Category Archives: Test Taking Tips

12 Jan 2018

How Do YOU Learn?


Most of us can learn anything we put our minds to.  However, we have a preferred way of learning. Get to know your learning style and study in the ways you learn best.

Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning while others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed.

There are Seven Learning Styles

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.

Strategies to use, depending on your preferred learning style:

Visual Learners

  • Use graphics to reinforce learning­­, films, slides, illustrations, and diagrams.
  • Color coding to organize notes and possessions.
  • Write out directions.
  • Use flow charts and diagrams for note taking.
  • Visualizing spelling of words of facts to be memorized.


Auditory Learners

  • Use tapes for reading and for class and lecture notes.
  • Learn by interviewing or by participating in discussions.
  • Have test questions or directions read aloud or put on tape.


Kinesthetic Learners

  • Experimental learning (making models, doing lab work, and role playing).
  • Take frequent breaks in study periods.
  • Trace letters and words to learn spelling and remember facts.
  • Use computer to reinforce learning through sense of touch.
  • Memorize or drill while walking or exercising.

Express abilities through dance, drama, or gymnastic

02 Jan 2018

Stress… What it is and how to make it work for you

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Any one preparing for the standardized college admissions test knows that this definition is a perfect description of the feelings and emotions created by these tests.  But did you know that stress that is managed could actually be a good thing?

A 1979 London research study recognized that stress could be beneficial. Yes, you read that correctly – beneficial! The benefits of stress can be found in two main ways; First, stress can actually enhance performance and, secondly, stress from challenges, not threats, invite physiological responses that improves thinking by making the heart beat faster, adrenaline surge, the brain sharper and the body release a different mix of stress hormones which aid in learning.

You can rethink stress by understanding that it is a normal response when we care about what’s at stake.

Since stress is unavoidable, working out how to harness it may be wiser than trying to eliminate it.

Embarking on a mindful approach to the test prep process might sound hokey, or perhaps like a way of complicating a process that is pretty straightforward: study the material, take practice tests, get results. But being mindful is a practical and subtle way of managing stress – AND it puts YOU in control.

So… How can you be “mindful”

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. There’s a little voice in your head that’s talking to you constantly. 
What is it saying? How do the thoughts make you feel?
  2. Take a breath. When you become aware of a thought (any thought, positive or negative) take a breath. Let your thoughts come and go without analyzing them. Be aware of what happens to the feelings caused by stress?

Let your breath serve as a cue for you to be fully present in this moment. On the next exhalation imagine any tension in your body flowing out through the soles of your feet into the air. Let your tension go on the exhalation and on the inhalation breathe in relaxation.

  1. Guided Imagery. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of the imagination and all of the senses – what we feel, see, hear, taste, and smell – to create a relaxing scene. Guided imagery can be used to visualize positive outcomes, especially in stressful situations. For instance, if a student is anxious about an upcoming test, she imagines going through it in a calm and relaxed manner beforehand. This is called a mental rehearsal.
  2. Positive Affirmations. Positive statements can help students feel less stressed and more in control of their emotions. Examples of positive affirmations are:
    • I feel calm
    • I am confident
    • I can do well
    • Let go of (anxiety, fear, tension, etc)
  3. Question your thoughts. If your thoughts are of self-doubt or self-criticism, replace the latter part of the “What if” proposition with a positive quality that relates to the specific situation or preceding thought. Ask yourself:
  • What if I’m good enough?
  • What if I’m smart enough?
  • What if I have what it takes?
  • What if I succeed?
  1. Be willing to see the situation differently. There are objective facts about the college admissions process. There are tests (the SAT and ACT) for which you can prepare. College admissions officers will consider your test scores when evaluating your application. How you relate
to these objective facts is up to you. When you feel stressed out, anxious, or scared, tell yourself “I am willing to see this situation differently.” Keep an open mind, and stay willing to be positive and relaxed.

