Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oct 14th is coming

We are just a few short weeks away from the big day. I am excited to take the SAT with my students and put my own skills to work. I'm only looking for a math score; in a short while, I'll start a prep course for verbal as well.

With most of you I have gone over content, we need to keep that up. But in addition we need to talk about the style of the problems and some techniques that will help you solve them.

Among the techniques are:

1. Estimating -- this works especially well when there is a geometric figure drawn to scale -- MEASURE; use your answer sheet as a ruler and estimate the answer.

2. Eliminating wrong answer choices - so at least you can have a better guess. I can't use any names here for privacy, but there is one young lady who is an eliminating machine. Use your noggin and if you can't solve it immediately think of what the answer can NOT be and cross it off. Guess on every problem, no matter what you read, fill in every circle.

3. Backsolving - putting the answer choices into the question and see which one fits; this is particularly strong with algebra equations that have number answer choices.

4. V2V go to 7/11; or Plugging in your own numbers. If there are Variables in the problem and Variables in the answer choices. Pick numbers of your own and put them into the equation; then plug them into the answer choices and find the match. "7/11" means to pick convienent #'s; it also means try a different set, like 7 & 11, since both are prime and easy to handle they usually work.

I'll try to pick out a few problems from the BBP that is a good example for each type.

I have given a few lessons on the essay - pick a few good pieces of literature that you have read; Melville, Poe, Jane Austin, Steinbeck, Hemmingway. If you have not read ANYTHING it is a little too late, but not too late to learn about a work and use it in your essay.

The essay is EXTREMELY generic. It has to be 1.4 million people take the SAT. Read all 8 essay topics in the BBP, I did that with a student last week and we laughed because our generic outline could be molded to each one.

Make a brief outline of the major ideas that you can use; plan ahead with phrases that you will write in your answer book to pull from as the body of your essay.
Be Positive
Be pro-America
Do not be religious or political
Use real examples - but be short and to the point. Always write about how education is the solution to every problem (remember that English teachers are reading this) & that education comes in many forms.
Tie your example into a character from literature.

Keep your hard work up & get plenty of rest, eat right and exercise!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PRP: Percents, Ratios, Proportions

You will see percent changes, ratios and proportions.

Do not let these burden you with any stress, they are not difficult. But the answers have traps - every possible arithematic mistake you could possibly make is one of the answer choices.

So choose wisely.

Always ask yourself, "What is the question asking?"

These are rarely if ever in the first third of questions in a section (aka: easy); they are mostly in the medium level.

Friday night I plan on going through the BBP & pulling out all the PRP and make a list for practice.

Then the following week, system of equations and word problems that use system of equations.

Lastly sequences and word problems involving the use of our wonder-word INTEGER

Friday, September 08, 2006

Slope Intercept y = mx+b


OK, everyone has worked with the graph of a line in the XY Plain; where y is the vertical axis & x is the horizontal axis.

The standard form of a line is written y = mx + b. There will probably be only one or two problems on your SAT that requires using this wonderful knowledge from several years ago. But it is not rocket science & if you spend a few minutes working on it, most of the rust will be removed and you will get these questions.

Warning: The questions can be tricky, so practice reading the wording and then try to ask yourself all of the different ways that a slope question can be asked. They can be easy medium or hard. Do not over-think the easy questions, they really are easy. But most of the examples in the BBP have medium and hard problems.

Y & X are coordinate points in the plain. m and b are constants, where m is the slope and b is the y intercept.

m - “SLOPE = RISE/RUN.” Slope is the ratio of the change in y to the change in x.

The numeric value of m is determined by how many units of y increase for every increase in units of x.

GIVEN TWO POINTS: x1,y1 & x2, y2 are points on the line. Calculate slope, m using the formula: (y2-y1)/(x2-x1)

b – “Y Intercept”

The value of b is the value of y when x=0. If the line passes through the origin (0,0), then b = 0. This can be a trick in a slope question.

Parallel & Perpendicular.

Parallel lines have the same slope with a different y intercept. (If they had the same intercept, they are NOT parallel, they are the SAME).

Perpendicular lines have a slope that is “the opposite inverse.” -1/m

Reflection is another issue that I will cover later.

Here are the problems in the BBP regarding slope intercept form.

