Suniti's Advice Corner

15 Tips About Writing An Effective SAT/ACT Essay

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Mon, Nov 10, 2014


One of our TestRocker students recently asked me for a list of 15 points to keep in mind while attempting the Essay section on the SAT/ACT. I thought it was worth sharing!

  1. Begin your introduction with short, firm sentences.keep-calm-and-write-your-essay
  2. State your 'stance' or thesis firmly and clearly.
  3. In the introduction, mention the 2-3 supports you will use in the essay to support your thoughts. 
  4. Make good transitions or 'links' to open each paragraph. 
  5. Tackle 1 support at a time in each paragraph. 
  6. Build your thoughts up with each sentence. Each sentence should add on to your thoughts. Do not repeat, put forth new information.
  7. At the end of each paragraph, write a 'mini' conclusion to connect to the topic and why your support proves your point of view. 
  8. Link well onto the second support. 
  9. Keep focus on the issue. Don’t go off topic. 
  10. Take a quick look at the assignment as a reminder to stay on topic, and to ensure you are answering what the prompt is asking you. 
  11. Take a few phrases and vocabulary words from the prompt, but don’t reproduce verbatim! 
  12. Don’t make 'politically incorrect’ statements.
  13. Write a powerful conclusion. Keep it simple but make firm assertions. 
  14. Keep an eye on time. 
  15. Use good and clear hand-writing! 

You might also enjoy the following blog entries:

Tips on How to Master the Essay Section

How to Become a Great Test Taker

Tags: For Students

Prepare for the Nov 8 SAT in 3 Weeks!

Posted by TestRocker Team on Thu, Oct 09, 2014


Been busy with school work? Need to prepare for the November 8th SAT last minute? Fear not! With TestRocker you can be prepared on time. Simply follow our 3 week preparation calendar (see below) to ace the test on time. All of the important topics below are taught on TestRocker's award winning online SAT program

Here is some more information about TestRocker:


 

3 week calendar

Click HERE to download the Calendar

 

Tags: For Students

Guessing on the SAT and ACT…Is it worth the risk?

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Sun, Sep 28, 2014

best_guessWhen it comes to test prep students often spend hours studying to ensure that they are not surprised by any of the content on the test. Even with all the time dedicated to studying, it is impossible to predict which questions you will encounter. It is highly likely that there will be a few questions that you just do not know the answer to…that’s where guessing comes into play.

The risk associated with guessing differs depending on whether you are taking the SAT or ACT. The ACT has no guessing penalty, so here students may feel less apprehension about guessing. The SAT does have a guessing penalty. While students who guess correctly will only reap the benefits, those who guess incorrectly will lose 1/4th of a point. On the ACT, we advise our students to guess when they cannot figure out how to solve the problem or when time is running out. On the SAT, students should only guess when they are able to eliminate a few answers. Below are our tips for guessing smart on test day.

Tips for Guessing Smart

Extreme Attraction

Take note of the highest and lowest value listed amongst your math answer choices. Do the same when it comes to sentence completion questions. For each of these questions the CollegeBoard often includes extreme answers to throw you off. If you haven’t been able to eliminate any responses and plan to guess, be sure to go with the answer that is the median between the two extremes.

Units of Measurement

On math questions units of measurement will often be used. Before you guess, double check that the provided answer choices have the unit of measurement that is being requested in the question. Eliminate any choices that are not in the correct unit of measurement.

Question Context

You should depend on question direction and question tone to help you guess more effectively. The questions themselves often contain hints that you can use to find the answer. Look for these if you are ever stuck on a question. 

On the english sections, you will be required to put your vocabulary to use. If you’re being asked to find the opposite of a negative word, it makes sense to eliminate any words that have a negative connotation.

On the math section, skim the question to figure out whether your final answer should be a bigger or smaller value than the values provided in the question. Should your final answer be negative or positive? Will it be an exponent? Polynomial function? Or an integer? The answers to these questions should guide you throughout your process of elimination.

Ultimately with the right amount of preparation you should be able to make educated guesses on the test. 

