Posts Tagged ‘Terri’

The 4 SAT Sentence Completion Strategies You MUST Know!

SAT Verbal Instructor Terri of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts gives a comprehensive overview of the four most important SAT sentence completion strategies.

1. Use logic to predict the missing word
2. Find the clues in the sentence

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3. Determine the connotation of the missing word
4. Plug in the answer choice and eliminate
Bonus Tip: Remember to always read the sentence after you have selected your answer choice to see if it makes sense!

Do you struggle with sentence completions? Which of Terri’s SAT sentence completion strategies did you find most helpful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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January 9th, 2014
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How to Showcase Your Writing Skills on The SSAT Creative Essay Prompt

SSAT and ISEE Tutor Terri K. of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you six strategies and one bonus tip for the SSAT Creative Prompt in the SSAT Essay Section.

1. Prewrite your response.
2. Use a clear structure.
3. Decide what point of view and tense you will use.

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4. Use effective imagery and vocabulary.
5. Use effective grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
6. Read.

BONUS TIP: Do NOT underestimate the power of your writing sample.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi. I’m Terri, with Prepped & Polished, in South Natick, Massachusetts.
Today, I’m going to share some tips with you on how to showcase your
writing skills by crafting a superior response to the SSAT creative prompt.
Starting last testing year, a new structure was introduced for the middle
and upper-level SSAT writing prompts. For the middle level, a student has a
choice of two creative prompts from which he’ll select one and answer one.Here are two samples: ‘I looked into its eyes and suddenly . . .’ or, ‘The
classroom was empty.’ The upper level has a choice of two prompts, one
creative and one essay. Here’s a sample creative prompt: He couldn’t
believe they wanted his help. Using these sentences as your first line,
your task is to write a story, real or imagined, using these sentences as
your first line in 25 minutes. Students now have the ability to write two
pages rather than just one.Tip Number 1: Pre-write your response. Practice writing a creative essay in
advance that could be adapted to a variety of prompts. A lot of students
ask me, “Can I prepare for a creative prompt?” and you can. Think of a
story that you’ve been itching to write or an accomplishment that you’d
like an admissions officer to know about you. Research a favorite subject.
For example, ‘. . . and then she came in the door.’ That prompt could
enable you to write a variety of stories about almost anything you choose.
It could be about a teacher, a friend, a sibling, a principal, a detective,
a mother or a father. Here are some other examples of creative prompts: ‘He
was sure there was an exit somewhere.’ ‘I knew it was dangerous, but . . .’
‘It all started off Friday.’ ‘The silence was deafening.’ ‘He was hanging
by a thread.’ The possibilities are endless.Tip Number 2: Use a clear structure. Plots of stories can be divided into 5
basic parts. First, you have the exposition; this is the background, and
the setting and situation of the story. Then there’s the rising action
where characters try to solve a problem or conflict. That leads to the
climax; that’s the critical point where the tension of the story reaches a
peak. Then there’s the falling action where the tension decreases and the
conflict begins to be settled. Finally the resolution, where the conflict
is resolved and there’s a solution to the problem. In 25 minutes, it might
be difficult to wrap up the story in a neat package and have a final,
complete resolution. You can show that the characters are beginning to
change, that they’re beginning to see things differently.Tip Number 3: Decide what point of view and tense that you will use. The
first person uses ‘I’. The third person uses ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or ‘they’.
Decide what tense, past, present, or future, you will use for your story,
and be consistent. Writing in the present, ‘I see’, ‘I do’, ‘I go’ can be a
bit awkward, but sometimes, it’s an effective way of presenting the story.

Tip Number 4: Your story should use effective vocabulary and good imagery.
Your goal is clear, lively writing that uses imagery, which is the 5
senses; figurative language like similes, metaphors, personification; and
well-chosen vocabulary that shows rather than tells. Use exciting verbs to
empower your writing. For example, ‘The pitiful defendant got on her knees
and asked for mercy.’ Substitute ‘asked’ for ‘pleaded for mercy’. Instead
of ‘Linda was scared’, you could write her, ‘Hands were clammy’, or ‘Her
body was quivering like a bowl of Jell-O’. Avoid ‘he said, she said’.
Reveal a character’s tone. ‘He asked contemptuously’, or you could say ‘She
snorted in amusement’. Check for overused words like ‘things’ and ‘stuff’.

Tip Number 5: Use effective grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
When you proofread, look for the two most common pitfalls which are
sentence fragments and run-on sentences. A sentence fragment is part of a
sentence that is punctuated as if it were a complete sentence. For example,
‘On that morning, I sat in my usual spot on the old wooden stool in the
corner of my mother’s kitchen.’ That fragment lacks a subject or verb. We
can correct that by saying, ‘On that morning, I sat in my usual spot, on
the old wooden stool in the corner of my mother’s kitchen.’ Run-on
sentences are two complete sentences that run together as if they are one.
If there’s two independent clauses in one sentence, you must make them into
two sentences separated with a period, joined with a comma and a
coordinating conjunction: And, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet, or connected
with a semicolon.

For example, here’s a run-on sentence: ‘Michael Jordan played for the
Chicago Bulls he was the team’s star player’; definitely a run-on sentence.
Here are 3 ways you could correct that: You could add a period and a
capital letter. You could put a comma and a coordinating conjunction ‘and’,
or a semicolon and have a lower case ‘H’. Then you would eliminate the
problem of a run-on sentence.

The best way to excel on the creative prompt is to read a wide selection of
materials to increase your vocabulary; this will enable you to select just
the right word whenever you need it. Reading your favorite authors empowers
you to improve your writing skills and develop your own writing style and

Here’s a bonus tip for you: Do not underestimate the power of your writing
sample. Schools use the writing sample as an indication of how well you
write under controlled conditions, to estimate your academic capability to
perform in an independent setting, and to compare your performance with
other applicants for admission or with your current academic record. Bottom
line, the essay is often used as the final judgment. I hope these tips
today will help you to write your best creative response on the SSAT. Good

Are you getting ready for the SSAT? Which of Terri’s creative prompt tips did you find most helpful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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November 20th, 2013
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Six Insider Tips to Attack and Master the ISEE Sentence Completions

Prepped & Polished History Tutor for Online ISEE Test Prep to help you with Online ISEE Prep 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).

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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.
(A) enigmatic
(B) ignoble
(C) impartial
(D) partisan
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.
(A) caring
(B) experienced
(C) unusual
(D) original
(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.
(A) cheerful…upbeat
(B) frightened…mawkish
(C) optimistic…dismal
(D) realistic…unreasonable
(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 ——-.
(A) unable…perfectly
(B) anxious…instinctively
(C) surprised…adequately
(D) fortunate…improperly
(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>

August 15th, 2013
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