Page #

399 14

487 2

522 17

672 12

682 11

736 14

745 9

775 4

Know what a line looks line when m = + or - & b = + or –


Thursday, September 07, 2006


Fun with parabolas!

A parabola is the bowl shaped graph of the simple equation f(x) = x2

Most SAT students do not remember how to graph a parabola, so it is considered a hard question. But in reality parabola questions are often very easy and almost always, usually, most of the time involve simple questions about the constants a, b, c from the classic equation:

ax2 + bx + c = 0

In total, there are only six things to know about a, b, c. If you can learn the “Parabola Six” you can answer most, many and hopefully all parabola questions on your SAT.

The Parabola Six:

  1. a is negative - parabola points down
  2. a is positive - parabola points up
  3. b is negative - parabola moves to the right
  4. b is positive - parabola moves to the left
  5. c is negative - parabola moves down (y intercept <>
  6. c is positive - parabola moves up (y intercept > 0)

I’ll list all the parabola problems shortly from the BBP; they are worth doing because any parabola is a hard to medium and is an easy scoring opportunity.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Great Advice

Here is another SAT blog that offers great advice (it lets me know that I am not only blogging-SAT tutor in the world):

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TI-83 SAT Programs

OK, you all know how I like to do all the math on the SAT by hand. Most of my students have suffered through my opinion of the calculator-addicted generation & have seen my smug glances as I do the math by hand waiting for them to fumble with a calculator.

The truth is that the SAT contains easy math and tricky problems. But I did buy my first TI this summer for a class and am amazed at with its capabilities.

So in my never-ending quest to help my students beat the test, I went a searching and found this:

downloadable programs that solve SAT problems & Vocabulary words programmed into it, pretty sweet.

free resources;jsessionid=2YSOVPFOBVNOFLA3AQJHBOFMDUCBG2HB

algebra lessons:


4 Weeks; 4 Years; 4 Ever

College lasts four years, its impact lasts forever. Your college is not the most important thing in life, but it is very important. Your success and happiness in life is not dependent upon a college degree and there are many examples of successful people who did not attend college or did not finish. But these are few and far between.

Our economy is one of skilled labor and knowledge workers; a college degree is a job's entry ticket. (Along with employment comes money, with which you can buy food and shelter - you do want to live in doors and eat, don't you?)

Acceptence into almost every college and university in the U.S. requires that you take the SAT. It is the one thing that admissions officers can hold as a standard among the many diverse students begging to walk their hallways and fork over money.

So follow my logic in asking for just a little sacrifice over a short period of time that will have a lifelong impact. Take a look how you spend your time, activities, work, sports and studying. If you can devote a scheduled amount of time to preparing for the SAT, your score will improve.

In talking with a new student today, I asked, "What do you do on Sunday afternoon?" "Videogames," was the answer(I am sure with his AP classes there is some homework in there). I pointed out that if he simply took that same time over the next four weeks and did one SAT practice exam every week, his score would rise dramatically.

So I am challenging him:
Four weeks of hardcore study, that will result in four years at his chosen school with a result that will last forever.

To raise your score, the best thing to do is to write a schedule of work that requires sacrifice and committment. Having re-entered the SAT world, I think that the best program for success is for a junior to begin prep work in late July, early August before their junior year and then plan to take the test three times (it is offered six times), with Oct & Jan as must dates. These have the QAS program, which allows you to purchase your test booklet and actual answer responses for $15. If you do not get the score you are aiming for after these first two attempts, you have data on where to improve and can attack the next round of exams.

If you do just an hour or two of intense prep before the school year starts, you can maintain momentum through those hectic first few weeks. Yeah, I know it stinks to have to work on boring academic subjects in the summer, especially math and grammar. But four weeks of sacrifice has a forever impact.

Besides, most of the SAT math is stuff that you studied so long ago that you literally have to relearn somethings like slope intercept form of a line, geometry, parabolas and integers. Not to mention mastering the tricky wording and questions that are truly brain-teasing puzzles.

But if you are reading this now, it is too late for this type of prep. So we have to go to plan B and fit test prep into an already busy schedule.

