Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Ten Upper Level SSAT Essay Writing Tips

Prepped & Polished History Tutor and SSAT Instructor By Terri K., SSAT Essay Writing Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

The SSAT includes a writing section which may be administered either before or after the multiple-choice sections of the test. Students are presented with a choice of two prompts (one essay, one creative) from which the student will choose one. You will have 25 minutes to plan and complete your writing sample which can be up to two pages.
Your essay is not scored by SSAT. Instead, a copy is sent to each of the schools that receive your score report. However, do not underestimate the power of your writing sample. Schools use your writing sample as an indication of how well you can write under controlled conditions, so approach the writing piece with this in mind. Schools use your scores to estimate your academic capability to perform in an independent school setting, to compare your performance with other applicants for admission, or with your current academic record. So, bottom line, the essay is often used as the final judgment.
Here are 10 tips to help you to be more successful on the writing portion of the SSAT:

Each essay question consists of a topic (short phrase, proverb, or question) and an assignment (usually to agree or disagree with the position taken). There is no right or wrong answer.

1) Stick to the topic: So many students go off on tangents instead of discussing the topic. Rephrase the question in your own words to make sure you understand what it is asking you. You may be creative in your approach, but you need to take a clear position and support that position with specific examples from your own experience, the experience of others, current events, literature, or history. Although you do not know the topic ahead of time, you can be prepared. Prior to the SSAT, think about meaningful personal experiences and observations, favorite literature, as well as current and historical events that interest you. Read some editorials – a great way to learn how good writers give opinions and provide examples. You will be relieved if you can apply some of this information on test day.

2) Have a plan for your essay: 25 minutes is not much time, so you need to budget your time in order to complete your essay. You will need to write more than a short paragraph. A great essay lacking a conclusion will not be viewed favorably. Contrary to what many students think, planning your essay makes the writing process easier, faster, and more organized. Allow 3-5 minutes to decide on your stance, brainstorm two to three examples that support your thesis, and make a brief outline for 3-5 paragraphs. You probably will not have time to write a 5-paragraph essay. Allow 15 minutes to write your essay as neatly and legibly as you can. Allow approximately 5 minutes to revise and proofread your essay.

SSAT Writing Tips from Online SSAT Prep and Online SSAT Tips

3) Show – don’t tell: Rather than explaining why you believe a statement is true or not, use relevant examples that illustrate the point that you want to make. Preferably, use examples other than from your personal life. Reading the newspaper on a regular basis will give you material for good supporting examples for your essay while improving your vocabulary.

4) Grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure: When you proofread, check for two of the most common errors: sentence fragments and run-on sentences.
Complete sentences have a subject and verb and make sense when standing alone. Example: On that morning I sat in my usual spot. On the old wooden stool in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen (fragment-lacks subject and verb). Correct: On that morning I sat in my usual spot, on the old wooden stool in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen.
When two independent clauses appear in one sentence (run-on), they must be joined with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet), with a semicolon, or made into two sentences separated by a period. Avoid monotony by varying the rhythm and length of your sentences.

5) Word choice: Check for the overused words – “things” and “stuff”. Replace words that do not add quality to your essay with more detailed, advanced academic vocabulary. Use exciting verbs to empower your writing. Also, check for pronouns (him, her, they, it) that have no antecedent. This error makes an essay very confusing.

6) Legibility: Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try to write or print so that your writing is legible to those readers. Admissions officers read many essays, and if your writing is difficult to decipher, it may not be received as favorably. Edit carefully, just putting one line through a word or phrase that you revise.

1) Pre-write your essay: The creative essay prompt is open-ended. For example, the prompt “And then she came in the door…” could be the beginning of an essay about almost anything you choose. Your essay could be about a friend, sibling, teacher, mother, detective, etc. Other examples of creative prompts are:
– “He couldn’t believe they wanted his help…”
– “The silence was deafening…”
– “He was hanging on by a thread…”
Again, the possibilities are endless. Try writing a creative essay in advance that could be adaptable to a variety of prompts. Do some research on a favorite subject or think about an accomplishment that you would like an admissions officer to learn about you. Hopefully, you can adapt this idea to a creative prompt on test day.

