Category Archives: Test Taking Tips

17 Jun 2020

What to do when your dream school goes test optional…

If you’re in the midst of preparing for college applications, you’re probably already aware that many colleges across the country are switching gears to a “test optional” policy in response to the impact that COVID-19 has had on SAT / ACT scheduling and availability. A handful of schools were already “test blind” — but, please don’t mistake the two! Before you abandon your SAT / ACT study plans, it’s important to understand the difference between “test optional” and “test blind” in order to put together an application that holistically captures who you are as a student and as an individual. 

What’s the difference between “test blind” and “test optional”? 

When schools decide to go test optional, that does not mean that standardized test scores are taken out of the equation entirely — this is only true of test blind schools. Colleges that are test blind will not consider test scores during the admissions process even if a student submits scores. Test optional schools, on the other hand, will absolutely consider your test scores if you choose to submit them. 

If you’re putting together your college list, it’s important to get familiar with each school’s specific policy on submitting test scores because there are several variations on the test optional theme. Some schools are requiring additional short-answer questions or submission of an analytical paper in place of SAT / ACT scores. Others have decided to waive testing requirements only for students who meet a minimum GPA. Also important to note, some test optional schools may still require test scores for out-of-state students, international students, or students applying for certain scholarships. Be sure to read the fine print! Here you will find a list of all the colleges and universities that have opted to go test optional. 

What does this mean going forward?

Zooming out from the chaos of the past several months, a trend towards more flexibility within standardized testing requirements was set into motion several years before the onset of the pandemic. The barriers posed by COVID-19 have certainly fast-tracked the shift to test optional, but it’s likely that even as the world settles back into some version of “normal,” SAT / ACT requirements will continue to change or simply never return to pre-COVID policies. Some schools are running an experimental pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of test optional, while other schools are announcing a full transition to test optional. Many, of course, do plan to return to relying on test scores once testing scheduling and availability normalize. The outcome of this nationwide experiment — the success of incoming freshmen in the fall of 2021 — will inform admissions policies for years to come. 

So, should I still plan to take the SAT or ACT? 

Though the test optional surge may feel like a relief, in reality many of the schools that typically require SAT / ACT scores will likely still expect to receive scores from students who do have access to testing. Plus, strong scores will only strengthen your application and could be essential in making you stand out among your peers. Considering that many other application components, such as extracurriculars, work opportunities, and class grades, have been interrupted, the SAT or ACT could be an excellent opportunity to set yourself apart academically. 

Keep in mind that admissions officers will only spend a few minutes looking at your file during the initial review period. During this initial review, they are forced to make quick decisions, drawing conclusions about who you are from the materials that you provide in your application. Strong test scores can play a huge part in further solidifying your impression as a viable applicant whose profile aligns with pre-COVID admissions standards. So if you believe test scores could elevate your overall application, we highly recommend sticking to your original study plan and using this time to demonstrate your continued commitment and ability to succeed even in such tumultuous times. 


If you’d like more individualized guidance on how to achieve scores that will make your applications shine, we are here to help. Above all else, we hope you are staying safe and well. As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

03 Jun 2020

Summer Reading for SAT & ACT Preparation

Summer Reading for SAT / ACT Prep

In many ways, the world is an unnerving place right now. If you’re having difficulty sitting down and focusing on your studies, you are not alone. Perhaps getting lost in a book sounds more appealing. For those of you looking to prepare for your upcoming SAT, ACT, or SAT II Literature exam, we have pulled together a list of suggested reading that may resemble some of the passages you will encounter on the test. These novels, short stories, and poems seem to be favorites of the folks behind the SAT and ACT. We’ve sourced this list from previously released official exams, pulling out content that has appeared multiple times or has been written by notable authors. Encountering an unfamiliar, difficult-to-understand passage on an exam can be very intimidating. By bulking up on independent reading that is in the style of typical SAT / ACT reading passages, you may feel more at ease on test day. So, if you’re looking for something to read this summer, why not kill two birds with one stone? Check out these SAT / ACT favorites and boost your confidence on test day! 

