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Archive for March 2010



SAT IIs- When to take them

Question: Should my freshman son be taking the SAT II in Biology? He is just finishing up Bio 1.
Answer: No, he is not ready.
(Unless he is ready to learn Bio II before the test.)

The above question is one of many I get regarding the timing of SAT IIs.
You submit an SAT II score to show a college admissions board that you have mastered a subject. Some colleges require certain SAT II scores to determine your placement. In either case, mastery is rarely achieved in a beginning level course. This is not to say that an avid student might not score well, but that is usually with significant preparation beyond the basic material learned in class. SAT IIs are best taken after an advance course.
Here is a suggested timetable. Take the subject test as soon after completion of the course suggested. With all classes, take honors or AP if possible.

Foreign Languages: Language level 4
Sciences: Biology 2, Chemistry 2, Physics 2
Literature: AP Literature, English 3
Math Ic: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II
Math IIc: Pre-Calculus, or Algebra 3 with Trigonometry
US History: US History 2 or US I and US Government
World History: World History

As with anything you do, you know yourself best, so if you truly feel you are ready, go ahead and take the test. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the test information and format first by checking out the free test questions on And remember, studying for these tests is a good idea- they are a way to show colleges what you know and a great score will definitely be an advantage when acceptance decisions are made.
All the best!

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College graduates- Get a job!

A job is the place to see and to be seen. It does not have the be your dream job, your forever job, or even pay all the bills, but you need to get a job to begin your career and you can make it work for you.
Don’t just work. Go after your career choice the day after graduation.
If you are a recent college graduate, you already know that jobs are scarce. Scarce, yes. Non-existent? No. Get a job. Or volunteer. Be in the workplace. Show off your ability. Learn skills. Connect. You need to show a potential boss what you can do. Have a degree in education? Substitute or be an aide in the classroom- you may be tapped for the next teaching job when it becomes available. Volunteer: who would turn down your offer of free help a few hours a week? Go to a business you would like to get to know better and offer your services. Again- be professional- dress well, show up on time, work hard. Even if you are not in corporate America, your work ethic shows wherever you are seen.
Internships- a great opportunity but not the final destination.
If you are in college and get offered an internship, take it! But don’t be tempted to quit college or put off finishing your degree. When the job is exciting, and the money starts rolling in, its easy to think it will last forever. But remember, what you are making at 19 may not be enough for you at age 30. And if you don’t finish that degree, you will continue to get paid for the education level at which you stopped. A degree in necessary. That is why your employer chose you – an intern, someone seeking an education. Companies want college graduates- you are just lucky that they get to know you ahead of time so they will want you even more when you graduate. Then you will get paid what you are really worth! Stick with the plan- work hard, intern, graduate, and then the world is your oyster!
Taking yourself seriously is Job 1.
Don’t just work to pay the bills- work to move up. Dress for success, act like a responsible adult. You will get noticed by someone- your boss, a satisfied customer- someone who can offer you better. Hang in there and take yourself seriously. Your education is done for now and studies have shown that, in addition to a college degree, more years working mean more money later in life. Is it experience? Who knows? Get to work.

All the best!

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Subject test: Maybe, maybe not.

The Subject tests are SAT IIs (“SAT 2s”), which test on specific topics such as math, languages, literature, biology, and more. No subject tests are given in March, and language with listening is only given on specific dates and requires special equipment. Visit to see the exact schedule and take a free subject test. Many colleges do not require an SAT II.

Step 1: Know
Either your intended area of study or how selective your college choice may be. . .
Visit the website of a college you are interested in and click on admissions and then application process. Some may have it directly on that page, others may have you open a requirement grid because they request different tests for different majors. For instance, Cornell wants 1 and sometimes 2 subject tests; an engineering applicant needs one in Math and one in a science, whereas a Hotel Administration applicant needs only one in math.

Step 2: Plan
Recall that SAT IIs are administered on the same dates as SAT I (the one you take to apply to college), so you cannot take SAT I and SATII on the same day. Each SAT II takes 1 hour and you can take up to 3 on the same test date- that is a lot of focus and a lot of studying beforehand! If you are preparing for any AP tests, the best time to take an SAT II is May, the same week as the AP tests. Take the SAT II in the same subjects as your AP tests so you don’t have to double up your studying- Truly the best use of your time and effort. That means you can take the SAT I in June, and focus all your energy on that after AP’s are over and before exams bog you down. Or maybe October (last opportunity for early decision) or November of senior year is a better time so you can study over the summer.

Step 3: Prepare
Study! It is the best way to do well on a subject test. Get to know the format so when you get in there, you can show what you know.

All the best!

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Accidents Happen- Stay Cool

Well, the March SAT is now history and the calls, texts, and emails from DVD users here and abroad are coming in. Sounds like you all did well!
Thanks so much for keeping me informed. I love your feedback and your stories- both successes and disappointments. Today, I want to share two events because they could happen to anyone.

Know where your test center is- drive there sometime before the test if possible.
Kyle left home the morning of his test early, punched the address into his GPS, and arrived 20 minutes early, only to find 6 other cars lined up in front of a house, not a school! Turns out, there are 2 places with the same address. Kyle called his dad, who told him to “just come home”. No way! Kyle was ready. He called the school’s number, which he found on his admission ticket (smart!), and was told that they would wait! All seven cars headed over and were only 30 minutes late. The students were rushed in and helped to quickly fill out the personal information on the scantron and began the test along with everyone else. Kyle was not nervous or flustered by the confusion- just happy he could take the test. He had put in so much time and effort that he did not want to wait until May.