2) Writing a story: If you use the creative prompt to write a story, start with some tension and immediacy (the unusual, the unexpected, an action or conflict) to grab the reader’s attention. A good story has a conflict, a climax (when the rising action of the story reaches its peak) and a resolution (conflict is resolved). In 25 minutes, it is difficult to provide a complete resolution, so you want to reveal that the characters are beginning to change or are starting to see things differently.

3) Words/Imagery: Your goal should be clear, lively writing that employs imagery and well-chosen vocabulary that shows rather than tells. For example, instead of writing that Linda was scared, you could write that her hands were clammy or that her body was quivering like a bowl of jello. Instead of writing that John asked the question nervously, you could write – “Where are you going?” John stammered, staring at his sneakers. Make it riveting! Avoid he said, she said. Reveal a character’s tone; for example, “….she snorted in amusement…” or “…he asked contemptuously…”

4) READ, READ, READ: The best way to improve writing skills for either prompt (essay, creative) is to consistently read a wide selection of materials: newspapers (especially editorials), all types of literature, magazines, etc. Reading increases your vocabulary so that you can use the right word just when you need it. Reading books by your favorite authors empowers you to improve your own writing by developing the language you need.

Is your student taking the SSAT? What was your favorite SSAT essay tip?

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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>

July 23rd, 2013
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Five SAT US History Insider Tips

Prepped & Polished History Tutor and  Online SAT Tutor By Steve R., US History SAT Subject Test Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

Preparing for the SAT Subject Test in United States history can be a bit daunting. There are so many details, dates, people, laws, and trends in American history that it’s almost impossible to know where to start.

There are 90 multiple choice questions on the Subject Test, and you have 60 minutes to answer them. Here are five tips to help you prioritize your preparation and master the Subject Test format so that you’ll be sure to maximize your score.

Here are five US History SAT Subject Test Tips:

1. Focus on American history since the Constitution
Though the subject matter covered by the United States History SAT Subject Test can go back as far as the Pre-Columbian period, about 80% of the questions will deal with American history since 1790. Specifically, 40% of the questions will come from the period of 1790-1899, and another 40% will come from 1899-present. Though you should thoroughly review pre-1790 material, set it as a low priority in your review.

Online SAT Tutor for SAT Test prep and SAT tips Online

2. Best prep books: Kaplan and Barron’s
The Kaplan test prep book for the U.S. History Subject Test is very detailed and comprehensive, and is great if you’re being exposed to the material for the first time. The Barron’s prep guide is a bit less comprehensive, but it’s much easier to read and flows very nicely. It’s perfect for someone who has already taken an AP United States history course and is looking to review.

3. PERSIA Charts help a lot with review
As you go through your review book, you should make a PERSIA chart for each unit. PERSIA stands for Politics, Economics, Religion, Society, Intellectual, and Artistic. As you read each chapter, place key terms into the appropriate section of the PERSIA chart. That way, you have a handy tool to review each chapter and concept, and everything is already in context of era and topic. Also, political and social history typically make up 55%-65% of the questions on the test, so focus on those areas of your PERSIA charts.

4. Don’t wait until the last minute to start test prep
Even if you’ve taken a rigorous AP U.S. History class, give yourself at least two months to prepare. The SAT Subject Test in U.S. History is very detail-oriented, and details you covered in class in October may not stick in your brain until May. Give yourself plenty of time to review each chapter and era carefully, make PERSIA charts, and review those a few times. Take plenty of practice tests to get your pacing techniques down. As a reminder, there are 90 multiple choice questions and you have 60 minutes to answer them. The best way to get faster is to practice, so make practice tests a big part of your preparation!

5. Only take educated guesses
If you’ve taken the SAT, you know that there is a penalty for wrong answers. The same applies to SAT Subject Tests. There are 5 answer choices for each question, and generally speaking, if you can eliminate 1 of them, you should take a guess. If you can eliminate 2 or 3, then definitely take a guess. If you have taken U.S. History in school, and you have prepared rigorously for the Subject Test, then you have at least been exposed to everything that is going to be on the test. You know more than you think you know, so don’t be afraid to take educated guesses!

