ACT & SAT Prep and College Admissions Blog

The PSAT: Your First Step to SAT & ACT Success

Posted by Method Test Prep on Wed, Sep 06, 2017 @ 11:54 AM

This fall, many high school juniors––and even some sophomores––will take the PSAT. In all likelihood, this will be their first experience with standardized college admissions exams. You may have heard that students’ PSAT results “don’t count” and “don’t matter.” While it’s true for most students that college admissions committees won’t use PSAT scores to gauge their college readiness (that is, after all, what the SAT and ACT are for), the view that the PSAT doesn’t matter at all is both shortsighted and counterproductive. In truth, PSAT scores can provide valuable insight into your strengths and weaknesses; when used correctly, the results can help students take a big first step toward success on the SAT and ACT.
But what do we mean when we say used correctly? There are several ways to take advantage of your scores, some more practical and valuable than others. Here are three tips for getting everything you can out of the data on your PSAT report.
1. Don’t get too distracted by the overall section scores; instead, focus on the detail. The highest-level scores provided by your PSAT report will be in the form of two numbers, each out of 760: your Math score, and your Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (ERW) scores. (Note that on the SAT, both of these are scored out of 800.) Students and parents tend to obsess over these scores, forgetting about the other numbers the PSAT report provides. While they do suggest something about overall performance, these numbers are not terribly revealing. Instead of focusing on your 540 in Reading & Writing and your 580 on Math, pay closer attention to your subscores, listed on a scale from 0 to 15. These scores reveal more specific areas of strength and weakness. For example, let’s suppose you do score a 580 on the Math. That number alone tells you that you are “above average” (average for juniors is around a 510), but not much else. The subscores, however, can reveal where that 580 came from. Perhaps your “Problem Solving and Data Analysis” subscore was a very strong 12 out of 15, but your “Heart of Algebra” score was an 8. This immediately reveals that you need to direct your focus toward reinforcing your algebra skills, which include interpreting, creating, and rearranging equations and expressions.
2. Make a list of topics you need to work on; use the test to isolate examples. It will be easier for you to formulate a prep plan if you translate the information within your PSAT score report into your own summary. Use your subscores to assemble a list of topics that disproportionately impacted your score. Furthermore, take a look at the answer sheet provided on the final page of the report to isolate the specific questions you found difficult. You’ll have your test booklet, so you will be able to see the exact questions you could not answer or that you answered incorrectly. Consider taking pictures of these questions with your phone, or even printing them out and pasting them into a notebook. Now, you have a suite of problems and questions that will form the basis of your prep. And by the way, even if you’re planning on sticking to the ACT, know that the (P)SAT and ACT share lots of content: the subscore categories presented by your PSAT report are just as likely to reveal potential strengths and weaknesses on the ACT.
3. Use the scores to establish a baseline and formulate goals. Realistic expectations and goals are are both very important. Assuming you put in a decent effort while taking the PSAT, your scores reflect where you stand without any concerted prep. Now, you can use the report to begin planning. How many topics must you focus on to increase your scores? How much time are you prepared to dedicate to SAT or ACT prep? Do your initial scores suggest you may benefit from a prep course setting (students who score around average are more likely to benefit from multi-student group courses than are students whose scores are on the extremes), or would small-group or private tutoring be more productive? Is your goal to increase your score by 50 points, or by 300 points? On which section can you focus to maximize the points earned for the time spent studying? The answers to all of these questions lie within your report: you simply have to use the data at your fingertips.
Remember: though the PSAT may seem inconsequential, the information it provides can be extremely helpful in raising your scores. Using the PSAT to develop positive and proactive momentum can mean the difference between productive, meaningful prep and last-minute frantic cramming. So take advantage of all the PSAT report has to offer––when all is said and done, you’ll thank yourself for doing so.
-Evan Wessler, Vice President of Education––Method Test Prep


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Topics: ACT/SAT, ACT, SAT test, ACT test, SAT study help, ACT study help, ACT/SAT study skills, ACT-Math practice, PSAT

A Guide To ACT Scoring

Posted by Kristine Thorndyke on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 @ 09:38 AM

Understanding how the ACT is scored is one of the most fundamental aspects of taking the test. Before even stepping foot into the classroom on test day, knowing the scoring for the ACT can help you to outline your studying and set realistic score goals as you are planning for the big day. Let’s dive into our guide for ACT scoring and what you should know right now:

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Topics: ACT, ACT overview, ACT test

A Guide to Tackling the ACT Reading Section

Posted by Banke Abioye on Mon, Apr 03, 2017 @ 12:48 PM

Reading four lengthy passages and answering 40 questions in a short timespan of 35 minutes can seem overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with the ACT Reading section and the many tricks that the ACT writers try to confuse test-takers with. However, a little review and practice of a few simple test-taking strategies will give you the skills and confidence necessary to tackle the ACT Reading section.