Make a mistake on the answer sheet?
Get help from the proctor.

Trey, a get IT DVD user, told me that on his January SAT he discovered he was marking the answers for section 6 in the section 7 grid. Rather than try to erase everything and lose test time, he resumed in section 6 and then told the proctor immediately after time was called. The proctor helped him fix the error, and also filled out a report that accompanied his score sheet to explain the error. Trey’s scores were released a week later than most scores, but he did his best and did not become flummoxed; his Critical Reading increased 120 points and his Writing 110. His results were too important to him to let a small mistake affect his performance.

Mistakes are made, accidents happen, but they don’t need to affect more than the moment in which they occur. Both boys were smart- each studied hard and focused on the outcome rather than giving up quickly in frustration. It is best to prepare for the test, and determine to stay calm and focused. Do your best; if all else fails, there is always another test date.
All the best!

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Getting ready for the SAT or ACT is really just about being educated- after all, that is why a college looks at a board score- to determine if your education level is a correct fit. Starting early is easier than starting late:

* You have more time to study, and thus time to skip a day (or week, or month) when you are really busy.

* Learning takes time for the information to sink in!
Allow time for repetition.

* Prepare while you are learning the same material in class.
Let’s say you are in Geometry, and you are learning about triangles; knowing you will see this again on the PSAT or ACT makes it relevant and encourages mastery for the long term rather than just for the next unit test in class and then a quick review before the final. The same with vocabulary; why cram fast the night before just to get the A? Rather, you will need to know these words: review every day before the test, then cram if you need to, but then review them again everyday for the week after the test. Really know the words and use them so you learn them.

*Sign up on for the question of the day.
You can do this even if you are in fifth or sixth grade. Each day the question has answers and explanations. So, you may learn a little, but more likely, you will recognize topics more readily in class because you have been primed- you have seen it before. This “memory” helps so much when learning. The questions are emailed to you daily, so it is an easy way to get used to how questions are asked on the test. And it is free.

*Begin studying by the middle of Algebra I
By end of freshman year (or earlier if you take Algebra 1 early) purchase good review materials and do a little each week or month. Remember, it is easier to reinforce what you have learned recently than to learn something all over again- and it will help with your school grades. For in depth explanations, look at my DVDs on
Finally, if you feel overwhelmed, remember that you want to go to a college that will work for you. Your scores reflect what you’ve learned more than your ability- if you haven’t learned it all yet, you can find a college that will fill in what you need to know, and will present material in a way that is best for you.

All the best!

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Today I had a very concerned mother, Barbara, ask me if she had made a mistake signing her daughter up for the March SAT. Seems another mother, Marcy, told her March was “harder” because “lots of smart kids take it in March.” Marcy also warned Barbara against October. She recommended May.
Here are some facts:
The tests scores are based on the test, not on the other test takers.
There is an equating section on every test that does not count towards the overall score. It counts towards making future tests, thus ensuring that a test score reflects the material tested and thus each individual student’s score. How could it be otherwise and still be a fair test?

If you study and feel ready then it is a good time to take the test.
Barbara’s daughter had been studying for 2 months- why wait?

March is a down time from many activities.
Many sports events and clubs are winding down in the beginning of March , so take the test at a time that fits your schedule.

Especially in NJ, March is ideal
State tests (such as HSPA) are administered the week before the SAT. Students are in “test mode” and they have a week free of homework to study! Perfect timing.

Relax! The SAT and ACT are hot topics, especially in Junior and Senior year. But, if you listen to every rumor, you will never find the test date that is perfect for you.

All the best!

Any questions? email me at
and check out my websites: and

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Great SAT preparation begins early

The best time to begin preparation for the SAT is January of the sophomore year. There are so many variables to consider: time frame, academics, maturity, and motivation.
Time frame
Sophomore year is a busy for many students, but not quite as busy as junior year is likely to be. In the junior year, many students are on varsity sports or in special ensembles in band and chorus, may take a paying job, may be visiting colleges, and are generally more active socially. In addition, students, especially those interested in more selective schools or special college programs, may be required to take subject tests (SAT II), which are administered on the same days as the SAT (SAT I – reasoning test-the one everyone takes). Some subject tests, such as language listening tests, may be available only on certain test dates. This means that the number of test dates available in junior year is significantly less than you may have first thought, meaning the number of spring test dates will be fewer, so you may have to test earlier than you thought- not possible if you don’t realize until late in the year.
Combine that with other obligations: Prom frequently falls suspiciously near the May date at many schools; a great sports team may have a schedule that extends far beyond the usual season; band and chorus competitions are numerous. The list goes on and on- juniors are very busy people.
Know the dates so you can plan ahead.
Above are just some conflicts that may affect test dates. Imagine trying to study intensely with all that going on! So, begin studying sophomore year. Math grades will improve, as will retention. And learn vocabulary now and skip the thesaurus when writing English papers- use your increased vocabulary- then you won’t lose it!

All the best!

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