Alexis Avila talks about how test preparation is …
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On episode 66 of The Prepped & Polished Podcast Alexis talks to American journalist and New York Times Best Selling Author Frank Bruni. Frank is author of “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania”. Frank was chief restaurant critic of the New York Times, from 2004 to 2009. He is the author of two bestselling books, Born Round, a memoir about his family’s love of food and his own struggles with overeating, and Ambling Into History, about George W. Bush. In June 2011, he was named an Op-Ed columnist for the newspaper. Frank received his undergrad from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Masters degree in journalistm from Columbia. On today’s episode, Frank talks about college admissions mania, the anxious parents of college bound students, and why top tier schools are rejecting even straight A students.
Frank’s advice for college-bound teens, “Remember a college education if it’s part of a life plan that you can execute is an extraordinary opportunity and adventure regardless of what that colleges acceptance rate is and there is a bevy of colleges that can give you an extraordinary education”
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By Terri K., ISEE Test Prep Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
The ISEE has a Verbal Reasoning section that contains 20 sentence completions. These questions are designed to test a student’s vocabulary and reasoning ability. Each sentence completion item consists of a sentence with one missing word or pair of words followed by four potential answer choices. The student is the “detective” who must decipher the clues and select the correct word or pair of words that most appropriately completes the context of the sentence (keeping the sentence clear, logical, and consistent in style and tone). Sentence completion questions are arranged in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest. (Tip: Sentence completion questions come after synonym questions in the ISEE Verbal Reasoning section, but you can choose to do these questions first if you find them easier to answer).
Here are some tried and true tips and elimination strategies that will help you to more quickly attack and master the 20 sentence completions, since you only have approximately 30 seconds for each question:
1) A Strong Vocabulary: First and foremost, a strong vocabulary is an essential skill for the ISEE sentence completions. The best way to prepare and to strengthen vocabulary is to read all types of material as part of your daily routine. Take the time to look up unfamiliar words that you encounter and to make flashcards. Making connections with words helps to remember them (include definition, sentence, root, history, and even a picture, synonym or trigger word as a memory aide).
2) Look for Familiar Word Parts (Roots, Prefixes): Knowing roots of words is a great aid in figuring out correct answers. Again, looking up words in the dictionary and adding roots to your flashcards will make a huge difference. For example: the root MOR (or MORT or MORS) means death in Latin. Now, even if you do not know the definition, you can more confidently guess the meaning of words such as mortuary (dead bodies are kept in a mortuary), mortician (prepares dead bodies for a funeral), immortal (cannot die). Other common roots are sub (under as in subterranean or submarine), extra (beyond – as in extraterrestrial), terra (Earth – as in terrain), geo (earth, ground as in geology), mar (sea as in maritime), anima (spirit as in animated), mal (bad as in malevolent).
3) First Step – Read the sentence to get overall meaning; cover up answer choices until you find the clue(s) in the sentence: Mentally fill in the blank(s) with your own answer that makes sense. Then, find the answer choice that is closest in meaning to your own answer. You might be surprised to find the exact word that you had in mind. Select that as your answer. If the word you thought of is not a choice, look for a synonym of that word. Eliminate any that are definitely wrong; it is often easier to eliminate wrong answer choices than to pick the right choice. If you still have choices left, guess among the remaining possibilities. Sometimes it is enough to know that the blank requires a word that means something good (positive) or something bad (negative). Note: To assist you in finding the right answer among the answer choices, one-word answers are listed alphabetically and two-word answers are listed alphabetically by the first word.
Always ——-, the journalist actively questioned the relevant viewpoints on both sides of the issue.
When reading this sentence, you might recognize that the journalist is fair and unbiased. “Impartial” (choice C) is a synonym for fair.
4) Signal Words: There is almost always a word that obviously points to the correct answer. These signal words are clues that can aid you in figuring out what the sentence actually means.
– Support Signals – look for words/phrases that indicate that the blank continues a thought developed elsewhere in the sentence (examples: and, moreover, in addition, furthermore). A synonym or near-synonym should provide the correct answer. Example:
Mr. Jones is an intelligent and ——– teacher: his knowledge is matched only by his concern for his students.
(choice A) caring is the answer, a synonym for concern.
– Contrast Signals – look for words/phrases that indicate a contrast between one idea and another (examples: but, although, however, even though, despite)
Although much of the worst pollution has been ——- in the United States, traces of many toxic chemicals still ——-.
(A) discussed . . . escape
(B) eliminated . . . persist
(C) exaggerated . . . remain
(D) foreseen . . . arise
(choice B) is the correct answer. “Although” is the clue that indicates a contrast and signals you to look for words with opposite or different meanings (eliminated, persist).
– Cause and Effect Signals – look for words/phrases that show that one thing causes another (examples: because, since, for, therefore, as a result, due to, though).