If you're having trouble deciding on which test date to prepare for, read our blog on picking the right test date!

Tags: For Students, For Parents, sat, test prep, act, guessing

Three reasons why you should study before the PSAT

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

girl_studyingPSAT season is upon us once again. In just a few weeks, most students around the world who are interested in attending university in the United States will attempt the PSAT. Some of these students prepared intensely for the test, while others have opted to take the test without studying. Experts and college guidance counselors differ on whether students should study for the PSAT. Here at TestRocker, we encourage our students to prepare for the test. Here are our reasons for making these suggestions: 

1. Any prep for the PSAT gets you ready for the SAT as well

Trying to study effectively for the SAT while also trying to manage a full academic schedule, leading extra-curriculars, and spending time with friends and family is hard to do. The PSAT is offered in October, which is normally a month or two after school has begun. While school is never easy, this is the time of year when things might be slower than usual in the classroom. Since the PSAT is mandatory for most students whether you are a sophomore or junior it might make sense to prepare.

The PSAT mimics the SAT in format, content, and question style. For this reason, consider preparing for the PSAT as this will put you ahead in your SAT prep. Students who study for the PSAT are then able to focus on learning and reviewing the content they are not as familiar with when studying for the SAT.

2. Determines eligibility for scholarships

The CollegeBoard and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation cosponsor the PSAT. For this reason the PSAT scores of US high school juniors are used to determine their eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship and other scholarship programs. The price of US colleges and universities continues to increase exponentially. No matter where your family falls on the socio-economic scale any additional money you can secure to go towards your schooling will no doubt be a huge help.

3. Get a realistic sense of your strengths and weaknesses

Taking the PSAT after making a significant effort to prepare will give you a realistic sense of your strengths and weaknesses. As we’ve mentioned before the content and questions on the PSAT are similar to what you would encounter on the SAT. Once you have received your PSAT score report use it to guide how you study for the SAT. Do not use your PSAT score report as an excuse to freak out.

For each of the PSATs three sections: critical reading, math, and writing, you will receive a score out of 80 as well as a predicted SAT score. You also receive your percentile which will tell you how many students you scored higher than. Finally your score report will include a skills breakdown section, which breaks down your skills to a subject/topic level. Review this section carefully to guide your studying.

Have more questions about preparing for the PSAT? Planning to take the PLAN instead? Contact our test-prep experts to develop a plan that you can feel confident about.

Other blogs to link to:

 

Tags: For Students, For Parents

Changes to the PSAT Coming in 2015

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Sun, Sep 14, 2014

psattestIf you didn’t know, TestRocker is here to tell you that changes are on the horizon across the test-prep landscape. In earlier blogs, we wrote about how the new SAT and new ACT will bring students a different test taking experience. In 2015, there will also be changes to the PSAT.

These changes are meant to mirror the announced changes to the SAT and ensure that students have a chance to prepare for the new SAT with a PSAT that is a realistic representation of the test. In addition to preparing students for the redesigned SAT, these changes are also meant to provide a measure of student performance and make it easier to identify a student’s areas of weakness. Below, we walk you through some of the structural and content modifications that you can expect on the PSAT as of October 2015.

Structural Changes to the PSAT

Test Components

Today’s PSAT has 3 components. These three components are critical reading, writing, and mathematics.  The PSAT of the future will have only two components. The first is an evidence-based reading and writing section. The second is a math section. A reading test and writing and language test will be collapsed into the new evidence-based reading and writing section. 

Test Time

While the PSAT will go from having 3 components to 2 components, this doesn’t mean that the test will be any shorter. In fact on the new PSAT the test will go from being 2 hours and 10 minutes long to being 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

Scoring

A number of significant changes have been made to the way the PSAT will be scored. There will no longer be a penalty for incorrect answers. Students will receive points for the right answer but receive no penalty for blank or incorrect answers.

Subscores will be provided for each section of the test, a feature that is not currently available with the PSAT. These subscores are meant to provide students, educators, and parents with a fuller picture of whether students have a grasp on the content being tested. PSAT test takers will receive seven different subscores.

