Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

#2 KNOW the Instructions

Secret #2:

KNOW the SAT test instructions. Be MORE than fully prepared, thoroughly familar with each section and it's instructions, types of questions and their style.

Do not waste a single precision second looking back to the beginning of a section or listening to anything that the proctor has to say. This is a serious competition, so be competitive.

This is especially true on the math section where certain formulas are given, circles, triangles, etc. I have seen too many students look back to that section trying to remember the area vs. circumference of a circle.

For an exercise, practice writing down all of those from memory over and over again.

Can you outline the entire SAT exam, number of sections, time, number and types of questions? Do it

Sunday, September 21, 2008

101 Secrets of the SAT #1

Ok, I've been wanting to do this for a while, write and publish a book (booklet) unleashing my accumulated knowledge on SAT to help folks out

#1. The Writing Section is still useless for admissions.

In 2005, the SAT was revamped to some things were dropped, others added. Of the biggest changes was the addition of the Writing section. It is two multiple choice sections and an essay. Colleges and universities have not been using it for admissions. Though some are looking at it for placement tests.

Much has been written on the changes, so I need not comment much. Every student should strive to do well on all tests. Since this test does not count for much, if anything at all, your efforts are best spent on improving your Math and Critical Reading scores.

I'll write more on the Essay section later.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let your pencil do the walking

The #1 mistake that I see students make on SAT math problems is that the do not read the problem thoroughly. To do so, you must slow down and read the question word by word, underlying key words.

The #2 mistake that I witness is that students try to do the math of the SAT in their heads. This causes two problems.

First, doing math in your head is prone to making simple math errors. Second, it may actually take you LONGER to do the problem in your head, than if you wrote it down. Let's take a brief look at both:

1. Errors - Too many times have I been guilty of this myself. Speeding through simple arithmetic and making common errors, 2 + 3 = 6. Or the blunder I pulled on the June 07 SAT, a right triangle has base legs of 2 & 3, what is the hypotenuse (there was a figure). I of course added 2 + 3 and got 5, so the answer was the square root of 5! Which was of course one of the choices. But it was not the answer, the square root of 13 is the answer. Had I written down a~squared + b~squared = c~squared and actually entered the numbers and multiplied, then added: (2 x 2) + (3 x 3), I would not have scored 1 question less than a 700!

So, slow down. Write down. Wear your pencil out, it is how you have always learned to do math.

2. It may actually take longer. This may not sound right, but it can be true. While taking the SAT you have anxiety & are nervous. There is a lot going on in your head. If you use your trusty arm and pencil to help you organize your math processes, it might result in a faster, more accurate result.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Forty Days to Oct 4th

Only 40 days left to work on what you do not know.

Slope of a line is absolutely on the SAT Math section. You may read, linear function, the graph of a line, f(x) is directly proportional to x and several other key words and phrases that immediately inform you that the question is about a line.

Here is a review of some general slope ideas.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

SAT Functions f(x) #2

Here is the second in my series on functions on the SAT.

To practice how the SAT Tests functions, use the Official SAT Study Guide & download my Functions "Cheat Sheet." It lists all of the function problems in the study guide.

I'll write more function problems and then solve them on a YouTube video

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back with functions, f(x)

Here is the first of many SAT Math lessons to come.

Functions on the SAT Math, f(x)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Worthless SAT Essay

Here is a funny piece about how bad the SAT Essay really is.

The Unabomer got the highest score:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Prep Big Business

From The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Long after the end of the regular school day, light from a classroom streamed into a dimmed hallway at Magnificat High School in Rocky River. Ten juniors, from Magnificat and several other schools, sat with workbooks and calculators while Charles Fuller, a teacher at Benedictine High School, made sure no one had unresolved questions or problems.

When he turned off the light to focus on a PowerPoint presentation, the students leaned forward attentively -- looking into their future, in one sense, as they searched for an edge in the competition for college.

For high school seniors, late winter and spring is the time of waiting for word about college admission and financial aid. For juniors, the process is just starting.

Some have already taken the standardized SAT and ACT admissions tests, but others are getting ready for test dates in April, May and June. Classes like Fuller's, part of a six-week course run by The College Review, a Beachwood counseling and test prep company, are becoming popular with families seeking a boost.

Popular perception once had it that a good night's sleep was the best way, or only way, to prepare for college entrance tests. Now that would be like skipping spring training to get a good rest before baseball season.