Fiction

A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell: A 1935 novel that tells the story of Dorothy Hare, a clergyman’s daughter, whose life is turned upside down when she suffers an attack of amnesia. 

Middlemarch by George Eliot: A 19th century novel in eight installments set in a fictitious English town addressing social, political, and religious issues of the time period. 

The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild, the Great by Henry Fielding: An 18th century satirical novel detailing the life of underworld boss Jonathan Wild. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe: An anti-slavery novel published in 1852 addressing the injustices facing African Amercans in the U.S. during the 19th century.  

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster: A darkly satirical revenge tragedy, written as a play set in 16th century Italy.  

Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee: A novel set in the 1980s about a young Indian woman who changes her identity in order to adapt to American society. 

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid: A novel written in 1985 detailing the young life of a girl growing up in Antigua, an island in the Carribean.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens: Dickens’ last novel, published in 1865, combining satire and social analysis. 

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett: A novel published in 1908 following the lives of two very different sisters from their youth through old age. 

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan: A mother-daughter novel about love and grief set in contemporary San Francisco and a Chinese village.

Lily Nevada by Cecelia Holland: The dramatic tale of a strong-willed woman who flees her dark and violent past to make a new life and name for herself in San Francisco at the dawn of the Gilded Age. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan: The reflective story of a young English girl in 1935 who witnesses an event during her childhood that spurs unintended, catastrophic consequences over the course of her life. 

The Master by Colm Toibin: A beautifully written novel set in the 19th century about a man who leaves America to live in Europe amongst artists and writers. 

Nonfiction

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon: An autobiographical travel book about the author’s unforgettable journey through the backroads of America. 

Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature by David Quammen: A collection of essays discussing bats, octopuses, crows, dinosaurs, animal rights, hypothermia and more. 

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks: A collection of seven paradoxical tales of patients adapting to neurological conditions including autism, amnesia, the restoration of vision after congenital blindness, and more. 

Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage by Deborah Cramer: The account of a scientific voyage from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Barbados that brings the reader through the science and history of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Superforecasting: The Art & Science of Predicting by Philip E. Tetlock: Named one of the best books of the year by The Economist in 2015, this book draws upon finance, economics, psychology, and other disciplines to share how experts and lay people can make more effective and intelligent predictions. 

Short Stories

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin: A short story about a black algebra teacher in 1950s Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery.

The Music School by John Updike: A collection of Updike’s short stories about people who find their ways in the modern world. 

Feel like reading some poetry? Check out these poems as a jumping off point… 

“Heart, take no pity on this house of bone” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Before the Birth of One of Her Children” by Anne Bradstreet

“Prosody 101” by Linda Pastan

“The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” by Robert Frost

“To the Memory of Mr. Oldham” by John Dryden

“The Dance” by Cornelius Eady

“In Memoriam” by Alfred Tennyson

“The Mountain” by Louise Glück

“To Marguerite: Continued” by Matthew Arnold

“The Young Author” by Samuel Johnson

Who knows? You might find yourself taking the SAT or ACT and come across a passage that you’ve already read. And if not, these reads will still add some thought-provoking variety to your literary repertoire. We hope you enjoy our suggestions! Stay tuned for next week’s blog post if you’re still eager for more book recommendations. We hope everyone is safe and able to find solace in a book, or elsewhere, during these unsettling times. As always, we are here to help.

