November 09, 2017
As most of my readers know, I have been conducting test prep for almost four decades. Up until 2008, very few of my students ever thought about taking the ACT, nor would it occur to me to steer them toward that exam. So why was that? The SAT was the admissions exam of choice in the Northeast and West. Then somewhere around 2008, the more selective colleges and universities began to slowly accept both the ACT and the SAT. Up until that point, students who lived in the Midwest and South took the ACT. The SAT was not even on their radar even though schools in those areas accepted both the ACT (or the SAT.) Why the new interest in the ACT? Read more
November 02, 2017
So what is the ‘magic formula’ to significantly improve test scores? It’s not really magic; it’s based on motivation, commitment, and time invested. Is your teen motivated to bring his scores up? I believe that the foundation piece for test-taking success is being motivated to score well. In order for a student to improve, effort can’t be halfhearted – as I often say, “’Drop in test prep doesn’t cut it.” I have found that a path to firing up that motivation is to create an intention to get that desirable, yet realistic score: Read more
October 19, 2017
Taking up the daily practice of meditation may be just what your teen needs to get through high school – deadlines, homework, peer pressure, and standardized testing, etc. – so what I will be sharing may be a lifesaver for your teen. It was no surprise when I stumbled across this fascinating study done with college students. For two weeks prior to taking the GRE – a more sophisticated SAT used for admissions to graduate school – 48 students elected to be participants in a study to evaluate their working memory Read more
The SAT may be your teen’s better exam if . .
The redesigned SAT is again based on a 1600 scale. There are 4 timed multiple choice sections compressed into two scores from 200-800: Reading and Math. A combined score above 1200 is considered above average. The Reading score is factored with a Writing and Language score. (This section is a carbon copy of the English section found on the ACT. ) The math has a no-calculator section and a calculator section. With the changes, the College Board has built in more time than before on all 4 section (and significantly more time per section than the ACT).
The 65 minute Reading portion – 5 passages including a paired passage/10-11 questions with each – is a bit easier than the former SAT – less nuanced. Four choices instead of five automatically increases the odds of selecting correctly. (The entire test has gone from 5 choices to 4 as well as eliminated the penalty for guessing.) The questions tend to be a bit more straightforward, but not quite as straightforward as the ACT reading. Vocabulary on the reading is limited to more common words that can have several applications. More high level vocabulary may be found in the context of a more challenging reading passage.
The 35 minute Writing and Language section – 4 passages/11 questions with each – tests grammar including punctuation, sentence structure, usage, idiomatic expressions, and agreement. The areas of written expression (rhetoric) tested are focused on writing, revision, organization, and style.
The overall math level of the SAT has been elevated – a similar level as the ACT. The College Board states that the math will focus on “math that matters most” including problem solving and data analysis, linear equations and systems, and more complex equations and systems, bottom line – a lot less geometry and much more algebra. There is a 35 minute no-calculator section; however, that ‘limitation’ is typically not a major issue for most students. The calculator section is 55 minutes long. Both math sections will also include several student response sections.
The optional 50 minute essay asks students to read a 600-700 passage and then explain how the author created the presented argument using of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic elements.
The BreakThrough Test Prep System™ has been honed through the years, the result of which has been the creation of innovative strategies and techniques enabling our students to ultimately get the scores they deserve.
Our success is predicated on the fact that we offer targeted instruction, not a one size fits all type of approach. Some students may merely need tweaking and others, though bright, need to actually learn basic critical reading skills. We are able to offer this by initially defining what type of learner your teen is.
Some of the proprietary SAT techniques developed by BreakThrough Test Prep are:
Most students will require 6-12 hours in the Reading/Writing and Language and the same in the math. This is determined by the results of the ACT vs. SAT Assessment, 90 Second SAT Skill Set Assessment, GPA, prior scores, and the responses on the Student Profile Questionnaire. Parents will find out the recommended optimum number of hours during the complimentary Breakthrough Test Prep Strategy Session and then be referred to the Tuition Based on Score Potential page on the website.
The ACT may be your teen’s better test if . . .
The ACT is broken down into 4 sections and the optional essay at the end. The scoring is based on a 1-36 range for each section. A composite score of 27 or higher is considered above average.
The 60 minute Math section evaluates the student’s knowledge of mathematics – pre-algebra through basic trigonometry, leaning toward more geometry questions. The key, especially in this section, is timing and pacing. (The SAT allows an average of 45% more time in the two math sections.)
The 45 minute Science Reasoning section focuses on the student’s ability to read and interpret scientific information. Ironically, it is more of a reading test focused on interpreting charts and graphs than a science test in that a minimal level of science background is required. (The SAT has no science section; 2-4 graphs or charts are interspered among the reading and writing/language questions.)
The 35 minute Reading Section of the test consists of four (800-1000 word) passages each with 10 multiple choice questions. The readings are excerpts from the following areas: social science, fiction, natural science, and humanities. The reading level of the ACT is generally a bit easier than the SAT. As the student must spend less than 9 minutes per passage, knowing how to skim is essential especially since most of the questions are not in order of the reading! (The SAT allows 13 minutes per passage, 43% more time.)
