Monthly Archives: May 2012

27 May 2012

How to Study One Week Before the SAT!

Eep! The June 2nd SAT is just about a week away! If you’ve stumbled across this blog post, you probably want to know: What is the best way to study a week before the SAT?

With only a week to study before the test, it’s unrealistic to aim for major score gains. Cramming is a terrible idea. Without making much progress, crammers will end up exhausted, frustrated, and discouraged just before the test. Less an image of success than of distress…

Instead of cramming, you should use this week to calm your nerves, get comfortable with the duration and cadence of the SAT, and review material learned early in your studies. If a few vocab words or a new math concept trickles in… great! If not, that’s OK too.

Here are some tips on what to do a week before the SAT. I hope you find them helpful!

1) Take a full-length practice exam, under timed conditions

— I know it’s grueling, but a full practice test a week before the SAT is as important as the dress rehearsal before opening night of a play. Use this test to finalize your timing strategy for each section, and get used to how it feels to sit for a four-hour exam.

2) Review this full-length practice test, making sure you understand every question answered incorrectly

— After a couple of days, return to your most recent full-length practice test and review every question answered incorrectly.
— Let your mistakes point you to the last concepts in need of review. Take some time to re-learn these concepts, and then re-solve incorrect questions to solidify your knowledge.
— Tip: If you’re stumped for the correct way to solve a question, let Google help you out! You can usually find detailed explanations to most questions in the College Board Official Guide to the SAT somewhere in cyber-space—just Google a few words from the question you need help with!
— Write down and look up any new vocab encountered on this test. Your final practice test is a great place to find the last vocab words you’ll want to study.

3) Continue to review and study vocabulary

Review the vocab you’ve been studying throughout test-preparation. This should be easy, as long as you’ve abided by a study plan that has you continually review & reinforce previously learned words.
— Keep learning new words, but don’t fry your brain trying to memorize every word in your vocabulary workbook. It’s simply too late to memorize 300+ new vocab words.

4) In preparation for the essay, read some newspaper articles and/or review notes on historical & literary sources

The SAT essay requires you to come up with examples fast. In addition, most SAT essay questions are fluid enough that you can manipulate just about any example to support your point. It’s generally a good idea to have a few examples from history, literature, or current events prepared in advance.
— Two days before the SAT: Review the plot of your favorite classic novel or an event from history. You can also read some newspaper articles if you plan to discuss the prompt in context of current events.

5) Review your notes on major grammar and math concepts

You’ve already studied these concepts and understand when to use them. Now is the time to review formulas and remind yourself of concepts learned early on, so your memory is fresh for the SAT.

6) Take it easy, and try not to stress!

Go to bed early every night during the week leading up to the SAT.
— Do something fun—but not wild—the night before the test. Maybe watch a movie or go out to dinner with a few friends.
— Gather your photo ID, admission ticket, pencils, calculator, snacks, and water so you’re prepared to head out on test day

Good luck on Saturday’s test. And remember—if things don’t go as planned, there’s still the October administration!

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Cadence: rhythm; beat
to continue in a particular condition, attitude or relationship

24 May 2012

Should I go to a large university or a small college?

As the 2011-2012 academic year draws to an end, many high school juniors are beginning the process of narrowing down their college application lists. Deciding which colleges to apply to can feel like a daunting task. Not only must you think about such mundane factors as price and admissions criteria, but you also need to think carefully about why you wish to pursue higher education, how you learn, and what you want out of life.

Asking yourself a relatively benign question–“Should I go to a large university or a small college?”–might help you begin thinking about these larger issues. Last May I graduated from a diminutive liberal arts college. I loved some aspects, and hated others. Below, I discuss four features of small colleges that stand out to me based on my experiences as a student.

Whether you see these features as pros or cons really depends on your goals and who you are as a student/social animal. I hope that considering the differences between small colleges and large universities will help you begin to examine yourself and find a school that is a perfect fit!

Four Features of Small Colleges:

1.) Small, seminar style classes – In my experience, seminar style classes were the best part about attending a small college. Usually with 20 or fewer students, these classes made for a tremendously enriching learning experience—replete with discussion, debate, and personal attention from professors.

However, small classes also mean one must maintain good attendance and work habits throughout the semester. Participation is crucial, and professors will notice if you’re chronically absent or unprepared. By contrast, because large universities offer mostly lecture classes, in which final grades are based mostly on exams and papers, consistent attendance and preparation is less important. Know yourself, your work habits, and your style of learning to decide what class environment is best for you.

2.) Strong sense of community – Small classes really allowed me to get to know my classmates and professors. In addition, campus-wide events and traditions bring all students together and help everyone feel like they belong. The community’s closeness can also be a con. It can be hard to meet new people at a small college, as most people meet friends during freshman year and rarely branch out after that. However, if you’re outgoing or plan to join many clubs and activities, this shouldn’t be a problem.

