Jane Who? Charlotte Who?

One of the biggest changes to the new SAT has been the addition of reading passages taken from early 20th, 19th, and even 18th century writers. Dealing with these archaic and outdated dialects will most likely cause anxiety for many students, so what’s the best way to prepare for this somewhat demanding reading?

Honestly, the best way to deal with this difficult sort of reading is to tackle it head first.

Track down the older reading passages that can be found in test prep books like College Board’s The Official SAT Study Guide, Princeton Review’s Cracking the New SAT, and Kaplan’s SAT Premier, among other publications. There’s no better place to go than the actual source.

But what else can you do to prepare for the more traditional and older English vernacular?

It would highly benefit you to pick up and skim through some of the works by writers like Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities / Great Expectations), and George Eliot – pen name for Mary Ann Evans – (Middlemarch).

Becoming comfortable with the more verbose and longwinded English parlance that was normal for writers many years ago will give you a leg up on the new SAT by helping you to prepare for that “heavier” reading that will inevitably appear within 1 or perhaps even 2 of the 5 reading passages on the new SAT Reading Section.

We’re not suggesting that you read all of these novels cover to cover since that would be crazy! But … sitting down and reading maybe a chapter or two a night from any of the selections above would definitely improve your ability to navigate through this trickier older English with more ease come test day.

Plus, who knows, maybe you’ll like the stories so much you’ll end up reading them to the end anyway!

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“How do we get these scores to go up?” I hear this question from parents and students all the time, and my reply is always: “Practice, practice, practice.” There’s no major secret; it’s a matter of putting in the time and effort by completing as many timed practice sections as possible and following specific strategies and methods to save time and increase raw points.

But … there are 4 very important letters that I always stress to all my students: RTFQ. Read The Freakin’ Question! Many times, students will read the words to a question but not closely enough. They’ll see one thing and then think another so it’s truly a matter of slowing down and remaining focused, which takes lots of practice.

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Pi, Sun Tzu, and The Art of SAT Math

Pie … mmmm. There’s Apple, Blueberry, Cherry, Strawberry Rhubarb …Wait a minute, no not that kind! We’re talking about the other kind of pi. You know, the 3.141592 etc. kind, in which the numbers go on forever.

Recognizing this simple homonym (wink, wink) will inevitably raise your overall SAT math score, which is important, and it also leads to a greater discussion about the specific types of math questions on the test.

Sun Tzu once wrote in The Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” This very valid quote applies perfectly to the SAT math section since each math question provides its own little skirmish for students.

To become a truly great math warrior, only 2 things are required: practice … and more practice. The SAT is given so frequently now that all types of questions essentially repeat themselves to varying degrees, so if you’re able to complete as many problems as possible beforehand, you will own the advantage.

Math questions on the SAT can basically be broken down into 5 different categories:

1. Algebra I & II

2. Geometry

3. Statistics

4. Arithmetic

5. Tricky Word Problems

Many times I’ve heard my students say, “Is that even a math problem?” And I usually respond, “Not really, it’s more of a brain teaser.”

If you are good at math, problem solving, and puzzles, then the SAT is really not that daunting; it just takes patience, close-reading, and again lots and lots of practice.

High math scores (600-700+) can be achieved by taking many timed practice sections, by learning from each small mistake made, and by correcting those small errors in the future.

So start practicing now (and/or sign up for my course) and become an SAT math samurai!

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“To Guess or Not To Guess on the SAT?”


“No Blind Guessing.”

— The Current SAT’s Scoring System; Skipping Questions; 50/50 Answer Choices —

In March of 2016, the SAT’s scoring system will undergo some radical changes – most noteably, students will no longer be deducted ¼ of a point for wrong answers, which is a welcomed relief – but until those adjustments take place, it is extremely important to recognize and understand the most effective way to achieve and preserve your SAT scores.

The #1 Rule is: DO NOT guess blindly!

This is especially true when you’re unable to eliminate any answer choices from a difficult question.

Since 5 answer choices accompany each question, there is only a 1 in 5 shot or 20% chance of correctly answering any question when guessing blindly, and those are not good odds.

Ommitting or skipping questions has neither a positive or negative effect on your scores, so it makes sense, if given the choice, to skip a very difficult question then to guess blindly and decrease your hard-earned raw points.

So, the moral of the story is that it’s okay to skip 1-3 questions per section unless your goal is to score a 700 or higher.


GUESS what though?? There is a time when you should GUESS, and that time occurs when you’ve successfully eliminated 3 of 5 answer choices from any multiple choice question and only 2 answer choices remain.

