Is there any way to determine what the ‘practice section’ of the SAT exam is?

February 11, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

The practice section of the SAT is a section that isn’t scored, but used for College Board’s testing purposes.  Unfortunately, there is no way to tell which section is the “practice section,” other than you know it isn’t the first or last section.  The first section of the exam is the essay, and the last section is distinct in terms of time given and number of questions asked. Ultimately, the best advice is to try your hardest on each individual section, and hope that your best scores were not in the practice section.


What is “rapid-fire learning”, and how does it apply to SAT preparation?

January 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

“Rapid-fire learning” is a term we use at Perfect800 to describe the learning style we are trying to facilitate. As students, recent students, and teachers, we believe that the traditional learning model is changing to fit the “information now” culture of today’s society. Especially when it comes to test prep, we believe that students are growing tired of 45 minute lectures that teach them things they already know, or gloss over things they don’t quite understand. It doesn’t make sense to us that all students should have to learn the same material at the same pace when every student has different needs.

Furthermore, we don’t believe in “concept check” type questions that will never appear on an actual exam. As students who have aced tests our entire lives, we know that the most efficient way to prepare for any exam is to practice challenging exam questions. Therefore, we call the practice of quickly and efficiently going through exam questions “rapid-fire learning.” In our opinion, this is the fastest way to increase your test score, no matter what the exam. Using this philosophy, we built – a Website designed to confront students with the very challenges they will face on exam day ahead of time. Because all of our questions are constructed by thoroughly studying real SAT questions, our content accurately reflects questions you may see on the real SAT. Attempting these questions beforehand and going through the methodology to solve them will assuredly give you a huge advantage over your peers.

How much time do I need to study for the SAT?

January 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

There is no “magic” number of hours that will guarantee you success on the SAT. Every student is different, and therefore every student has different needs when it comes to preparing for the most important exam of their lives. In order to determine how much you should study however, there are a few things you can do.

First, take a practice exam (you can find a SAT Math diagnostic on Perfect800, or you can use a full length exam from the College Board’s Blue Book) and score yourself. Then, compare your score with the median (50th percentile) SAT score of those admitted to your choice schools in previous years. This will give you a sense of where you stand in comparison to the “average” student admitted to your school. No matter where you stand in relation to these scores, you will likely want to improve your score to increase your chances of admittance. At Perfect800, we recommend practicing SAT questions daily for a few months leading up to the exam. Pay special attention to those questions you miss, and if possible, revisit these questions as the exam date gets nearer (On Perfect800, we automatically save all questions you missed previously).

Obviously, the more time you spend preparing for the exam, the better off you will be going in, but some methods of preparation are definitely recommended above others. For example, while it can be helpful to listen to (or read) someone else’s opinions on the exam, the time isn’t as valuable as time spent practicing test questions. In all reality, becoming “good” at the SAT isn’t much different from becoming “good” at anything else – it requires lots of practice and hard work. For a free SAT Math diagnostic exam, simply sign up for Perfect800 then go to “Serious Mode.” Good luck in your studies!

Perfect800: Tricks to high scores on the SAT Math

July 11, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

In our experience teaching SAT classes and tutoring one on one, we have come to realize that many students who understand all of the concepts don’t score an 800, or even above 650 in many cases.  In fact, most students who take the SAT have already learned every concept the exam tests, and in fact are often learning subjects well beyond the scope of the exam by their junior year.  Why is it then that these students still miss so many questions on the exam?

We’ll explain.  Collegeboard, creator of the SAT exam, needs to find a way to differentiate all the students who take the exam, many of whom are at similar ability and education levels, in order to lend credibility to the SAT.  Since the Collegeboard has to make the exam viable for all college-bound students, it cannot ask questions based on more advanced math concepts that some students may not have encountered yet. Due to these reasons, the SAT math section uses various tactics to try and ascertain which students have the deepest understanding of these concepts and thus earn the highest score.

1) Intimidating questions – Questions that may not actually be that tough, but a scary graph or new technique will have several students saying “I’ll skip this one and come back to it later…”
Counter: Always take notice as to where the question is within the section.   If there is a very tricky or intimidating problem towards the beginning or middle, odds are that the question itself is pretty simple, but Collegeboard is attempting to frighten you away from the question.

2) Confusing / tricky-worded – The SAT Math section is part reading comprehension.   Since often the underlying math concepts aren’t too challenging in and of themselves, Collegeboard often employs confusing / tricky language to get students to solve for the wrong variable, pick a related (but incorrect) answer choice, or miss out on a crucial piece of information. Inevitably, the student spends more precious time on the question than it warrants.
Counter: Always take time to thoroughly read each question and MAKE SURE you know what is being asked, before you begin computation. We understand that the impulse is to start “doing math” as quickly as you can in this timed environment, but unfortunately the Collegeboard knows this and they will trick you if you don’t manage your time to thoroughly read the question and understand what is being asked.  Underlining key words in each question can help you with this exercise, and so can double checking that you are answering the right question every time you bubble in an answer choice.

