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Taking the SAT: What to Expect on Test Day

2012-02-14 12:00:03

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

Breakdown of the Test:

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

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

5-minute break. You can leave the room to eat, drink & use the restroom.
Section 3 (25 minutes)
Section 4 (25 minutes)

1-minute break. You can stand up and stretch, but you cannot leave the room.
Section 5 (25 minutes)
Section 6 (25 minutes)

5-minute break. You can leave the room to eat, drink & use the restroom.
Section 7 (25 minutes)
Section 8 (20 minutes)
Section 9 (20 minutes)
Section 10 (Writing) (10 minutes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAT Grammar: Spot dangling modifiers to score more points!

2012-02-16 10:12:41

Whenever you see an introductory modifying clause on any SAT Writing section, your grammar antenna should start freaking out. Why? Chances are these questions are testing something very specific... something I itch to divulge.

What is an introductory modifying clause? An introductory modifying clause modifies the subject of the sentence's main clause. For example:

Thrilled with her scores on the SAT, Alison quickly began working on her application to Harvard.

Here, the underlined portion of the sentence is the introductory modifying clause, because it modifies, or tells us something about, Alison. Because the introductory modifying clause describes Alison, "Alison" must come immediately after the comma.

Let's take a look at a level 5 question from an actual SAT:

Prized for their brilliance and durability, people will spend thousands of dollars on high-quality diamonds.

  • (A) Prized for their brilliance and durability, people will spend thousands of dollars on high-quality diamonds.

  • (B) Prized for their brilliance and durability, thousands of dollars are spent by people on high quality diamonds.

  • (C) Prizing them for their brilliance as well as their durability, thousands of dollars can be spent by people on high quality diamonds.

  • (D) Prizing the brilliance and durability of high-quality diamonds, people will spend thousands of dollars for them.

  • (E) Prizing high-quality diamonds for their brilliance and durability are what makes people spend thousands of dollars for them.

Even though the entire sentence is underlined, you should immediately recognize that "Prized for their brilliance and durability," is an introductory modifying clause. Thus, you need to ask yourself: what is this clause describing?

Answer: High-quality diamonds.

Well, self, does the phrase, "high-quality diamonds" come immediately after the comma?

Answer: No, the word, "people" does. How ridiculous! People are not praised for their brilliance and durability!

Normally, we'd improve this sentence by searching for the answer choice that correctly places "high-quality diamonds" beside the introductory modifying clause. For this level 5 question, however, we'll need to alter the modifier, itself. Take a look a the answer choices. For each, you'll need to look at the introductory modifying clause, ask yourself what it is describing, and double check that the subject of the modifier comes immediately after the comma. When you've selected an answer, hit the link below to see if you're correct.

The correct answer is D.

In choice (D), the introductory modifying clause is: "prizing the brilliance and durability of high quality diamonds". Who prizes the brilliance and durability of high quality diamonds? People do! And "people" comes immediately after the comma.

What about the other answer choices?

  • We already know that choice (A) doesn't work, because the introductory modifying clause "prized for their brilliance and durability" describes high-quality diamonds, not people.

  • Apply the same logic to rule out choice (B). Again, in choice (B), the introductory modifying clause describes high-quality diamonds, but the phrase, "thousands of dollars" comes after the comma.

  • In choice (C), the modifier, "prizing them for their brilliance as well as their durability" tells us about people. Alas! The phrase, "thousands of dollars" follows the comma, so you can cross (C) out.

  • Choice (E) is incorrect because it contains a subject-verb agreement error, as the verb "are" does not agree in number with the subject, "[the act of] prizing high-quality diamonds". I will address subject-verb agreement in a tutorial to come.

Expert Test Tips: Our Changing GMAT® Times

2012-02-17 18:48:58

In recent years, many of the standardized tests we’ve come to know and love hate accept as a necessary evil have changed formats. And now the GMAT® is following suit: starting on June 5, the test will eliminate one of the essays and insert the new Integrated Reasoning section. While this change is really not a huge one (it’s a small facelift, not full reconstructive surgery), it does offer one more hurdle for the prospective MBA student.