"It's critically important that students prepare for standardized tests," said Randall Deike, vice president for enrollment management at Case Western Reserve University. "Taking practice tests and understanding what to expect in the test environment can be incredibly helpful."

"It is inappropriate for a student to go in unprepared," said College Review manager Susan Henschel. "They do have to do outside work to learn specific strategies. Test scores are what open the door to college. Ohio is getting more into it because the requirements of state schools are going up. People are realizing they need formal preparation."

From scattered tutors and a few books, test-prep has grown to a mass industry. Including everything from iPod math exercises to vocabulary-building graphic novels, it ranges from online courses, both paid and free, to a variety of classes and individual tutoring that can cost upwards of $4,000.

Nationally, Kaplan Inc. and Princeton Review are the biggest test-prep companies. The past decade has seen particular growth, said Kristen Campbell, director of SAT and ACT programs at Kaplan.

"It's not about if you go to college, it's about where you go to college that has further fueled the competition," she said.

"Today's families know this. They want to create the best application possible.

"Hope is not a strategy. It definitely was a common perception that you couldn't prepare for these tests, but we always recommend getting as much practice as possible -- knowing the first thing you're going to face is the essay, when to guess or not, getting used to the types of questions."

"These are all good students," Fuller said during a break in his College Review class at Magnificat, "and everyone wants to shoot for that perfect score. The goal is to improve every section you do."

Goals must be individual, Henschel said. "It's customized to the student. We ask what score they want, do diagnostic work to determine if they can reach it, and help them reach it. The scores come back to show it."

College Review, which works with both individuals and school districts, uses state-certified teachers with good track records in preparation. It has grown to serve students statewide and beyond since starting 12 years ago. The work is no longer seasonal. "It's continuous," Henschel said. "Students are taking the exams from January to June of 11th grade. And because of admissions requirements going up, especially in Ohio, many students consider 'rolling admission' as the most favorable option. Summer is one of our busiest times."

Research by the College Board, which administers the SAT, found that students can increase their scores about 40 points by taking the exam a second time after taking a short course.

Formal courses or pricey personal tutoring are not the only options. The College Board and ACT offer free online quizzes and questions in addition to paid prep.

Mary Nixon of Cleveland Scholarship Programs,, a nonprofit resource and counseling center that works with individuals and about 100 schools in the area, prefers An online service with the Ohio Public Library Information Network, it has a wide variety of practice tests, including the SAT and ACT, and can be tailored to focus on specific subjects.

"It's portable and interactive," she said.

But all the anxiety, and the focus on testing, "worries a lot of admissions professionals," said Brian Williams, vice president for enrollment at John Carroll University.

"What I tend to see is students and families trying to be as competitive as possible," he said. "But there's a number of different ways colleges view test scores in the admission process. The choice of focusing on tests varies. For the majority of colleges, a swing in test scores will not make or break admittance or scholarship. So many other factors tell a larger story."

In fact, more than 750 of the nation's 4,000 colleges, including more than two dozen in Ohio, have made the ACT and SAT optional. Randall Deike at Case is an advocate of standardized tests in admissions but stressed they are only one factor. Preparing for the tests, especially with practice exams, is vital, he said, but students should first take advantage of what's available online. "The College Board and ACT sites do an excellent job."

Purchasing services "depends on the student" and should be a family decision. There is debate about whether tutoring makes a significant difference, Deike said, though the coaching, motivation and structure of classes help some students.

For families seeking any edge, however, or the reassurance of feeling they did what they could to gain one, an improved test score or one that hits a goal is the dividend of prep classes.

"There was screaming in the background," Henschel said last week, after a round of phone calls from parents when the latest SAT scores went out. "It was pretty exciting. They were pleased."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

How will you perform?

A new study says that you will do pretty much the same where ever you go [I guess that means, I would have skipped as much class at CMU as I did at Penn State]

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

that damn essay

I don't write much about the essay, though I have given several lessons on it [they are soon to make it to a near you]

This article regarding the length of the essay may be a few years old, but in terms of standardized testing, it is fresh.

Monday, March 24, 2008

More turn to test prep for the SAT

More students turn to test prep for the SAT.

Practice makes perfect. Or at least a better score. Test prep works - but the student must be PROactive in the preparation and not REactive like in a high school course.

Most students walk into high school classes unprepared. The teacher expects this and spoon feeds them everything that they need for an exam. The teacher writes the exam, or at a minimum know what the questions are going to be and can 'teach to the test.'

Not so with the SAT. All that we know are the general subjects for math & common questions for reading. There is no teacher that can give you a BIG HINT that, "This is very important, you may see this again." Basically telling you what is on the test.