3) Hidden Methodologies – There is a finite number of concepts that the SAT can test, and so they (understandably) come up with unique and often inconspicuous (hidden, not obvious) ways of testing these concepts.  If the SAT wants you to use the pythagorean theorem, it will rarely ever (perhaps never) suggest this to you, rather it will be something that you have to determine on your own, and this is the step that is often the most difficult for students.  This extends beyond the pythagorean theorem to operations such as cross-multiplying, recognizing “special” triangles (45- 45- 90, 30-60-90), simplifying expressions, employing the difference of two squares, attempting to plug in the answer choices to find the correct answer, permutations vs. combinations, and many others.
Counter: Always remember to be creative in your approach to solving SAT problems.  If you are trying one method for 30 seconds to a minute and haven’t gotten anywhere, chances are there is an easier method for solving the problem that you are missing.  Being able to recognize which method to use for which question simply comes from practice.

In closing, there are many reasons why students equipped with all the necessary math knowledge don’t always score well on the SAT math section, but the main one is unfamiliarity with the exam.  Just like any teacher, the Collegeboard employs several tricks to throw students off and reward those who have studied more and have paid closer attention to the details of the exam.  Honing in on these details isn’t easy, but will become increasingly natural as you practice SAT math questions.  Happy practicing!

How can parents help students on the SAT?

May 24, 2010 at 12:24 am | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

Parents should provide the student with the appropriate tools to study effectively, as well as provide some additional motivation to study.  Most parents are confused as to which path to take when helping their son or daughter to prepare for this important exam.  Many parents buy a daunting 600+ page book that all too often goes unopened.  Others spend $1,000+ dollars on classes and private tutors.  At Perfect800, we provide a question-focused, efficient approach to SAT studying that fully explains the answer to each question as well as the underlying tricks that the SAT uses to throw students off.  While automating the process for determining your child’s strengths and weaknesses, by tracking progress made on question type, time per question and difficulty level. Furthermore, each user has the option of entering a sponsor when they sign up, so parents can be updated and be aware to their son / daughter’s progress and improvement each day, week or month. If you do hire a tutor to assist,  be sure to do your background research and ask for a referral.

How to get a high score on the SAT?

May 23, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

The answer to this might surprise you.  Although a lot of corporations would like for you to believe that you need an expensive, lengthy class a couple of times a week for a few months, this isn’t the case.  In fact, in our experience as tutors in prior lives, we can tell you that these classes can be very inefficient.  The pace of the class is dictated by the instructor, who cannot go beyond the pace of the slowest student and cannot adapt lesson plans to individual learning styles.  Every question that the slowest student needs covered is thoroughly explained to the most minute detail, while students who already understand how to get the correct answer become incredibly bored.  This problem occurs in every SAT class as it is impossible to have a class of students who will all understand the same questions to the same level.   Everyone has different questions and issues they struggle with.

One way to get around this inefficiency / boredom issue is to hire a private tutor.  However, going this route can be incredibly expensive for the parents of those students, and quite honestly there is only so much someone can teach you in a period of a couple of hours. And even then, the tutor must decide to allocate time to tutoring the student on content or test taking strategies.  Unless you are willing to spend a fortune, it is difficult to get enough private tutoring to be fully prepared for the exam.

Our experience in working with students has led to the understanding that the SAT is constructed of a whole bunch of questions with ‘trick’ answers.  Basically the creator of the exam needed a way to weed out all students from getting the right answer, so they constructed each question with answer choices that you would arrive at after making a mistake.

This brought us to the realization that the key to scoring well on the exam is to become familiar with the tricks that the exam uses to induce mistakes (the SAT uses the same tricks over and over…).  Of course you need a basis of knowledge to be able to compute the correct answer in the first place, but most high school students taking this exam are far beyond SAT Math (doesn’t go beyond basic algebra and geometry) in their current math classes.

Should I use a calculator on the SAT?

May 10, 2010 at 3:00 am | Posted in SAT Advice | Leave a comment

According to research performed by College Board, test scores on math sections are on average higher when a calculator is used on approximately a third to a half of the questions, than when a calculator is used more or less frequently. However, regression testing and the addition of more variables shows this as a classic case of correlation and not causation between calculator usage and higher test scores.

Intuitively, their research also found that students relying more on calculators struggled more often to finish their sections in the allotted time. As such, we recommend using a calculator where necessary and avoiding usage on conceptual based questions or questions that require less complex computations. The best way to understand whether a calculator is needed, is to know the intent of the question prior to solving. Additionally, the type of calculator should also be factored into the decision. For example, if you’ve never used a graphing calculator, then you may want to use a scientific calculator.


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