SAT and ACT Test Dates for 2019

SAT Test Dates

Test DateNormal Reg.Late Reg.Score Release
Aug 25, 2018Jul 27, 2018Aug 10, 2018Sept 13, 2018
Oct 6, 2018Sep 7, 2018Sep 21, 2018Oct 25, 2018
Nov 3, 2018Oct 5, 2018Oct 19, 2018Nov 22, 2018
Dec 1, 2018Nov 2, 2018Nov 16, 2018Dec 20, 2018
Mar 9, 2019Feb 8, 2019Feb 22, 2019Mar 28, 2018
May 4, 2019Apr 5, 2019Apr 19, 2019May 23, 2018
Jun 1, 2019May 3, 2019May 17, 2019June 20, 2018

ACT Test Dates

Test Date Reg.
Deadline
Late Registration Score Release
Sept 8, 2018Aug 10, 2018Aug 11-26, 2018Sept 18 – Nov 2, 2018
Oct 27, 2018Sept 28, 2018Sept 29 – Oct 14, 2018Nov 13, 2018 – Jan 1, 2019
Dec 8, 2018Nov 2, 2018Nov 3-19, 2018Dec 18, 2018 – Feb 1, 2019
Feb 9, 2019*Jan 11, 2019January 12-18, 2019Feb 20 – Apr 5, 2019
Apr 13, 2019Mar 8, 2019Mar 9-25, 2019Apr 23 – Jun 7, 2019
Jun 8, 2019May 3, 2019May 4-20, 2019Jun 18 – Aug 2, 2019
Jul 13, 2019*Jun 14, 2019Jun 15-24, 2019Jul 23 – Aug 26, 2019

You can find the official concordance table to compare your SAT and ACT scores here.

Best Resources for AP Tests

Where to go for the best AP Test Prep

Finding the best study resources for all the different Advanced Placement tests can be overwhelming.  Here is a handy list of the most popular materials for AP course study, collected by the AP students on Reddit.

Major Types of Review Books

  1. 5 Steps to a 5 – Common, well known, catchy title. Generally inexpensive and a good bang for your buck. Publishes several different types of review books.
  2. Princeton Review- Publishes 550 Questions as well as Cracking the AP books.
  3. Kaplan – Giant, expensive, might-as-well-be-a-textbook review book. Generally the most difficult to find online of all the mainstream review books.
  4. Barron’s – Same as Kaplan as far as length, but well known for their content as far as AP classes goes.
  5. Peterson’s/Cliff’s- “Hey! My teacher had those, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one outside the classroom in my entire life!”
  6. AMSCO – Known for making the best APUSH review books ever.

General Resources

CategoryLink
Forumhttp://www.smartbabble.com/community/index.php
Practice Questionshttp://www.appracticeexams.com/
Practice Questionshttps://www.albert.io/test-prep/advanced-placement
Practice Questionshttp://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/215564.html
Practice Questions, Resourcehttp://apexampractice.com
Practice Questions, Resourcehttps://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B8W8rWoEZ9InVEtXMWlrYVp1SVE
Resourcehttps://www.studystandard.com/browse/ap-notes?ref=rr
Resourcehttp://search.apvocab.com
Resourcehttp://redi2learn.weebly.com/resources.html
Resourcehttps://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B-17VF1Amft8UV9HVEtXc01YZWM
Resourcehttp://gen.lib.rus.ec/
Resourcehttps://tinyurl.com/strugglebuddies2
Android Apphttps://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bglapps.kgusdorf.apguide

Resources by Subject

Mathematics

CategoryLink
Calc ABhttps://www.GetAFive.com
Calc AB, BChttp://dbhs.wvusd.k12.ca.us/ourpages/auto/2011/4/26/60865086/BC%20Exam_WhenYouSeeThisDoThis.pdf
Calc AB, BChttps://www.youtube.com/user/patrickJMT
Calc AB, BChttps://www.dropbox.com/s/v6yrm2rc9i0g261/Calculus%2C%209th%20Edition%20by%20Ron%20Larson%2C%20Bruce%20H.%20Edwards.pdf?dl=0
Calc AB, BChttp://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/
Calc AB, BChttp://askmrcalculus.com
Calc AB, BChttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoHhuummRZaIVX7bD4t2czg
Calc AB, BChttps://mayasarchives.blogspot.com/
Calc AB, BChttps://www.expii.com/
Calc AB, BChttp://artofproblemsolving.com/
Comp Scihttps://drive.google.com/file/d/13OhkcR-B1c695Ltq2bVhoi8BJQx3sop-O0DMxtXXye9MeBj79vh0_Uqgm3OiObyHewU9bJ4m-jKHNvCN/view
Comp Scihttps://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B89_k4rgmrPiYnZielVvTGxhOEE
Comp Scihttps://youtu.be/3Ky9MZyL8r4
Comp Scihttp://interactivepython.org/runestone/static/JavaReview/index.html
Comp Sci (A)http://bit.ly/schroCSA
Comp Sci (Principles)http://bit.ly/schroCSPFAQ
Statisticshttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1Aw4nxfUcfrFrMsr_N9wT818oyAFZAz89_Fi5xAeFobg/edit?usp=sharing
Statisticshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGkjolhaYX8&list=PL6334s8hsQG1xXHozRsuUV_b_sPY86kVY
Statisticshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUuWMwJ1Juw&list=PLC8478000586FA6F9

