Tagged: SAT

Strategies for Scoring 800 on the Math SAT and SAT II

How To Score 800 on the Math SAT: Tips From Students and Tutors

Do extra stuff:

1. Practice concepts which aren’t in the syllabus but are related none the less. Often a math problem can be solved in multiple ways which aren’t covered in the default syllabus.

2. Recheck your answers efficiently.

3. Do as many difficult problems as you can.  Ensure you are clear about the concepts.  Practice, practice, practice solving problems.

4. Take (practice) subject tests and use Tips For SAT Subject Tests.

5.  Take timed practice tests and go over the problems you missed.  Take as many timed practice tests as you can.

6. Master your graphing calculator  Use it to solve equations and test questions in different prep sites or books.

7. Practice answering problems without the graphing calculator as Section 3 disallows the use of a calculator

8. Memorize the reference table so you don’t have to flip back and forth

9. Take practice tests from Princeton Review, Kaplan and Kahn Academy

Need help choosing the Subject tests to take?  Lets look at your curriculum and decide what will serve you best.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679


Prepping For The SAT Reading Section

Knowing what to expect on a standardized test is one good way to improve your score.  Here are some tips from the Summit Educational Group to initiate your prep for the SAT.

The reading section gives test takers 65 minutes to read 5 passages and respond to 9-11 questions per passage, 52 total.  The passages range in reading level from 9th grade to early college.

Passages and questions are designed to have students distinguish words with multiple meanings from context, give evidence in multiple choice questions, analyze information in charts or graphs attached to the package.

Balance the time you have among the passages.  Spend about 5 minutes reading, looking for the author’s point of views, attitude toward the subject matter, key points.  Write notes on the test booklet as you go.

You will then have 45 seconds to answer each question.  They are all worth the same amount so do the ones that are easier first.

Opinions differ on whether to read the questions before tackling the passage.  Pre-reading the questions can direct your attention to what is important but it does reduce the time you have to read the passage and complete the questions.

Most test prep companies offer multiple iterations of the test to familiarize students with the styles and types of questions they will encounter on the version that appears when they open the booklet on test day.  Take as many as you can find online or in your prep materials.

Do you have a strategy for scheduling test prep and examination dates?  Let me help you create a time timeline that fits your personal schedule yet leaves time to re-take the SAT or ACT before the scores must be on the admissions officeer’s desk.  stephanie@accessguidance.com, 610-212-6679


Applying To College In An Electronic Age

The article below was written by a fellow admissions consultant and summarizes some of the details you need to know about electronic submissions.  I’ve added the photos.


by Lisa Bleich

Written by Lisa Bleich

When I submitted my applications to college in the mid-eighties, I filled out my application on a typewriter, put in in an envelope and mailed it to my prospective colleges.  My guidance counselor gathered my letters of recommendations, transcripts, and SAT scores, put them into a manila envelope and mailed them to the schools.  Then I waited and assumed that the post office would deliver my applications in good faith.

For current high schools seniors, those same pieces still need to get to the colleges, but with transition to electronic applications, score choice, digital portfolios, and eDocs the process has become in some ways easier, but in many other ways more confusing.

Here are some resources to help make the process go smoother.


Common Application  

With over 500 members, the Common Application is the dominant electronic site for submitting applications to colleges.  The benefit is that students can fill out one application and submit it to all participating schools. Several state schools also participate including the University of Michigan, UMASS Amherst, UNC Chapel Hill, and University of Delaware.  Here is a video that demonstrates how to submit your CommonApp application.

The Coalition Application  

Several state schools, e.g. University of Maryland and University of Florida, have started using the The Coalition Application exclusively for students to submit their applications.  If you scroll down to the bottom of this link, you’ll find some videos that show you how to start a an application, manage document uploads, and submit an application using the Coalition.  If you’d like to do a preview of the entire application before you submit, you can do that after you have paid, but before you actually submit.  After you submit the payment, click on the Expand All button in the top right hand corner and that will allow you to see the full application before you submit.

State and School Specific Electronic Applications

Many large state schools such as UCLA and Berkeley, along with Georgetown and MIT have their own applications that can be found on their website. Several universities also you to input their transcript, eliminating the need to send a transcript from their high school.