Overall score reporting will also be different on the new PSAT. Each of the PSATs three tests (Reading Test, Writing and Language Test, and Math) will be scored on a range from 10-40. The two areas, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing & Math will each be scored from 200-800. The redesigned PSATs composite score will range from 400 to 1600. 

Content Changes to the PSAT

Vocabulary

Echoing the changes to the SAT that were reported earlier this year, the PSAT vocab section will not require students to just memorize a bunch of words and their meanings. Instead students will have to demonstrate an understanding of words by applying them in context.

Reasoning

While the current PSAT has an emphasis on general reasoning skills, the new PSAT will also test whether students have knowledge, skills, and understanding for college and career success.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think of the coming changes to the PSAT.

Image source: Flickr

 

Tags: For Parents, For Counselors

Back to School: Preparing your child for SAT/ACT success

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Sep 05, 2014

test prepBack to school season is in full swing. As summer winds down, parents have been swept up in the tide of back to school shopping, double-checking summer assignments, and preparing their children for another year of academic success. This season can get even more stressful as your children begin the college application process. Test preparation in particular can be challenging for children and parents alike. It is important for parents to support, guide and mentor their children through the college admissions process. If you are afraid that your child may struggle with time management, SAT/ACT preparation, or completing their college applications; here are a few things you can do now and over the course of the school year to help your child get ready:

Create an SAT/ACT test prep plan

For many parents nothing is harder than getting their child to study. It’s only more difficult to get your child to study for the SAT and ACT on top of their existing academic obligations. We have written extensively about how you and your child can work together to create a SAT/ACT test prep plan.

If you are the parent of a high school junior or senior, it is critical to start a conversation with your child about which SAT or ACT test dates they plan to register for. Once you and your child have agreed on test dates, use this information to follow up on and guide your child’s test prep process.

Create the right study environment

Effective studying does not happen in a hectic or messy environment. Work with your child to identify the three or four areas or environments in which they study most effectively. These places can be both inside and outside the home (e.g., kitchen table, library, or bedroom). Be sure that any potential distractions are removed from the chosen study areas.

Stay organized

Today’s high school student is expected to juggle any number of academic; extra-curricular; social; and sports commitments. Many parents choose to put all of their child’s commitments on one central calendar to facilitate keeping track of everything. If this schedule is not kept digitally, it should be posted somewhere where it is easy for the entire family to view. 

Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers

Your child’s teachers will be your allies throughout the school year. They can help identify and address academic red flags before they become major obstacles to academic performance.  Partner with your child’s teacher to develop an action plan for achieving goals and addressing any areas of development.

Schedule a meeting with your child’s guidance counselor

Once you have been able to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, it may also make sense to schedule a meeting between yourself, your child, and your child’s guidance counselor. In this meeting, empower your child and ensure that their voice is heard. This meeting is also your opportunity to have your questions about the college application process answered. Once you have this conversation, let your child drive the process. Be a source of encouragement and check-in to make sure all necessary classes, tests, and applications have been completed. d 

Parents: Want more information? Register today for our “How to support your child through the test prep process” webinar.

October 15, US: Click here to register
October 16, International: Click here to register

Tags: For Parents

Back to School: 5 Things seniors must tell their counselors

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

College Prep Harkness TableYou’ve done it! Well, almost. If you’re a senior about to start your final year of high school, the bulk of the hard work is already behind you. As you celebrate all of the hard work that it took to get to where are, you must also plan for the future. When it comes to your college plans, it’s important to communicate these key pieces of information to your guidance counselor from the beginning of your senior year.

Share your college list revisions

As a senior, you should have spent the summer after your junior year researching the schools on the college list your counselor provided you with. This research may have included school visits, in-depth research online, reading through any materials schools shared with you, and conversations with students, faculty, and staff from your institution of interest. Based on your findings, let your counselor know which schools seem to be the best fit given your goals, desired experience, and academics.

