Stats from the 2009 SAT’s

August 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Posted in In the News | Leave a comment

From the Collegeboard report on 2009 SAT’s, with more than 1.5 million students taking the test:

  • Average scores on the three sections of the SAT were 501 in critical reading, 493 in writing, and 515 in mathematics.
  • Girls outperformed boys by 13 points on the writing section, but 35 points lower than boys in math and 5 points lower in critical reading
  • Students from families with an annual income above $200,000 scored, on average, 68 points higher in critical reading than students from families earning less than $20,000 per year.
  • Students whose parents did not graduate from high school averaged 420 in critical reading, 139 points lower than students whose parents had a graduate degree, who averaged 559.

What does SAT optional mean?

August 24, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Posted in In the News | Leave a comment

NY Times makes some interesting points to some of the larger implications of having SAT scores be optional, especially for college applicants vacillating on whether to take the SAT or not. However, we still recommend taking the test, because even if a school does not require your SAT score, many of these test optional schools use the test scores for Merit based scholarships, potentially saving a lot of money down the road.

Curbing Claims of Test Prep Score Gains

August 22, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Choosing a SAT Prep Course | Leave a comment

A recent article in the USA today sheds some more light on score increase claims made by many test prep companies. We previously brought this issue to light in our blog post on this specific topic. The Princeton Review has since “agreed to stop using claims about average score gains in its marketing materials.” Of course, because the College Board does not allow companies to use prior SAT problems, prep companies generate their content internally. Some companies may then intentionally (or unintentionally) load diagnostic tests with more difficult questions, leading to lower student scores on initial tests. While coaching and commercial forms of test prep have proven to increase SAT scores, and are highly recommended, just another reason to be careful about reading too much into marketing slogans oriented around score gains (especially when many of these companies charge over $1000 for some of their offerings).

Can a 30-point increase on the SAT help with college admissions?

August 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Posted in General SAT | Leave a comment

According to this article in the USA today, a 30-point increase can have a significant impact on the college admissions process.

The #1 tip USA Today has for Math? Eliminate careless errors. The best way to that in our opinion? Problem based learning supplemented with lessons, rather than the traditional lesson review supplemented with some practice problems at the end. Students have already learned the majority of the content on the SAT in school – now it’s about eliminating careless errors!

They further recommend balancing the potential benefits of test prep against other costs, primarily time and money. To use less costly forms of test prep, such as books or the internet to avoid potential risks inherent with “coaching rip-offs.” Couldn’t agree more.

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!

Should I take the PSATs?

June 1, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Posted in PSAT | Leave a comment

If colleges never see the scores? Does this mean I should bother with it? We recommend taking as many practice problems in real situations as possible, including the PSAT. Most students take the PSAT in either their Sophomore or Junior years, with the former serving as a practice for the latter. The PSAT score received in the Junior year is the only one that is eligible for acceptance as a National Merit Scholar. Since the PSAT and the SAT are such important exams, we recommend taking them early, as long as you can adequately prepare for them. This is especially the case with the SAT, as most colleges will let you take your best score from each section, regardless of whether your best score in each section occurred on different test dates.

Other reasons given for taking the PSAT are to receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses, to understand how you compare to other students applying to college or to receive information from colleges. We recommend looking to online modes of practice problems to better ascertain your specific strengths and weaknesses to better focus your attention on areas best open for improvement. For instance, a College Board case study illustrated that students who take the SAT three times, do better on average in the third testing for math testing than other students on their final testing. If this is true for the SAT, then you might as well get started with a low pressure environment like the PSAT.  Additionally, don’t be deceived into either being overly encouraged or discouraged by your ranking (as compared to other college bound students) ascertained from you PSAT score. We are proof that strategically guided hard work by some students (such as you) will have a significant impact on the ranking that counts; your final SAT math score.

Stephen Colbert: How to Ace the SAT

May 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is Stephen Colbert’s advice on how to ace the SAT? Spend a lot of money- perhaps as much as $8400 for private SAT tutoring at Princeton Review, as Colbert says, “Turning children’s fear into cash.” For the rest, watch below:


How to Ace the SAT’s

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.

Can my SAT score compensate for my high school grades?

May 10, 2010 at 4:06 am | Posted in General SAT | Leave a comment

Absolutely.  In fact, most colleges place equal weighting on SAT scores and cumulative high school GPA.  Putting this into perspective, this means that all of the work you have done, and all the classes you have attended throughout your entire high school career aggregate to be as important as this one exam.  Therefore, you should regard this as the most important test you have ever taken, and perhaps will ever take. Don’t stress out too much though, as the recent decision in March of 2009 to reverse course and give students the option of choosing which scores to send to universities (named second choice), means you can retake the SAT with no impact to college admissions. Conserving the precious resources of time and money though should be the goal. By taking the PSAT twice and using our course you should be prepared to do your best on the  math section of the SAT certainly by your second taking if not your first.

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