Science

CategoryLink
APEShttps://blog.albert.io/blog/11-must-know-ap-environmental-science-concepts/
APEShttp://visalia.k12.ca.us/teachers/lmiller/classpage/APES/APES%20Review/Apes_review.htm
APEShttp://highered.mheducation.com/sites/0072315474/student_view0/chapter1/multiple_choice_quiz.html
Biohttp://www.studytrove.com/ap-biology
Biohttp://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/T/TOC.html
Biohttp://biologyjunction.com/aplectures5th.htm
Biohttp://biologyjunction.com/ap_websites.htm
Biohttp://carlmontapbio.com/carlmont_ap_bio/activities.php
Biohttp://www4.bluevalleyk12.org/BVNW/jmohn/apbiology/handouts/ap_biology_exam_review.pdf
Biohttp://faculty.muhs.edu/klestinski/APBioReview.pdf
Biohttp://explorebiology.com/documents/76LabReview.pdf
Biohttp://www.djuhsd.org/view/14885.pdf
Biohttps://d3jc3ahdjad7x7.cloudfront.net/SJI5NL7tiTFTL7XcjKnSB4Db6Q8fzIU1qfRT4Y0Z83pajwL6.pdf
Biohttp://www.ciasulli.com/uploads/2/2/2/0/22204580/ap_biology_practice_exam_2012.pdf
Biohttp://www.thomas.k12.ga.us/userfiles/236/Classes/2635/APBiologyPracticeExam2013.pdf
Biohttps://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFCE4D99C4124A27A
Biohttps://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology
Bio, Chem, Physicshttps://mayasarchives.blogspot.com/
Chemhttps://apchemistrynmsi.wikispaces.com/AP+Chemistry+Class+Lecture+Notes+AND+instructional+videos (password for videos is “linuspauling”)
Chemhttp://www.drvanderveen.com/apchemistry.htm
Chemhttps://www.youtube.com/user/chemistNATE
Chemhttp://raneychemistry.com/
Chemhttps://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B8pvdnLKcDNTSldRZ2l0R1dDMmc
Chemwww.adriandingleschemistrypages.com
Chemhttps://www.albert.io/blog/ap-chemistry-tour/
Chemhttps://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipP5pHT2T1wSbWQQ8YdghmA6OYjmmOIJ1QrTBqAbNwDhp6ew76t2gQABXQILtmZZzQ?key=ZUJidXVBNkdKV2M5Ym94Zl9tR3FYOV8wZWZsX3FB
Chemhttp://chemistrymoleapplications.weebly.com/
Physicshttp://www.physicsclassroom.com/
Physicshttp://www.flippingphysics.com
Physics 1https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0Y2uYdVBZqASHk1eEd3RFpCYXM/view
Physics 2https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2V1D8ydtMJjMlhBdlpvUXJIeGs/edit
Physics 1, 2, Chttps://www.youtube.com/user/ilectureonline
Physics Chttps://www.youtube.com/user/lasseviren1
Physics Chttp://apphysc.weebly.com
Physics Chttp://www.cisd.org/cms/lib6/TX01917765/Centricity/Domain/582/C%20FRQ%20Index.pdf
Physics Chttps://d3bxy9euw4e147.cloudfront.net/oscms-prodcms/media/documents/CollegePhysicsforAPCourses-OP.pdf

Social Studies

CategoryLink
APUSHhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UC223Rd7yCfDo9fv6ENdNp9Q
APUSHhttps://quizlet.com/xkarenk/folders/apush
APUSHhttp://studyrocket.io/tag?val=APUSH
APUSHhttp://m.apnotes.net/
APUSHhttp://historyteacher.net/USQuizMainPage.htm
APUSHhttps://quizlet.com/class/3232921/
APUSHhttps://quizlet.com/131891750/apush-struz-all-vocab-2015-16-flash-cards/
APUSH, APWHhttps://www.GetAFive.com
APUSHhttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1hEZKr-i4QHPXtMv8a3agali8rb6oahZErWHCKuepm4o/edit?usp=sharing
APWHhttp://glencoe.mheducation.com/sites/0024122010/student_view0/chapter1/index.html#
APWHhttp://www1.earlyisd.net/moodle2/course/view.php?id=180
APWHhttp://www.softschools.com/quizzes/ap_world_history/
APWHhttp://freeman-pedia.com
APWHhttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1AugEoCAXgvRV3V0aU8Dq1DdtABP19vCsmWpRyp01FX4/edit?usp=drivesdk
APHGhttp://glencoe.mheducation.com/sites/0002222010/student_view0/chapter1/index.html
Econhttp://www.reviewecon.com/
Econhttps://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B89_k4rgmrPiQkxsMzBGS1NBdFU
Econ, Govhttps://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B8pvdnLKcDNTSldRZ2l0R1dDMmc
Govhttp://mrworm.weebly.com/uploads/4/3/3/6/4336197/constitution_outline_key.pdf
Govhttps://apdemocracy.wordpress.com/
Eurohttps://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2j9iDrPjp-GbGpHc3plLXh5dWM
Eurohttps://quizlet.com/208659570/ap-european-history-grand-review-2017-flash-cards/