Many high schools are using eDocs through Naviance to send the transcripts electronically to the schools, but many high school guidance departments still require that students fill out a paper form with all the information so they can send the transcripts by mail.

It is important to understand the process at your high school and allow at least three weeks before the deadline to make the request.


Students must request that test scores be sent to all of their colleges by the appropriate deadline. Your application will not be read until the colleges receive the scores.

Request SAT scores

Request ACT scores


Colleges like to receive your financial aid forms along with your application so they can provide financial information when they notify you about their decision. Here is a great article on how to fill out the FAFSA.


Consistency the name of the game. When you sign up for the ACTs or SATs using your full legal name and e-mail, use that same name and e-mail for all subsequent application materials.

“The biggest problem is that various pieces can get lost and the easiest way to avoid mistakes is to have the same name and e-mail on everything. So if your legal name is Jonathan Brett Silver, but your nickname is JB, make sure to use Jonathan Brett on anything related to college.” Said J. Scott Myers from Susquehanna University. 

Key identity markers are

1)    Legal name (does not include nicknames)

2)    Email

Electronic does not mean immediateEven though you are used to text messages and e-mails being delivered immediately, it doesn’t work like that when submitting applications.  The applications go to a processing room and from there the application gets “input” into the college’s own proprietary system either by electronically populating the fields, scanning documents, or printing them for colleges that do not yet read electronically.

1)    Every school uses a different system to input data.

2)    “Some colleges receive testing information by mail and then enter scores into the student’s file.  Others receive test scores electronically and automatically integrate them into their system.” Nancy Rehling, a Director from ACT.

Follow up is key!   Once you submit your application, most schools will send you a unique school ID and login information to check on your application status.  “Do this immediately and keep track of what pieces are missing” advises Deryn Pomeroy from Syracuse University.  Here is a link to an article about how to tracking your applications.

1)    Assume it will take from 2-4 weeks for your application to be processed. The closer to the deadline you submit, the longer it will take.

2)    If you do not get the green light within in four weeks of submission, call to follow up on the missing pieces.

Somehow the manila envelope that we all complained about does not seem so bad (just kidding!)

Top Test Taking Strategies For ACT or SAT

Test day is full of anxiety but here are a few things you can do as you prepare and on test day, too.

1. Write on the test booklet (or practice test).  You can work math problems on the booklet, underline points the you want to refer to as you  answer the questions.  Make notes of anything that will help you on the questions.

2. Each question is worth the same one point: the easy questions and the hard ones.  Read through the section, doing the questions you can answer as you go and saving the others to work on later.  Mark the questions you skip and go back through and work on the marked questions.  If time remains, guess on questions that you couldn’t answer on the second pass: there is no penalty for guessing.

3. Use your calculator as needed and permitted.  Calculators can save you time and help you choose an answer.

4. There as several types of questions on both the ACT and SAT.  Be sure you can identify each type and the answer choice that each requires.  Pay attention to the types of questions that appear most frequently on the practice tests.

5. Using these strategies as you prep for your test will increase your comfort and make the process almost automatic.  The more familiar you are, the faster you will be able to go through all of the questions.

Good luck!

Lets talk about a testing schedule and strategies for using your scores to best advantage. stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.




What To Do When 2 Sets Of Scores Don’t Match

Duncan took the SAT twice.





January, 2017     Critical Reading/Writing  590       Math  650      Combined 1240

May,      2017       Critical Reading/Writing  690      Math   600     Combined  1290

The second set of scores showed an improved Critical Reading and a lower Math result.  Which set to send to colleges?

Colleges like to see higher math scores because that aggregate makes them look better. If  Duncan planned to study subjects that are math-intensive or where a science department would review his application, he should show the higher math score.

On the other hand if Duncan is interested in foreign language, international relations, literature or another language intensive major, he should use the higher Critical Reading.  Undecided, he would choose the higher combined score.

It would not be harmful to submit both sets and let the college choose how they evaluate the scores.

Claire took the SAT and the ACT. For simplicity we’ll use Duncan’s combined score of 1290 for the SAT and an ACT Composite  of 26.  This particular score pairs almost equally with the SAT of 1290 so either one is OK to send.  If Claire had earned a 28 on the ACT that would be a stronger submission.  A 24 on the ACT and a 1290 on the SAT makes the SAT a better choice.

