SAT Prep Tip: Critical Reading

Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

Today’s topic is the SAT’s Passage-Based Critical Reading, i.e., the part of the SAT that makes most student cringe and break out in hives. Hopefully after reading this you’ll not only feel better about Passage-Based Reading, but may actually start to like it.

What makes SAT Reading different from school reading?

There are three significant things about SAT Passages and Questions that make them different from the reading most high school students do. If you understand these things, then you will be much better prepared for them.

SAT Prep Tip: Calculators

TI-84 Graphing Calc ($100 - $125)

As many of you might know, the SAT allows the use of calculators. However, you may wonder which calculator you should use for the SAT. This post will help you decide which calculator to get and how to use it most effectively on the SAT!

While the calculator is a helpful tool for the SAT, it is by no means necessary. In fact, here is what the College Board says about calculators:

Every mathematics question on the SAT can be solved without a calculator. However, using a calculator may be helpful for some questions.

Let’s check out what that means and what calculator we may want to bring to the test.

May 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Insipid Purveyors of Daunting Mischief

Sometimes, seeing what’s on the SAT can prepare us for future tests.  Since vocabulary is so important, we got a couple of word nerds together to go through the May 2011 SAT test and pull out the most notorious words –  a task they performed with celerity.

Study Tips: Test yourself!

In this edition of our ongoing study tips, we introduce you to the testing effect, another handy (and scientifically proven, read about a study here) method for improving your study habits and information retention.

Study Tips: Don’t interfere!

We (we, the world, not we Bell Curves – which is singular anyway but that’s another story) know more now than ever before about the workings of the human mind and memory, thanks to the field of cognitive neuroscience. What does this mean for you, you ask? These advances have very practical applications, especially for students who wish to improve the efficiency of their studying.

Vocabulary for Internet Procrastinators

Vocabulary is one of the most essential tools for college students, prospective college students, and graduates. You’ll need vocabulary words for the SAT or GRE, for your reading assignments, and to make a good impression upon those you speak to. And, while you do need to increase your vocabulary, sometimes it’s just too much of a bother to walk away from the computer or couch and grab a dictionary. Well, if you want an easy way to increase your lexicon while you’re surfing the web, try this add-on:

The SAT & the Tranquil Test-taker

The SAT is, to many students, the most stressful part of the college admissions process. An enigmatic behemoth of a test, spanning almost two hundred questions and nearly four hours, it’s no wonder that students are intimidated. And, while preparing for the test is essential, it’s just as important that students enter the test feeling relaxed and confident. Check out our tips and reminders for keeping your cool on the SAT:

The Best SAT Prep Tip Ever: RTFQ!!

Today’s tip comes to you from a survey of the teaching staff here at Bell Curves. We asked our teachers one question:”What is the single most important tip you would give to a student taking the SAT?” Although the responses took a bunch of forms and was demonstrated in different ways, the across-the-board answer remained consistent: RTFQ(Read the Full Question). Just that one thing.  Just that.

RTFQ stands for “Read the Full Question” or, depending on whom you ask, the ‘F’ may stand for something more profane.

March 2011 SAT: You Be the Reality (Essay) Judge

Editor’s note: After hearing of the topic for the March 2011 SAT essay we at Bell Curves decided to have our intern, a recent SAT test taker, write his thoughts about it. We love you to share your thoughts in the comments!

The essay was introduced as part of the writing section of the SAT in March 2005. It was in response to the increasing demand of college admissions personnel for more proof of a student’s writing and critical thinking abilities. These essays usually ask about general themes (e.g. responsibility, dreams, heroism, or rationality), so that the average student could produce a relatively well-thought out response in 30 minutes.

Typical essay questions (and most of the ones in the preparation material released by the College Board) include:

  • “Is it better for people to learn from others than to learn on their own?”
  • “Is an idealistic approach less valuable than a practical approach?”
  • “Do people put too much importance on getting every detail right on a project or task?”
  • “Do we benefit from learning about the flaws of people we admire and respect?”

These questions are pretty predictable and require some intellectual contemplation on the part of the student. When I was preparing for the kinds of essay questions posed in the Writing section, I decided to always write 5 paragraphs (filling up both pages if possible) and to use three supporting examples that demonstrated that I paid attention in high school. I employed my knowledge of historical events; novels (The Great Gatsby, for example); memorable articles from The New York Times, The Economist, etc; personal anecdotes, which I made up to fit the prompt; and statistics from recognizable sources. Following this method requires the common knowledge, more or less, of a high school junior. Therefore, I would say that most test-takers approach the essay question in roughly this manner.

However students were definitely caught off guard by the essay questions from the exam this past weekend:

  • “Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?”
  • “Is photography a representation of real life or a depiction of a photographer’s point of view?”

January 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Virtuosos Subvert the Miniscule Prodigy

At Bell Curves, we love going through old SATs to beef up our vocabulary and assuage potential polemical debates on deleterious topics.  What can we say, we’re mercurial that way.

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