Tips from an Expert Tutor

The question I am asked the most often after revealing that I’m a professional standardized test tutor is, “How should I study for Test X?” The reply is always invariably a petition for more information such as the materials being used, past testing history, study habits, and anticipated testing schedule, all of which is just a baseline amount of information that I would then use to offer the most basic and topical plan of action. The reason for such a skeletal plan is because of a very simple reason:  every student’s needs are different and if I haven’t spent any time observing a student’s habits and logical process then I can’t say what he or she needs. The effectiveness of tutoring lies in the customization and personalized guidance. A large part of a tutor’s job is identifying where in the process of answering a question, between reading it to choosing the correct answer, is there a disconnect.  The tutor then formulates a way for that particular student to most effectively bridge that gap. With that said, here are three of the most common issues many of my students face across different tests have.

 

1.            Lacking the fundamental knowledge base that is being tested.

2.            Having difficulty recognizing the topics being tested by the questions.

3.            Executing a strategy for specific question types consistently.

 

The first issue is usually the easiest to diagnose. This issue is most notable with math questions but can manifest with verbal questions (albeit less alarmingly and thus usually more ignored, unfortunately). My opinion on this issue, shared by the pedagogy of Bell Curves, is that regardless of how much test-taking savvy you have, if you don’t know the base content (e.g. geometry formulas, grammar rules, argument structure, etc.) there is absolutely no way to consistently answer questions correctly. The solution is pretty straightforward  – study the material until you understand the rules and their applications.

January 2011 SAT: You Be the (Essay) Judge

One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT essay is to read and write SAT essays. After every SAT, many of our students give us permission to use their actual essays to help others learn from what they did. We’ve posted and discussed this essay to hopefully help you prepare.

A few quick points about the SAT essay for those of you a bit newer to the test:

  • The essay is the very first section of the test.
  • The essay is handwritten in 25 minutes with a pencil on 2 sides of 8.5″x 11″ paper.
  • The essay is worth up to 180 points of the total SAT Writing score.
  • Your full essay will be available on collegeboard.com about 4 weeks after your test date.
  • Each SAT essay consists of a Prompt, which gives some background discussion and context, and an Assignment, which gives the specific assignment they have to complete.

 

Without further ado, here is a January 2011 SAT essay transcribed for your reading pleasure:

SAT and ACT New Security Procedures

Since the SAT cheating ring debacle in 2011, the makers of the SAT and ACT college entrance exams have been wracking their brains about how to tighten security. They are so serious and committed to dealing with this issue that they have even hired a former Director of the FBI to help them develop these new security measures. We’ve been watching events unfold and here is the summary of the changes coming to the September 2012 ACT and October 2012 SAT.

ACT vs SAT: Fee Waiver Throwdown

There are many great debates in the country today: Democrat vs Republic, Charter schools vs Public schools, Robert Frost vs E.E. Cummings, Lebron vs Kobe, McDonald’s vs Burger King … the list goes on and on. We’d like to weigh in on one of the most important debates of our time: The SAT or the ACT?

College-bound students today are having this debate in numbers that their predecessors, ancestors, and older siblings never did. In part due to the ubiquity (SAT word!) of acceptance of either test, and in part due to the growing awareness of testing options, students are now more frequently asking themselves “which one should I take?” The answers are as varied as are the answers to all of the debates mentioned above, and as passionately defended. We’re going to try to be the voice of reason and help you make the decision by providing as much information and perspective as we can. There are a lot of factors that go into making this decision, from what a particular school is looking for to what subjects the student excels in, but here’s something else to consider: fee waivers.  Or more specifically, what fee waivers do and do not include. Today’s post will help you understand this often overlooked difference and how it might help make the difference for you.

Word Challenge V: Two Words, One Speech – Frederick Douglass!

Part V of our six part series examines the words of Frederick Douglass.  Written by Akil Bello, co-founder of Bell Curves, this entry was originally posted by Riise on 2/13/12.

In keeping with the theme of Independence Day, this week’s speech was delivered by Fredrick Douglass on that date in 1852. This speech is not only a great oration it also provides an interesting insight into the time and place of its delivery. Douglass had been invited to speak as part of an Independence Day celebration by the leading citizens of Rochester, NY. The line highlighted below shows not only the depth of his language mastery but also his opinion of the state of American “independence” and the arrogance of inviting him to participate in the Independence Day events, given that he was an escaped slave who had been freed, and was still fighting for freedom for all other slaves.

Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!”

Word Challenge IV: Two Words, One Speech – You’ll Never Guess!

This entry was posted on 4RIISE.com on 2/6/12. Part IV of our ongoing Word Challenge series proves that great speeches can inspire and entertain.

Great speeches use deliberate language and strong vocabulary to sway the audience to a point of view, address injustice, or simply to inspire. We’ve looked a at few figures in US history who have done all those things and more. Not all great speeches happen in Congress or on Inauguration Day, however, or are even given by real-life people. Some speeches take place on Independence Day, or more specifically in “Independence Day” the movie.

Word Challenge III: Two Words, One Speech – Sister Catt’s

Word Challenge: Two Words, One Speech – Sister Catt’s

In Part III of our Word Challenge series, Bell Curves co-founder Akil Bello examines the powerful words of one of our foremothers who spent her life fighting for women’s rights.  Originally posted by Riise on 1/30/12.

From the founding of the US to the early 20th century, the majority of women in the United States were by law not allowed to vote. It took a motivated group of people over 70 years, from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 to ratification of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution in 1920, to change this law. We remember these women today for their hard work and persistence (and sometimes for that odd-shaped Susan B Anthony dollar coin you get as change in a subway kiosk or vending machine) .

SAT Strategy: Don’t Look at the Elephant

On the SAT, Sentence Completions are one of the easiest places to get back some of the points that the College Board has tricked you out of. To get those points back you just have to remember the one phrase:

Don’t think of an elephant!

January 2012 SAT Vocabulary: The humbuggery of rapacious sophistry

As part of our continuing vocabulary series we present to you the most interesting and challenging words from the January 2012 SAT. The Jan SAT featured some of the old standby SAT words that have appeared on many SATs in the past (including fastidious, pessimism, and tenacious) but it also featured some that haven’t been seen as often such as rapacious, humbuggery, and quackery. As always the SAT attempts to test your grasp of a college-level vocabulary.

SAT scores: When another 50 (or 100) points makes no difference

When you’ve been doing test preparation and college admissions advising as long as I have, one invariably has this conversation with bright, ambitious students or their parents.

“I scored a 2200 on my SAT.   If I take it again and get a 2300, will that ensure I get into (insert name of preferred college or university here)?”

The answer is there is no score that will ensure acceptance into a given school—

  • (877) 223-3828
CONNECT WITH US
COPYRIGHT ©2002 - 2014 BELL CURVES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All tests names are registered trademarks of the respective testing companies, which do not endorse and are not affiliated with Bell Curves.
BELL CURVES - 25 West 36th Street Street, 8th Floor - New York, NY 10018 Bell Curves is an educational services and test preparation company. It delivers high-quality consulting services, test preparation programs, and self-study resources to students throughout the country.
Equal Opportunity Employer - Privacy Policy - Refund Policy