There are published concordance tables that offer a comparison and most also indicate which score set is stronger.

Before deciding, consider your Writing score along with your ACT Composite and SAT Combined scores.

Some colleges use scores as an admission tool; some also use them as a placement instrument.  Knowing how your scores can affect your education may impact your decision.

Lets plan a testing schedule and review scores when they come in.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.


Inside Your Admissions Portfolio

Ever wonder what a college admissions office puts in the folder with your name on it?

In order of importance,  first is your high school transcript.  This document shows the difficulty of the courses you’ve chosen.   This is the Number One predictor of success at any college.  So, if  like me, you didn’t take much math because you really have no number sense, are you penalized?  Not at all if you’ve chosen AP, IB or challenging courses in  other subjects.

Taking upper level course work hints at your attraction or aversion to taking risks.  Are you willing to risk a B or C because you want to learn about something?   Even stronger is the suggestion that you can be motivated by curiosity – a very good sign!

Second, is your reported test scores.  The numbers on the score sheet indicate that you can read proficiently enough (speed and comprehension) to evaluate the material and answer questions about it.  Your math score measures how much math you have taken and understood.  Reading on the SAT and the three other subject sections of the ACT present passages based on concepts from typical high school courses.  Your scores indicate your ability to think critically.   Not all students test well making scores an imperfect benchmark.  However, aggregated scores from a high school offer some indication of possible grade inflation when they don’t support applicants’ grades.

Third, is your application and the materials that support it.   Most valuable are your principle and supplementary essays from which the reader gleans insight into who you are other than a brilliant student.  Your choices on your activities list, a portfolio or additional materials show what you value and why.  Adding a resume provides additional space to highlight leadership and accomplishments.

Fourth, the admissions rep who conducts your interview will add notes.  Not all colleges offer interviews on campus but most will arrange for applicants to  meet with alumni who live near the student’s home.

Fifth, are recommendations from the guidance counselor and teachers.  The admissions officers read the recommendations carefully.   Your guidance counselor can use this space to explain that a difficult situation caused your grades to drop for a semester or that an injury kept you out of school for a month.  From the teacher recommendations, admissions readers are looking for specific qualities that will help you in college such as persistence, curiosity, creativity, and independence.

The last piece is the High School Profile.  Each school sends this document along with the transcript and recommendations.  The profile contains a description of the demographics of the school district, a list of AP courses offered, per cent of graduates continuing to 2- and 4-year colleges, and other information that gives the admissions office a picture of your school.

When all the pieces are in place, the admissions officer who evaluates your application gets to know  you and how you have used the opportunities afforded by your high school.  With this picture in mind, a decision is made welcoming you or sending regrets.

As you can see, each section of your application reveals new information.  Let me help you showcase your unique personality in a winning application. 610-212-6679 or stephnaie@accessguidance.com


Deferred from EA or ED to Regular Decision? Here’s What To Do

Wishing and hoping encouraged to you to apply to your top colleges under the Early Decision or Early Action protocols.  6 weeks later you discover that your application has been held for regular decision review.  It’s a tough blow, having to wait another month or two without knowing.

Take stock of the acceptances you may already have.  Are these colleges strong enough contenders for you to be happy with the education and financial aid package?  If so then you only have to send a “No thank you letter” to the office that deferred you.

You may still have a preference for the deferring college.  The number of applications in the Regular Decision pool is larger than the Early groups so you will need to continue to communicate your strengths to the admissions office.

  1. Demonstrate your interest by communicating with the representative who reads the applications from your high school.  Remind him or her that you are still very interested in attending and why.  Don’t repeat what you said in the original application; add something new.
  2. If you have taken the SAT or ACT again, remind the rep to look at the new scores.  Make certain that they have been sent.
  3. Add to your application new awards, challenges overcome, achievements and distinctions.
  4. Visit or visit again.
  5. Consider an additional letter of recommendation from an outside source like a boss or supervisor of a community service initiative.  One could also come from a teacher or coach.  Earn brownie points by asking the college rep if she or he will accept a recommendation before you ask someone to write the letter.

Admission, denial and deferrals are based on the characteristics of the applicant pool and the shape of the class that the admission office is building.  These are qualities that you have no control over and  admission decisions aren’t a reflection of your eligibility.