The new section will be a 30-minute section that comes after the essay (in place of the Issue essay that exists in the current test format). It’ll contain 12 multiple-choice questions that fall into four categories. You’ll be asked to interpret information from graphs (called “Graphics Interpretation” questions), use the same set of information to find two different things (called “Two-Part Analysis” questions), read and analyze tables (called “Table Analysis” questions), and interpret paired reading passages (called “Multi-Source Reasoning” questions). On the new section, you’ll be given the option of using a calculator on the screen, and you’ll be able to sort the information on the screen as you see fit. Occasionally, there will be more than one question per passage, and frequently there will be more than one answer you need to select per question.

While all of that sounds kind of terrifying, each of the skills tested are ones you use elsewhere on the existing test. For instance, during the Analytical Writing Assessment, you have to analyze an argument using verbal reasoning. This skill is again tested on Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions. Data Sufficiency questions on the Quantitative section of the test already test your ability to evaluate information from multiple sources, and every Quantitative question ultimately asks you to solve problems. So, really, the Integrated Reasoning Section measures redundant skills in a new format.

Still, you’ll need to prepare for this format. And the only good way of preparing for it is to familiarize your brain with the new question formats. Right now, there aren’t that many practice questions available, though after June 5, there will likely be a plethora of them.  So, the best advice we can give is that you’re probably better off taking the exam before the changes are made, since the scores will still be good for five years after the date of your test. Additionally, we all know exactly what the current test format looks like and how to approach each existing section (you’re just writing an additional essay), meaning you can prepare for it more easily than you can the Integrated Reasoning section. It’s always easier to prepare for the known than the unknown, or at the least, under-known, right?

SAT Question of the Day

2012-02-21 09:00:08

The distance in miles from Boston to five other cities is 44, 76, 52, 71, and 54. If a kilometer is approximately .62 miles, how many of the five cities are more than 85 kilometers away from Boston?
A) 1
B) 2
C) 3
D) 4
E) 5

The correct answer is C

Explanation:  We are converting miles to kilometers and know only that a kilometer is .62 miles.

If we were converting kilometers to miles, it would be as simple as taking the number of kilometers and multiplying it by .62, but, instead, we're moving from miles to kilometers, meaning we need to do the opposite of that (in an equation, this would be .62k = m, meaning m/.62 = k). Hence, we will take the number of miles and divide it by .62 to find the number of kilometers. Start with the middle distance, since any distance greater or less than that can be eliminated depending on the outcome of the middle value. 54 miles is the middle distance, so divide 54 by .62, which is just over 87 miles. Thus, that city is more than 85 km away from Boston, as are the two cities that are 71 and 76 miles away. You may as well check 52 to make sure it doesn't work. 52/.62 = .84, so it doesn't work, meaning our answer is C: 3 cities.

SAT Question of the Day

2012-02-22 09:00:55

When I first arrived in Colorado, I wanted to go skiing, but I quickly learned I liked to snowboard better.

A) but I quickly learned I liked to snowboard better.
B) but I quickly learned I liked snowboarding best.
C) and I quickly learned I liked to snowboard better.
D) however I quickly learned I liked snowboarding better.
E) but I quickly learned I liked snowboarding better.

The correct answer is E

Explanation: As written, the prompt contains an error, as it makes a comparison between two verbs that are not parallel in form. A proper comparison compares logical things that are written in the same way. Here, the prompt compares "skiing" to "to snowboard." Choice E corrects this error by changing "snowboard" to "snowboarding," guaranteeing parallelism.

SAT Question of the Day

2012-02-23 09:00:02

A sequence of 4 consecutive integers is multiplied together. Which of the following could be their product?

