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July 9th, 2018

Summer Reading Can Improve Your Test Scores

Summer reading – just these 2 words alone can cause feelings of enormous dread for many students! Though you may shudder at the thought of reading during your time off, it may surprise you to learn that summer reading can have many benefits for improving your SAT and/or ACT score.

If you’ve been preparing at all for the SAT or ACT, you know firsthand that both tests place an emphasis on evidence-based reading comprehension. Active reading – the type of reading required to read a book – requires you to interpret a great depth of information in order to understand the story. Making a habit of reading during the summertime will help you improve your test performance, as you’ll enhance your reading comprehension skills and expand your vocabulary. The practice of reading dense language within the context of a story will get you in the mode of reading for information, a required skill for the critical reading sections of the SAT and ACT.

Reading will also help you prepare for the English and Essay portions of your test, as it reinforces proper grammatical usage and spelling. By seeing the way in which sentences are structured, you’ll become accustomed to correct writing practices and learn how to easily identify grammatical errors. Most importantly, understanding how to write clearly and concisely will help you effectively answer the test’s essay prompt and formulate an articulate response that conveys a compelling and engaging message to the reader.

Lastly, if reading books isn’t your thing, consider reading at least two or three magazine or newspaper articles per day. If you don’t have those in your home, search on Twitter for a topic that interests and then find an article that challenges your reading ability. An added bonus is you’ll learn something new and expand your horizons, setting you up for greater success in college.

Source:  http://www.eliteprep.com/blog/2017/1/28/one-habit-to-help-you-raise-your-sat-reading-writing-scores
June 19th, 2018

SAT/ACT Prep Doesn’t Have To Be Stressful: 3 Tips For Effective Summer Test Prep

The idea of SAT or ACT test prep overwhelms many students, especially during the summer months when they want to relax and unwind with friends. The good news is that preparing for the SAT or ACT doesn’t have to be stressful if you plan ahead. As you think about your summer schedule, here are three tips for making your summer test prep manageable and effective:

  1. Schedule self-study sessions. Every student learns differently, which is why scheduling study sessions that fit your individual learning preference is key. For example, some students learn best in short, 30-minute blocks of time while others prefer a weekly one or two-hour session. Block off time in your schedule each week to focus on test preparation. Most importantly, make sure these periods of time are free of distractions and allow you to be fully engaged in the learning process. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!

 

  1. READ! You may not realize it, but ramping up your reading can significantly help your test prep efforts. You’ll improve your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, both needed to do well on the SAT and ACT. You’ll also advance your vocabulary and become more acclimated to reading passages with complex language. This will make the reading tests easier to manage when you’re under pressure.

 

  1. Enroll in a test prep program. While self-study works well for some, many students learn best in a formal test prep program such as small group sessions or private tutoring. In addition to learning directly from experienced teachers, these programs hold students accountable and keep them on a consistent study schedule. Through a test prep program, you’re guaranteed to stay on track with taking practice tests, as well as strategically improving your weak areas.

By designing your summer study schedule with these suggestions, you’ll set yourself up for success and have more confidence when taking the official SAT or ACT.

Learn more about Test Preps’ options by contacting Melissa Cook via email at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or by phone at (716) 574-7349.

Source: http://time.com/3906983/summer-sat-study-tips/

May 31st, 2018

College Recommendation Letters 101

With so much going on in the college admissions process, it’s easy to forget that acquiring college recommendation letters requires strategic planning. Experts suggest that students give thought and attention to their recommendation letters as early as junior year.

Letters of recommendation serve as a complement to your college applications, showcasing your character, skills and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers, as well as a letter from your guidance counselor. However, colleges have different requirements, so it’s important to refer to each school’s website or admissions department.

Who to ask?

Start with teachers you have known for a long time and have developed a meaningful relationship with throughout high school. This may be a teacher who has served as a mentor to you in a particular subject area, or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you either excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges is someone who could be well suited to write a letter on your behalf.