Steve R. holds a B.A. from Brandeis University, where he majored in History, African and Afro-American Studies, and Politics. He earned departmental honors in History, and his senior thesis, Black Jesus in the Twentieth Century, was published in 2011. He currently works at Brandeis University in Development and Alumni Relations, where he helps to run many of the University’s Annual Giving programs. Steve has experience tutoring SAT, ACT, United States history, and writing, and he has helped students with their college admissions essays.

Have questions about the SAT US History Subject Test? Any other tips you’d like to share?

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July 16th, 2013
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Avoid This Common ACT Math Exponent Mistake

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts brings aboard guest teacher Dabral of ACT Quantum to help students avoid a typical exponent mistake made on the ACT Math section.

To sign up for the ACT go to The Official ACT Site

To further strengthen your exponent rules, check out this video, Avoid These Four Common SAT Math Exponent Rule Mistakes

ACT Science Tips

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Alexis: Hi, everyone. Alexis Avila, of Prepped and Polished LLC., here at South Natick, Massachusetts. On the ACT math section, it’s easy to make careless mistakes if you’re not careful. My friend and special guest Dabral, from, based in California, going to explain to you a typical problem students often miss on the ACT math section involving exponents. Dabral, take it away.

Dabral: So, here, I want to give you an example of a common type of exponent problem that shows up on the ACT and, sort of, the temptations that students have in terms of simplifying it. So, I’ll start with this first piece here, two X cubed to the power of four. And so, here, we are raising each of these components to the fourth power. So, this is equivalent to two to the four times X cubed to the fourth. And here, two to the four, that’s just 16 and, to understand this really means I’m going to multiply X cubed four times. And that is equivalent to having a set of 12 X’s. So, this is really the same as X to the twelfth, or in other words, so, we’re just adding the exponents.

So, the rule when you have – this is what’s called power of power – is that you multiply. So, this is X to the power of three times four, not X to the seven. Common mistake in terms of adding those. So, that expression is 16 times X to the 12. And, also, the rule that I used here where I distributed that exponent comes from if you have two numbers raised to the power of M. This is A to the power of M times B to the power of M. Because, really, this means that we have M of these expressions and collectively, that means, ’cause it’s multiplication, we can change the order. that we have MA’s and MB’s. So, that’s what we’re doing here. Now, if we look at the second piece of this is two X four to the third. That, again, we do the same thing. Two cubed times X four to the third. Now, that is eight. Then, again, we get, here in this case, X to the 12.

Now, if you go back to the original expression, it’s made of some of those two terms. So, we’re looking at 16 times X to the 12 plus eight times X to the 12. Now, again, here, a common temptation would be this is 24 times X to the 24. None of that applies. You can’t just add these exponents. In fact, a better way to think about this is to factor X to the 12 and then this becomes 24 times X to the 12. I think a common temptation for these types of exponent problems is if you’re given X to the ten plus X to the ten, that’s not X to the 20. Instead, think of factoring X to the ten, in this case, this would be just two times X to the ten. Or, another type of example, is X to the ten plus X to the eleventh. It’s best to handle it by factoring X to the ten. And you can’t really just add this and say this is equal to X to the 21. So watch out for those temptations.

And then, just to summarize, sort of, the operation we did here, is that we have X cubed to the four is same as X four to the third. So, here, really, it doesn’t matter where the exponent is. And this is equal to X to the 12, not equal to X to the seven. That’s the common one you want to watch out for. And to summarize here, this original expression we started is equivalent to 24 times X to the 12, which is answer choice D.

Alexis: Thank you, Dabral. That was really helpful. If you have any further questions, you can email me at and also be sure to visit my friend Dabral’s site. Has wonderful explanations to ACT problems. That’s Good luck on your ACT test and I’ll talk to you soon.

Are you ready for the ACT Math Section? What exponent rules trip you up the most?

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June 21st, 2013
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Avoid This Typical ACT Science Mistake

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you how to avoid careless ACT Science mistakes.

Pace yourself well, read the ACT questions carefully, and re-arrange the tables if needed.

