Category Archives: SAT and ACT FAQ

13 Feb 2020

ACT Section Retesting: relief arrives for students taking the ACT with extended time

ACT now offers Section Retesting. Source:

Taking the ACT plus Writing already clocks in at nearly 4 hours of consecutive exam time. For students with extended time accommodations, this lengthy test can drag on for an entire day.

However, ACT has recently incorporated some major changes to the way the test can be taken that will majorly benefit students needing extra time.

What are the changes?

ACT now allows students who have already taken the full ACT test, to re-take one or more specific sections of their choice. For example, if a student does poorly on the Science section, they may return on a different test day to focus their energy on that portion.

While this is already great news for the general population of ACT test takers, it has a particular impact on students with extended time.

Students with 50% extended time will have already been sitting for the exam for nearly three hours before they arrive at the Reading section. They may be burnt out and exhausted before even beginning the remaining two or three sections of the test.

With Section Retesting, extended time students can schedule their Reading, Science, and Writing sections for a later exam date. By doing so, they can give themselves a better chance of scoring at their full potential by coming into these sections refreshed.

06 Feb 2020

Getting stuck on quadratic equations? Consider using this trick.

Image result for quadratic equations

Using a calculator program is still the best way to solve questions involving quadratics on the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests in Math levels 1 and 2 (here’s a video showing how you can do this on a few different standard-issue graphing calculators).

However, if you aren’t using a graphing calculator, or if programming one isn’t an option, this technique is a great way to solve quadratics.

Solving quadratic equations using the quadratic formula is often time consuming, and the long formula can be difficult for students to memorize. Or, students are taught to factor out the expression and use trial and error to solve. This strategy can end up being an inefficient use of your time during a timed exam.

It turns out there is a better way–and, it even works for equations that are not easily factorable.

In this article from the New York Times, A Carnegie Mellon Professor of Mathematics describes a new, surprisingly intuitive method to solve quadratic equations.

Written and video tutorials of the process can also be found directly from Dr. Loh’s blog, through this link.

Happy solving!

05 Feb 2018

Debunking the most popular Myths about the SAT and ACT


How do you know what’s true and what’s just a rumor about your standardized test scores will affect your college applications? Don’t Fall for These Five Misconceptions About the SAT and ACT

  1. Students should take both the SAT and the ACT.

Not true. While the tests are more similar due to the recent changes to the SAT, it’s still important for students to focus studying specifically for one test. By dedicating effort toward one exam, students can become completely comfortable with that exam and the test–taking skills it requires. Plus, who wants to sit through hours and hours of test by taking each one multiple times.

  1. Everyone at my school takes the SAT so I should take the SAT.

Student have a choice and they should choose the test that best reflects their academic strengths.

  1. Colleges prefer the SAT (or ACT).

Not true! At our last check, all US colleges don’t care which test gets submitted, so students should take the test that suits them best and submit that test.

  1. Everything is riding on my scores.

Standardized test scores are one factor that is considered when colleges are reviewing an applicant – but they are not the most important.  According to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, college admissions officers consistently rank grades and course rigor as the most important admissions factors. So a student can have great test scores, but if his or her grades and courses aren’t up to standard, he or she may have a considerably lower chance of getting in. In fact, it can be a red flag to admissions officers if a student’s grades and test scores are wildly unmatched. That’s not to say that standardized test scores aren’t important. A score that’s too low could be the deciding factor of admission to reject that student’s application. It’s important to do well on standardized test scores, but it’s not the only thing to focus on.

  1. I have great grades so I’ll do well on the SAT or ACT without studying.

Ideally, by the time students are sitting for the SAT or ACT, they will have adequately covered the content and concepts being tested. However, curricula vary from school to school, and every student has different abilities. The truth is, for some students, there may be little overlap in what’s being taught in class and what’s on the test. For other students, some concepts may have been covered previously, but so much time has passed that they’ve forgotten some of the key elements. Much of the content students are tested on in the SAT or ACT is also presented in a different format, so even though they’ve covered the concepts before it may seem unfamiliar. There’s also the issue of time constraints, test-taking strategies, and other factors that don’t mimic traditional learning or the classroom experience. Just because a student performs well in class doesn’t mean he or she will do well on the ACT or SAT the first time around. A student wouldn’t go into any other test unprepared, and standardized college entrance exams are no different.

