SAT/ACT Library

The Do's and Don'ts of ACT and SAT Test Prep

If you’re a junior in high school, it’s crunch time. Final exams, AP and IB exams, SAT and ACT tests in May and June…You probably don’t even have time for this blog post. So, we’ll keep this short.
 
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There’s a million ways to prepare for the SAT or ACT, but not all of them are effective. The truth is, a great tutor is the easiest way to improve your ACT and SAT scores. It’s certainly possible to do so on your own, but it requires immense focus, unerring discipline, and the prowess of an experienced autodidact.
 
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Let’s first discuss why paid automated programs aren’t valuable

In a perfect world, online automated learning platforms could take the place of a great teacher. But, alas, this world is far from perfect. You can learn the nuts and bolts of test prep from Anthony Green’s canned course, or from PrepScholar. But the truth is, this information is already available for free on websites like Khan Academy. Companies that offer “Complete SAT/ACT Test Prep” for $300 are simply packaging the information you can find in a google search, and charging 300 bucks for it. If someone claims that for $300 you can get the same results as the students who paid that same someone $30,000… It’s time to be skeptical. Use free resources like Khan Academy to learn the nuts and bolts. If you’re going to pay someone, pay for one-on-one tutoring.
 
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Free resources like Khan Academy are incredibly useful, but they won’t show you the tricks of the trade. That’s because Khan Academy partnered with the College Board (makers of the SAT) to create their curriculum. The test makers, and their affiliates, will show you how to solve math problems, but they won’t show you the tricks that make SAT and ACT Math easier. They will show you how to read carefully, but they won’t show you the tricks to break down each type of SAT Reading and ACT Science passage and question. They will show you how to effectively use commas, but they won’t show you how to dramatically improve your SAT and ACT Writing scores without dramatically improving your knowledge of grammar.

But we will.

We’re old school. One-on-one private SAT and ACT tutoring from a master tutor with thousands of hours of tutoring and a deep knowledge of the tests. We also guarantee our work. Seriously. If you complete our course and don’t get your goal score, we’ll help you make it happen the second time, free of charge.

On the other hand, we’re smart enough (and young enough) to have been one of the first fully online, Skype-based SAT and ACT tutoring companies in the world.

Our business model is based on two simple truths:

1. Great scores require individualized instruction from world class tutors. So, we only offer one-on-one tutoring from world class instructors.

2. Clients pay for a result, not a service. So, we guarantee that our students will reach their goal scores on the SAT and ACT.

Improving your ACT and SAT scores isn’t easy, but it is simple. Drop us a line at director@higherlearningtestprep.com to get started!
 
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5 Steps to Acing the ACT

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Here at Higher Learning Test Prep, we’re constantly asked to outline a pathway to success on the ACT and/or SAT. The truth is, there’s no one method for beating these standardized tests. The methods that some students use to improve their score may actually interfere with other students’ quest for the perfect score. A trick that helps your friend get a perfect score on the ACT Math section might actually cause you to make an unnecessary mistake. Your “hack” of the SAT Evidence-Based Reading section, that allows you to move more quickly and thus improve your score, may complicate matters for your best friend. Nevertheless, their is a general road map to success on both tests. So here you go:

1. Set a Goal Score

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of setting a goal score for the ACT or SAT. This shouldn’t be a matter of comparing yourself with your friends. Nor should your goal score be dictated by some arbitrary sense of what constitutes a great score. You’ll need to research the schools you’re interested in attending, looking for the range of ACT or SAT scores of currently enrolled students.

2. Review the Content

This part seems obvious, but is often overlooked by students that come to us looking for all the “tricks” for acing the SAT or ACT. Sure, we can help you improve your test taking skills, but if you don’t feel confident, for example, identifying parts of speech and using the distance formula, all the tricks in the world won’t help you get a perfect score on the SAT or ACT English and Math sections. Take a practice test, and once you’ve graded it, make a list of the skills you need to brush up on.