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Topics: ACT, Reading Comprehension, ACT/SAT study skills

ACT Science: Sifting Out What Matters (and what doesn’t)

Posted by Gaurav Dubey on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

The ACT Science section has a rather misleading name. Perhaps a better name would be the ACT Reading Section Part 2: Science Concepts. The exam requires no prior knowledge of scientific content or concepts. Instead, students are required to interpret data graphs, what the scientific method is and how scientific theories disagree from each other. These are concepts taught in every high school in the country. The ACT is a standardized exam that must provide a level playing field for all applicants, from all demographics across the United States. As such, it may be comforting to know that advanced science concepts such as DNA transcription and translation or the Hardy Weinberg Equilibrium won’t be tested. To succeed on this portion of the exam, exposure to ACT Science questions and practice solving them is critical. The following is an important tip to succeeding on the ACT science section:

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Topics: ACT, ACT/SAT study skills, ACT Science

5 Keys to Scoring a 30 on the ACT Math Section

Posted by Banke Abioye on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 @ 02:14 PM

Scoring a 30 or above on the ACT Math section is no easy feat; it takes a lot of preparation and practice! In this post, we’ll share with you 5 Key strategies to scoring a 30 or above on the ACT Math section. These strategies are tried and true, and tend to be very effective for students that we have helped prepare for the ACT exam.

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Topics: math skills, ACT math, ACT-Math practice

ACT Math: A Lesson on Logarithms

Posted by Gaurav Dubey on Tue, Feb 07, 2017 @ 05:25 PM

What are logs in math? Do you use them to develop a foundation and build like beavers do? No, you don’t. Instead, in math, logs are the “opposite” of exponentials, just as subtraction is the opposite of addition. If I asked you what number (x) to the third power equals 8 (x3 = 8), then you would take the cube root of both sides and tell me the cube root of 8 equals 2.

Now consider this: if I asked you 2 raised to what power (x) gets you 8, how would you solve it? Well, we know that x=3 because 23 = 8, as we saw from the previous problem. But what steps would you take to solve this problem, or any others like it? As I mentioned before, logs are the “opposite”, or the inverse, of exponentials. Thus, one operation can undo the other. Let’s take a look at the relationship between them.

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Topics: ACT math, ACT-Math practice, logs in ACT-Math

Designing an ACT Study Plan? Here are our Recommended ACT Study Materials

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 @ 02:54 PM

When designing an ACT study plan, one key question is “what materials will I use?” Luckily, the most effective material is also the most inexpensive (more on that later).

To begin, it’s helpful to ask yourself one basic question: am I fundamentally comfortable using online materials or not? There are many web-sites and “apps” available to help you prepare for the ACT. But for some people, plain old paper and pencil is still their preferred way to learn. I tend to encourage students to at least consider an online approach, since it’s generally very convenient and because many online resources are “adaptive,” meaning they give you suggested practice content based on how you’ve performed on previous practice problems to build on your strengths and address your weaknesses. But, if an online approach just isn’t for you, don’t force it.

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Topics: ACT study plan, ACT, ACT overview, ACT concepts, ACT tutoring

How to Approach Writing Supplemental Essays

Posted by InGenius Prep on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 @ 08:43 PM

Just when you think you’ve made headway on your college applications - filling out your information, getting letters of recommendation, writing your personal statement - supplemental essays hit you. These supplement essays for college can seem overwhelming. Many schools require multiple essays, and many offer multiple prompts. So how should you approach writing supplemental essays?

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Topics: admissions essays

Stress and Standardized Tests: Coping Strategies

Posted by Lisa Alvarado on Fri, Dec 09, 2016 @ 06:19 PM

Stress is something that everyone experiences; however, the triggers and manifestations of stress differ for everybody. As illustrated in the Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve, a little stress can be good; it keeps us focused and motivated, and can positively impact performance. However, too much stress can be physically debilitating and can decrease productivity, performance, and cognitive function--a particular issue when engaged in a high cognitive activity, such as standardized tests. While effective time management, productive study habits, and strong organizational skills can help combat stress, there are also coping mechanisms that you can utilize to help mitigate stress.

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Topics: Managing Stress, Standardized exams

How to Ace the ACT Writing Section

Posted by Lisa Alvarado on Fri, Dec 02, 2016 @ 05:13 PM

Writing an essay in 40 minutes can be a daunting task. The ACT graders expect you to write a well-developed, coherent essay about a topic that you may not be familiar with. However, knowing more about the ACT Writing section, and what graders are looking for can help you to prepare for this task effectively.

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Topics: ACT, ACT test, Writing Section