Test prep is a process, but when you bring your whole self to the experience, amazing things can happen.



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. 

But before gleaning too much from the comparison, 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 SATYes, science is on the ACT
How long is it? 3 hrs w/o essay 3 hrs. 50 mins w/ essay2 hrs. 55 mins w/o essay 3 hrs. 35 mins w/ essay
What’s the format? 1. Reading: 65 mins.
2. Writing & Lang.: 35 mins.
3. Math, No Calc: 25 mins.
4. Math, Calc: 55 mins.
5. Essay (optional): 50 mins.
1. English: 45 mins.
2. Math: 60 mins.
3. Reading: 35 mins.
4. Science: 35 mins.
5. Essay (optional): 40 mins.
How many questions? Reading: 52 questions
Writing & Lang: 44 questions
Math, No Calc: 20 questions
Math, Calc: 38 questions
English: 75 questions
Math: 60 questions
Reading: 40 questions
Science: 35 questions
Big Picture?The SAT requires more analytical thinking and logical reasoningThe ACT asks more straight-forward questions and requires straight-forward answers
Where are these tests accepted?EverywhereEverywhere
Is there an essay?Yes, but it’s optionalYes, but it’s optional
Scoring400 – 1600.
Evidence-Based Reading/ Writing & Math sections use a scale of 200 – 800 and are combined for a total score.
1 – 36. Each section uses a scale of 1 – 36 and all four sections are averaged together.
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.  No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both. 

18 Dec 2012

Don’t Let Winter Break Break Your Study Habits!

With holidays and winter break approaching, this is always an exciting time of year. However, it can also be incredibly stressful for students wrapping up finals and those juniors and seniors preparing for either standardized tests or college applications. And, if you make the mistake of enjoying the break a little too much, winter break can be very detrimental on your long-term goal of getting into your dream college. So, with that in mind, we thought we’d give you some advice on managing your study and college application time over the break so that your break does not cause a headache when you return to normalcy!
First off, keep in mind that you have winter break for a reason beyond being able to enjoy holidays and visit with your family. Your body and mind need some occasional repose to help you recover from the rigors of your life. That is, you need to relax a little so that you come back to school ready to recommit and focus for the rest of the year. Winter break is great for relaxation, so make sure to do plenty of that.

That being said, however, there is such a thing as too much relaxation, and your brain can ossify from disuse. You don’t want your brain to forget everything you’ve learned thus far, as that would mean you’d have to re-learn everything in January, effectively costing you two months of prep time. So, take a few days off from strenuous work, but make sure to plan on being sedulous later in the break. If you’re a junior preparing for the SAT or ACT, keep working on small things on a daily basis—look through vocabulary cards every night, do some difficult reading—then, later in the week, sit down and do a full-length practice exam. Take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to go to school so that you actually have a four-hour chunk of time totally free to study. (It sounds less than ideal, we know, but it has to be done at some point, so you may as well do it when you don’t have anything else on your plate!) If you’re a high school senior, you know that college applications are due right after 2013 begins, so spend some time polishing off those essays (if they’re not already done) and filling out more applications. You have time to focus on yourself and your goals, so take advantage of that opportunity.

And if you’re traveling somewhere, keep in mind that long car rides or flights are excellent opportunities to get work done. They are not ideal study environments, admittedly, but they do have one major advantage over your own house: They are free of tempting distractions such as television and the internet.

The important thing is to be productive over the break any way that you can. Enjoy yourself, too, though!

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia

Detrimental: tending to cause harm
Repose: a state of rest or tranquility
Ossify: harden
Sedulous: hard-working

16 Oct 2012

SAT Grammar: Learn parallelism to perfect your score… part 1!

February inspired me to write a tutorial on fixing dangling modifiers in the SAT Writing section. In honor of October, I want to address the problem of parallelism.