3. Study the Test, and the Test-Makers

Here’s where the “tricks” come in. Both the SAT and the ACT have common themes. They ask questions the same way, year-in and year-out. If you see a question that reminds you of a previous question, make note of that. How did the test-makers formulate the incorrect answers? How did you fall into their trap? Or, how did you avoid the trap? These tests are predictable, if you can gain an understanding of the test-makers’ strategies, you’ll be ready for anything!

4. Take at least 4 full-length Practice Tests

Shorter, focused sessions can help you understand the content and master the tricks, but only through the process of completing full-length tests can you truly master the test. Getting a perfect score on the ACT reading section means not only answering all the questions correctly, but doing so after you’ve already successfully completed an hour of grammar, and an hour of math… and you’ll still have a science test to ace after that. Taking full length tests is the only way to ensure you’ll have the stamina to succeed on test day. Furthermore, full length tests allow you to apply all the skills you’ve learned in practice. There’s an old saying “Realization is different from Actualization.” Having the skills is the first step, applying them in the real situation is the next step.

5. Analyze Results, Rinse and Repeat

Grading each practice test is an opportunity to learn more about yourself in relation to the SAT or ACT. Don’t get too excited when you’ve had success, and don’t get too bummed when you’ve had some trouble. Use each test as a tool to inform your continued study of the material. What worked, and what didn’t? What content areas are still weak? What tricks really helped? Take what you’ve learned from each practice test, and keep working towards your ultimate goal.

We believe that any student can reach their goal on the ACT or SAT. With the right practice, anything is possible. Remember: Practice does NOT necessarily make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

And perfect practice is a lot easier if you’ve got the perfect tutor. Higher Learning Test Prep employs the best ACT and SAT tutors in the world, and they’re available for you anywhere in the world via Skype. If you need any further guidance on the SAT or ACT, drop us a line: director@higherlearningtestprep.com
 
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ACT Math- Logarithms and Exponents

Check out this video explaining a good use of The Log Rule for Exponents on the ACT. Remember to use the answer choices on ACT Math questions to inform your thinking. Time is of the essence on the ACT Math section, and thoroughly knowing this rule is the difference between moving quickly and getting bogged down. If you know this useful rule in advance, you may be able to easily spot the answer. In the past, we would have said that the SAT would never include a logarithmic question in the math sections, but the New SAT could definitely contain a question like this one. Basically, effective studying for the New SAT Math section is an amalgamation of the way we previously studied for the old SAT and the way we currently study for the ACT.
 

 

As always, let us know if any questions come up during your study of the ACT or SAT. Whether it’s a specific math question, or you’re wondering about ACT Science strategies, or trying to decide whether the SAT or ACT is right for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

And of course, if you’re looking for the best SAT and ACT tutoring available in the world, look no further! Higher Learning Test Prep offers the best one-on-one Skype tutoring for the ACT and SAT that money can buy. We’ve helped hundreds of students improve their SAT and ACT score, and in turn gain admission to the best colleges and universities in the world. We’ve got the best tutors, the best methods, the best customer service, and a guarantee that no other SAT-ACT prep company can match, so hit us up!

Automated SAT and ACT Courses vs. One-on-One SAT and ACT Tutoring

Automation is the name of the game for modern entrepreneurs. The internet is full of automated course offerings for everything from knitting to astrophysics. If you’re a self-learner, or autodidact, (Great SAT word, by the way) automated courses can help you learn the nuts and bolts of just about anything. Online programs can show you all the foundational information necessary to improve your skills, whether your area of interest is SAT Prep, or building rocket-ships. Both of which are, of course, equally exciting endeavors.

But information is different than knowledge. Pre-recorded lessons and exciting visual presentations are different than one-on-one guidance. You can teach a man to fish, but probably not by asking him to watch youtube videos.