14 May 2020

COVID-Related News: Grad School Exams

For those of you who have been preparing to sit for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT in the coming months, we know how unsettling it must feel when a global pandemic disrupts your carefully calculated grad school preparation. Fortunately, each respective entity is working hard to keep us informed about modifications made to the format, administration, or schedule of their exams. Identifying the information that is relevant to your situation might feel daunting. Here’s what we know about the official changes made to the following popular grad school exams: 

GRE Update:

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is now offering a GRE General Test at-home option. The at-home option is identical in content, format, and on-screen experience to the GRE exam taken at a test center. During the online exam, test-takers are monitored by a human proctor. Per ETS, at-home administrations are currently available around the clock every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday through June 30th. Appointments may be available as early as 24 hours after registering for the exam, but in our experience, most students wait 2 – 3 weeks for an appointment, so be sure to plan accordingly. Looking to take the GRE at home? Start the registration process here

Please note: If you are planning to take the GRE, you MUST take the test on a PC or laptop with a Windows operating system. If you attempt to take the exam with Mac iOS software, you will be denied access. This is crucial. If you have any questions about whether your software is sufficient for the at-home GRE, check out this equipment and environment checklist, where you will also find info on what constitutes a suitable testing environment (private room, built-in camera, microphone, and more). If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to us! 

GMAT Update: 

Like the GRE, the GMAT Online Exam is becoming widely available as the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) continues to support students who are working to meet upcoming business school application deadlines. The GMAT Online Exam is remotely proctored and open to all prospective test-takers. The most notable change is the omission of the Analytical Writing Assessment Section. The online version will include the Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning sections, with the same number of questions and time per section as the in-person version of the exam, for a total exam time of approximately 3 hours. 

In an impressive feat of flexibility, appointment times are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can schedule an appointment up to 24 hours before an available testing window. Registration is now open until June 15th, at which point public health conditions will be re-evaluated and future appointment dates will be added as needed. 

Please note: The GMAT Online Exam can be taken on both Windows and Mac PCs or laptops, but do check out their system requirements before registering. 

LSAT Update: 

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has announced the unveiling of an online, remotely proctored version of the LSAT: the LSAT-Flex, which has been on the horizon for some time now. Check out what we have to say about the new LSAT in-home administration. In short, candidates who were signed up for the April LSAT have been automatically registered for the May LSAT-Flex (administered during the week of May 18th). Likewise, those who were registered for the in-person June LSAT as of April 29th can opt to take the June LSAT-Flex (administered during the week of June 14th). 

Registration for the June LSAT-Flex is now open! LSAC encourages prospective test-takers, especially those who prefer to test at a certain time of day or have scheduling conflicts, to sign up as soon as possible. Slots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis — so nail down that time slot while there are still plenty of options available!

LSAC notes they do plan to resume offering the in-person LSAT once public health conditions allow. However, if the LSAT is in your future, stay tuned because this online, shortened version of the LSAT may prove to be a welcome change. As the world adjusts to a “new normal,” the LSAT may transition permanently to an online “new normal.”

MCAT Update:

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has not made any indication that the MCAT will be moving into remote territory. All May test dates have, of course, been cancelled. As of May 8th, three new test dates have been added to the calendar (June 28th, September 27th, and September 28th). Three test appointments will be held per date. Registration for these dates is now open. 

The AAMC has temporarily shortened the exam in order to increase testing capacity while following social distancing protocols in test centers. For more info on how this notoriously lengthy exam is being shortened, here is a breakdown of the new version. Test-takers can still expect to be tested in all four sections with fewer questions in each, for a total exam time of 5 hours and 45 minutes (rather than the typical 7 hours and 30 minutes). The scoring for the shortened exam will be identical to that of the full-length exam. 

As we all experience the daily sensory overload of COVID-related news, we hope our updates provide some clarity as you take these important steps towards graduate school. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are seeking additional academic or test prep support during this challenging time. As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™! 

07 May 2020

Last Minute AP Exam Study Tips

We know that the changes made to this year’s AP Exams may feel jarring to students who have been preparing (both academically and mentally) for their exams all year long. The biggest change, of course, is that all AP Exams will be taken online and will only be 45 minutes in length, with no multiple choice sections. We know that you have the potential to succeed on this year’s AP Exams, however unsettling these changes may be. We’ve pulled together a few last minute preparation and study tips that will help you go into your exams feeling ready to perform your very best.