SAT Writing loves to test your knowledge of parallelism. The section loves it so much, in fact, that it tests parallelism in three different forms! For SAT Writing, you need to know how to use parallelism when writing lists, making comparisons, and when using word pairs (e.g., “not only… but also…”). In this blog entry, I will focus on the rules of parallelism for writing lists. I will address the others in blog entries to come.

List parallelism questions come up most often in the Error Identification portion of the Writing test. However, you may run into them in the Improving Sentences portion too.

What is parallelism? Parallelism is a grammatical principle invoked to maintain balance within a sentence. In grammar, parallelism basically means that similar words, phrases, and clauses must take the same form. Confused? Let’s move on to an example…

I like reading, sleeping and to make art.

This is a pretty friendly sentence: it’s direct and tells us a little bit about what the author likes! Only trouble is that the items in this list aren’t in parallel form. Corrected:

I like reading, sleeping and making art.


I like to read, to sleep and to make art.

Either correction to this sentence is great. It does not matter if we present our hobbies as a series of verbs that end in “ing” (gerunds), or as a list of “to + verbs” (infinitives). All that matters is that we pick one form at the beginning, and stick with it throughout the list.

For the sake of practice, let’s look at a few more examples of good/bad parallelism. After that, we’ll go through a hard-level question from a real SAT.

Bad Parallelism!
Before the SAT, you should eat a healthy breakfast, sleep adequately, and don’t forget your admission ticket!

Good Parallelism!
Before the SAT, you should eat a healthy breakfast, get adequate sleep, and remember your admission ticket!

Bad Parallelism:
As soon as Katrina gets home, she studies biology, bakes cookies, and then she will play basketball.

Good Parallelism!
As soon as Katrina gets home, she studies biology, bakes cookies, and plays basketball.

Bad Parallelism!
The knight was charming, brave, and he had a great body!

Good Parallelism!
The knight was charming, brave, and physically fit!

Bad Parallelism!
Indian summer, Armageddon and being affected by climate change are all possible explanations for this unseasonably warm weather.

Good Parallelism!
Indian summer, Armageddon, and climate change are all possible explanations for this unseasonably warm weather.

Ok, I think you get the idea…


Let’s conclude by solving this hard-level question from a real SAT:

All species of sea turtles are endangered because of overharvesting of adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habitats.
(A)   of overharvesting of adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habitats
(B)   of the adults being overharvested, their eggs disturbed, and destroying nesting habitats
(C)   the overharvesting of adults, disturbance of their eggs, and destruction of nesting habits
(D)   the adults are overharvested, their eggs are disturbed, and their nesting habits are destroyed
(E)    being overharvested as adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habits

Even though this is a hard-level question, we should immediately recognize that it’s testing our knowledge of parallel structure. Why? Because the underlined portion is a list, of course.

According to the principle of parallelism, each item in this list must take the same form. In the first and third items (“overharvesting of adults” and “destruction of nesting habitats“), the verb comes before the noun. However, in the second item (“their eggs being disturbed“) the noun comes before the verb. Ugh! This list is one ugly mishmosh of un-parallel parts!

To fix this sentence, look for the answer choice that presents each item of the list in parallel form. When you have selected your answer, hit the link below to see if you’re correct!

Answer and Explanation

09 Oct 2012

Five Ways to De-stress after the SAT

High school seniors: How did this Saturday’s administration of the SAT go?

Wait! Don’t answer that!


…Because now that the test is over, you should be focused on de-stressing. After all, scores won’t be released for another three weeks! Why get all worked up evaluating your test-performance when you don’t even know your grade?

Yes. I thought you would agree with me. That’s why I wrote this blog entry on five ways to de-stress after the SAT. With these strategies, you can decompress and remain relaxed while you wait for your scores.

Let go of your mistakes

Pencils down!  Turn in the test. Take a deep breath and… Crap! I just remembered the meaning of that vocab word! And it was the answer! Or: Shoot! I should have used the Pythagorean Theorem to solve that math problem I left blank!

