Getting Back on Track After the Holidays

Going back to school after having time off for the holidays can be a tough readjustment for many students. Going back to the school day schedule and back to responsibilities like homework and SAT preparation can be overwhelming after vacation. A few simple tricks can help you to better segue way back into your routine.

Readjust Your Time
Try not to get too far off your normal sleep schedule over winter break. This means trying to wake up no more than an hour later than you normally would for school. Keeping yourself close to your routine will prevent the shock to your system when you have to start waking up at your normal time again. If you do get off schedule, start the transition a couple days before you go back to school, waking up a little earlier each day to help you adjust to the hour.

Think Through Your Schedule
It’s smart to spend some time working out a schedule while you’re on break and have some extra free time. Map out your planner for the next few months, setting goals and filling in all of your information. If you use a calendar on your computer and one on the wall or in a planner, be sure they are all up to date. Take an afternoon to clean your room, clean out your backpack, and organize your school files. This will help you to go back to your school routine feeling prepared for another semester.

Cross Some Things Off Your List
Whether its finally finishing up the last of your college applications or getting through some extra SAT prep work, winter break can be a time to get ahead of schedule. Having some things checked off your to-do list will make the transition back to the school day a lot easier. Plus the extra time is a great way to devote extra hours to your study plan. Anything you can do over break to help relieve some stress later on is well worth the time and effort.

Plan Some Fun
Make plans to get together with friends the first weekend after you go back to school or plan a shopping trip or dinner for one night during the first week. Having some things to look forward to in that first week back to school will make the last few days of break a lot less painful. You can focus on schoolwork again while knowing you have fun things planned on the horizon.

Top 10 Ways to Flunk the SAT

There are many ways to improve your SAT scores, you can take practice tests, create a study plan, and budget your time accordingly leading up to test day. If that doesn’t sound like much fun, there are also some surefire ways to flunk the SAT.

1. Forget answering the questions, use your time to make elaborate designs in the answer bubbles. Make zig-zags and swirls for the first few sections. When that gets old, try writing something out in Morse code. A’s are dashes and B’s are dots. The College Board will be impressed by your creativity!

2. Show up at the wrong testing center. Argue with the people there. When you realize that it actually was your mistake, sit on the steps outside and wait until it’s time to go home.

4. Take out your cell phone during the test. When questioned, explain that you need to use your lifeline and phone a friend for question 8. Put your friend on speakerphone and start reading questions aloud.

5. Forget a pencil; bring only a box of crayons. Answer questions with illustrations. You want to show off your skills and uniqueness with your 24-pack of Crayolas.

6. Read through the test, then use the pages as a way to practice your Origami skills. Who needs college when you have mastered the ability to make paper boats?

7. Leave the testing location halfway through. This test takes too long anyway.

8. Save all of your studying until the last 72 hours before the test. Stock up on energy drinks and stay awake the entire time cramming for the SAT. Study your heart out! Everything will be fresh! When you sit down to take the test, write your name and then immediately pass out on the desk. Goodnight, SAT.

9. Forget to wear your contact lenses or bring your glasses to the test. Spend the first part of the test squinting at the paper and holding it at various distances from your face. Run out of time on each section while you’re still working on reading the instructions.

10. Look at an SAT practice test ten minutes before you have to leave to take your test. Better yet, glance at it in the parking lot outside the testing location. No one studies for these things, right?

Ok, so you bombed it on the SAT. Maybe you didn’t try to, maybe it just happened or you had a legit excuse. The one thing to keep in mind is that you can take this test as many times as you want to and only your highest score counts. So stop beating yourself up and make up for it by preparing for at least three months prior to the test.

Test Day Checklist

It is extremely important to go into your SAT test day confident, calm, and well prepared. Taking SAT practice tests during your study sessions will help ensure that you are familiar with the format of the SAT and allow you to relax and do your best work on test day. Having all the right tools with you on test day will also help you successfully complete the SAT.

Information
Be sure that you know the exact time and location for check-in. If you are unfamiliar with the area, you may consider driving to the test location once ahead of time so that you know how long it will take. This will be one less thing to worry about on test day. You will also need to print your SAT admission ticket from the College Board website and bring it with you for check in on test day.