Language Arts

CategoryLink
Lang, Lithttp://gen.lib.rus.ec/
Lang, Lithttp://www.franklin.kyschools.us/Downloads/How%20to%20write%20a%20rhetorical%20analysis%20essay.pdf
Lang, Lithttp://www.apluscollegeready.org/uploadedFiles/File/AP_Lang__persuasion_Natl_CB_Con.pdf
Lang, Lithttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1vwTFd79U7pVUAPYjfynlOSpMXWlLd692Ez8nKODRoTE/edit?usp=sharing
Langhttp://www.alvead.com/English/AP%20English%20Language%20And%20Composition/released-exams.html?msubject=English&subject=AP%20English%20Language%20And%20Composition&rtype=Released%20Exams
Lithttp://www.alvead.com/English/AP%20English%20Literature%20And%20Composition/released-exams.html?msubject=English&subject=AP%20English%20Literature%20And%20Composition&rtype=Released%20Exams

For the most up-to-date version of this list, see Resources in https://www.reddit.com/r/APStudents/

Create the Best SAT Study Plan for You

I recently offered to create an SAT study plan for a student on Reddit who wasn’t feeling good about his ability to improve his score enough to meet his goal.  I then got many, many PMs from students asking me to give them a study plan. Since I couldn’t answer them all individually, I am including all the advice that I would have sent to each student in the post.

Based on the things I have learned being an SAT tutor for 13 years, I will give some tips on creating your own study plan, discuss a study plan template,  recommend some materials, and give some general study tips. This won’t be some magical article you can print out and follow robotically. The idea is to give you what you need to make your own study plan.  You will also need to revise it. Life will interfere. Some topics will require less time out of you, and some will require more.

First, it is very important to create a study plan instead of just winging it.  The students who tend to not want to go through the hassle of creating a study plan are the exact students who need it most!  When working with students, I recommend they spend around 10 weeks, getting in around 6 hours a week of work. So let’s use this as our template.

Diagnostic

Part one of the study plan is a timed, and if possible, realistically proctored, Official SAT.  I usually have students take Official Practice Test 1. Then score the test. This is usually the time when a student doesn’t feel great; they have a score they aren’t proud of and maybe are in a bit of shock.  That’s normal.

Calendar

Figure out when you can take your SAT or ACT with this table. Assume you will want to take it a second time and plan that on your calendar as well. Next, we will want to make a calendar.

Be realistic and find chunks of time throughout the week to study.  It’s great if those times can be the same every week but sometimes that isn’t feasible.  I recommend chunks of time from 45 minutes to 2 hours. More or less than that can have diminishing returns.  We can put that in our calendar. Mondays 4:15-5:15, Thursdays and Fridays 3:30-4:15, Saturdays 1-3, and Sundays 1-2:30.  We got our 6 hours! Now, don’t worry about making your first schedule perfect. The first draft will have some bad assumptions like when you actually get home from practice, when you will have dinner, etc.  You will update the schedule every week, so just make sure it is “good enough”. If you have more time per week, put in more study chunks. Less time? Put in as many study periods as you can.

When you study, prepare ahead of time to make it easy to study.  Collect all your materials beforehand. Don’t have any distractions: no tv, phone, or even music.

Materials

After getting our blocks of study time set, we want to think about materials.  I strongly recommend the Official SAT Study Guide for everyone. It has the best practice questions, and its massive size serves as an excellent defensive weapon if you are ever attacked!  There aren’t a lot of Reading materials I love, and I haven’t seen every companies’ offerings, but I can say Erica Meltzer’s book on SAT Reading is good, if too long. I also really like International Tester’s SAT Reading Guides for everybody, but especially for … international students.  She has two e-books, one on the Literature Passages and one on the Global Conversation Passages. These e-books are short but packed with good info. Here is my review. For SAT Writing & Language, I like Erica Meltzer’s books, but have heard good things about College Panda.  For Math, I like PWN the SAT and College Panda. If you are scoring around a 550 or below in Math, you will likely have to do some significant work on your math fundamentals. Khan Academy is a good place for that. I have used KA’s online SAT practice, and I can recommend it. I have also heard good things about Magoosh, but don’t have direct experience.

Analyze Results

We have our calendar started and got our materials.  Now, we get to come back to that practice test you probably wish we had forgotten about.  One of the reasons I like PWN the SAT and Erica Meltzer’s books is that they have appendices that allow you to look up every question you missed on SAT Practice Tests 1-8 and figure out what type of question you missed.  (PWN the SAT only has tests 1-6 in the book, you need to go to their website to download appenidix for tests 7 and 8). Why is this so useful? You are going to use those appendices and keep a tally of how often you missed every question type.  Once you have done that, and arranged the question types in descending order of most missed, you will know what to start with.

Your first day of study after categorizing mistakes will consist of doing the chapters in the workbooks related to your most missed questions.  I don’t recommend spending a long study session on just Math or only Reading. You could spend the first half on Reading, and the second on W&L, for example.  The early phase of your study will be doing these chapters until you have done several for each section. Once you have completed all the chapters on question types you were consistently missing, you will be ready for the middle phase.  The middle phase of your study will be a mixture of chapters and practice tests. The late phase will be mostly practice tests. With our 10 week plan, we would spend about 3 weeks in each phase. If you have less time, make each phase a bit shorter.  Extend each phase if you have more time.

Grinding is wasteful

When I write “doing chapters and practice tests”, I’m including your original attempts at answering questions, your review of them, and your 2nd try of those questions.  Students tend to underestimate the value of reviewing and retrying, thinking that just mindlessly grinding out a massive quantity of questions is what will help them improve.  That doesn’t work well at all. Most of your study time should be understanding and reviewing questions. I would recommend spending half to two-thirds of your study time reviewing.  If you only managed to do all the questions on SAT practice tests 1 and 2, but thoroughly reviewed everything you missed and guessed on, you would improve more than if you had done all 8 practice tests and even several of the QAS tests, but half-heartedly reviewed them afterward.