The process of imparting information is a dynamic one, requiring an active exchange between teacher and student. It requires a thorough examination of the student’s questions, and an equally thorough examination of the teacher’s answers. We encourage our students to use free platforms like Kahn Academy, in order to further explore perspectives on the SAT, and to work on SAT problem sets. But it’s important to use such resources as tools, and not to rely on them as complete solutions. Learning requires dialogue and discussion. Learning requires critical thinking, not just absorption.

Above all else, we advise our students to never spend money on automated programs. Some companies offer incredible results through automated programs- Green SAT and Green ACT, two popular programs started by savvy entrepreneur and solid SAT and ACT tutor Anthony Green, promise the same efficacy and the same results as Anthony’s one-on-one Skype tutoring, which he previously priced at $1000 dollars per hour.

We’re happy that Green Test Prep has had success. It’s great that their founder was able to leverage publicity generated by his exorbitant rates, and turn that publicity into profit. We’re certain Green Test Prep effectively elucidates some useful strategies on the SAT and ACT. But to claim an automated course is as effective as world-class one-on-one tutoring using Skype is more than a stretch. It’s simply false.

Imagine a basketball team deciding they didn’t need a coach. After all, there’s tons of free information about basketball on the internet. There’s videos that can teach each and every trick, and even lists of useful practice drills available online. Plus, for a much lower price than a coach’s salary, they can simply attend an online seminar by legendary coach Phil Jackson, and even send him a couple of emails. So, who needs a coach?

Maybe you could put together a decent club team that way. If you’re motivated, you could learn some great ball handling tricks, and even run a few good practices. But nobody is winning the NBA title without a coach. If you need just a few points improvement on the SAT or ACT, we absolutely belief results can be achieved using online programs, and we advise students to use free online resources, and affordable books and Ebooks. But if you need significant score improvement on the SAT or ACT, or if you want to compete for a spot at one of the top colleges or universities in the country, get personalized one-on-one help from a well qualified tutor that is personally invested in your success.

That’s, of course, where we come in. We’ve got the best SAT and ACT tutors in the world, and they’re available anywhere in the world using Skype or Google Hangouts. Think of us as your complete guide to SAT and ACT prep, the guru that can give you a shot at the title. Visit our Trophy Room/Testimonials Page to see the kind of results you can expect!

Happy Studying!

The Higher Learning Crew

Skimming ACT Reading- Science Passages

Our last blog post was about skimming ACT Reading passages, but that one covered Prose Fiction passages. The method is roughly the same, but the intention of the test taker should be different.
 

 

On all ACT reading passages, students should skim the passage. But while skimming prose passages, students should simply look to find the main idea and roughly where specific information is located. While skimming science passages, students should keep in mind the scope of science passages.

Science passages in the ACT Reading section typically outline an experiment. If that’s the case, look for the following: an introduction, a hypothesis, an experiment, a method of data collection, a results paragraph, and perhaps a conclusion. Not every passage will contain all of the above, but most will contain some of those pieces. More importantly, thinking in these terms will appropriately frame your skim. Note the progression of ideas, and you’ll find yourself efficiently moving through the questions with a great sense of exactly where key information is hiding for each question.

Skimming ACT Reading- Prose Passages

Here’s a quick(ish) video demonstrating how a great skim can help you move quickly through the questions, and not just move quickly through the passage. During our Skype ACT tutoring sessions, we emphasize the skimming process on the reading passages. This is the first step to improving your ACT score dramatically!

 

The New ACT Essay- A Comprehensive Guide

The SAT is changing in March of 2016, and the academic world is buzzing with anticipation. But quietly, the ACT has undergone a few changes of it’s own as of late. The latest update to the ACT came in September of 2015, in the form a dramatically altered essay.

 

 

The new essay comes as part of a larger change to the ACT writing section. But don’t sweat it: The other changes to the ACT writing section amount to a few organizational adjustments regarding the ACT’s presentation of scores to colleges and universities. So, the new essay is the only change you’ll have to consider as a test taker.