To sign up for the ACT go to the Official ACT Website

ACT Science Tips

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi everyone. Alexis Avila, Prepped & Polished LLC here at South Natick, Massachusetts.ACT Science section is one of the trickier sections on the ACT test. Half the battle to doing well on the ACT Science is pacing yourself wisely. You’ve got 35 minutes to do roughly 40 questions. You basically want to spend about five minutes per passage. There are seven passages. You have to read the questions really carefully. A lot of students make mistakes on the easier science ACT questions.Let’s go to the whiteboard. I’ll want to show you one of these questions students often miss. Here is a pretty typical data representation of an ACT Science question. So which graph best illustrates the relationship between heat released by foods and the change in water temperature? Here are your four graphs.So what you have to do is go to Table 1, make sense of the information and translate this information from the table to a graph. Now, what a lot of students will do is they’ll see the four different types of foods in the table, right? Bread, cheese, egg and potato, all the same mass. And then they’ll see that the change in water temperature goes up and then it goes down so they automatically assume that the graph is going to fluctuate. So they are going to deduce that it’s either F or G.

But this is not a fluctuating graph. This is a linear graph because if you start with the least amount of change of water temperature, it’s the potato at 2.7 degrees Celsius. And then you work your way to the egg, 5.6 Celsius and then to bread and then the cheese. So if you notice the output, the heat released for the smallest change in temperature is 3.2 kilojoules. So it’s like about right here. And then you go over to the egg, 5.6 degrees Celsius is the change in water temperature. It renders 6.7 kilojoules.

Then you go to the next food source, which is the bread at 8.3 degrees Celsius, and
it renders 10 kilojoules heat released. And then finally, the highest degree of water
temperature change is the cheese at 14.1 Celsius rendering 17 kilojoules of heat released.

You have to put the graph back into order from least to greatest change of water temperature and then see what the outcomes are. And clearly, this is a linear relationship between the two. Go with choice G.

So remember, guys. Half the battle to doing well on the ACT Science is pacing yourself well and reading the questions really carefully, rearranging the tables if needed. So I wish you good luck in your ACT test, and I will talk to you soon.

Are you ready for the ACT Science Section? What other questions or comments do you have about last minute ACT preparation?

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May 30th, 2013
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Megan C. 11th grader (Natick, MA)

“As a junior in high school I can tell you about stress. Sure, it’s not heart surgery or rocket science, but with a combination of school work, extra-curriculars and sports, life can make even the calmest student tense up. The SAT’s and ACT’s were the largest source of tension for me, I worried almost constantly about how I was going to do and how that would effect my life. I finally asked my mother if we could look into tutoring, to help me achieve my best on the SAT’s and ACT’s and remove some of the stress. She found Prepped and Polished in a matter of days, and after my first tutoring session, I knew it was the right choice. My tutor was extremely kind and supportive of my endeavors, he never made me feel guilty about a rough grade or a less than stellar piece of homework. He helped to build my confidence about taking the test and school in general, which in turn boosted my grades in school. I saw a great improvement in my test scores and felt, for the first time ever, really knowledgeable at the end of the SAT and ACT. I cannot thank Prepped and Polished enough for aiding me in my quest for better scores and also improving upon my attitude. I have already started recommending the business to friends and relatives, and only wish the best to the people of Prepped and Polished in the future.”

May 13th, 2013
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Five Substantive and Five Procedural LSAT Tips

Prepped & Polished LSAT Tutor

By Grace T., LSAT Test Preparation Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

The LSAT requires not only mastery of the exam’s content, but also the ability to anticipate and address those little details that can make or break your test day experience. Here are tips that will prepare you for both!

Top 5 Substantive LSAT Tips

1. Mark an answer for every question! Unlike the SAT, the LSAT has no guessing penalty.

2. Do not be afraid to postpone your test until you are completely ready. While every test taker is different, most people do not feel adequately prepared with fewer than 2.5 to 3 months of preparation.

3. Know your weaknesses and skip questions strategically. Do not let the test dictate the order in which you answer questions. Be aware of which types of logic games and reading comprehension passages you are most comfortable, and quickly scan through all four in each of those sections before simply starting with that which is given first. As for logical reasoning, keep in mind that the questions generally progress from easiest to most difficult, but also be mindful of your personal strong suits. Don’t just complete a parallel flaw question if it is at the beginning of a section, but is something that you know you routinely struggle with – you will save yourself time and stress by taking control of the test.