An especially crappy aspect of the SAT is that we tend to realize our mistakes once the test is over—and obsess about them endlessly. While reflecting on your test experience is important, it is NOT useful to consume yourself with questions missed. This is because fixating on questions bombed without also acknowledging those we aced can lead us to think we failed the test. In reality, we probably did just fine.

If you truly believe you BOMBED the test (as in, you didn’t answer the questions, got a vomit-inducing migraine, or wrote your essay on Fifty Shades of Gray) you can cancel your scores. Once you decide to do this, however, there is no going back. You must accept this decision without regret, and then start prepping for the next SAT.

Grab lunch with friends

The only fun part of the SAT is eating lunch when it’s over. Once dismissed from the test-site, head to the diner with a few of your friends to eat and laugh off post-SAT stress.

Exercise or Meditate

Exercise is a fantastic way to let go of stress built up during the exam. Not only does exercise trigger the brain to produce endorphins (natural, mood-enhancing hormones) but exercise also requires you to focus on your body’s movements in the present moment—that is, away from the SAT. Finally, exercise is literally exhausting. After a good workout, you’ll simply feel too tired to worry about how you scored on the SAT.

Meditation is also an excellent way to dispense with stress accrued through the day. My last blog entry focused on the benefits of meditation for students. Without restating the whole thing here, I will say that meditation teaches us to accept and let go of frustrations and mistakes. Like exercise, meditation also commands deep, unwavering focus. If you are having trouble enacting de-stressing technique #1, meditation should help you let go of your mistakes and tolerate uncertainty about your scores.

Spend some time with the television  

Months of test-prep on top of regular school work, socializing, and extracurricular activities means you probably missed out on a lot of TV. Celebrate the fact that the SAT is done by watching a movie/TV or by doing another completely passive (but thoroughly relaxing) activity.

Even if you’re planning to test again, allow yourself a couple of study-free days to enjoy some free time and bathe in the television’s soft blue glow.

Remind yourself that all will be fine—even if you bombed the SAT.

As much as the SAT matters… it really doesn’t matter.

Solid SAT scores are a vital part of your application to college, but it’s important to remember that admissions officials also consider your grades, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and personal statement. In other words, the SAT is not the be-all and end-all that determines your fate.

Even if lower-than-desired SAT scores keep you from admission to your top-choice school, you may find yourself at a college better suited to your interests, current academic skillset, and style of learning. In this case, lower-than-desired SAT scores would actually have benefited your personal, social, and academic growth.

The SAT means working hard to do your best on a grueling test, and then putting the experience behind you. Now that the test is over, you should rejoice! No matter your score, you should feel proud of yourself; you have just completed a necessary step on the pathway to college.


These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Accrue: to accumulate

28 Jun 2012

How to Achieve Your Goals, Part 2: Getting into a Good Routine

When I was in high school, I hated the idea of routine. It sounded so stiff, fixed, and boring. I wanted to be passionate! Friends, teachers, and parents should see me as spontaneous and creative, I thought.

As I have gotten older, however, I’ve come to realize that routines and goals are like yin and yang—they are interdependent and bring one another to fruition. Routines allow us to take control of our lives. Instead of flaking out, procrastinating, or becoming overwhelmed by banal tasks, routine followers calmly navigate their daily duties and make steady progress toward long-term goals.

On Tuesday, I explained that long-term goals must be broken down into a series of small steps. Since achieving long-term goals means prioritizing such steps, we must work them into our daily routines. In this blog entry, I will therefore outline a good daily routine for high school students that emphasizes daily progress toward long-term goals.

A Good Daily Routine for High School Students:

Before Bed:

1.) A few hours before bed, identify twomain goals for the next day. These can be large and time consuming, like writing an essay, or as simple as signing up for SAT prep. Your two main goals are the most important tasks you have for the day. Even if you get nothing else done, completing your two main goals will mean you’ve had a productive day.