Additionally, many students choose to ask coaches, club advisors or employers for a third letter of recommendation. Letters written by these individuals can speak to your talents outside the classroom and highlight your commitment to extracurricular activities, such as a sport, music program or internship. Employers can write about your work ethic and responsibility.

When to ask?

Each year teachers are asked by multiple seniors to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, it’s best to reach out to recommenders at the end of junior year, rather than waiting until fall of senior year. This will give you an opportunity to pass along your resume and share with them your goals and achievements. Most importantly, it gives your teachers time over the summer to write your letters – before they receive a flood of requests in the fall!

General tips

After speaking with your recommenders, be sure to provide them with all the information they need to submit their letters. It’s critical that they are aware of your colleges’ deadlines and have access to the forms or links required for submission. Be sure to send hand-written thank you notes after your applications are completed!

Your recommendation letters are a key component of your admissions profile. Planning ahead will help both you and your recommenders manage the process in the best way possible.

Source:
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/your-high-school-record/how-to-get-a-great-letter-of-recommendation
April 18th, 2018

How to Navigate the ACT Essay

With so much emphasis on the multiple-choice portion of the ACT, many students are quick to dismiss the test’s essay requirement and think they can simply wing it. However, the ACT essay is unlike most of the essays you’ll write in your English class. With only 40 minutes on the clock, you’ll need to have a strategy in mind for writing a clear and comprehensive essay that addresses all elements of the prompt.

Here’s a breakdown for how to effectively navigate the ACT essay:

Make your case. The ACT essay prompt requires that you take a stance regarding three perspectives outlined in front of you. You’ll be expected to analyze all three perspectives; state and define your own perspective about the issue; and explain the relationship between your perspective and the insights provided. You can choose an existing prompt to support either fully or partially – or offer an entirely different perspective to make your case. As you state your case, you should support your ideas with logic and reasoning by providing specific and detailed examples.

Be organized. It’s important that you organize your ACT essay in a structured and coherent format. Typically, an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion are needed for a comprehensive essay that fully addresses the prompt and allows you to convey your message. At the beginning of your body paragraphs, it’s best to use transitional phrases so your ideas flow naturally and make sense. Throughout the body of the essay, you’ll also want to incorporate examples that support your opinion and add value to your perspective.

Proofread if time allows. When you’re writing on the clock, sometimes proofreading can seem like the last priority. However, glaring errors can take away from the quality of your essay and leave the reader struggling to decipher what you’re trying to say, potentially having a detrimental effect on your grade. Taking even just five minutes (if time allows) to read through your essay and correct any spelling or grammatical errors can be the difference between an average essay and an exceptional one.

Our test prep experts can help you prepare for the ACT! Learn more about Test Preps’ ACT small group and tutoring options and get in touch with Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

March 8th, 2018

Think It’s Too Early To Make Summer Plans? Think Again!

Summer may seem far away, but the school year will be over in the blink of an eye and June will be here before you know it. How you spend your summer can make a difference during the college admissions process. Will you seek out a job or internship? Will you volunteer in your community? Or will you just lounge by the pool with your friends every day? Taking some time to plan ahead will ensure you spend your summer productively, while still having fun and enjoying your time off from school.

Now is the time to consider these college and career-building opportunities when making your summer plans:

Internships and academic programs.  Many companies and colleges offer formal internship and academic programs specifically designed for high school students. Depending on your interests or passion, you may find it valuable to pursue a structured program during the summer. There are many options to consider such as hospital internships, STEM programs at a college, writing workshops, theater/music camps and so much more. These can be in your hometown, or even abroad! It’s important to note these programs often have early application deadlines. Therefore, you must begin the research and application process in the late winter or early spring.