Update SAT/ACT Scores

Once you are back on your high school’s campus let your counselor know where your scores stand. This information will help them set realistic expectations for you. It will also allow your counselor to develop an informed picture of where you stand as an applicant. Based on your updated college list, your college counselor can let you know what score range you need to target on subsequent test retakes. Counselors would also be able to share score information for alumni who attend the schools you are interested in.
Wondering how to pick the right target score? Start with our advice. Click here.

Share your test-prep plan for the coming year

In addition to a score update, seniors should also share whether they plan to take the test again before college applications are due. Doing this allows students to double check the necessity of additional testing. Students and counselors can work together to ensure that test scores are back in time to be considered by admissions committees.
 

Share planned extra-curricular and academic course load

During your senior year, there is the temptation to just do the bare minimum. It is important to consult with your guidance counselor to make sure you are meeting graduation requirements, while continuing to challenge yourself and explore any areas of potential interest.  This will also allow your counselor to share with college admissions committees how you have grown academically over the course of your high school career.

Talk through your approach for requesting recommendations. 

Since your counselor will act as your advocate throughout the college admissions process, it is important to get their input about teacher recommendations. They should have some sense of which teachers will be able to speak positively about your academic performance. In most cases your counselor will also share a recommendation on your behalf, be sure to share any key messages you want them to send.
 
The college application process is difficult enough, you don’t have to go it alone. Remember to rely on the parents, teachers, and counselors around for advice, support, or just a shoulder to cry on. The sooner you share your plan and get these people involved, the more likely you are to find yourself celebrating the positive outcome of the entire process.

Enjoyed this blog? Check out these relevant blogs

College Ready: Help your child get ahead during their junior year!

Suniti's Time Management Tips for High School Students

Social Media: An Extension of your college application

You know your SAT Score. Now what?

Developing a SAT or ACT Test-Prep Plan with your Child 

Tags: For Students, For Parents

3 Findings from the 2014 ACT College and Career Readiness Report

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

Every year, the ACT prepares a “College and Career Readiness” report. This report highlights significant performance data points for the given year’s graduates. This information is meant to help track test-prep trends, give clear insight into whether aggregate test scores are meeting college readiness benchmarks, as well as capturing student aspirations. Below we share three critical findings from this years report. 

1. The ACT continues to grow in popularity

In 2012, for the first time ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT[i]. The increasing popularity of the ACT continues to be a critical piece of the puzzle for students applying to college. In 2014, 1.8M students took the ACT. This is an 18% increase in the number of ACT tested graduates since 2010.

2. The percentage of students meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks remained steady

The Class of 2014 performed similarly to past classes as it relates to the percentage of graduates meeting reading, math, and science benchmarks. In the class of 2014, the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks was as follows:

English: 64% college readiness
Reading: 44%
Mathematics: 43%
Science: 37%
All four subjects: 26%

Interestingly enough the ACT reports that in Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming, states that focus on college and career readiness in their curriculum, the class of 2014 saw gains of 0.2-0.3 points in their ACT Composite scores. The ACT explains this improvement in the following way; “gains in achievement are common in states that create an educational culture focused on college and career readiness”.

3. Students aspire to college, but many are not enrolling

In 2014, 86% of graduates would like to attend a college or university. 87% of 2013 graduates reported wanting to go to college, but only 69% enrolled.

Within the class of 2014, excluding those who are undecided or did not indicate a major, Nursing and Pre-Med were the two most popular majors. Only 14% of students with an interest in a nursing major met all four college readiness benchmarks. 48% of those who expressed an interest in being pre-med met college readiness benchmarks. The majors with the best fit based on ACT test scores were Biochemistery and Biophysics (51%) and Accounting (53%).

You can read the entire report by clicking here: http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2014/pdf/CCCR14-NationalReadinessRpt.pdf

Other TestRocker ACT Blogs

The top 4 reasons to take both the SAT and ACT
ACT changes on the horizon in 2015
ACT Trigonometry Tips
The ACT Science Section: It’s not rocket science
Your guide to ACT test day

[i] Lewin, Tamar. NYTimes. “Testing, Testing: More Students Are Taking Both the ACT and SAT”. 2013 Aug 12.

