5 bad SAT prep ideas

The January SAT marks the beginning of the year’s most frenzied test prep season. Seriously, between now and May, it gets real. Because so many will be ramping up their efforts in the coming weeks, I thought it’d be useful to put together a few thoughts on what not to do. Bad Idea #1: Rapid-fire (more…)

How to take a practice test

Practice tests are a necessary element of any SAT prep plan. The test itself is a harrowing and protracted experience, and if you haven’t put yourself through rigorous simulations a few times before you sit down for the real thing, you’ll be at a real disadvantage. (Click here for links to free official practice tests.) (more…)

“Is there a math way?”

When a student asks me how to solve a math problem, my default response is to show, if possible, how to solve it by plugging in, backsolving, or guesstimating. I do this because I figure if the “math way” was obvious, the student wouldn’t be asking me for help in the first place. Besides, problem (more…)

How to use flashcards

There are many ways to learn words, which is good, because there are many different learning styles. Some people like vocab books like the fantastic Direct Hits series. Some people just make it a habit to write down and learn every word they encounter that they don’t know. Still others, like myself, try to grow (more…)

The Essay: Organization and focus

This is a bit of a cliche, but you really should hold your reader’s hand and guide him through your essay. Avoid reader whiplash at all costs—your grader should never have to pause to wonder how he got to where he is, because you should be there at every juncture, reminding him exactly how he (more…)


I’ve been asked a few times lately about the PSAT/NMSQT, and I figured it might be helpful to put up a brief FAQ about it. So…here that is. 🙂 How are the PSAT and the SAT different? For one, the PSAT, at 5 sections, is much shorter than the grueling 10 section SAT. The PSAT (more…)

The Essay: Development and support of point of view

SAT essay assignments require you to take a position and support it using “reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.” In other words, you don’t just have to say what you believe, you need to try to persuade your reader to agree with you, or at the very least convince him (more…)

Blue Book Breakdown – Test 11 Math

Special nerd note: #20 in Section 4 is pretty much my favorite Guesstimate question of all time. The College Board’s latest The Official SAT Study Guide with DVD is exactly the same as the 2nd edition, except that it comes with a DVD containing a bit of extra content. I can see the utility in the SAT timer it includes, (more…)

Never say die (A last-minute SAT cram plan)

If you’re taking the SAT next weekend and you haven’t really started studying yet, you should know right now that you’ve not set yourself up for overwhelming success (or even regular-whelming success). Still, you’re not alone in your predicament, and Goonies never say “die.” I’m not going to say anything profound here, but I figured (more…)

Blue Book Breakdown – Test 3 Math

This breakdown is meant to help you analyze and categorize your mistakes after you’ve taken Practice Test 3 in the Blue Book. The whole idea is that the best thing you can do to improve your score is to understand your weaknesses, and then drill the hell out of them to make them strengths. Click (more…)