2.) After you’ve identified your 2 main goals, write a longer list of things to do if you have time.

3.) Prepare for the next day by laying out your clothes, packing your lunch, and making sure everything you need for school is already in your backpack.

4.) Relax a little by reading a book before bed. Not only is this an enjoyable activity, but independent reading will also help you prepare for the SAT/ACT!

5.) Go to bed early enough to guarantee you’ll feel rested in the morning.


In the Morning:

1.) Wake up in plenty of time to get ready for school. Nothing throws off a productive day like rushing out of the house unclean, unkempt, and unprepared.

2.) Eat breakfast!

3.) Do a little reading or a crossword puzzle over breakfast or on your way to school. This light mental workout will have you sharp and focused just in time for school.

After School and Extracurricular Activities:

1.) Take a break, but do not let this break turn into procrastination. Taking a break is a productive activity; it refreshes your mind so you can continue attacking important tasks. A productive break lasts about 30 minutes–1 hour.

2.) Get to work on the 2 main goals you identified the night before. As these are your most important tasks for the day, you should complete them before working on anything else. Remember, procrastinating by doing less important (though still productive) tasks is still procrastinating! Starting work on these projects right away will also ensure you have enough time to do them well.

3.) Finish your homework and/or household chores. If one of your main goals was a homework assignment, you have one less thing to worry about!

4.) Take 30 minutes–1 hour every day to work on tasks you dread and tend to put off. For some students, this will turn into SAT/ACT study time. Dedicating a specific (short!) amount of time each day to working on dreaded tasks not only ensures steady progress, but it will also make these tasks feel less daunting.

5.) At some point, you’ll obviously need to eat dinner. Eat something nutritious! 


Before Bed (We’ve come full circle, eh?)

1.) Reflect for a bit on the day that has just passed. Did you manage your daily responsibilities and accomplish your main goals? If not, why? Did you procrastinate? Forget to do something? Or were your main goals too ambitious to complete in one day? Now is the time to think about what went wrong so you can make adjustments for tomorrow.

2.) Repeat the process. You know the drill.


These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Fruition: completion; accomplishment; maturity
Banal: commonplace; everyday; mundane
Abide by: to follow

26 Jun 2012

How to Achieve Your Goals, Part 1: Planning for Long-Term Success

One day, Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, was asked by a young student, “How do you get to Mount Olympus?” Aristotle replied, “By simply ensuring that each step you take is toward Mount Olympus.”

Aristotle’s response is surprising. Usually when someone asks me for directions, I lay out a comprehensive plan. Walk straight for 5 blocks, I might say. Turn right at the church and you’ll see the mountain on your left. Instead of specifying a plan or worrying about the future, however, Aristotle instructs his student to simply concentrate on the present step. Only when this step is complete should the student concern himself with the next.

Back in February, Marcus (an awesome tutor here at Sentia) argued for the importance of setting goals when studying for admissions tests. In this blog entry, I will give some suggestions for how to make these goals actually happen. To do this, we don’t need to create a comprehensive final plan. We merely must identify and complete a series of next steps.

 How to Achieve Your Long-Term Goals:

 1.) Define your goals.

To achieve your goals, you must first figure out what they are. Since you have stumbled across the Sentia Education blog, I’m going to assume you’re a student aiming for a college or graduate degree. A lofty goal indeed!

Once you’ve identified your ultimate, long-term goal (COLLEGE! GRAD SCHOOL!), you must make a list of sub-goals. Sub-goals are all the projects you’ll need to complete before attaining your ultimate goal. For example, most colleges require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Thus, if you’re a high school student applying to college, taking the SAT or ACT is an important sub-goal.

As you move forward with the method I describe below, you will continue to break your goals down into smaller and smaller pieces.

 2.) Force yourself to Just Get Started!