Volunteering.  You don’t have to be enrolled in a formal program to acquire new skills and learn more about yourself. Volunteering is one of the most underrated (and cheapest) ways to get exposure to potential academic majors and career paths. The best part is that the opportunities are endless. Whether it’s working with animals at a local SPCA or lending a helping hand at a nearby hospital or nursing home, volunteering allows you to take on new responsibilities and gain experience in a real-life work environment. Be sure to track your volunteer hours and have a supervisor document them.

Employment.  Never underestimate the power of a summer job in building your resume and college admission profile. Any type of employment – from babysitting or mowing lawns to working at the local ice cream shop or mall – can be a valuable way to spend your summer. In addition to earning money, summer employment promotes independence, team building skills and time management, helping to prepare you for college life. Some large employers (like Wegmans) offer scholarships for students who work there throughout their high school tenure.

Do your summer plans also include preparing for the ACT or SAT? Summer is a great time to prep as the ACT is now offered in July and the SAT is held in August! Learn how Test Preps’ small group classes and/or private tutoring can help you prepare for your upcoming test. Contact Melissa Cook today at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

February 13th, 2018

College Scholarships – Get started now!

Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships! That’s the bulk of what I see in my Twitter feed lately – and for good reason! With rising tuition costs at all colleges, it’s never been more important for students to pursue scholarships and maximize their chances of earning money for college. In fact, it may surprise you that high school students are encouraged to start the scholarship search as early as junior year.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take note of these tips to get your scholarship search into full gear:

 

Diversify your search. You may be surprised to learn about all the different scholarship opportunities available. There are scholarships offered in your local community and high school, as well as thousands of scholarships you can apply for online.

Typically, it’s best for students to start their search locally first. This involves exploring scholarships awarded at your high school through your guidance counselor or career center. At the local level, many employers and chambers of commerce award scholarships to students in their communities each year. Talking with family members and doing some research around your city or town will help you learn about worthwhile scholarship prospects (Examples: Churches, civic organizations, clubs, etc.)

In addition to your local search, don’t forget about the plethora of national scholarships that can be found online. Making a habit to apply to even one online scholarship per month can potentially result in significant money toward your college education.

Be strategic in your search. While any opportunity to be awarded free money may seem appealing, you’ll run yourself ragged by applying to every single scholarship you come across. To effectively utilize your time and maximize your chances of being a scholarship recipient, you must be strategic in your search. This means applying only to the opportunities aligned with your academic strengths and interests. One way to do this is by using specific academic and geographic keywords when searching for scholarships online. For example, rather than search “Scholarships, New York State,” a phrase that would yield much more targeted results would be “English Scholarships, Syracuse, New York.”

Avoid scams. Unfortunately, there are many scholarship scams, especially online. It’s critical you know how to identify scams before it’s too late and your personal information is at risk. In general, the most reputable online scholarship websites include colleboard.com, cappex.com, fastweb.com, scholarships.com, and scholarshipamerica.org. Before applying to any scholarship on the Internet, remember these tips for avoiding scams:

  • Never pay to apply to any scholarship.
  • Never provide a credit card number for any scholarship application.
  • Never sign up for a program.
  • Never provide highly personal or sensitive information, such as a social security number.
  • Beware of “claims or guarantees.”
  • Beware of free seminars or classes.

Being smart and using common sense will go a long way. If something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t apply.

Start now!

When it comes to acquiring free money for college, time is on your side. The sooner you start applying for scholarships, the better off you’ll be financially when the tuition is due.

Also, keep in mind that SAT and ACT scores are important criteria when colleges award merit scholarships. Learn how Test Preps can help raise your SAT or ACT scores well before you apply to college. Get in touch at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349.

February 1st, 2018

The SAT Essay: What to Expect

The SAT essay presents a valuable opportunity for you to showcase your writing abilities, as well as your critical thinking and analysis skills. Though the SAT essay is optional, many colleges recommend or require a writing score. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to complete the SAT writing section so you do not limit your options when applying to schools. You can click here to access the essay policies of colleges and universities around the world.