3.) More opportunities to write papers – This is related to small colleges’ small class sizes. Grading papers can be very time consuming, so professors with large classes often opt to assess students via exams instead. Small class sizes mean teachers assign more written work. Writing papers not only helps students improve their writing skills, but it also facilitates deeper, more nuanced, thinking about a topic. Furthermore, small colleges allow more students to write theses—yearlong research and writing projects done under the close supervision of a professor.

4.) Lack of vocational majors – Many small colleges specialize in the liberal arts, so they don’t offer vocational majors like business, journalism, nursing, or engineering. If you’re considering a vocational major, make sure this major is offered before applying to a small school.

Although there are many more differences between large universities and small colleges, I hope the above-listed features help you begin to think about which type of school is right for you. Good luck forming your college list!

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

mundane: common; ordinary; banal
kind; gentle; harmless
diminutive: very small
replete: well-filled

21 May 2012

Stories of success shirk fears of failure!

Last week, Yahoo! News and The New York Times gave us the stories of Chris Navas and Gac Filipaj—two individuals who sprung from humble circumstances to attain Ivy League degrees.

In Chris Navas’ narrative, a cascade of coincidences leads an academically apathetic young man to earn a spot at Dartmouth University’s medical school. The story begins when Navas, a high school dropout who holds a day job building boilers, signs up for a 200-level “behavioral neuroscience” class—simply because it works for his schedule. Normally a “do just what it takes to pass” kind of student, Navas didn’t expect to be good at neuroscience. Nevertheless, he found himself captivated by the teacher’s descriptions of breakthrough neuroscientific research and began reading unassigned chapters in the text. Before long, Navas had secured a spot in the honors neuroscience program and was working at a lab that studies learning and memory. He will begin medical school at Dartmouth this fall.

Navas explains his fortune as a force of luck. “The mentors made the difference,” he said, according to The New York Times. “I was just some kid working in a boiler company. I had no vision of becoming a doctor. I got lucky, over and over.”

Navas’ story certainly suggests fate played a hand in his scholastic path. After all, Navas signed up for “behavioral neuroscience” on a whim, without plans to become a doctor or a neuroscience major… without even particular interest in the topic! But, since there’s no lesson in luck, I’d prefer to highlight aspects of agency in Navas’ tale.

Chris Navas strikes me as a person who not only is tremendously brave, but also delves heart and soul into the activities he enjoys. As The New York Times explains, post-high-school, Navas had no plan. He picked up work as a secretary at a refrigeration company. One day all the mechanics were out, so Navas’ boss sent him to fix a broken refrigerator. Navas rose to the occasion, undaunted by his lack of training in refrigeration mechanics. He took school lightly because it wasn’t his thing, and didn’t worry too much about the future. Instead, he worked fervently at bodybuilding, his passion. When he became aware of his fascination with neuroscience, he pursued it relentlessly. He didn’t tell himself it was too late, dwell upon past mistakes, or focus on competition that lay ahead. He just did it because he loved it.

Similar bravery, passion, and perseverance can be seen in Gac Filipaj. Middle-aged and nearly done with law school, Filipaj was forced to start his life over when he fled Montenegro (then a Yugoslavian republic facing civil war) in 1992. Once in America, Filipaj lived with his uncle in the Bronx, worked as a restaurant busboy, and began to ask after the best schools in NYC. When he learned of Columbia University, he applied for a job.

Filipaj’s native language is Albanian, so his first hurdle as a degree-seeking American was to learn English. Once fluent, he took on the challenge of balancing Ivy-League-level coursework with a fulltime job as a janitor at Columbia. Yahoo! News reports Filipaj regularly pulled all-nighters during exam time or to finish a paper. Then he would go to class, and then to his 2:30–11:00pm shift at work.

Twelve years later, Filipaj donned a cap and gown to receive his bachelor’s degree—with honors—in Roman and Greek classics. In graduating, Filipaj reveals himself as someone who is able to take life as it comes and who won’t be discouraged, no matter the work required nor the magnitude of setback. Ultimately Filipaj would like to attain a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in Roman and Greek classics, so he can teach. For now, he is trying to get a “better job,” perhaps as a supervisor of other custodians.

Filipaj and Navas’ experiences demonstrate the power of hard work, passion, and faith in one’s abilities to trump even the most disheartening circumstances. When you love something and are determined to succeed at it, no task is too hard and no amount of work is too much. In turn, no goal is beyond your reach.

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Apathetic: marked by lack of interest or concern
Fervent: having or showing great intensity of spirit
Disheartening: very discouraging