Category Archives: Test Taking Tips

08 Sep 2020

SAT Section 5: What is it?

There is much speculation surrounding the mysterious Section 5 of the SAT. Some students end up taking this fifth 20-minute section while others do not. Additionally, the content covered in this wildcard of a section can vary widely from test to test. Let’s demystify Section 5 by understanding its function, whether you can expect to see a Section 5 on your exam, and how the additional section will (or, more likely, will not) affect your score. 

What is the function of this section? 

Section 5 of the SAT is widely believed to be an experimental section, created as an opportunity for the College Board to pretest content, answer choices, and test question philosophies on a captive audience under test conditions. College Board has been persistently vague about this section, noting in the SAT Advising and Admission Handbook, “To allow for pretesting, some students taking the SAT with no Essay will take a fifth, 20-minute section. Any section of the SAT may contain both operational and pretest items.” 

Operational items are questions that count towards your score. Pretest items, on the other hand, are not scored and do not contribute to your score. College Board has been uncharacteristically opaque about whether or not this section counts towards students’ final scores. 

Will this section affect my score? 

Though the College Board has made it impossible to say with absolute certainty that the experimental Section 5 will not count towards your score, never in the history of the redesigned SAT has a question from anyone’s 5th section appeared in the scored Question-and-Answer Service sections that are sent back to students. All signs indicate that this section is unscored and exists primarily to test out future material. It is likely that the College Board is being vague on this point to ensure that students take the section seriously, in order to obtain the most accurate data possible. If students were certain that the section would not contribute to their scores, they may not give it their all (or skip it completely). 

Will I have to take the additional section? 

A close reading of the Spring and Summer 2019 The SAT and SAT Subject Tests Supervisor Manual reveals, “At some centers, certain administrations will include an additional 20-minute section to be completed by all SAT test takers, including students taking the SAT with Essay.” 

So, while it used to be the case that only students taking the SAT without the Essay could expect to see a Section 5, now those taking the SAT with Essay should not be surprised to encounter the experimental section either. Test takers with extended time, however, will not see a Section 5 on their exams. 

How will this experimental section affect my test prep? 

Showing up on Test Day knowing exactly what to expect is the best way to feel confident going into the SAT (or any exam for that matter). So, expecting to encounter a 20-minute section in Math, Reading, or Writing after the Math with Calculator section or the Essay is a good way to mentally prepare yourself and avoid unwelcome surprises. 

Though it seems unlikely that Section 5 will affect your score, it is not outside the realm of possibility. By continuing with your diligent test prep and taking every single question on your exam seriously, you will be set up for success on the SAT. 

We are always happy to answer questions and provide support for all aspects of the test preparation process. Especially during uncertain times such as these, we are here to help and ensure that your test prep goes as smoothly as possible. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

28 Aug 2020

SAT Test Center Closings

If you are planning to take the SAT in the near future, be sure to keep an eye on the SAT Test Center Closings page on the College Board website. It is important to note that individual test centers decide whether or not to administer the SAT, pending health and safety. College Board notes, “All weekend test centers must adhere to local public health guidelines and follow College Board requirements.” In the rapidly changing landscape of a pandemic, this could mean unexpected test cancellations (even at the very last minute). 

This page will be updated with new information every three hours. We recommend checking the College Board website, your email, as well as your individual test center’s website the night before and morning of your scheduled exam. There is also the possibility of test centers reducing their capacity, in which case test-takers will be notified by email. It is essential that College Board has your correct contact info in the event of a last minute change. You can confirm your contact details here.  

If your test center makes the decision to close, expect to be contacted directly by email or text for more details on the cancellation, reduced capacity, a refund, or a possible location change and makeup date. 

If your test center is closed, you can register for a future test date. 


We understand that the possibility of a last minute change must feel jarring, especially for those who have been preparing diligently for your exams. As we all navigate this unprecedented and unpredictable time, we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

26 Aug 2020

International ACT Cancellations for December and February Test Dates

On August 25th, ACT made the official announcement that all international ACT administrations will be cancelled in the months of December 2020 and February 2021 due to the risks posed by COVID-19. ACT cites new testing procedures and safety precautions at the root of the decision, which anticipates complications and school closures due to the upcoming flu season and a potential COVID-19 resurgence. 

Students who were already registered for December and February test dates have been notified of their options, which include placement in an alternate testing date in the 2020-2021 year at no charge or a full refund. 

