching to sleep mode again.

7. Keep a positive attitude!  You need to get into “attack” mode and draw up all the techniques and resources that you have prepared.  Plan strategies as you go from easy to hard and don’t forget process of elimination.

Good luck!


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