Beginning work on a big project can be daunting—especially if you’re not sure where to start or how much work you’ll need to do. In the germinal stage of any endeavor, it’s generally best to suspend such worries and focus on getting something—anything—done. This is the first step. Once you have taken the first step, you will find it easier to identify the next.

Setting a precise, limited work-time will make it easier to start work on your goal. To begin, challenge yourself to work for 30 minutes today. Stop working after 30 minutes, no matter how paltry your progress. You have made admirable headway just by forcing yourself to sit down, “break the ice,” and attack your goal. (Keep working, of course, if you’re being productive and don’t want to stop!)

When you are finished for today, schedule your next short work session. And so forth.

3.) Break your goal into a series of small tasks.

 The first step here is figuring out exactly how long you have to complete your goal. Then, you will make a list of things you know you need to do to complete this goal.

For instance, if you’re studying for the SAT, one of your first actions will be to register for the exam. Perhaps you will take it this October?

There are 15 weeks between now and the October 6 SAT. What do you need to do before then? A diligent student might write: I need to take & review practice sections; learn grammar concepts; and memorize 300 vocab words.

Continue to break down this list until you have a series of mini-goals to complete at specific times in the immediate future. Once again, our diligent student might here resolve to: learn 20 vocab words each week to memorize 300 in 15 weeks; take and review 3 practice sections each week; study grammar concepts for 1 hour each week.

 And there we have it! We have defined our next steps.

4.) Make a schedule of times to complete your mini-goals.

Once you’ve established a series of mini-goals, you will want to create a regular work-schedule to get them done. Creating a schedule for completing your mini-goals will not only cause the overall project to feel less overwhelming, but it will also force you to make this work a priority.

Treat each one of your scheduled work-sessions as a commitment you cannot break. I cannot emphasize this enough. Unless there is a serious (and I mean serious) emergency, you must honor and abide by the schedule you make.

Tip: Establishing a regular place (or—better yet—a few places) to go to work on your goal will help these sessions feel more like actual appointments. In addition, your brain will begin to associate such special spots with working on your goal, so you can get focused faster.

5.) Monitor your progress every step of the way.

 Let’s say you’re studying for the SAT. You have made a schedule whereby you take 3 practice exam sections each week. On Monday, you take a Math section, grade it, and learn you got all but 4 questions wrong. Ouch!

Sounds like it’s time to re-evaluate your work schedule and set some new mini-goals!

At this moment in time, you might set a mini-goal of getting a Sentia tutor to help you with math. You might also set a goal of re-learning concepts covered in the questions you got wrong. In either case, you are rethinking your plan to counter unexpected challenges. In other words, you less concerned with sticking to a pre-formed plan than with identifying and taking the appropriate next steps.

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

 Lofty: exalted in rank, dignity, or character; noble
Germinal: being in the earliest stage of development
Paltry: ridiculously small

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

05 Jun 2012

How to read actively and score more points!

Love it or hate it, SAT Critical Reading is important. Not only do college admissions officials pay great attention to SAT Critical Reading scores, but studying for SAT Critical Reading can actually help you learn to process & comprehend college-level texts—important skills for success in college and beyond. In this blog entry, I will describe how to use active reading strategies to help you become a better reader. If you practice these strategies regularly, I guarantee your reading level will advance and you will score more points on the SAT.

What is active reading?

Active reading means using strategies to increase one’s comprehension and retention of a text.

Active readers probe the limits of a text. They habitually “read between the lines,” which means they make inferences and uncover meanings buried beneath the literal wording of a text. Active readers ask questions, make connections, and examine an author’s use of language to work through what they don’t immediately understand.

SAT passage-based reading questions require students to make inferences and identify the implied meanings of challenging texts; therefore, becoming an active reader is crucial for SAT success.

How to become an active reader:

1) Define a set of goals for reading.

Defining a set of goals not only helps us stay focused as we read, but it also prepares us to monitor our comprehension. If you know precisely what you aim to get from reading, it will be easier for you to supervise your understanding of a text.