In the meantime, September and October international administrations will move ahead as planned. 

For those whose study plans have been disrupted by this announcement, coming up with a contingency plan is imperative. You may want to consider the following options.

Plan to test in October: If you are already far along in your test prep and feel ready to test sooner rather than later, consider moving up your test date to October. 

Plan to test in April: If you have not yet started your ACT prep, you may want to wait until the new year before diving into your study regimen. Or, if you have already begun studying, put your studies on pause until January or February in order to avoid burnout. 

Consider the SAT: If taking the ACT in October or April will not suit your needs, you may want to set your sights on the December 5th or March 13th SAT administrations. Though the pacing and structure of the ACT and SAT are different, about 80% of the content overlaps. So, by preparing for the ACT you have already been inadvertently building a foundation of knowledge for the SAT as well. 

If you are seeking more guidance in navigating these recent developments, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are always happy to provide support and answer any questions or concerns.

14 Aug 2020

The PSAT: Why It Matters and Why You Should Prep For It!

While most students are familiar with the SAT, the details of the PSAT often get lost in the assumption that the PSAT is simply a practice SAT test. Indeed, the PSAT is excellent preparation for the SAT, but it is also so much more! Let’s break down what exactly the PSAT is, why it matters, whether or not you should take it, and when (during this unprecedented upcoming school year) you can take it.

What is the PSAT? 

Let’s start with the basics: The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) — often shortened to PSAT — is a standardized test targeting 10th and 11th graders in the US. The PSAT is, of course, closely tied to the SAT. One of the primary purposes of the PSAT is to prepare students for the SAT by providing a testing experience very similar to that of the SAT in terms of content, structure, and scoring. There are three sections on the PSAT, which mirror the SAT: Reading, Writing, and Math (with Calculator and No Calculator subsections). However, there are a few key differences: 

– The SAT has an optional Essay section, whereas the PSAT does not.

– The PSAT has fewer questions than the SAT. 

– The PSAT is known to be slightly easier than the SAT.

As for the “NMSQT” part of the PSAT/NMSQT, this exam doubles as a qualifying test for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program. 

That’s not all, there are other iterations of the PSAT as well. The PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9 serve to prepare students for the PSAT/NMSQT and, eventually, the SAT. As the names suggest, the PSAT 10 is geared towards 10th graders and the PSAT 8/9 is offered to 8th and 9th graders. Neither of these tests can qualify students for National Merit, but they do provide excellent opportunities to familiarize yourself with the test before taking the PSAT/NMSQT in 11th grade.

Why does it matter? 

Ultimately, the importance of your PSAT score depends on how you plan to use it: Are you trying to qualify for National Merit? Are you aiming for a high SAT score down the road? 

Each year, the top 1% of 11th-grade PSAT takers become Semifinalists for National Merit scholarships. This group is then narrowed down to approximately 15,000 Finalists. From this pool of Finalists, about 7,500 students nationwide are awarded scholarships of $2,500 a year, which can be renewed each year of college. 

It’s true that colleges will never see your official PSAT scores, but receiving a National Merit Scholarship – or having stellar SAT scores, for that matter – will certainly make you stand out on your college applications. Taking the PSAT is an important step in the process of building a strong application that reflects your academic strengths.

Should you take it? 

If you’re not convinced already: in short, yes you should take the PSAT. There are several pathways for taking the PSAT. For students looking for as much official practice as possible, you can take the PSAT as early as 8th grade. However, a more common option is to take the PSAT 10 once in 10th grade to prepare for taking the PSAT/NMSQT in 11th grade. 

If you’re planning to take the ACT instead of the SAT, you may be wondering if the PSAT could be useful to you. Absolutely! The PSAT is still a great way to get comfortable with the format of these standardized exams. Plus, regardless of whether you’re planning to take the SAT or ACT, your performance on the PSAT can be used to determine which academic areas you should focus on in your test prep. Additionally, a low score on the PSAT will not negatively impact you in any way. Even if the content on the PSAT doesn’t map perfectly onto the ACT, there is a lot of overlap. 

When can you take it? 