4. Spend time making deductions after making logic game sketches. While you may feel pressed for time and that you are better off diving into the questions, in the long run you will save a lot of time by gaining an understanding the system on which the puzzle is based. You may even find that a question or two are freebees for having made such deductions.

5. Do not fear logic games! If you have taken a diagnostic test and had no intuitive idea of how to approach them, you are not doomed! Most students find this section to be the most challenging at first, but also the easiest to improve upon, largely because it has the fewest question types. Once you gain familiarity with logic games, you will see that the same kinds of puzzles repeat themselves, just cloaked in different language.

Test Preparation

And 5 Quick Tips

1. Choose your test site carefully! There are resources online that detail factors such as desk space, noise level, competency of proctors, lighting, etc.

2. Buy and practice with a watch with a rotating bezel! Since you are not allowed to bring digital watches to the test, this is your best bet for easily keeping track of how much time has elapsed during each section.

3. Do not drink too much coffee before the test starts. There is no break for over two hours after you enter the testing room, and they are strict about not letting you leave once you have entered the room but prior to the commencement of testing.

4. Don’t get thrown by test takers around you sketching out logic games while you’re in the midst of reading comprehension or logical reasoning; different tests intentionally order their sections differently.

5. Do not markedly alter your appearance (at least from the shoulders up) between when the passport-style picture that you must affix to your LSAT admission ticket is taken and test day! This is actually one of many LSAC’s official policies. No altering your facial hair, no new facial tattoos, no dying your hair…you get the idea.

Grace graduated from Dartmouth College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. She is an expert in the areas of LSAT (scored in 97th percentile) and SAT prep, and is eager to pass along her test prep tips gleaned from many years of standardized testing!

Have you taken or are you getting ready for the LSAT? Which tip is your favorite?

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May 3rd, 2013
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Which Should I Take, The SAT Math Level 1 or Math Level 2?

SAT Math Level 1 or Math Level 2

Prepped & Polished SAT Math Tutor

By Alexa M., SAT Math Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

This question comes up regularly, and the short answer is: it doesn’t matter. Take whichever test you feel you can do well on. Really. Even MIT does not require that you take the Math 2, though they do insist you take one of the two math tests. Unless you claim on your application that you intend to be a math, physics, or other math-intensive major, your choice of test is unlikely to make a significant difference to your application.

The College Board’s official statement on the matter is: “If you have taken trigonometry or elementary functions (precalculus) or both, received grades of B or better in these courses, and are comfortable knowing when and how to use a scientific or graphing calculator, you should select the Level 2 test. If you are sufficiently prepared to take Level 2, but elect to take Level 1 in hopes of receiving a higher score, you may not do as well as you expect. You may want to consider taking the test that covers the topics you learned most recently, since the material will be fresh in your mind.”

Test Preparation

It is useful to be aware of the fact that scores on the two tests are not comparable. Because the Math 2 is taken primarily by those who would describe themselves as “math people”, the overall scores tend to be higher. A 700 on the Math 2 will put you at around the 50th percentile. Fortunately, colleges know this, but it can be a bit of a shock when you receive your scores (especially if you are a self-described “math person”)!

What are the differences between the two tests?

• The Math 1 directly covers plane geometry, which the Math 2 doesn’t cover at all.
• The Math 2 emphasizes a number of major topics that aren’t covered on the Math 1:
o Series
o Vectors
o Properties of complex numbers, not just their arithmetic
o Logarithms
o Parametric equations
o Polar Coordinates
o Coordinate geometry in three dimensions
o A great deal more trigonometry (graphs of trigonometric functions, radians, Laws of Sines and Cosines, trigonometric equations)
o Standard deviation

If you’ve covered the topics on the Math 2, you may want to sign up for the more advanced test. You can change your mind (and your tutoring!) up to two weeks before the test, so there is no harm in starting to prepare for the Math 2 and then deciding you are not ready for it.

Below is a more detailed chart of the differences between the two tests:

Difference between the SAT Math Level 1 and Level 2 Test

Alexa graduated from Reed College and earned a Master’s degree in math from the University of Pennsylvania. She has tutored students at every age and level from 10 to adult and from basic math through AP calculus, multivariate calculus and beyond.