Know the format of your exam(s)! 
The best way to avoid feeling intimidated or stressed about the new exam format is to understand it. Familiarize yourself with the format of the AP Exam(s) that you will be taking. The College Board has broken down the format of each exam. Check out their “Course Specific Exam Information,” where you will also find info on which specific topics will be covered on your exam. The College Board will not expect students to have learned all of the material on their original syllabi. Exams will only cover content that students would have learned prior to early March. Knowing what to expect will eliminate any mystery associated with the new exams and allow you to focus on what is most important on test day: staying calm and recalling course content. 

Shift focus to essay and short answer questions.
Because the College Board has narrowed down the kind of questions that you will encounter on your exams, it’s time to shift focus to the open-ended questions. Use the essay and short answer questions from previous exams as your guide. You will get a sense of how the College Board likes to ask these questions and, with practice, a feel for how you can best demonstrate your mastery of the AP content. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself with notes. 
Yes, this year’s AP exams will be open note. No, that does not mean that having all of your notes from the entire semester in front of you during the exam will be the best course of action. Have you ever taken an exam where you’re allowed to use one notecard full of notes? Oftentimes, the process of creating the notecard is the best study exercise. 

In other words, it’s important to make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information at your fingertips during the exam itself. During your final days of studying, it may be useful to go through your class notes and create an abbreviated study guide in a format that makes sense to you — perhaps limit your guide to one sheet of paper, front and back. Familiarize yourself with your study guide. Make sure you know where you’ve located certain material on your study guide. Color-coordinating your notes and/or including visuals might be an effective way to commit content to memory, ultimately increasing your testing speed. When test day comes, regardless of how much you use your study guide, the process of tying together all of that course content into a manageable test-taking tool will pay off. 

Need to brush up on a particular topic? There’s no better source than the College Board itself.
AP students and the College Board are navigating this new online terrain together. The College Board has an excellent YouTube Channel where they are streaming online lessons for each AP course, which can be re-watched at any time for review. In the description for each video, you will find links to handouts and resources related to that content. Use these resources! Practicing with content put out by the College Board is the best way to feel prepared on test day. So, if you know you have areas of weakness in your AP course material, check out a lesson from the College Board and see what they have to share. 


Despite the unforeseen changes, with these tips we hope you will feel confident going into the upcoming at-home AP Exams. And of course, if you could need an expert to walk you through a specific content area, you can contact info@sentiaeducation.com. Our team of AP specialists are ready to help with any last-minute questions!

01 May 2020

COVID-Related News: ACT / SAT / AP

We hope you’re staying safe and well. With daily updates and changes on the standardized testing front, we are here to provide the most up-to-date COVID-related news. As always, we want to ensure that you feel supported in the test prep process. At this unprecedented time, having clarity on the when’s, where’s, and how’s of taking your SAT, ACT, or AP exams is essential. Here’s what we know: 

ACT Updates: 

Though ACT June test dates have not been officially cancelled, there is still a strong likelihood of June cancellations. We recommend that students registered for the June administration utilize the Flexible Scheduling option to change their June test date to July for free. At this time, July seems a safer bet and officially changing your test date may relieve some of the uncertainty-induced stress and allow you to create a more productive test preparation schedule.

Without any formal announcement, ACT has also opened up their July test date to New York state! Currently, there are no available testing sites in NYC, but this could change, so keep an eye on your registration portal. 

Looking ahead to the fall, ACT will be offering three previously planned test dates on September 12th, October 24th, and December 12th. While we don’t have full details on timeline yet, ACT will also be unveiling their new at-home digital testing option in the late fall / early winter. 

This option would allow students to take the test at home on a computer, which would certainly be a game changer. (This is becoming a trend in the world of standardized testing, check out what we have to say about the new online LSAT.)