Photo Identification
You will need to have a proper form of photo identification with you the day of testing. A driver’s license, state-issued photo identification card, school identification card, or passport are all acceptable forms of identification.

Pencils
A number two pencil is required for the SAT and it is suggested that you pack two pencils to be safe. Pens and mechanical pencils are not allowed. Be sure that your pencils are sharpened and ready for use before you arrive at the testing location. A good eraser is also helpful to make clean corrections to your test.

Calculator
You will want to read the requirements for calculators before the day of the test. For the SAT, a graphing or scientific calculator is recommended. A four-function calculator is allowed, but not recommended. Laptop calculators, cell phone calculators, and pocket organizers are not allowed. It is advisable to put fresh batteries in the calculator before the test.

Snack
While certainly not required, you are permitted to bring snacks and drinks with you for the break. Pack a water bottle and a small snack that you can eat to recharge your energy during the break.

Watch
The testing room will generally be equipped with a wall clock, but it is always helpful to have a watch with you on testing day. Turn off any audible alarms before going into the test. A watch will ensure that you can budget your time accordingly and that you will be able to complete the entire test.

Senior Year Planning

Senior year of high school can be an extremely busy time. Many deadlines and decisions are on the horizon and it can be overwhelming for students to balance all of their responsibilities. Developing a solid plan for senior year can help you to avoid stress and assure that everything is done on time.

Fall

The fall of senior year is often the time students choose to devote to taking the SAT. Schedule the test and begin to devote time to studying and preparing for the test. Online test prep is one good option to help SAT test prep fit into an already busy school schedule.

The fall is also the time to seriously narrow down college options. Once you have a list of the schools where you will be applying, organize important dates and deadlines onto a master calendar.

Researching financial aid is another important task for the fall. This involves researching student loan options, scholarships and grants, and options available at each of your colleges.

Winter

Winter of senior year is the time to focus on completing college applications. Many will use the same common application supplemented by some additional questions and information. Take time to write your essays and be sure they are a good reflection of your strengths. Be sure to ask for letters of recommendations early on in the process so that you give your teachers, guidance counselors, and employers plenty of time to write the recommendation.

Once everything is complete, be sure to double check that all parts of the application are there and send them in. Most high schools will provide resources to help students prepare the final application packet.

At this point, many colleges will also want to schedule a personal interview. This is both a time for the college to speak with you and gain additional insight into your application and also a time for you to ask questions about the selection process and why you should choose their college. Viewing the interview as a conversation will keep you from being nervous and help you get the most out of this experience.

Spring

By spring of senior year, you will have heard back from your colleges and it is time to focus on making a decision. If you were accepted to multiple schools, it is often worthwhile to visit these colleges once again. These campus visits can help you to make a confident decision. While on campus, you will want to take another tour, sit in on a class, and talk to current students about their college experience. Be sure to ask plenty of questions of students, staff, and representatives in the admissions office.

Before making a decision, you will also want to discuss your plans with your family, particularly concerning financial aid and how you will be paying for college. Once you have reached a decision, send out your acceptance and rejection letters to all the colleges that accepted you. Your school will soon be sending you more information and you’ll be busy planning for next year. You can now proudly announce your college plans and enjoy the conclusion of your high school career.

SAT vs. ACT: which should I take?

The SAT and ACT are both tests taken by students in the United States preparing for college. Generally, more students on East Coast and West Coast of the United States take the SAT and more students in the Midwest and mountain states opt for the ACT. While historically the SAT has been seen as the standard test for college entry, the ACT is now recognized by all four-year colleges in the US. The majority of colleges and universities will accept either test, but students with specific colleges in mind may want to consult that college’s admissions office when deciding which test to take.

While the two tests differ somewhat in format and material, each is designed to gauge students’ skills and knowledge. Being well informed about the tests will help students to decide which test to take before they begin their SAT Preparation or ACT Preparation plan.

Subject Areas

The ACT is based more on curriculum that students have learned in school whereas the SAT is designed more to test critical thinking and reasoning skills. The ACT is a multiple choice test that covers English, mathematics, reading, and science. The ACT Writing Test is an optional section in which test takers must plan and write a short essay. The SAT begins with a required essay section. It is then made up of writing, critical reading, and math sections. While the SAT has multiple choice sections, some of the math questions will require test takers to produce answers on their own.