  1. The ACT is “easier” than the SAT.

This common myth – pitting one test against the other and even asserting that colleges value one over the other – never holds true. All colleges and universities equally consider both tests. No test is “easier” than the other. The factor that students must consider when choosing which test to take and prepare for is which one is a better fit for his or her abilities. At Sentia Education, we recommend students take a diagnostic test doe the SAT and the ACT under timed conditions to get an idea of which test they perform better on, which test they prefer and what aspects they need to prepare for.

  1. I don’t need to take the SAT or ACT until the spring of my junior year.

While this is the most popular time for high school students to take college entrance exams, it leaves students with little time for improvement should they not perform as they expected. Also, with finals, AP exams, extracurricular activities and challenging courses, spring of junior year can leave students stretched thin – which can hurt test prep and performance.

The truth is, many students will have covered the most frequently tested concepts on the SAT and ACT by sophomore year of high school, so for some students it can be better to take the test a little earlier if they’re ready. Through test prep sophomore year and earlier in junior year, students can get a refresher on the content they’ve already covered – allowing them to take the test earlier and have more time for adjustments. Also, they can learn test-taking strategies and tips that don’t necessarily require prior knowledge of the content.

  1. You can’t really improve your Reading score.

You CAN improve your Reading score by expanding your vocabulary, honing your critical reading skills, understanding the author’s point of view, and mastering your test-taking skills. So read – books, newspapers and anything else you can get your hands on.  Sentia Education offers expertise on additional skill-building tools.

  1. Students should take the ACT only if they’re strong in science

The science section of the ACT measures a student’s ability to read charts and graphs and interpret data. There is little need for actual science knowledge to do well on science section of the ACT. Being strong in science may not translate to the ACT science section.

  1. You should take the SAT or ACT as often as you can.

At Sentia Education, we recommend students take the SAT only a couple of times. In place of official tests, we offer a numerous practice tests that help students and tutors identify continued challenges as well as gauge test readiness. Don’t treat the official SAT or ACT as practice. Practice tests are for practice. The real thing is the real thing.

  1. Since the essay is optional, you don’t need to take it.

We encourage students to take the ACT with Writing and include the SAT essay in their registration. Before making your decision, you should check the requirements of the colleges you are applying to. Many colleges either require or recommend that applicants include the essay and, if that’s the case, you definitely want to take essay portion of the test.

Even if you are not quite sure which colleges you may be applying to, it’s best to include the essay in case it is required or recommended by any of the schools you do end up applying to, especially since you cannot take the Writing section test by itself.

  1. I don’t have to take the subject tests
  • 26 colleges recommend SAT subject tests
  • 37 colleges accept SAT subject tests.
  • 44 colleges require SAT subject tests.

     The ACT is NOT a substitute for the SAT & SAT subject tests

  • 26 colleges recommend SAT subject tests. Of these, 23 do not let the ACT replace subject tests.
  • 37 colleges accept SAT subject tests. Of these, 36 do not let the ACT replace subject tests.
  • 44 colleges require SAT subject tests. Of these, 25 do not let the ACT replace subject tests. (e.g. Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, and all UC schools)
  1. Test prep doesn’t work.

Studies collected by FairTest show that good test prep programs can raise a student’s scores by 100 points, and in many cased, even more. Sentia Education works with each student individually to identify strengths and weaknesses in both concepts and skills as well as in strategies.  A targeted approach to test preparation utilizes a student’s existing skills and helps them translate them to the standardized test format. Most of what students encounter on the ACT and SAT reflects specific math, reading, and writing skills they have already learned in school. General academic performance will, in many cases, predict performance on standardized tests. Students who have worked hard and earned A’s are in great shape to do well on the ACT or SAT.

The key to success on standardized tests is to work hard in school, and then do enough focused test prep to become completely comfortable and confident with the content and question types encountered on the ACT or SAT. There are a variety of test-taking strategies which can boost your student’s score.