In other ACT news, starting in September 2020 students who have already taken the full ACT exam will have the option to retake one or more specific sections of the test. Section retakes will eventually be offered digitally as well, which will be a test-taking timesaver and speed up the wait time for receiving scores. 

SAT Updates: 

Continue preparing for the August exam! (See our previous post about June cancellations and recommendation.) The College Board plans to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of 2020 beginning in August, public health permitting. This means that students will be able to test on August 29th, September 26th (new!), October 3rd, November 7th, or December 5th. Remember, most colleges will accept scores through the November administration for early applications, so rising seniors still have four remaining opportunities to test.

According to College Board, students will be notified during the week of May 26th about registration for these test dates, but we recommend keeping an eye on your email and the website in case anything changes. Rising seniors without test scores and students registered for June test dates will be granted priority access before registration opens up for everyone else. The College Board will be sending out clarifying information on what that priority access looks like on the week of May 26th, as well. 

AP Exam Updates: 

AP exams will look very different this year: all exams will be delivered online, to be taken at home. The tests will be limited to 45 minutes and the multiple choice portion of all exams will be eliminated. Additionally, exams will be open note. Check out these tips for success on open note exams and stay tuned for more tips on how to approach the new exam format. 

AP exams will be offered May 11th – 22nd, with make-up exams offered June 1st – 5th. Though having more time to prepare for your AP exams may seem appealing, all students should plan to take their tests during the May testing window. If you encounter any issues in May, the June testing window will serve as a contingency plan. No additional make-up dates will be offered, so it is crucial to plan to take your exam(s) in May! 

This year, AP exams will only include content that is typically covered by teachers through early March. The College Board assures us that they are committed to upholding the integrity of their AP exams, especially under such unusual circumstances, which will mean extra attention to exam security and fairness. They will be utilizing tools to detect plagiarism and other testing irregularities. 

Despite these major changes, the College Board is determined to honor the time and effort that high school students have poured into their AP classes this year. They are enthusiastic that colleges will give credit to students with qualifying 2020 AP scores. Many top colleges including Yale and the UC schools have publicly pledged support for granting 2020 AP credit. Many other colleges, however, are still evaluating how they will handle incoming scores. Because of the changes made this year, it’s possible that there will be no official mandate for schools to offer AP credit. As more colleges comment publicly on the matter and set a precedent, the landscape of 2020 AP credit will become clearer.

We know this testing season holds many unforeseen changes. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need additional support. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™ — especially in such uncertain times.

16 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: ACT over SAT?

Billy Wheelan, Founder

ACT’s June administration, though in doubt, remains on for now. We should know in the coming days if testing centers will be able to accommodate June 13 testers. Now that there are officially no SAT administrations scheduled until August, the July 18 ACT is becoming a more attractive option for students who want to test over the summer instead of waiting until practically the fall. We can’t know for sure what will happen in the coming weeks but the July administration (not offered in the state of New York, so New Yorkers should register in a neighboring state), should it be offered, would provide an opportunity for students to test earlier in the calendar year than if had they waited for the SAT in August.

For students applying to the most competitive schools in the United States, the decision to switch to the ACT brings with it another big benefit: more Subject Test dates. Because a student must choose between taking the SAT or up to three SAT Subject Tests on each test date, making the switch to the ACT frees up testing dates in August, September, October, November (not available to international students), and December for Subject Tests should The College Board administer them on all planned testing dates. That factor alone provides a compelling reason to consider switching test prep from SAT to ACT for those students who score similarly on a concordance table between the two tests. 

Finally, ACT has more experience offering their exam digitally than does The College Board. We believe if the global pandemic continues and both organizations are forced to develop in-home options, ACT is better prepared to make that rollout happen more smoothly than The College Board. 

As always, we invite you to contact us if we can be of service to you.