Review Effectively

Having nagged you to review, I should at least give you some guidance on how to review.  The goal with your review is to know the question well enough that you will get any very similar question correct in the future, and could teach someone else how to get the answer.  You should keep a mistake journal that organizes all of your review. Your should try to answer three things in your review of each question: 1) What did I do wrong?, 2) What should I have done instead?, 3)  What is the clue in this question that I missed that should have shown me how to answer the question? Sometimes, these three questions may overlap enough that you only need to answer two, and that is okay. Once you start filling up pages, don’t just ignore them.  You will want to review these notes. This, right here, is the real bulk of where your improvement comes from. Knowing what your mistake were, and knowing what to do instead can be difficult, especially early on.

Get Good Explanations

Getting good explanations is key. Don’t bombard the subreddit with 1000 questions, but r/SAT is a great resource to ask for help on questions that stump you!  The College Board or Khan Academy explanations are okay, but not always helpful. 1600.io has good explanations, and the explanations for tests 1-4 are free. Between all of these resources, you will have explanations for any question you could have.

Retry

Once you have reviewed all of your missed/guessed questions, you aren’t off the hook yet.  You will need to retry all of those questions, without notes. Wait long enough to make sure you don’t remember that #17 was D, but don’t wait too long.  This is where you prove that you understand the problem. Don’t skimp on this.

Realistic Proctored Tests

Good review is the bulk of where your improvement will come from, but you need to make sure all that improvement shows up on test day.  The biggest impediment to that is a lack of realistic testing experience. In addition to that diagnostic, you need to take at least 2 more tests under realistic conditions.  So, no extra breaks just hanging out at home. There are plenty of local test prep companies that offer free proctored tests. Just make sure that you are taking official SAT tests.  If that won’t work for you, take the tests at a library. Bring a pencil and calculator. Turn your phone off. Time yourself accurately. If you can, try to even take them on Saturday mornings.  The missed questions from these tests will be the material you will use for review.

Final Stretch

The last week of your study should be about consolidating and resting.  You can’t effectively learn a bunch of new material in the last week. What you can do is make sure everything you have “mostly” learned becomes stuff that you know completely.  Review your notes. Finish up any remaining retries. Get enough sleep. Exercise.

Last Words

I just threw a bunch of stuff at you.  You don’t have to perfectly implement all of it.  Just do what you can. If you read it all and implement most of it decently, you will be far ahead of most students and can make very big improvements.  

Once you have followed your study plan, you will want to make sure you finish up the final week or two of your study in the best way possible.

Review of International Tester’s SAT Reading Guides

Searching for the Best SAT Reading Guide

As an SAT tutor for over 13 years, I have seen the prep materials for the English and Math portion of the SAT improve dramatically. Unfortunately, SAT Reading has been a tougher nut to crack.

While Erica Meltzer’s Critical Reader does a good job preparing students to do well on the SAT’s reading section, it’s just too long for a student who is also preparing for Math and English.

I ran across International Tutor’s e-books on SAT reading, and saw that they were reasonably brief. I also saw that she often works with ESL students, so her understanding of reading comprehension might include some interesting insights. She has the following two books: Guide to SAT Reading: Global Conversation Passages, and Guide to SAT Reading: Literature Passages. I am glad I did.

Why I’m Reviewing

My review can be looked at from two perspectives: how these books do as comprehensive reading prep, and what they offer that other reading prep resources don’t.

As a comprehensive solution, I like them. They both cover the passage types well within a reasonable book length. One of my complaints about Erica’s book is that I think she spends too many pages on some question types and not enough on others. I think International Tester’s section length priorities are pretty good.

Do these e-books offer anything new that other reading prep resources don’t? The answer to this is “kinda”. I think these books do an exceptional job explaining strategy, which I will go into detail later. These strategies aren’t entirely new, but are discussed better than I have seen elsewhere.

Common Structure

Both eBooks use the first 5 or so chapters to discuss the general structure of the passages, the strategies for understanding the passages, and strategies for answering the questions. The remaining chapters are answers and explanations for the corresponding reading passage questions from the Official SAT Practice Tests 1-9. The Literature eBook is 16 chapters and Global Conversation eBook is 20 chapters.

Both have strategy sections that are well written, and clear enough for self study. They also use the Official SAT Practice Tests for practice. The questions all have explanations for every answer, not just the correct ones, so you can understand your mistakes. I do wish some of the explanations were a bit longer, but I understand the need to keep the e-book size manageable.

Since the Literature passages always come first in the SAT, the Literature Passages e-book is the one I will start with.

Literature Guide

After the Introduction section, there is a section on how to improve. I especially liked International Tester’s discussion of decoding sentence structures, as she does a great job covering some things students almost always need help with. This section is the standout one, in my opinion. The rest of the book is good, but other SAT Reading resources rarely do much for improving one’s understanding of sentence structure to improve reading comprehension.

Next is a section on big picture concepts for understanding SAT Reading, then questions types, types of wrong answers, and finally, breakdowns of each Literature passage in the 9 Official SAT practice tests.