Because Martha was naturally ——-, she would see the bright side of any situation, but Jack had a ——- personality and always waited for something bad to happen.
(choice C) is the correct answer. “Because” is the clue that indicates cause and effect. Note: The word “but” indicates a contrast between Martha and Jack’s personalities.
5) Take One Blank At A Time: Double-blank sentences can seem daunting, but they are actually easier because they supply more clues. After you read through the entire sentence for meaning, insert the first word of each answer pair in the sentence’s first blank. Does it make sense? If not, you can eliminate the entire pair. Next, check out the second word of each of the remaining answer pairs. Both words must make sense when used together.
The skydiver was ——- to survive after his parachute operated ——-.
(choice D) is the correct answer. It is the only choice where both words make sense.
6) Eliminating/Guessing: Even if you can’t eliminate any choices, you should guess. There is no guessing penalty on the ISEE. Never leave a question blank. Of course, eliminate before you guess using the strategies that you have learned. On sentence completions, you are looking for the best answer, so use the clues that must be there, in order for the question to have one answer that is better than the others. If you only have a minute left and you are not yet done, fill in all remaining sentence completions.
Summary – 6-step strategic plan to answer sentence completion questions:
– Read the sentence to get the overall meaning.
– Look for clue words that show how sentence parts are related.
– Use the clue words to anticipate the answer based on the relationship indicated.
– Read the answer choices and select the best one.
– Check your answer by reading the sentence with your answer choice in place.
– If you still cannot determine the best answer, eliminate answer choices that clearly do not make sense. Then guess from among the remaining answer choices.
Which level of the ISEE are you getting ready for? Did you find these tips helpful?
Post your tips/comments below.
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Terri graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Connecticut, with a dual degree in Education and English. She has 15 years of teaching and tutoring experience as a licensed teacher (Grades 5-12). Terri works with students from elementary school through college, and serves as an incredible resource when it comes to preparing for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, MCAS). em>
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished teaches tricks and strategies for mastering the synonym portion of the ISEE test.
First, figure out the definition of the word before looking at the distracting answer choices. Dissect the word and figure out the roots of the word. If you’re not sure about the roots of the word, then use a positive, negative, neutral strategy to find a matching charge of the word.
Finally, go to the answer choices, and eliminate the three wrong choices.
Full Word-for-Word Transcription
Hi everyone, Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished LLC, here in
Boston, Massachusetts. Now one of the trickiest sections on the
independent school entrance examination, the ISEE test, especially for non-
native English speakers, is the synonym sections, but with a bit of help
learning tricks and strategies, you can easily make the ISEE synonym section
your most improved section.
Now the first thing that you want to do, is you want to come up with the
definition of the word before you look at the distracting answer choices.
So it’s okay if you don’t know the exact dictionary definition of each
synonym, as long as you can get the general essence of the word you’ll be
in great shape. So you do that by looking at the word’s roots. So in the
word excavate, there are two roots in this word, ex means exit, and cav,
root of cav means hull. Now if you don’t know the roots of a word, you can
still get the question right, try this approach. You might know that
excavate is not a positive word, like happy, it’s not negative word like
terror, it’s actually a neutral charge word, so if you know that, put a
neutral, a plus and minus, in parenthesis right next to the word, and when
you go to your answer choices, you’re going to eliminate any word that is
not a neutral word.
Okay, so now that you came up with some roots of the word, and you figured
out that excavate is a neutral charge word, let’s eliminate some choices.
Now we can eliminate in fact choice A, which is a negative word, and we can
eliminate C, pardon, which is a positively charged word, leaving us with
display and uncover. We’re going to go with choice D because uncover
closely mirrors the word excavate. So remember, if you take apart the
synonym and look for the roots and the charge of the word before you look
at the answer choices, then you’ll be in prime position to swiftly narrow
in on the correct answer. I wish you good luck and I’ll talk to you soon.
Did you find these ISEE Synonym tips helpful? What is your strongest/weakest section on the ISEE test?
Alexis Avila, Founder/President of Prepped & Polished will give a seminar about getting ready for the college application process. The college application process can be stressful for both students and parents.
Get updated, organized, and ready for the college admissions process.
Some of the things you will learn include:
How to best prepare yourself for college during Junior and Senior Year of High School.
When to take standardized tests and how to best prepare for them.
What to do during a college campus visit.
Parents and students are welcome.
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished teaches you a key technique for mastering the analogy portion of the SSAT test.
First connect the stem words with a concise, meaningful, dictionary-style definition, and then apply this definition to the answer choices.
Hi, everyone, Alexis Avila, founder of Prep & Polished, LLC, here in
Boston, Massachusetts. Now, the trickiest section on the secondary school
admission test has got to be the analogy section, but with some help
learning some tips and strategies, you can easily make the analogies
section your best section.