The misconception comes from the fact that — in addition to explicitly testing math, reading comprehension, verbal reasoning, and writing skills — both the ACT and SAT take basic or foundational concepts and ask test-takers to apply them in ways that can seem tricky. The tests also try to measure critical thinking and problem solving ability, abstract skills that are built into all high school subjects rather than taught in a particular class.


02 Nov 2017



Don’t know whether to take the SAT or ACT?

We’ve been there before. High schoolers across America (and the globe) face this question every year.

An impressive score on either test goes a long way towards helping students get into the schools they want to attend. So, how do you know which test is better for you?

Sadly, there are no obvious answers. The best way to figure out the ACT vs. SAT conundrum is to take a practice test for both. If there is one you feel more comfortable with, then that’s the test you should take.

That being said, a quick comparison between the SAT and ACT, below, might help you understand the major differences between the two. There is also a quick nine question ACT vs. SAT quiz that will – through over-generalization and not very much data – tell you which standardized test is probably better suited to your strengths.

But before gleaning too much from the comparison and quiz, remember that there’s no substitute for taking a practice version of both tests! Happy reading.

What do these tests feel like? A logic and reasoning test A more objective, clear-cut test
How do these tests align with my skills? The SAT is often (not always) better suited for English/History types The ACT is often (not always) better suited for Math/Science types
What about math? Need to know Math up until Algebra II Need to know Math up until Trigonometry
Science? No Science on the SAT Yes Science on the ACT
Big Picture? The SAT requires more analytical thinking and logical reasoning The ACT asks more straight-forward questions and requires straight-forward answers
Where are these tests accepted? Everywhere Everywhere
Is there an essay? Yes, and it’s currently required. *After May 2016, it will be optional. Yes, but it’s optional
Is one better than the other? Should I take both? No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both.   

Still not sure which test to take? Maybe this quick, nine question quiz will help.

07 Jun 2012

Help! My Proctor Made a Mistake: What to do in case of SAT test irregularity

Anyone working in the test-prep industry knows that SAT proctors make mistakes—occasionally with devastating consequences. The worst stories involve proctors wrongfully forbidding the use of calculators, accidentally under-timing sections, and refusing to let students turn back to the reference table during a math section.

Such stories aren’t meant to scare you—hopefully your next SAT will go smoothly and without any problems. Still, it’s important to be aware that testing irregularities can happen. In this blog entry, I will list some important test-procedure rules proctors are required to follow. Following this, I will discuss things students can do to minimize the penalty resulting from a proctor who violates these rules.

When administering the SAT, proctors are required to follow these rules, as detailed in The SAT Standard Testing Room Manual:

— Testing rooms must have a visible clock. If there is no visible clock, proctors are required to announce the remaining time of each section at regular intervals (i.e., every five minutes). If a proctor announces the remaining time sporadically or fails to announce at all, he/she is breaking an official rule.
— Proctors must make an announcement when 5 minutes remain before the end of the test or test section.
— Proctors are required to write the start and stop time of each section on the board.
— Over-timing of a section is NOT to affect the time allowed for any other section. If a proctor tries to make up for giving too much time on section 2 by taking time away from section 3, he/she is breaking an official rule.
— Proctors must allow students to make up for under-timing on a section “before concluding the section, allowing a break or dismissing students.” Proctors are to allow full testing time for unaffected sections.
— Proctors MUST give 5 minute breaks after sections 2, 4, and 6. Students may leave the test room (but not the building) during these breaks. Students are also permitted to eat and drink during these breaks.
— Students are allowed to take unscheduled breaks (i.e., bathroom breaks). However, only one student at a time may take an unscheduled break. Students will not be given extra time for taking unscheduled breaks.
— Desks must be at least 12” x 15”.
— Latecomers may be admitted to the test before proctors begin reading the test directions. In addition, proctors must give latecomers time to read the directions on the back cover of the test. Latecomers may complete the identification portion of the answer sheet at the end of the test administration.
— Proctors must allow students to ask questions about test procedure before the test begins.
— Students MAY use calculators while working on a math section. Furthermore, different students will be using calculators at different times during the test, as sections are arranged differently in each test form.
— Students MAY work on any page of the section being administered. However, students are NOT allowed to return to previous sections, or begin working on future sections early.
— Proctors are NOT supposed to talk on the phone, grade papers, or engage in other distracting activities during the test. If your proctor is doing a noisy activity while overseeing the SAT, he/she is breaking an official rule and should be asked to stop.