Logistics

The ACT is administered on six national testing dates in the United States. Students may take the test up to twelve times total and only once on each testing date. The SAT is offered seven times each year in the US. Students may take the SAT as many times as they wish, but all scores will be visible to colleges. Not including instructions and breaks, the ACT takes two hours and 55 minutes and the SAT takes three hours and 45 minutes.

Scoring

ACT scores are determined by adding up the correct answers in each section. Scores for each section range from 1-36 and the results are averaged to produce a final score. Incorrect answers do not count against the final score. On the SAT, however, incorrect multiple choice answers receive a small penalty. Each correct answer receives one point and each incorrect answer deducts one-fourth of a point. Scores for each section are on a scale of 200-800. A perfect score on the SAT is 2400 points and a perfect score on the ACT is 36.

Preparation

ACT Preparation and SAT Preparation are critical to success on both tests. Taking the predictive tests, the PSAT and PLAN, can help students prepare for the actual test’s format. Preparation courses and practice tests are the best way of determining trouble areas and helping students enter the test prepared and confident.

The Different Ways Students Learn

One of the fascinating facts about human nature is that we all learn differently. Some of us may find that we can listen to a speech and remember every detail. Others of us may hear the same speech, but only remember what we saw on the handout sheets or slides. Yet another group of us may listen to the speech, read the materials, but remember the details about an incident that directly relates to our own past experience. These variations may not seem critical in normal activities, but the importance of understanding learning methods becomes evident during test preparation and study sessions for an exam.

There is not a right way to learn or a wrong way, just different methods that work in a unique way for each person. The key to better learning is to evaluate each process and consider which technique will improve individual study habits.

Auditory Learning

A person that learns best through auditory methods demonstrates superior speech skills, listens closely and enjoys interactions with others. They learn test materials best by listening to audio and video presentations. Test tips for auditory learners include recording notes, repeating questions out loud and communicating with others about the materials.

Visual Learning

Visual learners need to have a clearly defined picture in their mind to understand the material. They prefer charts and graphs and study well through independent reading. Test tips for visual learners include taking written notes, watching videos of the subject and creating lists and explicit diagrams that provide a memory aid.

Experiential Learning

Someone who excels in experiential learning prefers a hands-on approach and responds well to material that makes a personal connection. They enjoy laboratory experiments, active learning with others and creating realistic models. Test tips for an experiential learner include developing quick memory tools such as flash or note cards, models and notes, that bring the material to a personal level.

Which Type are You?

Being able to identify the most effective learning method will be an aid during online test preparation. A good way to determine your learning strength is to review the characteristics of each type, see which one is the best fit and focus on that method for an upcoming exam. We all learn at some degree from each method, but normally one type dominates our ability to easily retain material.

Try an experiment by first listening to an oral presentation of a specific section of a practice test. See how much you can remember of the material. Then try it again watching a video that clearly describes the subject and retake the practice exam. Third, think of ways to personalize the material and create a model that relates to the subject. Take the exam again and compare which method was most effective in helping you through the learning process. Be sure to allow time between each session to fully evaluate the method. Being able to analyze each learning style and apply the method will benefit both study habits and test results.

The SAT Exam Unveiled

The SAT exam is a student aptitude test which has selected the mediums of math and English in which to test intellectual ability. The SAT is a three hour and forty-five minute test, however, only three hours and twenty minutes count towards your test score, since the practice section takes twenty five minutes and is not graded.

The SAT exam is broken down into ten sections. The reading part encompasses three sections of the exam. In the reading section, there are nineteen questions of sentence completion problems, and forty-eight reading comprehension questions, which is a total of sixty-seven questions in all. The writing part is also three sections of the exam, and includes forty-nine grammar questions and one essay. Discounting the experimental section, the math section encompasses the last three parts of the test. In it are forty-four multiple choice questions and ten grid-in questions, making a total of fifty four questions. In short, the sections are as follows:

- Reading
1. Completing the sentence (19 questions)
2. Reading comprehension (48 questions)

- Writing
1. Short Essay
2. Identifying sentence errors*
3. Improving sentences*
4. Improving paragraphs*
* In the writing section there is one short essay question. The other three sections can be divided up as the test writer sees fit, but all are focusing on grammar.

