Picture the scene:
I’m sitting at San Dieguito Academy in one of the tiny desks awaiting the start of the SAT. The proctor needs to check everyone’s calculators, so the rustle of students pulling them from under their chairs and opening them up is underway. I’ve got a back row seat, so I can see everyone.
Maybe about 50% of students pull out a big graphing calculator, another 20 0r 30% pull out ti-30s, and the rest pull out some teeny tiny little calculator with only the 10 digits and the basic arithmetic keys. One kid doesn’t have any calculator at all. When the proctor inquires, the kid confidently answers that he’ll just use his brain.
At the first break, as I walk by to get to the bathroom, I overhear the poor student with no calculator talking about how hard the math section was. He says he’s fine for reading and writing, but “the math.. ooh, the math,” he says, with clear notes of regret in his voice.
As a tutor, it’s one of my biggest frustrations. Why do kids think they don’t need a calculator when they go into these big tests? And I’d like to know, how could a calculator hurt a student? They need it in school, why wouldn’t they need it on this Very-Important-Test?
But perhaps a more interesting, useful question to those of you who are hip to the blog and tutoring in general, isn’t why you should use a calculator at all, but Why should I use a big graphing calculator instead of a small, “normal” one? Wouldn’t it hurt me, if I’m not comfortable with it?
Of course, if you’re not comfortable with it, don’t use it. It’s better to use a calculator you understand than one you don’t, definitely. However, a good tutor can bring you up to speed on a graphing calculator in less than a session, and even provide you with homework to reinforce your usage habits that pertain perfectly well to the SAT or ACT.
Does it make a big difference? You bet so. It not only helps with certain questions that would normally take you much longer (or even be unsolvable), but it also will prevent certain mistakes and keep your brain a little more active too (important for those other sections!).
All of these benefits are predicated upon the idea of you learning to use the calculator correctly, but they do translate into real point gains. In fact, we hold that they’re the easiest point gains you can achieve!
If you’d like to know what we recommend as the best calculator for the job, click here: LINK.
And hope you are all enjoying your summer! I know many of you are still relaxing the lazy days away, and I’m glad to hear it! We all must take breaks sometimes in order to be our best selves.
However, many of you are back to the grind. Either you took a break off already, or you have a big break planned soon. In which case, good on you! I’ve been impressed with your collective drive and passion (yes, even passion for success on the ACT and SAT!) this summer. And it has been inspiring me to do some extra work of my own. Keep it up!
In news this week: the AP scores have been released and lots of you are in the market (or should be) for a new calculator. For those of you new to the newsletter, we also have a few reading recommendations to keep your brain limber over the summer. Read on for details!
The Secret Life of String Cheese by Tanya Basu in The Atlantic
Paleo-Eskimos disappearance mystery may be solved by DNA study by James Maynard
I’ve just received word today that the AP Scores are released (unofficially). What does this mean? It means with our IP addresses located in CA, you won’t be able to obtain your scores until the 10th. However, if you use an IP spoofer (available in many apps on your phone), you can “hack” your way in there.
As some of you have asked, isn’t this wrong? Maybe a little bit, but I’d imagine they’re releasing scores in waves specifically to prevent the site from crashing. What’re a few additional requests? If they were serious about releasing in batches, they’d be more like the ACT, and literally only post a certain number of them by day.
So go ahead, check away, students. The scores are out!
Want to get a head start on your essays for this school year? Check out the essay prompts from the 2015-2016 Common App.
One of the 5 prompts:
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
So what’s your task for this week? Take a look at the 5 prompts from the Common App and sketch out what you might possibly answer them with. Just brainstorm, write down some ideas, that’s it. That’s the only thing you need to do this week to get started on writing your college essay.
Stuck at any point? Set up a meeting with us at Mo Prep to get some help by emailing email@example.com.
Two years ago when I sat down to take the PSAT I knew NOTHING about the test. I didn’t know what subjects were on it, how long it took, or even what materials I needed. Only later was I able to understand that the test many take as a joke actually holds serious value for college-bound high school students. Although I took my PSAT seriously, I didn’t grasp the importance of trying my best on a test that would never “officially” go on my transcript.
Three things I wish I knew:
1. The PSAT is an awesome way to practice taking standardized tests in an official setting without the added anxiety that comes from the seriousness of the real tests. It can give great insight into where you might score on the actual SAT and more importantly what areas you need to focus on to improve your score.
2. One of the more serious aspects of the PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship. With this test, students have the ability to earn national merit recognition if they score in the top 1% of their state. This status provides students with the opportunity to stand out when applying to college and have the chance to receive academic scholarships.
3. Studying for the PSAT holds enormous value. It not only allows you to contend for national merit recognition, but it also gives you a head start on SAT prep before most students have even thought about standardized testing. Prepping for the PSAT is the perfect segue into actual test prep and creates a great foundation of testing habits that can be used for any form of testing, standardized or not.
Juniors, have you taken a practice test yet? Most parents already know that practice tests should be taken under “test conditions,” but most aren’t aware of a couple other things that should occur.
Practice tests are typically offered at tutoring centers for between $20-$35 a sitting, which is a great deal. It is unlikely that any tutoring center is making money off of these administrations: they’re generally understood in the industry as a way to get students “in the door.”
To keep in mind when arranging for a practice test:
- The best practice test that can be taken for the ACT is the actual test. However, the next date is September, which can be too far away to be of use. The cost is also greater and the waiting period is longer. You also will be unable to get the actual missed questions to them (only available in Dec., Apr., and Jun.).
- Ideally, a practice test should be taken close to when you will begin prep. This will allow the tutor to get a best idea of where the student currently sits on the scale.
- It’s best if the practice test is taken with the tutoring company you’ll be working with. This allows the tutor to see the actual missed questions, as well as understand which section may have been particularly difficult on that round. If, for example, the student is taking the 73G, the English section may have been particularly hard, but if they took the 72C, the English section may have been a bit easier.
If you are unable to take a practice test under ideal testing conditions and/or you have no idea which practice test you took, don’t despair! A strong tutor will still be able to perform an assessment and see where your actual abilities are in a matter of a few hours.
Practice tests just happen to be the quicker, cheaper way to get an idea of where you (or your child) is performing. Remember, it is highly unlikely that any tutoring center is making money off of their practice tests. They are solely used to “get you in the door.”
As many of you embark on travel adventures this summer, I thought this read would be a good one for you..
How Millenials are Changing Travel, by Amanda Machado in The Atlantic
The topic (Robin Williams) is a little old, but the thoughts are still compelling.
On Social Media and Collective Mourning, by Dylan Byers in Politico