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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
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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
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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!

November 13th, 2017

Test Prep 101: Evaluating Your Test Preparation Options

So, you’ve signed up for the next SAT or ACT. That’s a great first step! But how are you going to prepare for test day? With many options available, it can be difficult to decide how to use your limited study time most effectively. One important step is to determine the best method of test preparation for your personal learning style.

As you consider your study plans, here are three test prep options to consider:

  1. Small Group Classes: Group sessions are a great option for most students because they cover all the essentials including test format, types of questions, and timing, while teaching specific strategies for each test section. With Test Preps’ SAT/ACT courses, students are placed in small groups by ability, so the pacing of the class can be adjusted to meet the needs of the group’s learning level. Every class reinforces the test strategies taught, utilizing guided practice and interactive drills to cover each section of the test. Homework is assigned weekly and then checked at the following class because targeted practice and self-assessment are critical pieces of the process.  Small groups foster a “we’re all in this together” mentality and encourage peer collaboration and engagement. Most importantly, ability-based small groups create a dynamic setting in which students feel comfortable asking questions or for help with a problem.
  2. Private Tutoring: For students who struggle with staying focused or simply don’t want to ask questions in a group setting, private tutoring can be an excellent option. One-on-one tutoring sessions allow students to have specific content areas addressed and receive immediate feedback to capitalize on testing strengths and address weaker areas. This option is especially valuable for students with learning challenges, or those who cannot attend a scheduled course. Additionally, private tutoring can be beneficial for students who, after completing a course, need further tutoring in one specific testing section.There are other advantages to working privately with a tutor. Some students greatly benefit from the accountability of meeting with a tutor who ensures they complete the required work each week and helps the student assess where mistakes are being made. Extra work in content areas can also be addressed, as needed. Private tutoring is a helpful option for students with busy sports schedules who require a flexible study schedule on a week-to-week basis.
  3. Self-study: Studying on your own requires a significant amount of diligence and self-motivation! This may be a good option for students who are inclined to use online testing tools and take timed practice tests on their own. However, it is a less than ideal option for procrastinators. To make self-study effective, students must be committed to a weekly study routine, dedicating a set amount of time each week to completing sections. Self-assessment is key! Students must be proactive in determining where they are making mistakes and focus on improving their weak areas. In general, most students find that other test prep methods, like small group classes or private tutoring, hold them more accountable to their study schedule.

It’s important to figure out which SAT/ACT preparation method works for you, well in advance of your official test day. You’ll want to consider how you prefer to learn and study, as well as which program fits best within your busy school and activity schedule. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s critical that you take your test preparation seriously and put in the time and effort required to perform your best

Here in Buffalo, NY, Test Preps offers many options to accommodate all types of learners. Want to learn more about our programs? Get in touch with Test Preps’ owner, Melissa Cook, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

September 19th, 2017

Looking For Scholarship Money? High Test Scores Can Help!

Almost every parent or student going through the college admissions process is interested in scholarships. The reality is that earning scholarships is a competitive process – even if you’re a straight A student. When it comes to scholarships awarded by colleges, as well as public and private institutions, applicants must possess a strong academic record and high standardized test scores to be considered. So, what does this mean exactly? It means that the better you perform on your SAT or ACT, the more scholarship money you can potentially receive.

Here are three of the top reasons why achieving high SAT or ACT test scores can make you more competitive in the scholarship applicant pool:

 

  1. You’ll be eligible for “automatic” merit scholarships. There are some colleges that automatically award merit scholarships based strictly on numerical criteria, including SAT or ACT scores, and qualifiers like GPA or class rank. With automatic merit scholarships, you do not have to submit any extra application information. However, some colleges require that you apply for admission by a certain deadline to be guaranteed a scholarship. To get an idea of how much merit aid you may be awarded at a given school, you’ll want to check out each college’s net price calculator. Net price calculators allow students to enter their GPA and test scores for an estimate of how much scholarship money they may receive if admitted to the college. Every college website is required to have a net price calculator, so it’s helpful to take advantage of inputting your information as you apply to schools. Check out this list by U.S. News & World Report to access links to the net price calculators of about 300 top national colleges and universities.

 

  1. You’ll be a competitive candidate for many private scholarships. There are thousands of private scholarships available to students through various companies, employers and organizations. And, with endless scholarship opportunities available online, it’s never been more important for students to make sure their academic credentials stand out. Though private scholarships are based on many factors, a high SAT or ACT score can increase your odds of being considered – simply because your test scores will outshine those of many other candidates vying for the same opportunities.

 

  1. You’ll enhance your admissions profile for program-specific scholarships. In addition to becoming eligible for colleges’ standard merit scholarships, an impressive score will open doors to many other scholarship opportunities. For example, most colleges require students to meet a specified testing threshold to earn scholarships pertaining to certain academic programs (i.e., a STEM scholarship). Or, if you are hoping to earn a scholarship through admittance to a college’s honors program, a high test score will be favorable in your admission to the program.

As you can see, performing well on your SAT or ACT is important not just for admission, but for your wallet. Taking test preparation seriously will help you get into the college of your dreams AND earn you free money to attend it. It’s a win-win!

Is scholarship money a priority for you? Achieving a high SAT or ACT score requires dedication to the test prep process. Enroll in one of Test Preps’ programs today by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

August 12th, 2017

Getting The Most Out Of Your College Visits: 3 Great Questions To Ask Your Tour Guide

It’s that time of year again when many families make room in their late summer schedules to visit colleges, even incorporating them in family vacations and weekend getaways. However, what most people forget is that asking the right types of questions is critical for getting the most out of college visits and making informed decisions about college choices. There are many basic inquiries you’ll want to have addressed regarding academics, cost and dorming – but there are also some questions you may not have thought to ask.

Whether you’re a parent or a student, here are three of the best questions to ask your tour guide during your college visits:

1. What types of internship programs are available to students? With the workforce now more competitive than ever, it’s imperative to inquire with each college about internship placements. Students should know what types of internship programs are available, as well as what percentage of the college’s students get internships during and after their degree programs. Because internships have become a key component to securing full-time employment, having this information is essential in making the best college decision for future career opportunities.

2. Do many students go home on the weekends? Just because dorming exists at most colleges does not mean there’s an active residence life on every campus. There are many colleges often referred to as “commuter schools” where students who dorm on campus tend go home frequently on the weekends. If you’re visiting a college far from home, you’ll likely want to pick a school in which students are regularly engaged in campus activities during the weekends. Get a sense of the residence life culture during your visit by asking your tour guide and students on the campus for their thoughts.

3. What is your graduation track record? The whole point of going to college is to earn a degree you can use for your future, right? Well, you’d be surprised as to how many people fail to ask about graduation rates! Be sure to ask each college about their respective four-year and five-year graduation records. This is important, as it will give you an idea about the quality of each college’s academic advisement and how equipped the students are in completing their degree programs on time. Remember, the longer it takes to graduate, the more money and time you’ll spend in college!

These are just a few of the many important questions to keep in mind during college visits. By planning your questions ahead of time, you can make the most out of your visits and ensure you have all the information you need to effectively evaluate the colleges on your list.

In addition to college visits, is SAT or ACT prep part of your plans? Enroll in one of Test Preps’ programs today by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

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