Lucky for you, the SAT hands you a prepackaged set of goals, articulated in the questions asked about each passage. As an active SAT passage reader, your goals are to understand:

— The subject of the passage – What is the author writing about?
— The argument of the passage – What position does the author take on the subject? What is the passage trying to show or describe?
— The structure of the passage – What supporting points does the author use to back up the argument?  How do different parts of the passage relate to each other and contribute to the meaning as a whole?
— The tone of the passage – How does the author feel about the subject he/she is writing about?

Fiction passages, which make up 10% of the passages on each SAT, present a slightly different challenge. In addition to the above-mentioned goals, active readers seek to understand:

— The relationships between characters – What do the different characters think of each other? Do the character’s feelings toward each other change during the story? What devices are used to convey this relationship?
— The use of figurative language in the passage – Why does the author describe things the way he/she does? What impressions do these descriptions create? How do these descriptions reinforce and/or add to the overall meaning of the passage?

2) Take notes as you read

Everyone has fleeting impressions, questions, and thoughts about what they read. Forcing yourself to take notes is a great way to slow down your reading process and give yourself time to fully think through each question or thought. In addition, highlighting, underlining, and annotating texts helps you stay focused as you read. Finally, taking notes is a great way to mark information you may need to look at again in the future.

Good notes concern:

Questions about the text – Mark sections that are confusing, surprising, or that you may want to reflect on later. Also think about and write down a short response to these questions—even if you’re unsure.
— New vocabulary words – It’s a great idea to underline new vocabulary and write definitions in the margins.
— Anything that pertains to your goals for reading –If you’re reading a fiction SAT passage, for instance, you’ll want to mark and reflect on the purpose of figurative language.
— Important points – Always mark sections that state the main idea of a reading.
— Predictions about what will happen next – How do you think the text will end, and what is causing you to think this?
— Connections between the text and things from your daily life – Does a story’s plot remind you of a movie? Does the main character remind you of your mom? Use things from your everyday life to put the text into terms you understand.
— Anything that makes you think! — Any thought, question or idea you have is likely important and worth reflection.

3) Reflect after reading

It is super important to properly digest everything you read. Here are some strategies to help you make sense of texts once you have read them.

— Keep a reading journal – Writing about your impressions will help you think more deeply about what you have read. To begin, just write whatever comes into your head without stopping or thinking about it. Once you’ve arrived at a thought or question you wish to pursue, try to write 2-pages arguing a claim or exploring this question.
— Relate the text to your personal life – Ask yourself: Do the characters in the text remind you of anyone you know? Have you ever been in a situation similar to one described in the book? What does the language of the text reveal about our culture/society, and do you agree with the author’s point of view?
— Discuss texts with teachers, parents, or friends – Discussing books and articles with others allows us to consider points and ideas we wouldn’t have thought of alone. Also, having to defend ideas in a debate/disagreement is a great way to get yourself thinking deeply.

4) Read challenging material, but don’t read too much.

Have you ever sat down to read a challenging text, filled with arcane words and excruciatingly complex sentence structures?  If so, you probably had to work extremely hard to get the basic gist of the text and had little energy left over to think about its themes, implications, and layers of meaning.

Although reading difficult material is necessary to advancing as a reader, you must make sure to read this material actively. Thoroughly reading just one paragraph of an extremely difficult text is more beneficial than reading 100 pages you only superficially understand. To get the most from reading, set goals that take into account the energy required to read actively. In addition, allow yourself to take breaks if you get tired while reading and start to lose focus.

And, to sum it all up…

Getting into the habit of reading actively is super important, but takes practice. If you regularly use the strategies listed above to read difficult texts, I guarantee your comprehension skills and reading level will improve. In turn, you will find it easy to attack the Passage-Based Reading questions on the SAT.

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Arcane: Obscure information known by a few people