Global Conversation Guide

The Global Conversations e-book begins with a section discussing resources for further practice. Next, follows a discussion of the Global Conversation passages, a chapter on questions types, and a chapter on language and sentence structure. To me, this chapter is the standout, much like chapter 2 in the Literature e-book. Almost all SAT students need lots of help breaking down complex sentences so that they can understand them. This chapter accomplishes that better than other material I have seen.

Next are chapters about how prior knowledge matters. The final chapters are devoted to explaining answers for the Global Conversation Passages of Official Practice Tests 1-9

Conclusion: They’re good!

As a source for comprehensive SAT Reading prep, Both are a good balance between too short and too long. Obviously, these two e-books only explicitly cover 2 types of passages in the SAT Reading section. But they cover the two that give students the most trouble, and the breakdowns and strategies in these e-books have a lot of carryover to the other passage types. Everything regarding Literature and Global Conversation Passages is covered well. As a source for new and better reading strategies, I really liked chapter 2 in the Literature e-book and chapter 4 in the Global Conversations e-book , as they have given me ideas on how to communicate and teach active reading strategies better. Both books don’t necessarily present completely new strategies, but they do communicate them exceptionally clearly.

Overall, these are great books, and I will recommend them to my students looking to improve their SAT Reading scores. There is one thing I would love to see in future revisions: a guide or discussion of how to further practice and develop the abilities concerning breaking down and simplifying sentences. Maybe some practice sets that get progressively harder? I think some students will need significant guided practice to master those skills. I imagine that is where her personalized tutoring comes in! Anyway, I think International Tester should think about writing an eBook for the remaining social science passages!

International Tester’s website can be found here, and her e-books here.

Where to Find All the Official GRE Prep Practice Material

The best prep material for the GRE comes from the ETS, but it is scattered all over. I have collected all the official GRE material from different pages into one place for you to use.

ETS has six standalone practice tests for the GRE, a Verbal Workbook, a Quantitative Workbook, and Combination workbook that covers both Verbal and Quant, including two more practice GREs.

Online Tests

Four of the standalone GRE practice tests are online only. Since you are likely to take the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), these are crucial for getting used to the CAT GRE format. The first two are called the Powerprep online tests, and are free. Definitely do these! I recommend doing the first as your initial assessment to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. The scoring is fairly accurate but not perfectly so. The next two online tests are Powerprep Plus Online tests. These are $40 each. I still recommend these, as they are great practice and provide you with a score plus feedback for your analytical writing essays.

Books

The next three resources are workbooks that can come in packages that have a somewhat silly naming scheme. Typically, the best prices are on Amazon. The GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions, and Official Guide to the GRE General Test may be purchased individually, or in combo packs. The Super Power Pack includes all three books. The Official GRE Value Combo includes both the Quantitative Reasoning and the Verbal Reasoning workbooks. There is a little bit of overlap between books in the Super Power Pack, but I still recommend getting that package unless you have a reason to focus only on specific parts of the GRE. The Quant and Verbal Reasoning books are on the 2nd edition, while the Guide to the General Test is on its 3rd edition. I recommend getting the newest editions, though the differences are very minor.

Paper Tests

Finally, we get to the two paper tests. These are free to download. This is the most recent one. Here is an older one that still has good practice questions. While they have real GRE questions, the structure and difficulty of the questions makes these two of the weaker options for simulating a full GRE test. They are still great practice however, so I recommend using them as a question bank. One word of caution, these tests overlap a lot with the free Powerprep tests 1 and 2.

Prioritize

Since not everyone has the time or money to get all of these materials, I have ranked them in order of importance.

ime or money to get all of these materials, I have ranked them in order of importance.

1. Powerprep online tests (Realistic and Free!)

2. Super Power Pack, or GRE Value Combo

3. Powerprep Plus online tests

4. Paper GRE practice tests

Florida SAT cheating accusation is almost certain to end badly

Last week, news came out that Kamila Campbell, a Florida teen, had her scores withheld by the College Board for “substantial agreement between your answers on one or more score sections of the test and those of other test-takers.”  Basically, College Board was saying there was evidence she may have cheated. Ms. Campbell adamantly denies cheating, and points to her work with a tutor and studying on her own for her 330 point improvement. I don’t know the details of what College Board saw, but I can say that while a 330 point improvement is difficult, it’s not immediately suspicious.

I find it unlikely that we will get a clear resolution.  There probably won’t be a “smoking gun” that proves that Ms. Campbell cheated, or something similarly clear that proves she didn’t.  Situations like these depend on likelihoods. An accumulation of very unlikely coincidences is what flagged her test score. The problem is, sometimes, an accumulation of unlikely coincidences is just that; there is no underlying cause.

Since we won’t get a clear “yes” or “no” from College Board, lots of feelings will be hurt and groups will take this for a larger political point.  I think it is easy to understand why people are upset that Ms. Campbell is being accused. We want to celebrate the improvements that students make on the SAT, especially those from disadvantaged groups.  A 330 point improvement is something to be proud of! We can only imagine how traumatic it must be for a teenager to go through all of this negatively focused national media attention.  I work with plenty of students who struggle to handle the typical college admissions and testing process, and this young woman must deal with a giant national media circus on top!

This happened during a very particular moment for the College Board.  Within just the last year, they have had their reputation tarnished by leaked international tests, reusing international tests for U.S. test takers, and other controversies.  Many U.S. test takers have the impression that cheating is rampant and that they are being taken advantage of when earning their scores through honest, hard work.  These students want to see the College Board cracking down on cheating, and Ms. Campbell’s circumstances make them suspicious.