Now, here’s the master strategy to doing really well on these analogy
questions. Now, you want to find a bridge between the two stem words by
creating a sentence that is concise and meaningful, that defines one word
in terms of the other, similar to a dictionary definition, and that is
illustrated and visual.
Okay. Let’s try this example. Now, this is a classic analogy, where there
is a clear connection between these two stem words, and you have to be a
detective and find out what that connection is. So this is an example of
not a very good connection. If you were to say, “A trunk is part of an
automobile,” what you’re going to do is apply “part” to all of your answer
choices and see how many choices you can eliminate. Now, is grass a part of
a lawn? Yes, it is, so you have to keep it. Is a button part of a
calculator? Yes, it is. Is paper part of a pen? Okay. Well, we’re able to
eliminate at least one choice. Is a closet part of a house? Sort of. You
have to keep it, but it’s not very good. Is a toe part of a body? Yes, it
is. But do you see how you left four choices open? That’s a reflection on a
bad sentence that you created between your stem words, so what you have to
do is refine your bridge, and you have to really think of one word in terms
of another as if you’re looking at a dictionary, and you look up the word
“trunk,” and it’ll say something about an automobile. You’ve got to think
like a dictionary.
Now, a better sentence would be to say, “A trunk, as a function, stores
things in an automobile.” So we’re going to use the word “stores.” It’s
concise. It’s meaningful. It’s a dictionary definition between the two
words. Now you’re going to see exactly what happens. A grass is a place
that stores things in a lawn. Kill it. A button is a place that stores
things in a calculator. Get rid of it. And we can already get rid of C. A
closet is place where you store things in a house. Looks awesome. We’re
going to keep it. And a toe is place that you store things in a body. I
doubt that. We’re going to go with D. It’s a clear analogy to the stem
So remember, if you nail the bridge, the connection between the two stem
words, you’ll almost always be able to narrow in on the right answer. So
work on your bridges, and I guarantee you’ll be successful on SSAT analogy
questions. I’ll talk to you soon. Good luck.
Did you find this SSAT analogy tip helpful? What is your strongest/weakest section on the SSAT test?
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished helps you decide whether to take the ACT or SAT, or both.
If you want a more straightforward format, no guessing penalty, and don’t mind science then go for the ACT test. If you prefer a test that requires more logic and you have the time and money to have a tutor teach you the techniques and strategies necessary to beat the SAT, then go for the SAT test.
Hi, everyone, Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished LLC here in
Boston. Now, the ACT or the SAT, most colleges accept either test. So which
one should you choose? Well, there are pros and cons for each test, so
let’s get to them.
The ACT has no guessing penalty. The SAT has a quarter point deduction for
wrong answers. The ACT has four answer choices except on the math. It has
five. The SAT has five answer choices throughout the test. So what does
that mean? Well, that means if you have test anxiety, get nervous during
tests, you might want to go ACT, because there’s just less things to worry
about. There’s no guessing penalty and there’s less answer choices.
Okay, what else? The ACT with essay writing is three hours and 20 minutes
long. Now, if you decide not to take the ACT without the essay, subtract 30
minutes from that. The SAT has an essay always, and it’s three hours and 45
minutes always. So it’s a longer test than the ACT. So if you’re a student
who gets easily distracted, you might want to go ACT. It’s a shorter test.
The ACT has one section per component. It has one English section, it has
one math, one reading, one science, and then you don’t see it ever again.
The SAT has three sections per component, and it’s kind of in random order.
There’s some predictability, but for the most part the sections are
peppered in random order.
The ACT is a more academic-oriented test. So what does that mean? Well,
that means that if you’re a solid student — academic student — you’ll
probably do well on the ACT. But what it also means is that you don’t
necessarily need a tutor to help you prepare for the ACT. As long as you
are a self-motivated student, you can take many ACT practice tests, learn
ACT content, and you’ll better your score.
The SAT, though, is a more logic-oriented based test, and the help of a
tutor can help your score a lot. Now, you’ll need money to hire a good
tutor, so just keep that in mind. If you have the money to do it, hire one.
A SAT tutor will teach you the tips and strategies necessarily to overcome
that guessing penalty obstacle that you find on the SAT.
Okay, so overall, if you want a more straightforward test, no guessing
penalty, and you don’t mind science, then go ACT. But just keep in mind, on
the ACT, the science section is not that bad science. It’s more like
reading charts and graphs. So it’s not profound science at all, so don’t
let that deter you from taking the ACT. But if you want a more
straightforward test, go ACT. If you want a more logic test, and you have
the money to hire a good tutor to help you learn tricks and strategies, go
Now, a final parting shot. If you don’t know which test to take, take a
practice test for the ACT and the SAT, score it, and then you’ll know which
test to take. Maybe you’ll take both.
I wish you good luck, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Are you considering the ACT or the SAT test? Is one test better than the other?