Tag Archives: PSAT

What You Need To Know about the PSAT and SAT Test Math Fill-In or Grid-In Questions

The Math Fill-In Questions on the PSAT and SAT can be quite unsettling for many students because they are different than the other questions throughout the test.  In my tutoring and teaching experience, these are the four things that often surprise students when it comes to the SAT Math Fill-In Questions:

  • There Are No Negative Answers.  There is no way to bubble a negative response in, so if you ever find yourself coming up with a negative answer, know that you are incorrect!
  • Sometimes, There Are Multiple Correct Answers.  The SAT computer grading system will pick up on ranges of correct answers – sometimes there may be 2 or 3 correct answers, sometimes there may be hundreds! Knowing this may help you prevent overthinking.
  • There Is NO GUESSING PENALTY on the Fill-In Questions.   The new SAT has NO GUESSING PENALTY! Be certain that you answer every single one of the fill-in questions!
  • You DO NOT Have to Reduce Fractions!  If you enter a fraction like 3/24, the SAT computers will compute that you actually meant 1/8 and still give you the correct answer.

You can find practice for the Fill-In Questions on the College Board Website:

http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/prep/gridins/gridins.html

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

 

 

The Most Important thing to Focus on for Standardized Tests

When I was a public high school teacher one of the courses I instructed was AP World History.  The AP World History Exam typically averages three out of nine as the median score on its extended responses.  One year, the median for a question was only around one and a half out of nine.  What happened?  The vast majority of students thought the question was asking about countries in “South-East Asia” (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand etc.). In fact, the question asked only about countries in “South Asia” (India, Pakistan etc.).  If a student had simply answered the question discussing what little he or she knew about India, he or she would likely have received a score well above average.

This example illustrates the most important strategy for taking the SAT, ACT, GED, AP, and IB exams as well as any other major test:  you must understand the question!  If you rush through what they are asking you may very well misunderstand the question and you are definitely going to miss it.

This is such an issue because in school we often have questions that are quite simple in their wording:  “solve for x”, “who was the main character”, or “define mitosis.”  Quite frankly, we don’t even need to read the questions much of the time on school tests – if you look at the choices the answer is clear. The questions on standardized tests, however, are far more elaborately worded.  If you skim over them really quickly, you will have no idea what they are asking you to do.  Instead, make sure you read the questions very, very carefully so that you fully understand the task at hand.  Remember that a careless mistake is still a mistake, so don’t let yourself make them by misreading the question.

For any teachers reading this, know that you can help your students quite a bit by giving them questions with more difficult wording.  I was conducting a teacher professional development workshop about the ACT when a math teacher said, “My gosh!  We never have words in our problems – only numbers!”  After our meeting, he made sure to do more word problems on his math quizzes.  I know it takes more time to write questions like these, but even a couple of toughly worded questions on a test will really help your students become better prepared for major tests like the SAT, ACT, or AP exams.  If you feel you are only “teaching to the test” by doing this, know that you are teaching the very important life skill of reading instructions carefully.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely would want my accountant, lawyer, or doctor to be able to carefully read what they are supposed to do and not make careless errors.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Tutoring for the New SAT, New PSAT, and New ACT Essay

Never have there been so many simultaneous major changes to the ACT, SAT, and PSAT.  Trying to determine a test preparation program in such an environment is extraordinarily difficult, especially when the stakes for college admissions and scholarships are so high.

Fortunately, we at BWS Education are on the cutting edge of all of these changes.  All of our tutors are well-versed in the major changes to the PSAT, SAT, and ACT that are coming this year, including the revised ACT Essay coming this September, the redesigned PSAT coming this October, and the redesigned SAT coming in March, 2016.

If you would like a tutor who will help you prepare for the test you will actually take instead of the test as it has been in the past, register for tutoring using this form:

http://bwseducationconsulting.com/docs/Onboarding.pdf

We can accommodate students from all over the world via online tutoring, and in-person clients in the greater Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana areas.  We look forward to working with you!

New PSAT Book for Barron’s is done!