On the SAT, a student can learn a lot about the test, but cannot work the same way that they do for a high school class.

In my opinion, those students who take a prep course and only go up a little bit face the course as if it was any other high school class. They expect the teacher to spoon feed them.

Learning methods that work, requires practice outside of the prep class and the DESIRE to score. More to follow...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Waiting Game

SAT's are taken, Transcripts are sent.

Now the WAIT. Here is a good article on anticipation for college acceptance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another blow to SAT Subject Tests

If the proposal reported in this article goes through, the College Board will take a major hit against "Subject Tests." I believe that subject tests were originally produced for the UC system, and remains their largest customer.

Well, good riddance! I am in the business of putting myself out of business. Though I've always been the kind of student who benefits from standardized tests, I do not believe that they have any real value. I'd love to see them go by the wayside, especially SAT Subject Tests. They have no real value.

Neither does the regular SAT, but I do not see that going away anytime soon.

Campus visits

Here is a nice article about dragging your teen to a campus for a visit.

I never went through it personally. I went on my own campus visits (with my dad's car & a few friends piled in ~ thanks dad, that was an awful lot of trust). Most articles that I have read report that for the average student, visiting the campus is very important. Many students get a "feel" for their college and decide that it is right for them walking around.

I like that. I did that too.

I remember my first time on Penn State's main campus. I had already been accepted, it was fall, the weather was perfect, I could afford to go without any help from my parents and there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 thousand women under the age of 25. To my seventeen year old eyes, that was pretty amazing. Oh, and there was a football game on Saturday; that seemed fun too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BAMN protests the SAT

Members of "By Any Means Necessary" [BAMN] protested against the use of the SAT in California today. Pretty interesting article.

Get the QAS for your SAT

College Board offers the ability to purchase what they can the "Question and Answer Service."

BUY it

Even if you just got your scores back from Jan, spend the $18. You receive a new question booklet - not your actualy one, but one that has the same questions in the same order that you took them on the SAT.

If you plan on taking the test again, working on the actual SAT exam questions is valuable.

Also get the Official SAT Study guide & then go to my website: and do my "Cheat Sheets" that list exact problems to do like slope, functions, geometry, probability, etc.

Good luck on your test prep

Sunday, March 16, 2008

UC dropping SAT Subject Tests?

I am often asked about SAT Subject Tests; are they necessary, are they useful, etc?

They have been around for awhile and used to be called SAT II. Their biggest customer is the University of California system.

Now it appears that UC may be looking to drop the SAT Subject tests. Will other schools follow.

Here is the article from today's LA Times.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Clayton gets a 2400

From Union-Tribune of San Diego:

Clayton Greenberg scored a 2400!

Last year, 2.2 million students took the SAT, and 269 seniors earned a top score, including 45 in California, according to the College Board, which administers the test. Figures for how many juniors earned a top score were not available.

Clayton attributes his success on the test to hard work and lots of preparation (Never heard that before on this site!). Linda Greenberg, his mother, said her son “puts his heart and soul into everything he does.”

Do you?

Look, don't psych yourself out by saying only geeks get high scores. That is simply not true, average students can beat ANY test - if they know how to take a test.

Students Still Believe in the SAT

This article last week in the LA Times highlights how students still believe that the SAT matters - as does test prep.

Test prep works, as long as you work it.

So work it, even if all you do is practice problems in a test prep book.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Feb 27 Official Question of the Day

I have all of my students sign up for's Question of the Day. If you want to have a high score on the SAT, then practice, practice, practice!!!! Did I say practice?

Well what better to practice than to get an actual question from the test writers.

Today's question is [I hope that CollegeBoard does not get mad at me for showing this question - but heck, I tell everyone to read their stuff & buy their book. So, I think that they should be happy with me - I make them money]:

A woman drove to work at an average speed of 40 miles per hour and returned along the same route at 30 miles per hour. If her total traveling time was 1 hour, what was the total number of miles in the round trip?

  1. click to choose answer A 30
  2. click to choose answer B 301 over 7
  3. click to choose answer C 342 over 7
  4. click to choose answer D 35
  5. click to choose answer E 40
This is a "HARD" -- so that means that there is some math involved. Questions on the SAT Math are given in relative order of difficulty. Meaning that the first questions are easier than the last questions. So you will see this question in the last 1/4 of the test.

Hard questions also have hard answers. So if the numbers in the problem appear in the answer choice, like A & E, they are usually wrong.

