Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Atticus Finch & the Essay

Last night I gave my first "Tricks & Traps of the SAT" Seminars at the Sewickley Public library. Special thanks to Meghann the librarian for help & support. We were both so pleased to see our community library being used by folks from the surrounding community and not from our immediate school district.

I'd also like to thank the teens who showed and participated, I had a lot of fun and they were highly interactive.

As I was describing how to use literary references on the SAT essay, I asked each student to select a book that they had studied in English class and liked. Ben said, "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Nelle Harper Lee, published in 1960 during the civil rights movement in America.

It is the PERFECT literary reference for ANY SAT essay. No kidding - and you do not even have to read the book. Read commentary on the moral character of Atticus Finch and his regard for the deep seated good of mankind. The 1962 movie adaptation starting Gregory Peck is awesome & will give you all that you need to know to use this classic as a reference to the humanistic essay that you will be forced to write for the SAT (& it is available for free in the library).

ESSAY Advice:
  • Read all 8 essay statements and questions in the BBP.
  • Outline responses that will match all of them.
  • Prepare polished sentences with literary references ahead of time, to be memorized and included in your essay.

Quoting a noble statement from Atticus Finch or simply describing his character as one of your key supporting points is brilliant; thanks Ben, generations of SAT students will be grateful for your insight.

I have learned that the best thing about being a teacher is learning from my students; "When you teach, you learn twice."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Bad; an example

Here is today's Question of the day from

The dramatist was -------over his lack of funds and his inability to sell any of his plays, and his letters to his wife reflected his unhappiness.

a. despondent b. supercililous c. prudent d. encouraged e. fortified

If you put your hand over the blank and read the sentence a natural response might be "depressed" or "bummed out." Lets look for clues - inability, unhappiness are connected by the trigger AND - so they are in agreement. The blank must be bad. c, d, & e are eliminated right away. If you do not know despondent from supercilious - which one sounds worse? Despondent - which is the best choice, for it describes that dramatists emotional state.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Seven Days & Counting

It is almost here, I look forward to the cram-jam tomorrow!

If you are going to take the test again (or for the first time) and want to raise your Vocab scores here are few classics that Kaplan has made into SAT Vocab Study Aids:


Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

The Tales of Edgar Allen Poe (my favorite for long ago, I've got to get this one!)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Answer the right question

I'm a certified, registered, card-carrying math geek. So am comfortable that I am not bragging when I say I have been helping students since I was in the 3rd grade (at school, at home with my older sisters, even longer - they hated that pesky little brother yelling out their math answers, so OK maybe that wasn't helping them). For many years the teachers did not know what to do with me because the system required that all students learn at the same pace.

I am so pleased with our public school that now recognizes those kids and accelerates them in all subjects. Truly it is a sin to bore a child with something that they already know.

Well, it's been 34 years of watching people do problems and I can state emphatically that the #1 mistake in doing word problems is NOT answering the right question. I do it myself, I am just as guilty.

This mistake stems from reading the problem too quickly and beginning to answer the question even before you have read all the way through. I just did it yesterday. I read a question, thought I knew the answer, which of course was one of the answer choices. When I took the time to read it slowly, I found that it was actually asking something other than what I had answered.

Yesterday I watched four students in a row read word problems and saw this mistake again.

Please be conscience of this tendency and slow down, read the WHOLE question. Ask yourself, "What is the question asking for?"

Then unlike the sentence completion where you do not want to look at the answer choices, in math you absolutely want to look at the answer choices so you can get an idea of the format or style of the answer.

When I miss a problem (& I do miss them); it is usually because I have not read it completely.

On Oct 14th; we all have to slow down and answer the right question.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

PRP: Percents, Ratios, Proportions

PRP – Percent, Ratio, & Proportion (& maybe fractions)

The SAT used to be full of PRP problems, but in studying all eight sample tests in the BBP (last night watching Ohio State roll over Iowa), I have found that there are only two or three of these types of questions on the new SAT.

I am not absolutely sure that all future SAT’s will have the same proportion of problems as the BBP, but it is a pretty good guess. I’ll know more in the future as I keep taking the tests that allow me to buy the actual test booklet, but that will be of little help on Oct. 14th.

These problems are very easy & a great place to score. They are almost all in the medium section, the one section that we are all targeting to get 100%. They can be “tricksie,” so it will pay dividends to look over the following examples and know how to do them cold & quickly – but don’t rush. There are most certainly traps in the answer choices – they will put in the most common arithmetic mistakes as answer choices.

PRP ?’s from the BBP:

Test #1
Page Question
397 8
410 10
425 10

Test #2
460 6
472 6
491 6

Test #3
548 3
550 12

Test #4
582 3
587 19

Test #5
652 1
680 3
680 5

Test #6
720 13
747 15

Test #7
778 13
796 19

Test #8
843 16
870 12