As you prepare for the SAT, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the essay:

The Essay Prompt

The SAT essay prompt will ask you to read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument and demonstrates persuasion about a certain topic. You must support your explanation with evidence from the passage. Therefore, the essay evaluates your reading comprehension and critical thinking abilities. Students who excel at synthesizing information and getting to the root of a passage’s context typically do well with this. Click here for some sample essay prompts.

Timing & Format

You will be given a total of 50 minutes to complete the essay. In terms of format, your essay should consist of a clear introduction (one paragraph), specific examples that support your points (2-3 paragraphs), and a conclusion (one paragraph).  Make sure your essay is written in a cohesive and organized manner.

Preparation

So how do you prepare for the SAT essay? You should always be working to improve your writing skills, by giving honest effort on all writing assignments in school. This should include your social studies essays. You must be able to write in an organized way that is easy for the reader to understand. Spelling and grammatical errors can detract from the content of your essay, negatively affecting your score.

Another part of your preparation should focus on your reading comprehension skills. In your essay, you’ll be expected to explain in detail how specifically the author constructs the passage with evidence, reasoning, and other techniques to support their argument. Your goal should be to effectively interpret and explain how the author’s writing tactics were used. Reading often and from a wide genre will help hone your skills.

Scoring

The essay score is determined by two graders awarding between 1 and 4 points in each of these three categories: reading, analysis, and writing. Therefore, your score for each category can range anywhere from 2-8 points. You will receive three individual scores for each category, as there is no singular composite score for the essay. The average SAT Essay score for 2017 graduates was 5/8 Reading, 4/8 Analysis, and 5/8 for Writing. (Source: College Board 2017 Total Group Report)

Are you ready?

If you need support to prepare for the SAT essay, our team can help! Get in touch today with Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps. You can reach her by email at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or phone at (716) 574-7349.

Sources:
https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test/essay
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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January 18th, 2018

Planning Ahead: SAT and ACT Registration Tips

While preparing to take the SAT or ACT is undoubtedly a lot of work, sometimes the registration process itself can be stressful. Your ability to plan ahead and closely follow instructions is critical for ensuring that you register for your test correctly and efficiently.

Once you begin preparation, it’s time to register for the test. Here are three helpful test registration tips:

Register early and be aware of registration deadlines. It’s important that you educate yourself about upcoming test dates as soon as possible. Once you create an online account at collegeboard.org (SAT) or actstudent.org (ACT), you can easily register for your test and print your admission ticket. Most experts recommend registering for your test at least 5 weeks before your preferred test date. Be aware that there are stringent registration deadlines!  For example, if you’re one to three weeks late to register, you’ll be charged with a hefty late fee.

Complete photo submission requirements. For test security, you must upload a recent photo of yourself when you register online for your test. It makes sense to do this during the initial registration process even though you are given the option to do this later. If your photo is not submitted at least a week prior to the test, your registration may be canceled. In addition to fulfilling photo submission requirements, you must bring a separate valid photo ID to your testing site on test day. You will not be allowed to test without a printed admission ticket that has your photo on it and a valid photo ID!

Determine if you’re going to take the writing portion. The SAT and ACT writing section (commonly known as the “essay”) is optional and costs extra but definitely should be considered. The requirements and prompts for the SAT and ACT essays are different, so it’s best to prepare accordingly for the test you’re planning to take. Some colleges require writing scores, while others do not. If you haven’t finalized your college list yet, it’s in your best interest to take the writing portion, at least once, so you do not limit your options.

When it comes to signing up for your test, timing and attention to detail is critical. Being proactive about your registration with the tips above can significantly alleviate stress leading up to your official test date.

Do you need support preparing for the SAT or ACT? Test Preps can help! To learn more about our services, contact Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

 

Sources:
https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/act-registration-tips 
https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html
https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test/essay
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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January 10th, 2018

SAT or ACT: Which One Is Better For You?