09 Apr 2020

New LSAT In-Home Administration

Billy Wheelan, Sentia Founder & Eduardo Villalta, Sentia Master LSAT Tutor

The Law School Admission Council, purveyor of the most popular test for US law school admissions, announced on April 7th that LSAC’s upcoming April LSAT administration would be canceled and replaced by a shortened version of the test to be administered on personal computers in the test taker’s home in the second half of May. 

LSAC was a late entry into the world of digitally administered exams, lagging behind competitors that offer the GRE and GMAT in rolling out a computer-based version of their signature offering. So the speed with which LSAC has pivoted to what might soon become a new normal of home administered tests is leaving prospective law school students in uncharted territory. (The GRE, an alternative to the LSAT, began offering an in-home option last month).

LSAC left open the door to additional administrations of the updated LSAT, dubbed LSAT-Flex, to be offered in the spring and summer “if the situation warrants.” Candidates registered for the April 2020 test will be automatically registered to take the new version of the test in the second half of May unless they choose to apply the credit toward a future LSAT date. 

The shortened LSAT mimics the organization’s practice tests and will include three scored 35 minute sections: one each of reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. Test takers who struggle with the stamina to complete the traditional LSAT’s five sections (including one unscored experimental section) will likely welcome the change.  

Caroline Scott, Director at Sentia Education, calls the new offering a game changer but warns that while students may be more comfortable in a home setting, “distractions and connectivity issues could add stress to an already high pressure situation.” Still, most test takers will likely welcome the opportunity to sit for an exam in an environment that closely resembles that of their  practice tests. “Overall, the prepared student will benefit from this change.”

13 Feb 2020

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

ACT now offers Section Retesting. Source: http://www.ACT.org

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!

24 Oct 2019

Meticulous methods: ace tests like a scientist

Dr. Monica Lewin, Neuroscientist, Learning Specialist

When I first started working in research labs, I noticed something rather interesting. Despite being surrounded by cutting edge technology, every scientist I worked with would diligently inscribe notes into simple, black and white, college ruled composition books. They logged the details of every daily task in these notebooks: from tracking each step completed in an experiment, to the quantities of each chemical used in the day’s solutions. Every process and its result were recorded.

Personally, I thought this was excessive. We were scientists; clearly we were smart enough to know what we were doing around the lab. Was it really necessary to be this meticulous?

It didn’t take me long to find out it was. When things went wrong—when experiments failed for unknown reasons, or when I simply got distracted and forgot which step in my protocol was up next—my paper trail was there, in my black and white lab notebook. When I was exhausted, and running the same experiment on autopilot for the thirteenth time, seeing my own careless errors written plainly on paper allowed me to identify the problem and correct my mistakes.

I started to find this practice was useful even outside the lab. I took extra scratch paper with me to my exams, showing all my work and recording my thought process for each question. Mental math became the enemy—I didn’t trust it! I marked up my test booklets, underlining the key words in each question, eliminating answers and jotting down why to systematically track my answering strategy. To study, I took practice tests and made copious notes on the types of questions I got wrong. What did I miss while reading the question? Did I calculate using the wrong unit? Did I forget to carry the 1? Later, I could review those notes and focus my energy on eliminating my most common sticking points.

When preparing for a standardized exam such as the SAT or ACT, it is of course important to focus on building the academic skills it assesses. Thus, it’s unsurprising that most prep programs market their ability to cover the most content in the least amount of time. There is, however, another very important aspect to scoring well that students tend to gloss over: minimizing careless mistakes. Here at Sentia, we have found that up to a third of a student’s lost points are due to careless errors, not because of poor understanding. Students tend to brush these kinds of errors off during review because they feel their tutor has prepared them well on the content. They are, and rightfully so, confident that they know what they are doing. However, at Sentia, we consistently reinforce the fact that all incorrect answers cost you the same number of points. Students should view careless errors with the same seriousness as they view content gaps. Sentia’s tutors emphasize these “meticulous methods” to teach students how to hold on to those valuable points.