What you can do to minimize the impact of testing irregularity:

— Don’t be afraid to speak up! You absolutely have a right to speak up if your proctor breaks any of the official rules listed above. If your proctor does not believe they have broken an official rule, refer him/her to The SAT Standard Testing Room Manual.
— Ask to speak to a test-center supervisor if you speak up and your proctor still won’t abide by an official rule. Keep in mind that this is an extreme move—I would recommend this only if there has been a very serious violation that the suggestions below do not address.
— Bring a watch so you can keep track of the remaining time for each section in case your proctor forgets to make announcements.
— Remind the proctor to announce and record the start time of each section. If your proctor accidentally under-times a section, you can correct and prove this by referring your proctor to the start-time he/she wrote down.
— Do NOT wait to test until the last administration before college applications are due. If your score suffers due to testing irregularity, the most the College Board can do is offer a free retest. In case of disaster, it helps to know you have time to test again.
— If all else fails, cancel your scores– Unfair as it is, sometimes the only thing you can do in response to testing irregularity is to cancel your score. There are two ways to cancel scores:

1.) After the SAT but before leaving the test center, ask the test supervisor for a Request to Cancel Test Scores form. Complete, sign, and return the form to the test supervisor before leaving the test center.

2.) To cancel your test score after leaving the center, your written request must be received by 11:59 pm on the Wednesday following the test to cancel your score. You cannot cancel your test score by email or telephone.To cancel your test score after leaving the center, download and print the Request to Cancel Test Scores form. Once you have filled out this form, fax it to (610) 290-8978 or use USPS Express Mail overnight delivery (U.S. Only) to send it to:

Sat Score Cancellation
P.O. Box 6228
Princeton, NJ 08541-6228

Please see the Cancel Test Scores section of the College Board’s website for more information and for how to cancel international scores.


Finally, you can help prevent future errors by reporting testing irregularities to E.T.S. If several students from a test center complain of unfairness or irregularity, E.T.S. will conduct an investigation of the testing procedures followed at that site. To report a testing irregularity, contact the E.T.S. Office of Testing Integrity by phone (800-353-8570), fax (609-406-9709), or e-mail (  Students and parents may also contact SAT customer service at (866) 756-7346 or

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Sporadic: stopping and starting; irregular

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

28 Feb 2012

SAT Score Choice: What is it, and how do I sign up?

What is SAT Score Choice?

SAT Score Choice is a free service that allows students to select which SAT scores they send to colleges. Each time a student takes the SAT, the scores for each test are kept as separate records. If a student sits for a test more than once, he/she can use Score Choice to decide which scores colleges see.

Note: Selecting Score Choice means that colleges will see all section scores (Math, Critical Reading, and Writing) from a given administration. Score Choice does NOT allow students to select & send only their highest sections from multiple tests.

What are the benefits of using SAT Score Choice? 

SAT Score Choice was designed to reduce performance anxiety and exam-day stress. Let’s say Benny took the SAT in January, May, and June, but bombed the May administration. With Score Choice, Benny can send only the scores from January and June–effectively sweeping May’s shortcomings beneath the proverbial rug. If you’re someone who tends to choke under pressure, Score Choice may be a good option because it means that one bad test won’t scar your college application. With this in mind, you can relax on test day and focus on the exam, instead of worrying about how you’re doing.

What do colleges think of Score Choice? 

Some colleges don’t mind it, while others prefer to see every one of a student’s test scores. Please refer to pages 5-39 of this official College Board document to see where your top choice college stands.

The College Board does not notify schools if a student is using score choice, so it’s up to each student whether he/she wants to comply with a college’s requirements. Students should be cognizant, however, that including your high school code when registering for the SAT means your guidance counselor will gain access to all of your scores. Thus, colleges that don’t endorse score choice can contact high school officials to find out if a student reported all required scores.