I. -24
II. 0
III. 24

A) I only
B) II only
C) III only
D) II and III only
E) I, II, and III only

The correct answer is D

Explanation: Since the question asks what "could be true," if you can find one situation in which the statement in question works, then it is a correct answer. Check each statement individually, and cross off any answer choice that contains a Roman Numeral that does not work or does not contain one that does work. Let's start with III, since it appears in most of the answer choices.

III: This works for the lowest four positive numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4. 4! (4 factorial) is 24, as 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24.  Get rid of answer choices A and B since they do not contain Statement III, which is clearly true. Now, check statement II.

II: This works, as any set of numbers multiplied by 0 will always be 0. Thus, -3, -2, -1, and 0 will have a product of 0, as will any other set of consecutive integers hovering around 0. Cross out answer choice C since it does not include statement II. Finally, check statement I.

I: This will not work for any numbers, since the product of an even set of numbers would only be negative if there were an odd number of negative numbers. However, any number set that contains both odd and even numbers, in this case, would have to include 0, since the number sets here are all consecutive numbers (so, if  a set contained -1, 1, and 2, it would also include 0). Anything multiplied by 0, of course, will have a product of 0, not -24. Thus, cross out choice E. This leaves one answer, the correct one: choice D.

SAT Question of the Day

2012-02-24 09:00:20

At a young age, I was most amazed by the ______ quality of the carnival, the fact that it was here one day and completely gone the next.

A) tensile    B)taut    C) terrestrial    D) temporal    E) tenacious

The correct answer is D

Explanation: This sentence uses a descriptive clause to provide the meaning of the missing word. Everything after the comma describes or defines the missing word. Thus, the missing word means something akin to "brief" or "not permanent," since the "quality of the carnival" that "amazed" the narrator was "the fact that it was  here one day and completely gone the next." "Temporal" means "not lasting forever," so choice D is correct.

None of the other choices work, either:

Tensile: capable of being stretched (this has nothing to do with brevity or not being permanent)

Taut: tight (this has no relationship at all to anything in the prompt)

Terrestrial: earthly (being "earthly" or real has nothing to do with brevity or a lack of permanence)

Tenacious: holding fast (if anything, this is the opposite of a proper answer choice)

Creating Your First Resume: A Tutorial

2012-02-21 19:20:39

Looking for your first job or internship? Then you'll need to create a strong resume to display your skills and impress potential employers. In this blog entry I will discuss why creating a resume as a high school student is important, and provide some tips and suggestions to help you do so.

Why Create a Resume as a High School Student?

Few high school students realize the usefulness of creating a strong resume. A resume is a summary of your achievements and qualifications. It's a professional snapshot--kind of like a FaceBook profile, but directed toward a different audience. When applying for your first job or internship, you can use your resume to help you stand out from the crowd, as a resume lets you  include information not requested on most applications. A resume is also neat & easy to look at, refreshing against swarms of messily-penned applications picked up at the prospective place of work.

OK! I'm convinced!

But... If I've never had a job, how do I create a resume??

If you've never had a job as a high school student, not to worry! Most high school students haven't. As long as you're applying for an entry level position, you will not be expected to have previous work experience. There are many other things to include on your resume. If you have, however, had a job before, be sure to include this information!

What to Include:

There are four main sections on every student resume: Contact Information, Education, Experience, and Activities/Interests.

Contact Information

--- Includes your name, address, telephone number, and your e-mail address.

--- Should go on the top of the page

--- Make sure you have a professional and appropriate e-mail address! Nobody will hire you if your e-mail address is CrazyGirl69@hotmail.com!


 --- This should come next, as school is ostensibly your first priority and primary occupation.

--- List your school & its location, your expected graduation year, and your GPA if it is 3.0 or above.

--- You can also include your class rank, scholastic awards/achievements (have you been on the honor role?) and your SAT or ACT scores if they are high.


Mamaroneck High School, Mamaroneck, NY, Diploma Expected June 2013
GPA: 3.5/4.0; Received honor roll recognition 2009-2010, 2010-2011
SAT: 700 Math, 660 Critical Reading, 680 Writing


--- If you have previous work experiences, list them here.

