Starting Prep Early: SAT Vocabulary Strategies

Earlier this year we joined SAT aficionados and college counselors on Twitter for the bi-weekly #CampusChat. The topic was SAT vocabulary and it sparked a zany hour of interesting words being used in fun context. By our estimation the prize for most interesting use of SAT vocab was taken by Suzanne Schaeffer (mostly because of her fun digs at Bell Curves founder @akilbello). If you’re interested you can see the full twitter transcript here.

This chat got the juices flowing over in BC central and sparked us to ask our teachers for recommendations for short-term (less than 6 months) and longer term vocab acquisition tools and tricks. In this blog we’ll address some of the long term vocabulary strategies that parents can use to help their children develop college-ready vocabularies.

Test Prep Tip: Loving the Wrong Answer

No matter what test you take (SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, PSAT, PLAN, SAT, ACT, etc) when you are preparing, your best friend is the wrong answer, if you use it as an opportunity to learn. This is the first in a series of tips on using fallacious answers to help you in your studies and on test day.

To properly take advantage of the wrong answers, you have to first understand that there are different types of wrong answers. The Loving the Wrong Answer series will discuss the major types of wrong answers, and how to use them to help you become a better test-taker.

October 2011 SAT: You Be the (Essay) Judge

If you thought grading SAT essays was easy, in part 3 of our report on the October 1, 2011 SAT, (part 1 is here and part 2 here) we’re asking you to grade an actual essay submitted on the October 1, 2011 SAT. This essay was written by me and was mostly done to test a theory and have some fun..

I wrote this essay to test what happens if you got a few (ok every fact) facts wrong during the essay. So in case you were wondering I’ll post the score the essay actually got after we get some votes in! So leave a comment below!


October 2011 SAT: Reading Comprehension, a.k.a., Those Crazy Stories

Is this an SAT Passage author?

In part 2 of our report on the October 1, 2011 SAT, (part 1 is here) we’ve decided to answer the question, “From where do they get those crazy stories?”

If you’re like us, you’ve wondered where they dredged up the reading passages they use on the SAT. Were they some crazy 100-year-old professors of Shakespearean literature creating these passages? Or perhaps they hired some psychologist — one who specializes in torturing teenagers — to design these new unique ways to get under your skin. In truth, the passages are works of literature that have been written and published, typically, in the last century. Some have come from the hallowed halls of academia and some have come from popular culture (one test featured Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club).

October 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Cocksure Fallacious Killjoys

So the first SAT of the 2011 – 2012 academic year has come and gone and as usual it was full of words ranging from the commonplace (longevity) to the esoteric (recondite). We sent in our teachers to check it out and here are some of the words we remember. We’ve taken words from the reading passages as well as the Sentence Completions. Keep in mind that the SAT doesn’t simply tests random words, it tests words that are used in “well-written college level texts.”

Study Tips: Brain Space

Image by Zillafag

In this installment of our new (and ongoing) series of study tips, we bring more cognitive neuroscience (Ooooh! SAT vocabulary makes everything sound big and fancy, but cognitive neuroscience simply means the study of how we think) to bear with distributed learning.

Test prep tips: How parents, counselors, and mentors can help

One of the biggest challenges for parents and mentors is how to support a student as she transitions to high school and later to college.  The older the student is, the more she studies content that the parent or mentor no longer remembers, or has to navigate a system that is new or different from what parents and mentors experienced (we all know college admissions looks very different than it did 20 years ago).