With so much information out there about the SAT and ACT, it can be difficult to know which test to take. Both tests have evolved over the last few years, leaving parents and students with many questions. The reality is that there is no “better” test. When it comes to college testing, students should identify the best test option for his or her individual abilities.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

Time constraints vary on the SAT and ACT. Of course both tests are timed, but the SAT allows for more time per question on all sections of the exam. Although this doesn’t make the SAT any easier than the ACT, it may be a better fit for a student who typically doesn’t perform well under tight time constraints. If time management is an issue, the SAT could be a winner. A student’s ability to handle time constraints can be assessed by their performance on the PSAT and practice ACT tests, before they start test preparation.

The SAT math sections are based on Common Core math. When the SAT was revamped in 2016, the man at the helm of College Board was David Coleman, aka the “Architect of Common Core”.  Here in Western New York, many school districts struggled with the transition from Regents Math to Common Core. In comparison, questions on the ACT math section can be solved using more traditional math methods.

One of the two SAT math sections has a “no-calculator” policy, which accounts for 1/3 of the total SAT math score. For students who prefer using a calculator to solve every step of a math problem, the SAT may be challenging. While it’s possible to improve a score on the “no-calculator” section, some students prefer the ACT, which allows calculator usage for all the problems. Depending on a student’s proficiency in solving math equations under pressure, this factor may play a role in a student’s test choice.

The ACT includes a Science section while the SAT embeds science questions throughout the test. We tell our students that the ACT Science is more like a reading section that happens to be about Science, with tables, charts, graphs and some paragraphs.  Questions can be answered by reading and interpreting information; no recalling facts from Biology class required!

ALL colleges across the country accept both the SAT and ACT. Therefore, choosing the option that matches individual testing skills and aptitude is key. Busy teens can then focus their time and energy on one test, not both. Keep in mind that for both the SAT and the ACT, repetition and timed practice are crucial components of effective preparation.

Still not sure about the SAT versus the ACT? Test Preps can help students compare their scores and skill set in order to make an informed decision. Get all your testing questions answered by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or by calling (716) 574-7349.

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December 17th, 2017

Start the Test Prep process during holiday break!

With the holiday break being a time for fun and festivities, test preparation is often the last thing on students’ minds. However, using some of this valuable time off to take practice tests and plan ahead can be instrumental in helping juniors achieve successful SAT and ACT outcomes in the spring.

If you’re a high school student, here are two good reasons why you should start the test preparation process during holiday break:

No school conflicts – The burden of test preparation when you have homework, AP exams, mid-terms, sport/musical practices and class projects can be overwhelming. Your mind and schedule are most free during the weeks when you have no school-related commitments and can simply focus on your testing. During the holiday break, pick a day to take a practice test for both the SAT and ACT so you can determine which test you prefer. Dedicating a full day to this will give you the opportunity to take a practice test at home in its entirety with minimal distractions. You’ll then have the time you need to review your initial scores and determine which test is best for you.

Time to create your test prep plan – Once you pick a test, you’ll want to formulate a test prep plan that aligns with your learning abilities and school schedule. Use the holiday break to research your test preparation options, such as small group classes or tutoring sessions. If you’re a junior, you’ll likely want to register for a test prep service (like Test Preps!) that will prepare you for an early spring SAT or ACT. Many students and parents find that having a test prep plan in place before January hits is a significant time-saver and stress-reducer!

While you can certainly get the test prep process underway, it’s important to have fun over the holidays and take a break from the craziness of school work and activities. Once you take a couple practice tests and establish a test prep plan, it’s best to give yourself some time off from everything! Taking at least a few days to simply relax and rejuvenate will give you the mental break you need to put your test preparation into full force in January.

Are you ready to get the test prep process started over break? Not sure if the SAT or ACT is right for you? Contact us and learn how Test Preps can help! You can reach Melissa Cook via email at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call (716) 574-7349. Happy Holidays!

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