How do I sign up for Score Choice?

As long as you didn’t sign up to automatically send scores to colleges when you registered for the SAT, you will be able to use Score Choice. It is important to note that you can only use Score Choice AFTER your SAT results become available online. This means that you will need to pay for each score report sent to colleges.

To use Score Choice:
1. Head to:
2. Log into your account using the “My Organizer” box on the left side of the page
3. Click the “SAT Scores” tab
4. You will see something that resembles this:
1/28/12: Available
Sent to: 0 Recipients <– hit this link!
5. Retype your password for the security check
6. Click the “Send Available Scores Now” link under the “My Scores” section of the page.
7. A pop-up will appear. Hit “Send Additional Score Reports”
8. Enter the name of the college and any additional information, then press “Continue”
9. In the page that follows, click “Choose Scores” to activate Score Choice.
10. Check the boxes next to the scores you want to send. Press continue.
11. Enter payment information. You’re done!

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Cognizant: Aware

14 Feb 2012

Taking the SAT: What to Expect on Test Day

Getting ready for the SAT? You’re probably wondering what to expect on test day. Since I recently took an official SAT, I wanted to share my experience. We hope this information helps to calm your nerves!

Breakdown of the Test:

The SAT has 10 sections: 7 25-minute sections, 2 20-minute sections, and 1 10-minute section. The first section is always the essay, and the last section is always writing. The schedule of sections and breaks should be as follows:

Section 1 (The Essay) (25 minutes)
Section 2 (25 minutes)

5-minute break. You can leave the room to eat, drink & use the restroom.

Section 3 (25 minutes)
Section 4 (25 minutes)

1-minute break. You can stand up and stretch, but you cannot leave the room.

Section 5 (25 minutes)
Section 6 (25 minutes)

5-minute break. You can leave the room to eat, drink & use the restroom.

Section 7 (25 minutes)
Section 8 (20 minutes)
Section 9 (20 minutes)
Section 10 (Writing) (10 minutes)

What to Expect Immediately Before, During, and After the Test

— You must arrive at your test site by 8:00 am, but it is not necessary to arrive earlier. When you arrive at your test site, check-in and find out what room you will test in. Someone may tell you this, or you may be directed to locate your name & test room on a posted list. Following this, you will stand on line while test officials check each student’s admission ticket and photo ID.

Tip: Read a newspaper article or look over your essay source notes while you wait on line. This will help you ready your mind for the essay, which always comes first.

— Once your admission ticket and photo ID have been checked, head to your test room. You may be assigned a seat, or you may be allowed to choose. If you’re allowed to choose, try to get a seat in front and where the clock is clearly visible.

— Expect some time to pass before the test actually starts. Your proctor will likely wait 15-30 minutes for all testers to arrive before double checking photo IDs.
Following this, you will bubble in the required information on the answer sheet as a class.

— Do NOT rush ahead. Getting scolded for filling in your address too soon will only spike distracting emotions, like stress and shame.

— Make sure your cell phone is turned OFF. Better yet, leave your cell  phone at home or in the car. Proctors are required  to enforce a zero tolerance policy on cell phones, which calls for score cancellation if your phone rings or if you are caught using it. You may NOT turn your phone on during breaks and you cannot use it as your timer.

— During the test, proctors are supposed to write the start and stop time for each section on the board. Some proctors will announce when 5 minutes are left in each section, but they are not required to do so. Best bet is to bring a (silent) watch and keep time, yourself. Occasionally, your proctor will circle the room to make sure everyone is working on the correct section.

— Try not to get restless during the final, 10-minute section. Even if you finish this section early, you will still need to wait until time is up before you can leave. Rumor has it, some proctors will begin collecting completed tests before time is called. If this happens, try not to feel pressured or distracted if you are still working.

Testing should end between 12:30 – 1 pm. Sentia officially recommends you go out for lunch or treat yourself to some well-deserved R&R. Congratulate yourself–you’ve just completed a major milestone on the pathway to college & beyond!