The 45 minute English Section of the test consists of 5 passages with 75 multiple choice questions – 15 minutes per passage. The passages may range from personal anecdotes to essays about linguistics. The areas of grammar tested include punctuation, sentence structure, usage, idiomatic expressions, and agreement. The areas of written expression (rhetoric) tested are focused on writing, revision, organization, and style. (The SAT writing and language is almost identical in format but contains 11 questions per passage, 8.75 minutes each, about 33% more time.)
The optional 40 minute essay test that measures those writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses. The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to “evaluate and analyze” the perspectives; to “state and develop” your own perspective; and to “explain the relationship” between your perspective and those given.
BreakThrough Test Prep is one of the few companies in the area that has over 20 years experience helping students maximize their ACT scores. That said, we have access to practice exams going back to 1995. The ACT has only been gaining momentum in the northeast since 2007. (It’s market share began surpassing the SAT nationally in 2013, though since it’s inception in 1957, it was the exam students took in the Midwest and South.)
The program begins with teaching our students efficient reading skills – improving speed and comprehension based on finding the point of the passage. Teaching these skills is the foundation of our BreakThrough Test Prep System™.
As as invaluable time-saver, the math begins with level troubleshooting. Our innovative strategies and techniques help students quickly realize that with practice and incorporating these proven techniques, this test becomes very doable.
Some of the proprietary ACT techniques developed by BreakThrough Test Prep are:
Students typically require about 6-12 hours in the English/Reading as well as the same for the Math/Science. This is determined by the results of the 60 Second ACT vs. SAT Assessment, 90 Second ACT Skill Set Assessment, GPA, prior scores, and the responses on the Student Profile Questionnaire. Parents will find out the recommended optimum number of hours during the complimentary Breakthrough Test Prep Strategy Session and then be referred to Tuition Based on Score Potential page on the website.
“The redesigned SAT will be the anchor of a system of assessments that are aligned across a continuum of knowledge and skills. The assessments are designed to monitor student growth across grades annually. For the first time, all scores from PSAT™ 8/9, PSAT™ 10, PSAT/NMSQT, and the SAT will be on the same score scale. This will enable students and educators to track student growth toward college and career readiness and identify areas that need strengthening. This feedback will help both students and educators engage in the best possible practice for future exams: rigorous classroom work and instruction.”
Beginning in October, 2015 this new offering will be administered to eighth and ninth graders. (Schools have the option of also offering a Spring administration.) The test will reveal whether students have the optimum skill sets for high school and career success before entering high school. The scores will range from 120-720 for each of the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections.
The PSAT and PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Program) contain the same content. The test serves as a gauge of student progress and identifies areas of weakness. Tenth graders may be able to take the test in the spring or fall. The PSAT taken in these two grades utilize a score range of 160-760 for each of the two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.
ONLY the 11th grade score may used as a factor to determine National Merit (scholarships). That score is computed by adding the two sections together – Evidenced Based Reading/Writing and Math; the cutoff can vary from state to state. If a state’s scores track higher the cutoff will be higher in that state.
Breakthrough Test Prep is philosophically against any protracted test preparation for the PSAT 8/9. We believe that it it more important focusing on school and keeping grades up. We do,
however recommend our Effective Reading Training Program which teaches students how to improve reading speed and comprehension and is applicable not only to PSAT reading but to school assignments as well. Also recommended is our extremely popular, PSAT Prep Workshop which highlights the key strategies of our more protracted SAT preparation.
I often hear the question, “Why PSAT prep as isn’t the SAT the more important exam.” Yes and no. For those students with strong skills and a 10th grade PSAT in the mid-600’s or higher – preparing for this exam would take that student to the merit scholar level. It is recommended that the prep begin the summer before junior year. This way students have the opportunity to truly get a comfort level with the skill tested on the exam as they will not have any other academic commitments getting in their way.
Other students should consider PSAT preparation over the summer for the above reason even more so. School, sports, yearbook, newspaper and other extracurriculars that consume students’ time will not be factors. doing the bulk of the training over the summer enables the student to truly internalize the strategies and techniques taught. The ideal schedule is to complete most of the program – 6-7 hours in each area – prior to school beginning. Then they can attend every other week once school starts. This allows them to adjust back to the commitments relative to school and still be practicing what was learned over the summer.
As a side note: This is what I hear from practically ALL of my students who began over the summer: “I’m so glad I started sooner than later as there is SO much less pressure in preparing for the SAT (or ACT)!”
Soon before completing the PSAT preparation, Breakthrough will recommend when the student should take the SAT or ACT. Many are ready sooner than later; others may need the time to mature in their cognitive thinking skills. That said, we would recommend that level of student take the exam after the first of the year.
The BreakThrough Test Prep SystemTM has been honed through the years, the result of which has been the creation of innovative strategies and techniques to help our students maximize their potential to get the scores they deserve.
That said, BreakThrough Test Prep’s PSAT program does not offer a one size fits all tutorial course. Some students merely need tweaking and others, though bright, need to actually learn efficient reading skills.
Some of the proprietary PSAT techniques developed by BreakThrough Test Prep are:
Most students will require 6-10 hours in the Evidence-based Reading/Writing and similar in the math. This is determined by the type of learner your teen is, GPA, prior scores, and the responses on the Student Profile Questionnaire. Parents will find out the recommended optimum number of hours during the complimentary Breakthrough Test Prep Strategy Session.