Let's find some time in your schedule:
  1. Do you have an iPod/MP3? Get your hands on Flocabulary, Rock the SAT or Vocab Rock and listen to Vocab words when you have some time - even five or ten minutes. The perfect time is your commute to school and back. If you commute for a total of 10 to 15 minutes per day, do you realize that is an hour of studying?
  2. Record yourself. If you have a cassette recorder or can digitally record yourself - read the vocab list from any of the study guides, especially The Princeton Review. Then play it back during your commute, exercise or downtime. Go for a walk after dinner and get 20 minutes of vocab into your head.
  3. Flash cards. Get with a friend and do old fashioned flash cards; or (gasp) ask your parents to help you. I've met with tons of parents and am one myself - parents want you to do well and will help with flash cards for a few weeks (heck, they might learn something too).
  4. The SAT question of the day from the College Board - it is a must.
  5. The Official Study Guide - "the big blue pillow" (BBP) it is a must, get it, read it, do all the practice tests. All of them.
  6. Kaplan's has 1000 free questions on line - crunch out 15 to 20 questions a couple of times per week.
  7. Online, free, full-length, diagnostic SAT exams - there are several. Take them! One each week, if you can. There is nothing like being timed and getting feedback in terms of a score.
  8. Memorize the six triangles - play with their angles, lengths, areas & perimeters - you WILL be tested on them & it pays to have these cold.
  9. Memorize the movement of parabolas - these are easy questions that most students get wrong. There are only six possible answers to a parabola question: a (+ or -); b (+ or -) & c (+ or -). I'll write up a study sheet on parabolas.
  10. Memorize circles - Area, Circ., tangent, degrees, arc -- pull out 10 circle problems from the Big Blue Pillow and work through them with an eye for understanding the limited number of questions that the SAT asks on circles. You will see a circle.
  11. Memorize the Box Solutions for rate, work, mixture, d=rt, ratio's
  12. Practice percent of a percent
  13. Relax and have fun

Sunday, September 03, 2006

QAS - get your test booklet

You may order your actual test scores, booklet and even a copy of your answer sheet for certain SAT dates, call QAS. Oct, Jan, & May.

All others you can order your responses and whether they were right or wrong, SAS.

This is an absolute must. Mistakes are made, so get what you can and double check ETS.

From their website:

Additional Services

The Student Answer Service (SAS) and The Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) can provide you with excellent feedback on your performance on the test.

QAS and SAS are only available for the SAT Reasoning Test.

The Question-and-Answer Service (QAS): includes your response to each question and the correct answer, information about the type of question and level of difficulty, and scoring guidelines. QAS is available only for the October (Saturday), January (Saturday) and May (Saturday and Sunday) test dates.

The Student Answer Service (SAS): includes your response to each test question, a record of whether you answered each question correctly, incorrectly, or not at all and information about the type of question and level of difficulty. Copies of test questions are not included with SAS. SAS is available for all test dates other than those where QAS is available.

Ordering SAS or QAS After You Register

If you don’t order SAS or QAS when you register, you can still request these services later either online or through the order form you receive with your score report.

Goodest Grammar Sites

Once again, my young discipuli, I am recommending free resource. English Professor Paul Brain has complied a very nice list of Common Errors in English.

I believe it is a very useful study tool since sentence correction on the SAT is primarily concerned with spotting errors. (a bookstore named after one of the worst books to be called a "great classic" in the English language) has a free grammar site, from the publishing house, American Heritage. This site is easy to read, relatively short and does the opposite of Professor Brian's in that it tells what TO DO. Hence one site reports mistakes and the other teaches proper usage, covering two bases!

Do not forget to sign up to recieve the daily question from the College Board. The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, is credited with the maxim, "Small profits, frequently taken," meaning earn just a little bit of money, very often and you will be successful. The same applies to SAT prep, doing just a little bit several times per week creates comfort with SAT questions.

Discussing these questions with a student this week, we agreed that the questions were somewhat easy. But that is just fine. It keeps real questions in front of you and it will not take too much time to read the email and hit an anwer choice. If you hit the incorrect one, the answer is explained. And remember that the easy question count just as much as the hard ones, so we want to get ALL of the easy questions correct, MOST of the medium questions and a FEW of the hard. Answering 2/3 of all the math questions correctly is roughly a 600.

Knowing the wording and the style of the math questions cannot be over stated. Kaplan's free question bank at is another excellent resource. (For the most part, I like their books as well).

Friday, September 01, 2006

College Board Announces 2006 Scores

The College Board has issued a press release giving details of the scores of the New SAT with a writing section.

Read it here: NEW SAT Press Release