Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Tips and Strategies
- Test Day Tips?
- Our SAT Strategies
- Reading Comprehension Tips
- Sample Vocabulary Tests
- Sample Math Questions
Though parents think about this more than our students, we'd like to share our thinking on lack of sleep. Don't be afraid of it. Lack of sleep doesn't affect the brain. And when it does affect the body it does so late in the day. Even if you only get 3 hours' sleep the night before the SAT, body and brain are still fine in the AM. The sleepiness that may ensue does so in the late afternoon, long after the SAT is over. Nobody feels sleepy in the middle of a test.
Last Minute Studying
Don't be afraid to study on Friday night - with the emphasis on reviewing what you're good at. I'd stop by 10 pm and try to be asleep by 11, but if the latter doesn't happen until 2am, don't wake up at 7 and say "Poor me, I'm sleep-deprived". You got 2 hours more than many students who will nevertheless peak on the SAT.
If a student has put in an hour a night review from Sunday through Thursday, there's no need for more than an hour on Friday night. In no case should SAT study exceed 3 hours Friday night. There's just not that much more you can do, and it could be detrimental. Go to an early movie instead.
Other Friday Night Tips
- Do not take a stimulant that you are unused to for test day.
- Don't worry about waking up with minor sniffles, or a tummy ache. People suffering from allergies or mild colds can and do nail peak scores on test day. Don't create an excuse to fall short.
- No matter how much you realize you don't know well, focus on what you DO know well. If anything, think about the kids who are coming into this cold.
Test Day Tips
- Don't read the directions! The directions are the same as those on the SATs you took before or practiced with. There will be no surprises. So it's a waste of time to meticulously pore over the directions. Get right to the questions.
- Minimize the times you look at your watch. Doing so distracts. So long as you are working on problems at the best pace you can, you are doing the right thing. Since the SAT is generally ordered from easy to difficult, the only reason for knowing how much time you have left is in the Reading Comprehension section, which is the one area with blocks of questions. Our suggestion is to look at your watch after you've completed the 19 Short Verbal questions and assess whether you can take on all the Reading Comp or whether you need to drop one of the sections.
- If given a choice, sit in the back of the room. Proctors sit in the front and some of them make noise.
- If a math question looks like it involves lengthy calculations, a shortcut almost certainly exists - try to find it.
- If a Reading question involves a line reference, be prepared to reread a sentence prior to that line.
A: We don't want to replace your school guidance counselor. These are general scheduling suggestions that can only be taken on with the individual's schedule in mind.
Most kids have less academic work in the summer; for this reason, summer classes tend to be the best time to concentrate on SAT preparation. Since the SAT is largely a test of skills, rather than memorization, there is little diminution in abilities, even with a two month hiatus between the summer classes and test day.
To prevent against ANY diminution, indeed to enhance abilities between the end of summer classes and the fall SAT, we suggest a study regime of 2 - 4 hours during each week when classes are not in session. Ivy Bound resumes its Review sessions prior to the October and November SATs. Each student is invited to take advantage of these Review sessions in any Ivy Bound location.
We have one piece of advice that far too many guidance counselors don't follow, and on this one we know we're right: START EARLY. Colleges do not penalize an applicant for taking the SAT multiple times. The SAT is not a test that rewards skills acquired only in Senior year. The only academic background needed to take advantage of the Ivy Bound course is a semester each of Algebra I and Geometry. Since most students have this by tenth grade, there is nothing wrong with taking the SAT the summer following 10th grade. We like to see kids sitting on solid SAT scores by fall of Junior year. That frees them to concentrate on their academics in Junior spring and Senior year. It also frees them to take the courses they really want to, participate in the extra-currics they might be tempted to forego if SAT is still an issue. It just may allow the kids to have FUN, which we're in favor of too.
All other things being equal, if you need to prepare for the SAT, do so when you have the most time. If it's during the academic year, avoid committing to the full course in the same semester as playing a varsity sport. Since the SAT IIs cannot be taken on the same test date as the SAT I, planning ahead is key.
On SAT II subjects that require lots of memorization, it is often good to schedule them to coincide with the end of a semester, when the student has to review for finals anyhow, or the beginning of the following semester, to have the benefit of the complete curriculum plus some review time. Thus we like seeing students scheduling SAT IIs for June, December, and January.
A: Know what you are reading by identifying the function of each paragraph. Some functions:
- to introduce
- to give the main idea (author's ultimate opinion)
- to give an alternate idea (potentially a criticism of the author's idea)
- to support an idea
- to refute an idea
- to exemplify
- to compare and contrast
- Use your finger as a pointer. Run it below the line of text. The human eye naturally follows a pointer, so this keeps your eye going at the pace your brain wants. Ideally right-handed students should use their left hands as pointers. That way they can take occasional notes in while holding their place in the passage with their left hand.
- Know what pronouns refer to. A pronoun stands for a noun. When you encounter words like "it", "his", "this", "these", "them", if you don't know their referring noun or noun clause, go back to find it.
- Before going to the questions, ask yourself "what's the author's overall idea?" and "how forcefully does she/he hold that idea?". Note that nearly 1/3 of all reading passages lack a main idea. These are just descriptive. Take confidence in that and avoid answers that say the "author's purpose is to argue" or "defend".
- Be able to identify something about each proper noun. Expect the test to ask something regarding that person, place, or group.
- Don't go out of your way to memorize details. Though it can't hurt when details stick in your brain, given that the test frequently gives line references, and given that you identified something about each paragraph, you should be able to return to unknown details, reread for 30 seconds, and thereby get the right answer.
Getting Reading Comprehension Answers Right
- Unless you are running out of time, make sure you find clear support for an answer. To say "this could be right, sort of" is like putting a square peg into a round hole. Look to other answers instead of forcing one.
- Avoid classic bad answer choices. Here are seven:
- Your idea vs. Author's idea (the test never asks "according to you")
- first part true, second part false. Particularly on long answers, read the whole thing.
- answer contains an absolute word (90% of these are wrong). Double check yourself.
- too general or too specific
- good choice, but wrong author
- bad chronology
- bad causal or numerical relationship
- Avoid silly author's attitudes. The test's writers are people who have researched a topic for months. They are knowledgeable and at least somewhat passionate about their work. Therefore the following adjectives will not describe the test's authors:
- completely dispassionate
- Where the question asks "how would this author's point be weakened?", you need to lock into your head what the author's point is. Then choose the choice that makes that viewpoint less likely. These questions tend to occur once per section.
- Try to predict an answer before reading the choices.
- When you have to reread and the question gives a line reference, begin a full sentence prior to the line in question.