First, let’s look at the differences between an old ACT writing prompt, and a new one:

 

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As you might have noticed, your task on the new ACT seems more extensive. The simple prompt on the old ACT is complicated by the addition of three view points on the new ACT. Instead of simply making a persuasive argument backed up by good examples, you’re now responsible for placing yourself within the context of other opinions, and justifying your position relative to those other viewpoints. To add to the obvious differences in the format and assignment, let’s face it: The coming technological utopia/dystopia is a slightly heavier subject than the importance of school dress codes.

Some people will tell you that because the new ACT essay is more complex, it is also more difficult. We’ll agree that the task is more complex, but the new ACT essay is actually much EASIER than the old one.

Why? Because the new ACT essay does all the work for you. It’s like ordering delivery as opposed to making your own pizza. It’s fun making pizza at home, but it’s way easier to call it in. And let’s be honest, home-made pizza will never beat the real thing. (If you think we’re wrong, that’s fine. We’re very openminded, willing to eat our words, and certainly open to unsolicited pizza deliveries.)

The old ACT writing prompt was a matter of choosing a view point and, persuasively and creatively, defending that view point. That meant that students had to come up with GREAT examples and reasoning, and then go through the process of critically analyzing the counter-arguments to their examples and reasoning. All of this for an essay about something you probably don’t care about.

The new ACT writing prompt gives us an undeniably more interesting subject, and three ready made opinions. Instead of making up your own ideas and hoping they’re interesting enough (given the dull prompt), all you’ve got to do is choose: Pepperoni? Margherita? Hawaiian? Maybe Pepperoni/Hawaiian if you’re feeling adventurous. Don’t let the world stop you from reaching for the stars.

No matter what you’re opinion is, you’re likely to find one of the three that you roughly agree with, and one of the three that you mostly disagree with. So, without having to call out to the heavens for creative inspiration, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea about what you’d like to say, and what you’d like to draw attention to. Sure, you’ve got to come up with supportive reasoning, but the argument itself pretty much frames itself.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of outlining your essay before you begin writing. In fact, it’s more important than EVER that students spend time planning before writing. The test makers understand that the new essay is more complex, so they’ve changed the time limit from 30 minutes to 40 minutes, and added a more directed outline/rubric to the test.

You won’t be graded on what you write on this page, but it’s pretty obvious that the test makers are looking for VERY organized writing. We suggest spending no less that 8 minutes planning and outlining your essay.

So here’s a walkthrough for how to plan for, and write the perfect ACT essay:

Step 1: Paraphrase each of the three arguments.

Just roughly summarize each position.

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Perspective One: Technology has removed the necessity for basic human respect among members of a society, resulting in a less humane world. (Bad)
Perspective Two: Technology has increased efficiency, which leads to a better world for everyone. (Good)
Perspective Three: Technology is stretching the limits of humanity, and encouraging us to grow as species and society. (Very Good)

2. Take a Position. This will probably happen naturally. Don’t overthink it. The ACT hasn’t inserted one right answer and two wrong answers in order to trick students. They’ve listed three compelling opinions, all of which are considered equally valid by the test makers.

In my case, I’ll go with Perspective Two. I honestly think all three perspectives are reasonable, or plausible, but Perspective Two is something that I absolutely agree with.

3. Write a Thesis. Definitely the most important part of your whole essay. The thesis will make or break your essay. BUT IT ISN’T DIFFICULT! Remember: The ACT LOVES SIMPLICITY. The more complicated your writing, the worse your score will be. So, here’s my thesis:

While many of the eventual effects of an increasingly technical world are unknown, it must be granted that technology has enabled an increase in efficiency, and an improvement to human living standards.

Simple. I’ve pretty much said, “I don’t know for sure whether technology is ultimately very good (Perspective 3) or very bad (Perspective 1), but I do know that running water and internet access is better than no running water and no internet access.”