Are you gearing up for the Math Level 1 or Level 2 Test?

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April 12th, 2013
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Parent (Brookline, MA)

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi, we first met Alexis in 2002 when we approached him to help our son
study for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth exam. Alexis is
above all, an educator. That’s the defining characteristic that sets him
apart, I think, from others in the test prep business. He truly
understands the needs of children, how to work with them, and how to work
in partnership with the student and the family to achieve their common
goals. He has an unusual gift for motivating children and helping them
understand how they need to work to succeed.Alexis has helped us tremendously in terms of the results our children have
achieved. Part of this is because he spends a lot of time with analyzing
the results of tests; figuring out what worked and what didn’t, and what
gaps need to be filled. Alexis is methodical, organized, and has built a
successful tutoring company, Prepped and Polished, that provides high
quality academic coaching services. I have no hesitation at all. In fact,
it’s my pleasure to recommend Alexis. I’m very grateful to him for all the
help he’s provided our family over the years, and I wish him all the best
with Prepped and Polished in the years to come.
April 10th, 2013
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4 Tips for The Night Before and 4 Tips for the Morning of SAT Saturday

[leadplayer_vid id=”51E5A79D3A3C4″]

It’s 24 hours until the SAT. This is what to do.

Alexis Avila Founder of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts, gives you Four Tips for The Night Before and 4 Tips for the Morning of SAT Saturday.

1. Pack the stuff that you’ll need for tomorrow
(admission ticket, photo ID, calculator with fresh batteries, two-three sharpened number two pencils with erasers, snacks and water, sweatshirt)
2. Know how to get to the testing site.
3. Eat well and relax tonight. Watch a movie or read. Study vocab only-flashcards or online vocab on
4. Rest and get to bed early

Test Preparation

1. Wake up early
2. Grab a breakfast. Nothing too greasy. Waffles, muffins, bagels, cereal (not Lucky Charms ☺)
3. Do a couple of easy math problems to wake up the brain or memorize ten vocab words
4. Leave for the test site early

Get our SAT E-Book, FREE!

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hey, guys, Alexis Avila, Prepped and Polished. So your SATs are tomorrow
and I want to give you some tips. So here are four tips for today, for
Friday, four tips for Saturday morning.Tip one, what I want you to do is pack the stuff all in one backpack. The
stuff that you need for tomorrow. Pack your admission ticket. Pack a photo
ID. Calculator, make sure that there are some fresh batteries in there. Two
to three sharpened number 2 pencils with erasers. Snacks and water. Bring a
sweatshirt. I am a Michigan fan so I am going to bring my Michigan
sweatshirt but you can bring whatever sweatshirt you prefer.Tip number two, know how to get to the test site. I know somebody who got
to the test site late, didn’t know how to get there, came to the SAT late
and only had ten minutes to do his essay. You don’t want to be that person.Tip number three, eat well and relax tonight, Friday night. Have a good
meal. Relax means like watch a movie, read. Don’t go to a party. Stay at
home, rent a movie. Maybe, go out to a 5:00 one but don’t go to like a
seven and come back at ten. And get to bed early. Don’t cram for the test.
You can study vocab because vocabulary is not going to fry your brain. It’s
going to keep you sharp and quick and if you want to join our online vocab
program, shoot me an email.

Tip 4 is rest and get to bed early. Don’t go to bed late. I want you to get
to bed at a reasonable time, maybe even a little earlier than you usually
do. So you can kind of get your body relaxed and fall asleep, and get ample
rest. You are going to need it for tomorrow morning.

Now four tips for Saturday. I want you to wake up early. You are not going
to be too stressed because you’ve already packed your backpack, right? So
you are not going to be scrounging around looking for stuff.

Tip 2, grab a good breakfast. A good breakfast means nothing with too much
fat, nothing with too much sugar because you’re just going to crash and
burn. I want you to grab some waffles, muffins, bagels, some cereal. Don’t
get Lucky Charms. Don’t get eggs and bacon. Save that for after as a

Tip 3 is do a couple of easy math problems to wake up the brain, keep you
sharp. Or you can memorize ten vocabulary words just to kind of get your
brain moving in the morning.