Ms. Campbell and her family are being very aggressive in her defense, and I think that is wise.  Whether College Board releases her scores or not, she will be better off for not having sat idly by.  I think College Board has a very difficult tightrope to walk. Most importantly, they must do their best to do right by this young woman. They must also show their doubters that they are making efforts to catch cheating and they must show everyone that they are sensitive to the seriousness of accusing a young person with her particular background of cheating.

If College Board feels the evidence of cheating is strong enough and they don’t release her scores, many will paint it as evidence of bigotry.  If College Board doesn’t see clear enough evidence of cheating and releases the scores, those who think College Board doesn’t care about cheating will argue this instance is yet more proof.  But the side who gets the resolution they want won’t get away unscathed. They will be seen by their detractors as a mob who used their voices to perpetuate an injustice.

I don’t know what happened, and only a handful of people actually do.  What I do feel certain of, however, is that this will likely end badly for everyone.

Interview with David Allen of College Essay Solution

As a test prep tutor for the ACT and SAT, I get a lot of questions about college admissions essays, and since I am not an expert on writing them, I sat down with someone who is.  David Allen is the founder of College Essay Solution.  I have known him for years, and know many of his very satisfied clients.

David, how did you get into admissions essays?  In your experience, what’s the secret to a winning college essay?

After spending six years as a college English professor, I began focusing on running study abroad and college-prep programs for teenagers in the US and Europe, something I’ve now been at it for more than two decades. One thing all of our students have in common is that they are college-bound and another–they dread the application process, in particular the essays. They struggle with understanding what colleges want from them, and have little idea what they should write about.

So as the resident English teacher on campus, I got in the habit of running college essay workshops. And the more experience I gained working with individual students to decipher the college essay prompts, the more I realized something crucial that often gets lost in the application process. Colleges are not asking for application ESSAYS. What they really want … are STORIES.

What do you think makes you different than others offering admissions essay help?

I’ve seen a lot of “college essay workshops” in high schools where the English teachers are enlisted to help students decode the prompts, come up with a good topic, and write an essay with a clear thesis statement, fluid transitions, free of grammar and spelling mistakes, and answers the question. I’ll admit, the first time I taught a course in the college application essay, I also prepared a pretty standard writing course. But on the first day of class, when we started brainstorming topics and I saw how the students struggled to find profound meanings in the details of their teenage lives, I literally through my notes out and started from scratch.  I realized that I had it all wrong. This was not an essay writing class, because the prompts were not asking for essays. In some cases, they were literally pleading with applicants to tell them a personal story. They even call it a Personal Statement, so anxious are they to push students away from writing a paper for English class.

So I’d say that main thing that makes The College Essay Solution different, is that we understand what the colleges really want. They have all of your data–your grades and your test scores and your resume and a profile of your school. They know you “qualify by the numbers” to attend. Now they want to know you. Who’s the person behind the numbers? What drives you? Are you funny? Do you know anything about our school? Why did you choose us?

What is the biggest misunderstanding about writing admissions essays?

Starting too late and not understanding that essays are not an annoying chore but arguably the biggest opportunity they have to stand out from the crowd. People unfamiliar with college admissions almost universally underestimate how personal it is.

Is it fair or even honest to get help writing college application essays?

Is it dishonest to have someone else write your essay for you? Of course it is.

But is it dishonest for your math teacher to lecture in class, give you targeted homework to practice, and even give you extra tutoring outside of class to make sure your final grade is the result of your best efforts? No, of course not. That’s her job, she loves doing it, and she gets paid to do it. We hire professionals to help us perform better all the time, from soccer coaches to music teachers.

If your soccer coach plays the game for you, or if your math teacher slips you the answers to the test, that’s a problem.

We don’t write essays for people, but we do have a process that coaches students through every step of writing winning college essays. They know they’re really good, and they know they’re really authentic. Not safe, cliche essays, but a story only they could tell. I often get the simple and very gratifying message, “We love this essay!”

I hear you are working on a big project.  Can you tell us something about it?

We are working to produce a series of videos and supplemental materials like sample essays and case studies based on real students working through the process. We’ll have those available on our website, on platforms like YouTube, and eventually brought together as a complete college application essay course that students can access from anywhere on computers or mobile devices.

Why are admissions essays underappreciated in the admissions process?

It’s such a long journey from that first day of Kindergarten to the senior year of high school and the enormous milestone and challenge that is the college application process. I think people have worked so hard to get that sparkling GPA, maximize their ACT or SAT scores, pull together all of the right extracurricular activities and awards … it’s natural that they just want to “fill out the applications” and shoot them off, let the chips fall where they may.

So what stands between them pulling all of the data together for the application and hitting ‘SUMBIT’? The essays. Students gaze up at them like a tall, forbidding wall to be scaled, college and their future on the other side. But the fact is, what they should see is opportunity. This is where most of their “competition,” all the other students applying for the same seat, are likely to phone it in, write a last-minute essay without much feedback from others, maybe even fail to proofread for spelling and grammar errors. There’s no doubt that many applicants send in cliche essays, fail to respond directly to the question, and don’t really provide much insight into their unique personality, character, and experience.

So this is where you can get an edge if you understand what colleges are looking for and are willing to put the time in, take some risks, tell a compelling story and … dare I say, get a little help.

What is your philosophy on helping students write great admissions essays?

