How to buy 10 points on the SAT from the College Board

I sent the College Board a check for \$55 and that got me an additional 10 points on my SAT.

For most of us that might sound like a good deal, but it really is not. If you’re a follower of this blog or me on twitter (twitter.com/akilbello) you probably know that  I took the SAT in October of 2011. Being a self-proclaimed “test prep dude” I of course ordered the QAS service so I could review the questions after the test.

College Scholarships: It’s Not Too Late!

In the Bell Curves office, we hear parents and students ask this same question over and over:

“How am I going to pay for college?”

So we turned to one of our favorite college-counselor-admissions-gurus, Angela Conley, for advice on finding money to pay for college.  She offered us some good counsel in response.  Angela says:
Many high school seniors (and parents) believe that the college process is over around this time of year and everything that can be done has been: the college and scholarship applications were sent . They believe that at this stage there is nothing left to do and there are no more opportunities out there.

ISEE and SSAT: Parents Just Don’t Understand

Not much has changed since DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince rapped “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” And while we can’t explain what would motivate a teenager to run off with the family car without permission we can answer the most common questions we’ve had about the SSAT and ISEE.  Here are some answers to some of the more common questions about these two tests:

GMAT Strategy: Geometry Hybrids

One way the GMAT ramps up the difficulty of questions is to combine multiple concepts in a single problem. Geometry questions that do this can be challenging, particularly for test-takers who struggle to visualize alternative structures or orientations of a given figure.

Some of the most challenging of all Geometry Hybrids are those that fuse multiple figures into one larger figure and then ask about some facet of it. We call these Mixed Shapes, and categorize them into three groups: Overlapping Figures, Strange Shapes, and Shaded Areas. Let’s take a look at a sample problem to identify strategies to conquer these Geometry Hybrids.

Two identical circles of area 36π overlap as shown above. If the distance from point A to point B is 6, what is the area of the shaded region?

SSAT and ISEE: What makes these tests so darn hard?!?

Admissions tests (while this post is focused on the SSAT and ISEE, it’s also applicable to the SAT and ACT) are notoriously difficult for students and confusing to parents, especially when otherwise high-performing students get “low” scores. While there are many possible reasons for a student to under-perform on a test, we’ll tackle some of the most common. Hopefully this will give you some insight into how to help your child succeed on a standardized admission tests. Here are a few reasons students struggle with admissions tests:

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Rhomaro Powell

Recently, we thought that many people out there battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Radina Russell. This time around, we got insights from the funny and talented Rhomaro Powell.

BC Alumnus Rhomaro Powell

Rhomaro graduated from the S.C. Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, and currently works in the financial services sector.

Why did you go to business school?

Business School was the next logical step for my career progression.  My ultimate goal is to operate my own private equity firm; however I felt I was lacking some core skills, i.e. finance and accounting. Additionally, I felt I needed the proper brand and network that would provide me access to enter the private equity universe.  Johnson at Cornell University gave me the brand, network, and knowledge I needed.

Business school as accelerated my career tremendously, mainly because it has helped me grow as an individual, expanded my network, and provided opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.  For example, I went into business school with the main goal of improving my technical skills, but learned that the softer skills were at least as important – and perhaps even more important – to my career.  I learned that knowledge only gets you so far, but being able to lead, influence, and build relationships with individuals will get you farther.  In regards to expanding my network and opportunities, I was able to do so through organizations such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow and The Robert Toigo Foundation.  These organizations have expanded my network from outside the business school I attended.  Additionally, I studied in Madrid, Spain for 5 months.  My network now spans all the top business schools and companies around the world.

The Sound(s) of GMAT: Inspiration

image courtesy of h.koppdelaney @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/

Anyone who has prepped – or is prepping now – for the GMAT knows that every little edge counts. We’d recently been boning up on our Mozart (knowledge, not performance) and came across a little gilt-edged nugget called The Mozart Effect. Popularized in the nineties, the Mozart Effect spoke to the increases in spatial-temporal reasoning ability witnessed in research subjects immediately after listening to a Mozart sonata* (guess which one? answer at bottom). More importantly, the Mozart Effect is the reason so many “sophisticated” and/or New Age parents find themselves playing classical music for children still trapped in the womb and therefore unable to voice their own musical preferences.

Overlooking the fact the 8-9 point increase on the spatial reasoning portion of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was completely temporary (the boost lasted about 10-15 minutes), and also overlooking the fact that all subsequent attempts at replication of the experiment (except one done by the original researchers) failed to reproduce the reported increases of the original, we thought, “Well, everyone loves music. It’s inspiring, it’s motivational, it’s calming, so let’s publish playlists of GMAT tunes that could help students get excited, get ahead, and get their prep groove on.” Besides, the GMAT does require some spatial-temporal reasoning  beyond simply navigating your way through the pat-down and to your seat.

To get the most of this list, or ones you create for yourself, here are a few tips to use them most effectively:

Starting Prep Early: SAT Vocabulary Strategies

Earlier this year we joined SAT aficionados and college counselors on Twitter for the bi-weekly #CampusChat. The topic was SAT vocabulary and it sparked a zany hour of interesting words being used in fun context. By our estimation the prize for most interesting use of SAT vocab was taken by Suzanne Schaeffer (mostly because of her fun digs at Bell Curves founder @akilbello). If you’re interested you can see the full twitter transcript here.

This chat got the juices flowing over in BC central and sparked us to ask our teachers for recommendations for short-term (less than 6 months) and longer term vocab acquisition tools and tricks. In this blog we’ll address some of the long term vocabulary strategies that parents can use to help their children develop college-ready vocabularies.

Q&A: How Many GMAT Tests are Too Many?

We’re back to share some GMAT-related questions we’ve received (as well as our answers) in hopes that the information may be of benefit to others. Today’s question deals with how multiple GMAT scores may be interpreted by admissions officers.

Q: Does taking the GMAT multiple times look bad when applying to B-schools?

The Internets: Where Erroneous Lives

The internet is filled with interesting, informative, and helpful information. Lots of the time, that information is also factually accurate. Lots of times, it’s not. What makes the internet so fantastic a tool — its freedom of access and populist design — is also the thing that can often leave it riddled with factual potholes. The test preparation industry, like any other, struggles with this problem. Given all the companies, tutors, teachers, and individuals sharing information, anyone seeking info on the web should double check what they find.

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