And then Tip number 4, I want you to leave for the test site early. You
don’t want to get there late again. The really late ones will end up in the
worst room, the cold room probably. So just get there early and when I say
early, 15 minutes early.

Everything is going to go well. I wish you good luck and I will talk to you

Are you ready for the SAT? What other questions or comments do you have about last minute preparation?

Post your tips/comments below.

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March 7th, 2013
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Top Five Questions to Ask Yourself At Least Once A Week in College

Writing TutorBy Meagan Phelan, Writing Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

The college experience is rich in choices. You could be a double major or pursue two minors. After class, you could go to soccer practice, drama club, debate team, or band. You might study abroad one semester—or maybe even two. You could also have a boyfriend or girlfriend on campus, begin mentoring younger students, or spend a lot of time with older ones, just hanging out.

What do all of these different activities hold in common?

They’ll command your attention—and a lot of it.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

In fact, it could be pretty easy to graduate just having enjoyed the college experience—and even having excelled at it—without looking beyond, to the next chapter, to contemplate the application of college to your life.

Contemplating what college will mean for you in your mid-twenties, thirties, and beyond might be an idea that seems fairly hazy right now (after all, many of you reading this blog are just doing the hard work to get into college—a major feat in itself). So I’ve thought of five questions you could ask yourself throughout the course of your college career—from day one ‘til your last—to help make this thought process relevant now.

Here we go:

1) What industries are booming now, and which ones are saturated?

Forbes Magazine is a great source for information like this. A quick look at the fastest growing industries may reveal some, like manufacturing or cattle ranching, for example, that you’ve never considered. But these businesses—like most—require communicators, leaders, technicians, and people of all kinds to think outside the box and keep them connected and stable. You wouldn’t need a background in manufacturing or cattle ranching to make a significant contribution. You would need a strong set of skills in one of the abovementioned fields and awareness that these industries are hungry.

It’s equally important to know which industries aren’t as open to job applicants. If you’re planning to pursue one, contemplate what skills to develop to set yourself apart.

2) What are three different types of jobs people who pursued my major have done, or are doing?

Get to know some of those people. Ask if you might email or call them from time to time to understand how what they learned in college is helping them in their current role. Ask them what gaps they had in their learning. Maybe you could take one of the classes they wished they’d taken.

3) What is my elevator pitch?

Can you explain your interests and strengths—and even how you want to apply them to your tentative career goals—in the time it’d take you to ride the elevator a few floors?

You’ll often need to present a similar pitch in job interviews, but more importantly, stating your intentions for your career aloud forces you to clarify them in your own mind. Thoughts that floated around comfortably in your head may come across as phony once spoken.

Sometimes the results of this exercise are surprising, particularly if you let people who know you well weigh in on what you say.

4) Where is the nearest business that’d let me shadow for a day?

Even if you don’t yet know what line of work you’d like to pursue, just getting out of the classroom and into a working environment offers important lessons, including the roles communication skills and thinking ahead play in successfully managing people. You might also learn about new cross-industry technologies that businesses are using—and hope their employees will walk in the door knowing.

Check out a previous post, here, for more details on the values of shadowing: The Importance of Internships & Work Experiences While in High School

5) What are my friends thinking of doing after college?

Though this question could make your friends a little uneasy, it’s ok to ask it. For starters, you’re all most likely in the same boat, especially in the first year or two—without a clear cut vision of just what you’ll do with your college degree. Secondly, hearing your friends think through the process of how they will apply what they will learn may give you some ideas.

Lots of people talk about questions to ask before you get to college—and these are important questions to consider. You want to find a good fit for your four-year journey.

But I propose staying just as inquisitive during your collegiate experience. Doing a little each week so you get comfortable with the hard parts.

Evaluating your efforts regularly as you make your way to graduation will mean you’re not nervous when you get there. You’ll be able to celebrate both the closing of that chapter, and the beginning of the next.

Meagan Phelan holds an M.A. in Science Writing from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and a B.A. in Biology from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. She has freelanced as a science writer and is a Fulbright Scholar. She currently works as a Senior Writer and Editor at AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm based in Boston.

What other questions should you ask yourself while at college? Any other tips you’d like to share?

Post your tips/comments below.

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February 19th, 2013
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