It may sound crazy, but when the approach is right, writing college essays can be pretty enjoyable, even enlightening. It happens all the time, I’ll work with a student on her first draft of the Common App essay, and it’s a bit of drudgery moving the rough, rough first draft toward a draft full of dialogue and color and natural flow. But once she understands the process, gets caught up in telling her own personal story, understands how a story can ‘show’ colleges everything they want to know, instead of trying to ‘tell’ them what to think, it’s really satisfying.

So ‘Philosophy’ may be a grand word for this, but I’d say my ‘Approach’ has become a quiet one–less is more. The key moment is when the story comes out. I ask a lot of questions about the little details of family, friends, what a student does in his free time, etc. There’s always a great story to tell. Once we have that, then every draft is a better version of the story, more lively and meaningful. When it’s done, we both know it.

6 Ways You Can Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT or ACT

For most students, taking the SAT or ACT is the most stressful part of a their high school career. But what most people don’t realize is that it can be equally taxing on parents as well. They’ve been watching their teen study and work hard for several years in high school and now it all seems to come down to one big test. In my twelve years of test prep tutoring, where I’ve spent thousands of hours helping students prepare for their SAT and ACT exams, I cannot count how many times I’ve had parents ask me, “what can I do to help my child prepare for the SAT or ACT exam?” Well, I’ve compiled a list.

1. Remember the Parentocratic Oath!

The Parentocratic oath is based on the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm. I may have made it up, but the idea is that before you start worrying about all the things to do to help, make sure that you stop doing the things that make the situation worse.

Most teenagers cannot see things from your perspective. They haven’t faced countless life-changing intersections, and they’re also secretly worried about how you will react if they don’t “make it” into a good school. So before you can help your teen prepare for exams, you need to help them have a constructive perspective on ACT and SAT test prep. You need to help them see an exciting future unfolding before them, share positive college stories of your own, and make sure test prep for the ACT and SAT is framed as a challenge to be their best, not a moment in time that can make or break their future.

2. Focus on the Positive

Research has shown that positive reinforcement is crucial to teenager’s learning and retention process. During study time, check up on your child every once in a while to (hopefully) catch them studying and praise their efforts. Teenagers aren’t good at making a plan and sticking to it on their own. So instead of scolding them after they inevitably get distracted or procrastinate, be proactive and nudge them in the right direction. And don’t forget to praise them when they’re doing well.

3. Help Them Make a Plan, and Help Them Follow It

Remember to be your child’s teammate in this, not his or her boss. So instead of giving them orders, sit down with them and plan out a study schedule. Start from the finish line. Choose the test date, figure out how much study and preparation needs to be done, and help your teen create a schedule that will accomplish this. Consider other commitments as well: homework, soccer practice, school project deadlines, etc. so as to not overwhelm your child. Make sure it’s not you who’s doing all this planning. You’re there to give them a running start; they’ve got to keep running. Here is a more detailed breakdown of a study plan.

4. Give Them Enough Time and The Right Materials

Make sure they start early enough. Junior year or the summer before junior year is the ideal time to get your teen started on his or her test prep. Have them take an official practice test for both the ACT and the SAT in the summer before junior year to gauge their strengths and weaknesses.

There are tons of resources for SAT and ACT preparation, but the official SAT and ACT guides have the most realistic practice. Websites like Khan Academy offer free practice your child can use any time.

If you decide to get a tutor or enroll your child in a test prep class, ensure that the tutor (the one who will be teaching your child, not just the founder of the test prep company!) has several years of experience. Also, make sure your child is motivated to learn from a class, otherwise, you might spend hundreds of dollars for your teen to catch up on sleep in the back of the classroom.

Trying to choose between a class and private tutoring? If your child is shooting for an exceptionally high score or struggles with fundamentals, private tutoring will serve your child’s needs best. If your child is closer to the middle of the pack in scoring, can meet at regular times, and price is an issue for your family budget, a class might be the best option. As a parent, you can’t take the ACT or SAT for your child, but you can do a lot to to set them up for success with the best resources for test prep.

5. Consider both SAT and ACT, and be Ready to Have Them Taken More Than Once

Familiarize yourself with the scoring, test format, content, and other details of both the ACT and SAT. Despite these tests becoming more and more similar in the past few decades, there are still enough differences that your child could score significantly higher in one test than the other. Not to mention that you’ll be more helpful when you understand the test and the hurdles your teen is facing. Here is a thorough breakdown of the differences between the SAT and ACT.

As mentioned before, have your child take an official practice test for both the SAT and ACT (the PSAT should be enough to judge the SAT). For accurate feedback on your teen’s strengths and weaknesses, make sure the practice tests are official College Board or ACT tests, and make sure the testing is timed, in a quiet location, and with realistic breaks.

Know that it may be necessary to take your child’s preferred test more than once to see the best scores your teen can get. Often times, children are too nervous or anxious during their initial test and thus do not perform to the best of their abilities. Others simply do not prepare seriously until they see their first test’s results. However, I do not recommend taking the test absolutely cold. Instead, make those practice tests as close to the real thing as possible.

6. Do your OWN homework

If you want to do your best as a parent to prepare your kid for SAT or ACT test prep, you’ll need to do some homework first. No, I am not asking you to take out old books and start practicing. I am asking you to find out about the test dates, talk to high school counselors, attend info nights at school, and do online research. Find out if the schools you are looking at are test optional and what the average test scores of their incoming students are.

Let’s be honest, whether our kids realize it or not, they are not taking these tests alone. All the tips I’ve mentioned above are important in helping your child with their SAT/ACT prep. These are the things I have seen work time and time again when preparing my students for their SATs or ACTs.