4. Stock Up. We’re going to use our paraphrased perspectives from part 1, and build on them. We’ll write one or two sentences supporting each perspective, and one or two sentences arguing against each perspective.
Perspective One: Technology has removed the necessity for basic human respect among members of a society, resulting in a less humane world. (Bad)
Agree: My students think phone calls are awkward and have a hard time communicating verbally because they’ve been raised to text each other.
Disagree: My students are some of the most compassionate and sensitive people I’ve ever met. If technology was de-humanizing them, I’d expect more hate mail. People seem in some ways to be more polite and sensitive than ever.
Perspective Two: Technology has increased efficiency, which leads to a better world for everyone. (Good)
Agree: Thanks to Skype, I don’t have to drive to lessons anymore. No gas, no traffic, no wasted time.
Disagree: People lose their jobs to machines as companies become “more efficient”.
Perspective Three: Technology is stretching the limits of humanity, and encouraging us to grow as species and society. (Very Good)
Agree:  Thanks to technology, I work with people from all over the globe, which challenges me to think about things from different viewpoints and to grow.
Disagree: Sometimes people are really mean on the internet. Is this really making us better people?

5. Prepare for the Critics. Now that I have some idea of the good and bad for each point, let’s figure out how to counter our critics who disagree with us. My negative for Perspective Two is that “as technology grows, people lose jobs.” If I’m arguing that perspective two is the best one, I’d better know how to counter that argument. Here goes:

While some might point to dwindling jobs in industrial markets as a sign of the negative effects of technology on the economy, we must take into account a booming technology sector, which offsets many of the lost industrial jobs. Furthermore, each machine that replaces a human being actually frees that human being to do something more useful for society.

6. One for Good Luck. Let’s just grab one extra reason why we’re right. This should be easy.

Technology has increased efficiency of communication, making it possible to get emergency medical care to people that otherwise might not survive.

7. Ready to Write! Essentially you’ve already written your essay. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a rubric for how a well written ACT essay should look:

Paragraph 1:

-Thesis
-General Reasoning
-Example
-However, other views
-Nevertheless, why I’m right

Paragraph 2:

-Other viewpoint 1
-They’ve got a point
-But ultimately, they’re wrong
-Why I just won this debate, and transition to next viewpoint

Paragraph 3

-Other viewpoint 2
-They’ve got a point
-But they haven’t considered something
-So ultimately, my perspective is better, which transitions to…

Paragraph 4
-My viewpoint
-Some think I’m wrong because…
-But I’m right because…

Paragraph 5
-I love pepperoni and pineapple pizza. I mean, my viewpoint is awesome.
-Other viewpoint 1 is wrong because…
-Other viewpoint 2 is wrong because…
-Conclusion. (So clearly, I deserve a perfect score. )

You’ve pretty much written all this stuff. Almost every line written below is copied and pasted from our outline.

Paragraph 1:

-Thesis: Technology increases efficiency

-General Reasoning: While many of the eventual effects of an increasingly technical world are unknown, it must be granted that technology has enabled an increase in efficiency, and an improvement to human living standards.

-Example: Thanks to Skype, I don’t have to drive to lessons anymore. No gas, no traffic, no wasted time.

-However, other views: Some people think there are far reaching social problems, and still others think that technology will save humanity and drive us to new heights.

-Nevertheless, why I’m right: The positives and negatives of technology are endless. It’s impossible to categorize technology as good or bad without looking at the issue from many sides.

Paragraph 2:

-Other viewpoint 1: Technology has removed the necessity for basic human respect among members of a society, resulting in a less humane world. (Bad)

-They’ve got a point: My students think phone calls are awkward and have a hard time communicating verbally because they’ve been raised to text each other.

-But ultimately, they’re wrong: My students are some of the most compassionate and sensitive people I’ve ever met.

-Why I just won this debate, and transition to next viewpoint: If technology was de-humanizing them, I’d expect more hate mail. People seem in some ways to be more polite and sensitive than ever.

