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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?

Post your tips/comments below.

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May 3rd, 2013
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Featured, LSAT
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Which Should I Take, The 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?

Post your tips/comments below.

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April 12th, 2013
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Posted in
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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

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

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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.
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