If you’re still unsure about how to proceed with test prep or don’t know where to start, leave me a message and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction to get the ball rolling.

Top 7 tips for choosing SAT or ACT, and 1 thing you should never do!

Applying for schools is stressful enough as it is, but choosing which standardized test to use for your application can make matters more difficult. Both the SAT and ACT are widely accepted across universities in the U.S., but they include some distinctive questions and are scored differently. The reality is that these test focus on similar skills, but the SAT focuses more on math than the ACT, as well as several smaller differences. Spending a little time with both before you decide will give you the best chances for admission to your dream college and save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Here are the 7 things you need to know before you choose between sat and act, and the one thing you should never do:

1. You should take both test before you make a decision

It seems like a given, but many students decide which test to take after just reading about them. This is a big mistake, as you will never really know what it feels like to take each test. More importantly, you won’t know how your individual strengths and weaknesses will show up on an SAT or ACT score. Taking practice timed-tests is essential before actually paying for the real test. Make sure you use official practice tests and problems, take it somewhere quiet enough to focus, and then give yourself the same amount of time per section as the real tests will. You can find the two most recent official ACT tests here and here. The 8 official SAT tests are at the bottom of this page. You can then compare your scores with this concordance table. Choose the test that shows you at your best!

2. Time per question varies

if you’re not the best at time management, or you take longer per question, the SAT may be for you. The ACT gives you about 53 seconds per question in reading, 36 seconds per question for English, 60 seconds per question for math, and 53 seconds per question for science. The SAT, on the other hand, gives you about 75 second per question for reading, and 48 seconds per question for the writing portion. No calculator math questions allow 75 seconds each, and for those with calculator you’ll get 87 seconds. You’ve probably noticed that the SAT always gives you more time per question. This doesn’t mean the SAT is easier, however. The SAT isn’t giving more time to be nice; SAT questions are generally a little more difficult than ACT questions.

3. The ACT has a science section

Though the ACT has an entire section called the “Science Test”, only a few questions directly test your science knowledge. The test is mostly data analysis and graph and chart comprehension. This section has 40 questions and you will have about 35 minutes, but it constitutes 25% of the overall score. If you like data analysis, this test is for you: you will have to analyze scientific data, hypotheses, and graphs in order to do well in ACT Science. Don’t be mistaken, however, as the SAT does have data analysis passages sprinkled throughout the test. You just won’t have a separate section for them. When you add up all the data analysis questions you’ll see on the SAT, it comes out to less than 10% of your total score.

4. Calculator use is limited in the SAT

If you’re not too comfortable answering math and problem solving questions on your own, the SAT may be problematic. The SAT has a section in its math portion that includes 20 questions with no calculator use, but it is only 25 minutes long. Remember that technically you can solve all math questions in both the SAT and ACT without a calculator, but if you’re not good at moving quickly and deducing answers, using a calculator on the sections that allow it is the smart thing to do.

5. Math is more important to your score on the SAT than the ACT

As mentioned previously, the SAT focuses heavily on math. The ACT math score only weighs in about ¼ of the final score, while the math section in your SAT is half of the total. You should really take the ACT if math isn’t your strong suit, and even if you’re good, but worry that it won’t be enough the ACT gives you a higher chance of scoring better if you are confident in the other sections.

6. Math concepts are different

Since the SAT focuses on math more heavily than the ACT, you should know that the concepts covered in this section also vary. Both the SAT and ACT include many algebra problems, but the ACT focuses more on geometry. Also, trigonometry is a bit more influential in your ACT score than the SAT one. Finally, the ACT also includes things like graphs for trigonometry functions and logarithms, which the SAT doesn’t have. The ACT might even have a basic matrix problem. The SAT is generally focused on algebra and data analysis for its math sections.

7. The SAT asks evidence-based reading questions

Evidence-support questions require you to find an answer by citing previous information given to you in a paragraph or passage. These questions can be complex, and they can include answers that seem right but are off by one small detail. The ACT, however, doesn’t include any evidence-based questions, and they will always be separate. The SAT can be confusing if you’re not keen on reading past passages and questions and connecting them to new ones, or haven’t become good at scrutinizing every word in an answer choice.

And finally… the one thing you should never do when choosing between the SAT and ACT:

Don’t pick a test because you think one school will prefer it over the other

While it is fundamental for you to know what your favorite schools want, they will never make a point of making you choose the SAT over the ACT, or vice versa. The truth is that making a decision because you think your desired school prefers it will hurt you in the end, as it will make you nervous, and sometimes that specific test isn’t even beneficial to your own learning style. Whatever you do make sure that you practice for each exam and then make your decision. No school will ever overlook your application because you sent in an exam score and not the other. If you take time and look over at the differences and similarities of both exams, you will choose the right one and do better, which your school will certainly appreciate.

These are the most important points that can help you decide what exam to take, but most students will have fairly similar performance between the two tests. Once you have picked the test for you, use this table to pick the best test date for your schedule. Keep in mind that you want to give yourself a chance to take the test a second time, so plan accordingly. Remember that though these tests are stressful for both students and parents, there are options to help you do better. Use timed practice tests, tutoring websites and tools, and compare your results in each test and each section. Give yourself plenty of time to begin practicing before you have to send off your applications, and once you find whether the SAT or ACT is better for you, focus your energy on practicing for it, and maybe taking it many times.