Paragraph 3

-Other viewpoint 2: Technology is stretching the limits of humanity, and encouraging us to grow as species and society. (Very Good)

-They’ve got a point: Thanks to technology, I work with people from all over the globe, which challenges me to think about things from different viewpoints and to grow.

-But they haven’t considered something: Sometimes people are really mean on the internet. Is this really making us better people?

-So ultimately, my perspective is better, which transitions to…[Paraphrase of thesis] In some ways, it seems that people are advancing the species using technology. In other ways, it seems people are devolving. In reality, people are still just people.

Paragraph 4

-My viewpoint: Technology has increased efficiency, which leads to a better world for everyone. (Good)

-Some think I’m wrong because… People lose their jobs to machines as companies become “more efficient”.

-But I’m right because…While some might point to dwindling jobs in industrial markets as a sign of the negative effects of technology on the economy, we must take into account a booming technology sector, which offsets many of the lost industrial jobs. Furthermore, each machine that replaces a human being actually frees that human being to do something more useful for society.

Paragraph 5
-I love pepperoni and pineapple pizza. I mean, my viewpoint is awesome. Technology has increased efficiency of communication, making it possible to get emergency medical care for people that otherwise might not survive.

-Other viewpoint 1 is wrong because… Some people are still really nice. People are really sensitive. The medical example above proves that technology can be used to help people treat each other better

-Other viewpoint 2 is wrong because…Some people are trolls. Not everyone is advancing the species by using technology. We don’t know how this will all turn out.

-Conclusion. (So clearly, I deserve a perfect score. )

How Your Essay is Graded:

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You’ll notice that we’ve naturally covered “Ideas and Analysis”, “Development and Support”, and “Organization”.  In order to get a great score in “Language Use and Conventions” you’ll have to write with some style, use good transitions, and vary your word choice.  You’ll also have to be persuasive!

You will receive a score of 1-6 from two graders.  The sum of the two graders’ scores will be your score in each section.  And no, you’re not going crazy, 12+12+12+12 does not equal 36.  They’ll scale your score accordingly, and you’ll get a scaled score of 1-36, just like on every other section of the test.

Here’s a look at how the test makers define a score of 4-6 in each individual domain:Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 6.16.42 PM

We’re assuming you’re only interested in getting a good or great score.  All the information for the essay is available here: http://www.actstudent.org/writing/enhancements/

For all the best ACT and SAT advice, get in touch!  Over and out!

 

ACT Math: How to Learn More from Easy Questions

This is an interesting ACT Math question. On the test, hopefully you could make an estimate and move on quickly. For now, let’s see if we can flex our ACT geometry muscles and gain a bit of insight…

 

 

As always, let us know what we can do to help you improve your score on the ACT or SAT. We’re about to start a HUGE review of the new SAT, so stay tuned, or email/facebook/tweet at us and we’ll make you a video explaining how to nail any question on the SAT or ACT. And of course, if you’re looking for the best one-on-one private SAT and ACT tutoring available via Skype, hit us up! We’ve been making SAT and ACT dreams come true for 10 years!

ACT Math Playlist

Here’s some ACT Math questions we cranked out for a student recently. If you’re having a hard time near the end of the test, check these videos out…

 

 
If you’re looking for the best SAT and ACT tutoring in the world, look no further. Our tutors meet with students using Skype and Google Hangouts. We bring the best tutors in the world to you. Any time, any where. If you need to improve your SAT or ACT score, send an email to director@higherlearningtestprep.com.

Happy Studying!

ACT Math: Inequalities

We get excited when we see inequality questions near the end of the ACT or SAT. Does that make us a bunch of nerds? Probably. Should you get on our nerd-level? Probably not. Should you send an email to director@higherlearningtestprep.com to get started with the best SAT and ACT Skype tutoring to improve your score and get into a great college? Probably!

 


 

We’ve got the skills, if you’ve got the time. Get in touch and we’ll get your SAT or ACT score as high as you need it. With the right tutor, any score is possible on the SAT or ACT!