 

Tags: For Parents, For Counselors

Study for the December ACT in just 3 weeks!

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

The Dec 13th ACT is quickly approaching, and you haven't started studying yet. Don't fret! TestRocker can help you ace the test! 

Here are the three steps to ensuring you get your dream ACT score on Sept 13th:

  1. If you haven't already done so, sign up for our free trial. If you enjoy learning with TestRocker then purchase our program!
  2. Use the calendar below and work through the recommended modules, video concepts, and practice quizzes
  3. Wake up calm and relaxed on December 13th, and rock the ACT!

Since TestRocker is completely online, you can prep for the ACT whenever you want, wherever you want. In fact after the September test, continue to use TestRocker to prepare for your next ACT. Good luck!

TestRocker Tip

Click to download the calendar

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TestRocker's ACT program has won Tech & Learning's 2014 award of excellence. Start studying with the best, forget the rest! 

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Tags: For Students, For Parents

How will the Vocab section change on the New SAT

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

test2 resized 600Earlier this year the College Board announced their planned changes to the SAT. Planned changes to test include the following:

- Passages will come from new sources
- The new math section will have a heavier focus on algebra, linear equations, and inequalities
- The SAT essay will go from being required to being optional and scored separately

Another key aspect of these changes includes a change in the type of vocabulary students will need to focus on. Gone are the obscure SAT words of tests past, instead students will be expected to focus on demonstrating a command of complex vocabulary that students will need to excel outside of the SAT or ACT. Since there is such a strong link between vocabulary and reading comprehension, the test will assess the multiple meanings of words in a way that will require sensitivity to context. 

Students will need to do more than just demonstrate the ability to memorize words using flashcards. Words will need to be defined as they are used in context. According to the College Board, “By including the sorts of words-in-context questions sampled above, the redesigned sat supports and rewards students’ development of broad and deep word knowledge without resorting to obscurity.”

All these changes mean that students will need to change the way they study for the vocabulary portion of the test. Memorization of words and their meaning out of context will not be sufficient to get ready for the new SAT.  As they prepare students should focus on “Tier 2” words like, “inimical”, “hallow”, and “consecrated”.  “Tier 2” vocabulary words are defined as any words “of high utility for mature language users and are found across a variety of domains”, according to the CollegeBoard.

Research has shown that conversation alone is not enough to build the level of conversation needed to be successful in college or career.

"A quick comparison between oral and written language is instructive: while the conversation of college-educated adults contains an average of 17.3 rare words per thousand, even children’s book exhibit almost double that frequency. Clearly, then acquiring vocabulary from conversation alone is insufficient to attain skilled comprehension." (CollegeBoard, 2014)

When preparing students should prepare to read widely and deeply. However because a love of reading is cultivated over time, a number of students struggle with comprehension and varied application of “Tier 2” words. Students should also practice in ways that allow them to learn words in context. TestRocker’s vocabulary game is one option for students looking to learn these words and apply them in context.

Whatever method you choose to prepare, it’s important to understand how critical mastery of vocabulary and solid reading comprehension are to college and career success. It is imperative that students see the value of these skills beyond both the SAT and ACT. Cultivating these abilities will allow students to write and present their own thoughts in a clear and concise way. A strong grasp on “Tier 2” vocabulary is essential to putting them on the path to success. TestRocker stands with students in their journey towards excellence in college and career.

Tags: For Students, For Parents

About Suniti

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching students how to maximize their SAT and ACT scores, a method she has perfected through tutoring thousands of students globally for more than a decade. 

TestRocker is a one of a kind online SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking our diagnostic test a customized study plan, individualized to students' strengths/weaknesses, allows them to track progress as they work through the program. Each of the 1,200 SAT & 2000 ACT questions on TestRocker are accompanied by video explanations from Suniti. Parents are able to track their child’s progress through biweekly reports.

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