-Math
1. Multiple choice, encompassing basic math and equations (44 questions)
2. Grid-in, such as plotting graphs and lines (10 questions)

-Experimental section
The experimental section can be contained within any part of the test, on any subject. It usually contains harder questions, but these questions aren’t scored. They are being considered for use on next year’s SATs. So if you run into questions that are especially harder or more confusing than the others, don’t worry- they may be the experimental ones.

The three sections of the SAT test are scored independently, which means that students will receive a reading score, a writing score, and a math score. Each score can range from 200 to 800 points, with a total test score of 600 to 2400 points. The total average score for students is 1500, or about 500 on each section.

But how do you achieve these scores? The key is to pace yourself and to practice. Pacing is important on the SAT because, though time is strictly limited, many of the questions require careful analyzing and consideration. Many students make the mistake of reading too quickly in hopes of gathering the gist of the question. They answer confidently, but are startled to find later that they answered incorrectly because they have misunderstood the directions or missed subtle points within the question. This of course means that it is important for students to take as much time as possible and to be confident in their answers before moving on to the next problem.

In order to perform to the best of their abilities, it is crucial for students to undergo SAT test preparation. Test prep is proven to raise test scores because students will be prepared not only for the type of questions listed within the SAT exam, but they will also be comfortable answering a large amount of questions in a seemingly short time limit. SAT practice books are readily available, but the most cost effective way for a student to practice is to visit an SAT test preparation website and practice taking the test online. Bline Test Prep is an excellent website for test preparation- it is affordable, easily accessible, and chock full of up-to-date data and questions for the SAT test preparation courses.

Taking the SAT can be an ominous task. However, it is of vital importance to any student wishing to be accepted into the majority of colleges. With the proper practice and resources, the SAT is not as foreboding as it may seem upon first glance. All it takes is a little practice and a bit of knowledge about the test and the sort of questions found therein. Online SAT test preparation sites such as Bline Test Prep will give students the confidence they need to do their best on the SAT test and succeed at getting their best possible scores.

Preparing for the SAT Critical Reading Section

The Critical Reading section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test focuses on two things: sentence completion and reading comprehension. When combined, the two sections exemplify a student’s grasp of the English language and their ability to recognize and utilize various parts of speech. The critical reading section, in the past, was known simply as the verbal section but now its goal has expanded; the idea being that a student shouldn’t simply know a variety of words congruent with their grade level, but also be well versed with their precise usage.

The sentence completion section is designed to gauge the student’s familiarity with a range of words: their form of speech, usage, and of course, meaning. The latter of which is can be very specific, often the range of answers will include synonyms and/or homophones in order to eliminate the usage of the ever-popular educated guess. Aside from meaning and usage, sentence completion questions measure the student’s ability to structure and form sentences, to know logically how all the parts work together in order to communicate a clear and complete idea. Knowing words and their meanings is the most reliable form of preparation for the sentence completion section, guessing is not a recommended strategy.

The other half of the Critical Reading section is passage based reading. Passages are selected from a wide range of subjects and topics and can be as short as one hundred words to eight hundred. This means one passage can be a half of a short story that is followed by the opening paragraphs of George Kennan’s Article X. Scientific articles are often used as well as humanities based and political pieces. The passages will be presented within a range of styles and normally feature several elements: narration, exposition, argumentation, and the like.

A student preparing for the SAT should be aware of the range the critical reading passages can cover, but simultaneously they should be aware that the major focus of the passage based reading is to test vocabulary, comprehension, and extended reasoning. Vocabulary questions are, somewhat like the sentence completion questions, formulated in order to know that a student is capable of determining meanings of words and phrases based on context. The focus of literary comprehension is to make certain that the student grasps and understands the material. Extended reasoning comprises a majority of the passage based reading questions and they oblige the test taker to make inferences or analyze and identify causes and effects. Reasoning questions can be broader as well, requiring identification of main ideas, purpose, or tone. Another popular but very necessary sort of question, which focuses much more on the extended part of the reasoning, will ask that the test taker replicate the logic of arguments or analogies within the text and apply them to ideas extraneous to the text. Simply put, the objective behind the questions is to determine whether or not the test taker can analyze texts rather than read them and prove that basically, they understand them.

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