You must register for the PSAT at your own school (or a nearby school) and take it on the test date selected by your school. Some schools have all students take the PSAT/NMSQT, so make sure you know whether you need to register for the exam or if your school’s got that covered. As of now, the PSAT/NMSQT 2020 Testing Schedule looks like this: 

– Primary date: Wednesday, October 14, 2020

– Saturday date: Saturday, October 17, 2020

– Alternate test date: Thursday, October 29, 2020

That being said, College Board acknowledges that many schools will be utilizing virtual instruction options and plans will continue to evolve this fall. For schools that are unable to administer the PSAT/NMSQT in October as planned, College Board states they will also offer the PSAT/NMSQT this winter, which will be used for programs administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. If this option piques your interest, stay tuned — College Board has promised to send out an email update on the winter PSAT by the end of the month.

Whether it’s the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or any other standardized test, we are here to help you strategize, prepare, and perform your very best on Test Day. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

07 Aug 2020

Training for an Exam: The 7 Day Countdown

When it comes to test prep, it really is a marathon, not a sprint. Any marathoner would be able to give you a detailed breakdown of their routine before a big race. It is equally important to follow a regimented schedule for the 7 days leading up to Test Day. In developing a plan that works best for you, be sure to keep these tips in mind. Your body will thank you and we suspect your exam scores will be the reward! 

Sleep Regulation

Your circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep-wake cycle, has a huge impact on how you feel both physically and intellectually. Disruption of your circadian rhythm (like pulling an all-nighter, for example) can negatively affect the brain and the body. In order to feel your very best on Test Day, it is crucial to regulate your sleep pattern. 

Start by figuring out when you need to wake up on Test Day. That means factoring in things like: How long does it take to get to my school or testing center? How long will it take to wake up and get out the door? Am I going to shower? How long does it take to prepare breakfast? Am I going to drink coffee? This may sound over the top, but these are all important items to consider. Once you’ve determined when you should wake up on Test Day, try to get a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep each night (and preferably 9.5) and wake up at that time for the entire week leading up to your exam. 

Nine-and-a-half-hours? Yes! Teenagers need more sleep than adults and the cognitive impairment that results from a lack of sleep mimics the effect of alcohol on reflexes. Sentia’s founder Billy Wheelan maintains that, “a lack of sleep is enemy #1 of academic performance. The most impactful change most teenagers can make in their test prep is to sleep more – and more consistently – every night.”

Whatever you do, do NOT pull an all-nighter. There is plenty of research demonstrating the counterproductivity of sacrificing sleep for studying. In fact, more sleep is strongly correlated with better grades and a higher GPA. Getting enough sleep will not only make you feel better, but will also ensure that your brain is primed to remember the information that you’ve worked so hard to learn. 

Exercise 

No need to train for an actual marathon while studying, but squeezing in a workout each day of the week leading up to your exam can increase your mental processing abilities. Taking up a new, rigorous workout regimen is probably not the best idea. Figure out what feels best for your body — maybe that’s jogging, doing yoga, or going for a swim. 

Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that can sharpen one’s ability to learn and digest information quickly. Exercising may help you clear your mind and alleviate some of that inevitable test anxiety. Plus, when you do sit down to study, and eventually take the exam itself, you will likely feel more focused and energized. 

Diet 

Breakfast, they say, is the most important meal of the day. On Test Day, this is certainly true! A satisfying, filling breakfast can give you ample energy to get through even the longest exams. According to this study on the effects of breakfast on academic performance, eating breakfast has a positive effect on cognitive performance, particularly in the domains of memory and attention.

Of course, memory and attention are crucial to acing your exam. Consider stocking up on good brain foods like whole grains (oatmeal, granola, quinoa, etc.), fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables for the week of your exam (and always!). There is plenty of evidence linking healthy eating habits to strong academic performance, so make sure that you’re fueling your studies with healthy foods, which will ultimately help you succeed on Test Day. 

Stress Management

If you’ve ever taken a major exam (or experienced performance anxiety of any kind), you are probably no stranger to testing anxiety. At Sentia, we teach our Relax, Refresh, Refocus technique to help students solve questions in a state of calm, focused flow from exam start to finish. Some elements you can try on your own include practicing deep breathing between sections, putting your pencil down for mini breaks during the test, and performing shoulder and neck rolls to release upper back tension. Don’t wait for exam day to give them a try. Instead, when you sit down to study during that final week, practice your deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Give yourself time to sit back, stay grounded, and take breaks as needed. 

Yes, testing can feel terrifying. And yes, you may feel like your future hangs in the balance of your exam scores. But, especially if you follow these pro tips, you can succeed. As you sit down to take your exam, focus on feeling confident and at ease — you got this! 

As always, we are here to help with all manner of test prep needs, from content to strategy. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are seeking additional support. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

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.