Overwhelmed parents often mistakenly leave the preparation for SAT, ACT, and college admissions to schools or tutors. Many parents will be shelling out money to provide children access to test preparation tools and educational support, but we can’t let that be the end of our involvement. These tips will help you support your child’s test preparation (and college readiness) efforts even when you don’t fully understand the content or know the system. Here are two tips for helping your child even when you don’t quite get it:


Be the Planner

One of the best roles for parents as students approach high school and college should be as the “keeper of the calendar.” A parent should help the child make a plan and stick to that plan. This plan should be jointly created by you and your child (and maybe even an admissions counselor) and be revised periodically. You should include registration deadlines, filing deadlines, recommended test dates, summer enrichment activities, sports, etc so that both of you will have target dates readily available. There are lots of online college planners available online to give you a starting point. One such site to check out is http://www.knowhow2go.org/ .  In general, all planning for transition from one level of school to the next should start at least 18 months before you expect to start. So to go from junior high to high school, parents need to have the calendar planned out by the spring of 7th grade. Here are a few things the parent or mentor can help schedule and plan for:

Academic record: Make sure the right classes are taken and excelled in.

Enrichment activities: Help find enrichment activities for the summers and weekends that will help students prepare for school and life (internships, academic summer programs, creative outlets, etc).

Extracurricular activities: Guide students to explore their areas of interest via programs and clubs that will allow them to participate for the long term and gain leadership experience.

Interviewing skills: Practice for the types of questions asked will put the child at ease.

Applications: Be the monitor and proofreader and make sure applications are filled out properly and submitted before deadlines.

Test scores: Make sure they reflect the student’s abilities by preparing in advance and taking the exam more than once if necessary and applicable.


Be the Student

One of the best ways parents and mentors can help a student prepare for admissions tests (and concurrently make sure that the student is doing their work) is by having the student teach them. We often learn more and better when we are forced to explain to others. You can help your child lock in classroom lessons by not simply asking him if he did his homework, but instead by asking him to teach a problem to you. This way you can participate actively in his learning, support him by letting him see you struggle, encourage him by letting him see you figure it out with his guidance, and reinforce the work by helping him “study” by teaching. Since you know your child best, you’ll know best how to motivate him. You can make this competitive (by challenging him to get more of the questions right than you), you can make it supportive (by showing him that you struggle with the test as well), or you can make it a bonding experience (by sharing the challenge of figuring out problems). The key is to work with them and allow them to show you what they are learning from their prep book, prep class, or prep tutor.


Blog connections:

An awesome example of a parent helping their child with testing can be found by checking out our friend Debbie’s blog. To help and support her son she took every SAT offered in 2011 and blogged about the process.

We cross-posted this blog by Lawrence Watkins, who traced his success, summer program by summer program.

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For more advice about college admissions, testing, and supporting your students, check out our free events, courses, and tutoring options.

SAT Prep Tip: SAT Pacing

Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

One of the most-discussed strategies for test preparation is pacing. Here we’ll delve a bit more into what pacing actually means and how you can use it to maximize your SAT score.

What is pacing?

Pacing is your pre-planned strategy for answering the greatest number of questions with the highest level of accuracy. Pacing should not be confused (or conflated) with speed or efficiency. When we refer to pacing we don’t mean how quickly you answer an individual question, but rather your plan for how many and which questions you answer during the test. Read on for our tips on how to make an effective pacing plan!

SAT Prep Tip: Critical Reading

Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

Today’s topic is the SAT’s Passage-Based Critical Reading, i.e., the part of the SAT that makes most student cringe and break out in hives. Hopefully after reading this you’ll not only feel better about Passage-Based Reading, but may actually start to like it.

What makes SAT Reading different from school reading?

There are three significant things about SAT Passages and Questions that make them different from the reading most high school students do. If you understand these things, then you will be much better prepared for them.

SAT Prep Tip: Calculators

TI-84 Graphing Calc ($100 - $125)

As many of you might know, the SAT allows the use of calculators. However, you may wonder which calculator you should use for the SAT. This post will help you decide which calculator to get and how to use it most effectively on the SAT!

While the calculator is a helpful tool for the SAT, it is by no means necessary. In fact, here is what the College Board says about calculators:

Every mathematics question on the SAT can be solved without a calculator. However, using a calculator may be helpful for some questions.

Let’s check out what that means and what calculator we may want to bring to the test.

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