Also if you can find an answer choice with one easy math step, like D. 35 which is the average of 40 and 30, it will most likely be wrong as well.

Think about it: How could this be a hard problem if the math was short and easy?

So here we are having eliminated A, D & E - leaving us with a 50/50. NOW is the time to make a good guess.

B. smells fishy, it looks too close to 30. The answer has to be somewhere around the middle of the two numbers but less than the average (because 30 is slower than 40, it hogs more time).

C. fits the bill. It looks just right, being an "ugly" answer that is around the average.

It is the correct answer.

Less than 40% of 50,000 people answered correctly - yet it is one of the easiest "Hard" questions to guess the correct answer!

On guessing: if you have absolutely NO clue, then do NOT guess. It will hurt you. But if you can eliminate 2 or 3 answer choices, then I say: GO FOR IT!

Grid-In Fractions

If your answer is a fraction, do not bother to reduce.

2/4 is as good as 1/2 ~ the grading computer calculates the equivalent decimal and compares it to the acceptable answer automatically. [Thank you Princeton Review ~ their "Math Workout for the New SAT" is an excellent resource, one that I refer to often. If you can complete all of the problem types that they have in that book, you can score 600+]

I personally like using fractions [but hey, I'm a math geek]. The SAT makes it easier to use fractions and often there is very little math involved other than some simple multiplication and CANCELING, my favorite math activity. There is just something so enjoyable in striking through a number!

The one thing to consider is that 1/2 is three bubbles to fill in, whereas its decimal equivalent .5 is only two bubbles to fill in. It may sound trivial but less bubbles to fill in means more time solving problems.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Perfect Score

Congratulations to KZ, my first student to score an 800 on a section of the SAT.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scores are out today

Check online and go get your scores!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tolerance Problem

The “Tolerance Problem.”
Monday January 28, 2008’s SAT Question of the day, goes something like this:
The weights of 12 sacks of potatoes range from 14.75 pounds to 15.15 pounds. If P is the weight, in pounds, of one of these sacks, which of the following must be true?
A. P – 14.75≤ 0.2
B. P – 14.95≤ 0.2
C. P + 14.95≤ 0.2
D. P – 0.2≤ 0.2
E. P – 12≤ 0.2

**** SORRY ****** For some reason, Blogger will not recognize the absolute value sign. For a better view of the problem, please download the pdf (link at bottom)

Sorry, there is no “solution technique,” that I know of, to solve this medium level SAT algebra problem. Less than half of the SAT students have selected the right answer to this medium level difficulty question. You have to know the specific content of what is being asked in the Tolerance Problem. The answer is an algebraic expression that defines the acceptable tolerances or limits for something that is produced or sold. I happen to like this problem because I studied manufacturing as an undergrad and despite never working in the field I have retained this specific content (that and the reason why McDonald’s chairs used to be bright orange; oh my professors would be so proud).

Here is how the Tolerance Problem works. You are given the range of two units of measurement, in this case weight in pounds, of multiple items, produce like potatoes or apples or something being manufactured like the size of a bottle opening or the width of a nail. Rarely does the number of items have anything to do with the problem; it is just there as a statistical sample size to show you that there is more than a couple of the thing being measured. The combined weight of the 12 sacks is not mentioned, you are working to solve the acceptable tolerance limit for an individual sack, defined by an algebraic expression using absolute value ( P )and a less than or equal to inequality (≤).

When you buy a bag or box of anything at the store that is sold by weight not by volume, you do not get the EXACT amount. Instead, you purchase an amount that is ABOUT the weight listed. If it is produce like potatoes or apples in a bag, the store sets a limit to what the bag can weigh and still be sold. This RANGE of weight is the acceptable lower limit (any less and the consumer does not get enough) to the upper limit (any more and the store is giving away too much).

To find the RANGE, take the UPPER LIMIT (larger measurement, here: 15.15) and SUBTRACT the LOWER LIMIT (smaller measurement, here: 14.75)
· RANGE = 15.15 – 14.75 = 0.04 pounds
· The TOLERANCE is expressed as the AVERAGE of the LIMITS plus or minus
one-half of RANGE.
AVERAGE = (15.15 + 14.75) ÷ 2 = 14.95 pounds
· Expressed in algebra, using absolute value, an individual potato sack would be:

So our solution today is: B. P – 14.95≤ 0.2
The TOLERANCE is 14.95 ± 0.2 pounds

Download the TOLERANCE PROBLEM pdf file