--- If not, describe your extracurricular activities and/or volunteer work.

--- You can even list involvement in one-time events, such as food or clothing drives, and fundraisers.

--- Use action verbs to describe what you did in these experiences. Here's an example, with action verbs in bold:

Mamaroneck High School Food Drive, Coordinator, April 2010
- Promoted event with posters and announcements
- Raised over $700 cash donations
- Distributed over 800 non-perishable items to targeted populations


--- Here you should list activites and hobbies where you don't hold a leadership position. Write only what the activity is, and the years you've been involved in it. For example: Piano Lessons, 2002-Present

--- When you're finished with your resume, be sure to have a friend or relative look it over for accuracy, typos, as well as spelling/grammar mistakes. Good luck landing your first job!

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Ostensible: outwardly appearing as such; apparent; evident

SAT Question of the Day

2012-02-27 09:00:40

If q < r < s < t, and the average (arithmetic mean) of q, r, s, and t is 6, which of the following MUST be true?

I. q + t = r + s
II. q < 5 and t > 8
III. q + r + s + t = 24

A) I only
B) III only
C) I and III
D) II and III
E) I, II, and III

The correct answer is B

Explanation: It's a "must be" prompt, so if you can find one instance that disproves the rule, you can eliminate all answers choices that involve that statement. Take them one at a time.

I. q + t = r + s. This could be true, but must it be? Let's pick some strange numbers and see what we come up with. We know from the prompt that q > r > s > t and that the four numbers must add up to 24. It doesn't say anything about the numbers being positive though. Let's pick -4 for q and 0 for r, both of which work, so long as t + s = 28, then. So let s = 1 and t = 27. Plug these in: q + t = r + s becomes -4 + 27 = 0 + 1. -23 does not equal 1, so Roman Numeral I does not hold true for all numbers.

II. q < 5 and t > 8. So far, with the number we've picked, this holds true. But, let's try something different. Let's say q = 5. If we pick 5 and it works, we can disprove II since it requires q to be less than 5. Let's also pick 7 for t. 5 + 7 = 12. Could r + s = 12? Yes, but only if we pick non-integer numbers for them. Let's say r = 5.5 and s = 6.5. Everything works,but we've found numbers to disprove Roman Numeral II.

III. q+ r + s + t = 24.  Since the average of q, r, s, and t is 6, that means that the sum of q, r, s, and t has to be 24 as average = sum of  parts/ # of parts, and we have 4 parts, so 4 x 6 = 24. III says the sum of the four parts is 24, and this has to be true.

Since only Roman Numeral 3 MUST be true, choice B is correct.

SAT Question of the Day

2012-02-29 09:00:08

If |x - 2| + 6 = 9, and |y + 3| + 4 = 11, then xy could be:

A) -10
B) -5
C) -4
D) 4
E) 50

The correct answer is C

Explanation: Take the equations one at a time and start by isolating the absolute values. Starting with the x equation:

|x - 2| + 6 = 9 turns into |x - 2| = 3 after we subtract 6 from both sides.

Now, remove the absolute value sign by writing two separate equations, one for a positive outcome and one for a negative one.

x - 2 = -3      x - 2 = 3

Solve for x, and you'll find that x could equal -1 or 5.

Now, turn to the y equation.

|y + 3| + 4 = 11 turns into |y + 3| = 7 after we subtract 4 from both sides.

Now, remove the absolute value sign by making the outcome positive and negative.

y + 3 = 7       y + 3 = -7

Solve for y in both equations, and you'll find that y could equal 4 or -10.

The last step in finding the answer is to multiply both y values by both x values to find the four potential answers. Then, see which result matches one of the answer choices. Multiplying each y by each x value gives you the following results: -4, 10, -50, and 20. Of those, only -4 is an answer choice, so that COULD be the answer, making C the answer to the question. Keep in mind, of course, that all of your four results could be the answer, but only -4 actually is an answer choice.