Guessing 50/50 will mathematically improve your overall score. Here’s the breakdown:

1 Correct Answer receives: +1 point
1 Wrong Answer receives : -¼ of a point

Every time you encounter a 50/50 scenario on the SAT, your score should increase slightly or at the very least streamline. Take a look …

For 8 separate questions, in which only 2 answer choices remain, you should, mathematically speaking, answer 4 of these 8 correctly since it’s a 50/50 guess. That means you should gain 4 points and only lose 1. This results in three-eighths or almost ½ of a positive raw point in your favor.

4/8 Correct Answers receive: +4 points
4/8 Wrong Answers receive: -1 point


That could be the difference between a score of 590 or 600, 690 or 700, and so on.
SO REMEMBER, only guess when you narrow down your answer choices to 50/50, and at that point anticipate a score increase.

Of course, continue to be SAT tigers and practice difficult questions so that the easy and medium questions become even easier to answer. Good luck!

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“There’s a New SAT in Town”


“A New SAT? Wait a minute, what gives?”

— Changes to the SAT, Spring 2016, SAT vs. ACT —

Well, there’s a lot to talk about, but the bottom line is that the SAT took a backseat to the ACT last year owing to the fact that 1.8 million high school students signed up and took the ACT as opposed to the 1.7 million who took the SAT. In other words, the SAT is losing a little bit of ground to the ACT, so CollegeBoard is adapting, which is smart for its own sake.

CollegeBoard, the maker of the SAT, is changing its test format to be more open-ended and akin to the ACT. Here are just a few of the changes taking place for the SAT in the Spring of 2016:

• Scoring will revert back to the 1600 point plateau (if you choose not to write an essay).

• Wrong answers will not be penalized.

• The Writing Section will become optional.

• Archaic and esoteric words (like Fox Business News mentions here) will no longer be included in the Reading section of the test.

But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at the entire list of changes that are outlined in detail on CollegeBoard’s website.

This is definitely a big shift in the standardized testing landscape, but one must adapt to stay ahead of the pack.

I’ve already received a few inquiries and questions about this recent news, and the most popular question has been: “Which test should I take then?”

My answer is, “Why not take both?” The SAT and ACT are basically like M&M’s and Peanut M&M’s. It really depends on which of the 2 candies you prefer, and perhaps you like both. If you favor questions that are more open-ended, and you don’t mind a few that are science-based, then take the ACT; or, if you are a strong reader, like finding grammatical errors, and prefer process of elimination, then stick with the SAT, but it never hurts to try both.

Either way, high scores on the SAT and ACT will remain paramount in gaining acceptance to the Top 300 (Top 10%) of US colleges and universities.

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“What the Heck Do These Words Mean?”

SAT Vocab, The Top 10 Words, & Brain Cards 101

Have you ever experienced that tip-of-the-tongue moment when you want to describe a feeling, emotion, or situation with a specific word but can’t recall it? It’s called aphasia and can be annoying at times, but there are many ways to combat it, especially on the SAT.

Some of the most enigmatic questions on the Critical Reading sections include really difficult vocabulary. Luckily, there is a silver lining around that bucket of obtrusive lexicon. CollegeBoard has become predictable and now recycles many of the same arduous vocab words that it uses on each of its tests, and 10 in particular have seemingly become favorites.

The Top 10 Most Used SAT Vocab
#1 Equivocal
#2 Ambivalent
#3 Pragmatic
#4 Aesthetic
#5 Esoteric
#6 Censure
#7 Eclectic
#8 Benevolent
#9 Impetuous
#10 Anecdote

Now, how does one remember these and other tough words like them so you can be prepared for heated Sentence Completion battles? Simple, make Brain Cards.

These are easy and fun to make, and yes they’re basically just flash cards, yet there’s a small twist. Write the SAT word with its short and sweet definition in the upper right hand corner of a 3×5 index card and create a PERSONALLY relevant sentence along with a fun drawing in the middle of the card. Use 3 different colored markers for every Brain Card (not black, brown, or grey). The word should also be written on the opposite side of the card, so you, your siblings, or your family can quiz you.

These cards are more powerful than regular old flashcards because the words become easier to remember once you create relevant sentences about your friends, people you know, places you’ve been, and experiences you’ve had. The words become about you – not the other way around, so recalling them becomes much, much easier.

How about a goal? Your goal should be to create at least 100 Brain Cards, and once you’ve made them, leave them on the kitchen counter and look at them everyday. Now instead of memorizing difficult words, you’ll simply absorb them.

Jersey Shore SAT Prep - Braincard - Furtive

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