I am thrilled to report that I finished my manuscript for the new Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT this past week.  This was the most challenging professional task I have ever taken on, given the very short amount of time and the minimal information available about the new PSAT.  Fortunately, I am quite pleased with the 85,000 word final product and I look forward to using it with my students this spring.

I started writing the text in February after signing my contract with Barron’s.  There was just enough information available at that time to create a body of practice and review materials.  I carefully reviewed the College Board test specifications for the new SAT and PSAT, as well as the practice questions they released.  It is fortunate that the new PSAT and SAT are more like the ACT than they were in the past, since I have great familiarity with the ACT having written the most recent Barron’s ACT Guide.

Just a few days before my April 1 deadline, the College Board finally released a full-length sample PSAT.  I had to make a few tweaks to my book materials, but all in all my original materials were very well-aligned with the practice PSAT.

The new PSAT book will feature a number of things that will make it extremely useful for students preparing for the 2015 PSAT:

–Several hundred practice questions, representing the equivalent of over 3 full-length PSAT tests.

–Comprehensive answer explanations to every question, including explanations of why incorrect answers are wrong.

–Extensive strategies and content review.

You can check out the new book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Barrons-Strategies-Practice-PSAT-NMSQT/dp/143800768X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1428270936&sr=8-2&keywords=barrons+psat

Please contact BWS Education for any of your tutoring needs as you prepare for the brand new 2015 PSAT and 2016 SAT.

3 Things Students Can Do to Prepare for the New 2015 PSAT

What should students do to prepare for the new PSAT?

1. Read widely and deeply. Students should read texts from a variety of content areas, from world literature to natural science, to become familiar with the types of materials they will encounter. The PSAT reading will not be difficult for most students to finish, so they should focus on learning to read well rather than read quickly.

2. Learn grammar fundamentals. Many students have not had thorough training in grammar. The new PSAT will expect students to thoroughly understand proper punctuation, parallelism, subject-verb agreement, and a host of other topics. Since grammar is often not taught in depth at many schools, students may want to review independently.

3. Brush up on algebra and statistics. There is very little geometry and trigonometry on the new PSAT. If someone is trying to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, they will want to study geometry so they can be prepared for the handful of questions that will arise. If someone has more moderate goals, they can emphasize algebraic and statistical fundamentals.

Major Changes to the PSAT in 2015

I am currently writing the new Barron’s PSAT Guide, so I have become very well-versed in what the new PSAT will look like.   Here is my concise summary of the major changes coming to the PSAT this fall:

Current PSAT Vocab:  Students need to spend countless hours memorizing obscure vocabulary words that they will probably not use again.

New PSAT Vocab:  Students focus on deciphering the meaning of words based on context clues.  The potential words are ones that are more widely used in professional settings.

Current PSAT Math:  An emphasis on pure mathematical reasoning, with many problems more akin to IQ test questions than ones that students are very likely to encounter in the real world.

New PSAT Math:  A major shift towards practical word problems, data analysis, statistics, and algebra.  The mathematical concepts are ones used in a variety of careers, both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and non-STEM ones.

Current PSAT Guessing:  There is a quarter point guessing penalty for missed questions.  (If students answer a question correctly, they earn a full point; if they omit it, they receive zero points; if they answer incorrectly, they lose a quarter point).  In my tutoring experience, the guessing penalty drives students nuts as they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to determine whether they should answer a question or leave it blank.

New PSAT Guessing:  There is no guessing penalty–simply answer every question.  Students can devote their mental energy to the problems presented instead of wasting it on trying to decide whether to answer.

Current PSAT Theme:  The current SAT is more a test of pure problem solving skills, with not much of a focus on practical applications.

New PSAT Theme:  No one will be able to justifiably say that there is nothing useful or practical being evaluated on the new SAT.  It has writing passages from career fields, lots of real world mathematical word problems, and reading passages from the great historical & political documents of the U.S. and world.

The New 2016 SAT vs. the Old SAT

With the PSAT/NMSQT changing in the fall, and the SAT changing in March, 2016, students and parents are very confused about what these changes mean to the content of the test.  To make things much easier, here is a PDF summary of how the new SAT will compare to the old SAT.  Hope you find it helpful!

http://www.bwseducationconsulting.com/docs/2016_New_SAT_Summary.pdf