High School 2 College

February 28, 2013

How To Prepare for the SATs – With Less Than Two Weeks Till the Test

The March SAT is coming up soon. Here’s my best advice for how to maximize your score on the test with only one or two weeks to go:

1.  Read the plot summaries of MacBeth and To Kill a Mockingbird on Sparknotes.   Read the plot summaries of another book or two that you liked or remember well.  Other books that are easy to use on the SAT essay are Lord of the FliesHuck Finn, and Of Mice and Men.  If you refresh your memory about the characters, author, and plot, you’re more likely to use a book successfully on the essay.

2.  Go through the blue SAT book and find words you don’t know.  The SAT people tend to reuse words, so if it shows up once, it will most likely appear again.  Be sure to know words like anachronism, aesthetic, pragmatic, censure, partisan, and adroit.  Don’t forget phrases like righteous indignation, mutually exclusive, and a pointed discussion.  Write down at least 20 words on paper or index cards so you can bring them to the test to study just before the proctors make you clear your desk.

3.  Do a timed math section or two or three.  At most, each section is only 25 minutes.  Time yourself and take a few sections.  That’s the easy part.  The more time-consuming and less pleasant part is for you to grade those sections to see if you can figure out where you went wrong.  Careless mistake?  It’s better that you made it on the practice test than the real thing.  No idea what you did wrong or how to solve that problem?  Bring it to your math teacher – or just leave out that kind of problem on the SATs.

4.  Get snacks. You should bring something to eat and something to drink to the test with you.  I recommend a snack that is not too salty because if you get thirsty, you won’t be able to concentrate — or you will drink too much and need the bathroom during the test (not good!).  You should bring something chewy like Tootsie rolls, since several studies suggest you will remember better if you’re chewing while you take the test. Bonus:  the sugar and caffeine in chocolate will help you stay alert during the test.  They fit in your pocket and you can pop a Tootsie roll between sections.  You should also have a bigger snack for the long break.  A granola bar or power bar works great.  Don’t forget to bring iced tea.  Studies show tea helps you concentrate, so bring tea with caffeine and sugar — nothing diet!

4.  Buy batteries for your calculator.  Unless you’ve changed the batteries this month, you’ll want to change the batteries in your calculator (yes, you can use a graphing or scientific calculator, but you can also just use a 4-function calculator).

5.  Buy or borrow a watch.  They won’t let you use your phone to keep track of your time, and you shouldn’t rely on the proctor to give you a time check when you need one.  Bring a watch.  If you don’t like wearing one, you can put it on the desk, but at least you’ll have a way to keep track of your own time.

During the week, I’ll post tips for test day itself, so stay tuned!

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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February 4, 2013

What High School Juniors Should be Doing in February

For most of my students, college seems far away.  The few 10th graders I have think they’re much too young to have college on their minds.  My seniors are patiently waiting to hear from the colleges to which they applied under regular decision deadlines (or from those schools from which they got wait listed).

My juniors think they’re doing quite well if they’re coming once a week for SAT tutoring.

Not so!

Let’s back up the timing from the end till now.

— You want to hear back from colleges as early as possible and get as many yeses as possible, so you want to apply to several schools early action.  That means applying by October of senior year.

— To apply by October, you have to work on your applications, especially the application essays, over the summer before senior year.

— To work on the essays over the summer, you have to know which colleges you’ll be applying to more or less by June of junior year.

— To know which schools you want to apply to by June, you have to have visited several  schools in March and April of junior year.  (Most schools discourage tours in early May when finals are in session, and most college students leave campus by mid-May.)

— To know which schools you’d like to visit, you need a list of potential schools by FEBRUARY of junior year, which is now!

How should you start building that list?  I’m sure your high school guidance counselor has suggested you start with Naviance.  Feh!  The sample on Naviance is just too small.  If someone from your high school got into Big State U, is it because he was a sports star?  Did his parents go there?  Is he a coveted minority?  Was he an expert at the French horn?  You’ll never know from Naviance.

Try the College Board college search.  (Yes, I used to recommend Princeton Review, but they’ve tinkered with it so much in the past few years that you now need a college degree to work their program.)  US News & World Report also has an excellent college search tool.  They charge $30 to access it for a year, but it has very specific, very accurate information.  Between US News and the College Board, you’ll have all the college information you need to start building a list.

Think of how far away from home you want to be.  Think of what majors you want your school to have.  Do you care if your school has a big football team?  Is on-campus housing important to you?  How do you feel about Greek life (fraternities and sororities)?

You want your list to be huge at first, maybe 30 – 40 schools.  Include every possibility.  Then start narrowing.  Are religious schools out?  How about urban schools without a campus?  Please don’t eliminate a school just because you haven’t heard of it, and don’t include schools that don’t fit your needs just because your friends are talking about them.  Build a list on your own.

Once you have a list, group your schools geographically.  Can you visit all the New York State schools over a three-day trip?  What about Pennsylvania schools or Boston schools? You’ll probably want to take a few weekends to visit schools, so start looking for weekends that work for your parents.

Don’t forget to make appointments for school tours and information sessions.  The most popular dates fill up quickly.

It’s February — what are you waiting for?

Let me know if you need help building your list or organizing your college tour.

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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