You are in a great position: you can choose to reject the deferral and select a college that wants you right off the bat or you can play the waiting game and see all the colleges that choose you before you decide.  Either way, you will end up at a great college or university because all of the schools on your list are good choices.

If you need help showing love to the admissions offices that deferred you, lets talk.  We can find new information to send that will strengthen your application.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

Test Optional Variations

maybeMore and more colleges are offering applicants the option of applying without submitting test scores.  Each college has its own agenda and definition of “optional” .  The agenda can range from dropping the potentially lowest scoring admitted students when reporting the middle 50% of admits (which raises the score band and therefore selectivity and college rankings), to encouraging less prepared students to apply, to a genuine belief that scores don’t reflect college readiness.

Test Optional applications generally mean that the admissions office will look at GPA, rank, curriculum, recommendations and high school activities when making an admissions decision.  A few disregard scores if sent but most will consider them if they are part of the student’s package.

Many Test Optional colleges request the scores after a student has been admitted, either for statistical analysis or for placement in first year classes.  Not taking any admissions qualifying exam can be a handicap.

While not reporting test scores could lead to a “YES!” from the admissions office, it could also mean a “NO!” for merit aid.  Almost everywhere, merit aid decisions are based on a combination of GPA, scores and rank.  With no scores to boost a student into an automatic grant, non-submitting students don’t qualify regardless of their grades and the rigor of their high school courses.

If you are considering not sending ACT or SAT scores, ask questions of the admissions office.  Do you need scores to be eligible for “free” money?  Are there additional requirements of students not submitting scores? If you choose to submit, how are the scores used?  What will be substituted if no scores are sent? How will placement decisions be made?

The more you learn about the options at each college you plan to apply to, the better your decisions will be.

For explanations of admissions vocabulary and policies, make an appointment with Stephanie for a phone or in person talk to answer your questions.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com.


Test Day Tips for SAT and ACT

Relax.  Let The Zen Take Over
Relax. Let The Zen Take Over

Everyone is nervous on test day, anticipating long hours and head-scratching test questions.  Trust that your test prep has gotten you ready for the challenge and relax into an easy rhythm.


Colleges know  your scores are just numbers that don’t define who you are or what your future holds.  At best, standardized tests  show your problem solving abilities and how you work under pressure.  If you don’t have high marks in either of these yet, you have a long time to learn them.

Find out how your colleges view your test scores.  Text or call Stephanie at Access College and Career Consultants at 610-212-6679.  This is just one of our services for students who want personalized, comprehensive college planning.


ACT or SAT This Fall?

Juniors, are you wondering if you should take the SAT this fall before the new version is rolled out in 2016? Most consultants are recommending that you do. If you already know from PSAT and PLAN tests that you will likely score higher in the SAT, by all means, register for the SAT in 2015.

Dates for 2015-2016 are
October 3
November 7
December 5
January 23 – the last time the current SAT will be offered
March 5 – new SAT
May 7 – a good time to take a subject test
June 4 – time for a second subject test if you need it

SAT registration closes about 4 weeks before the test date.

If you are a student who expects to do better on the ACT here are the 2015-2016 dates
September 9 – you can still register with a penalty till 8/21/15
October 24
December 12
February 6
April 9
June 4

ACT registration closes about 5 weeks before the test date.

You can wait a little longer to take the ACT and still be able to take it again.  There usually has been a September test date so you could even re-take the ACT in September, 2016.

On the test day you will need to bring ID with you. Here are the acceptable forms of ID taken from the websites:

Acceptable Identification Documents
You are responsible for bringing an acceptable form of identification each time you report to an SAT test center. ID documents, must meet all of the following requirements:
• Be a valid (unexpired) photo identification that is government-issued or issued by the school that you currently attend. School IDs from the prior school year are valid through December of the current calendar year. (For example, school IDs from 2014-2015 can be used through December 31, 2015.)
• Be an original document (not photocopied).
• Bear your full, legal name that exactly as it appears on your Admission Ticket, including the order of the names.
• Bear a recent recognizable photograph that clearly matches both your appearance on test day and the photo on your Admission Ticket.
• Be in good condition, with clearly legible English language text and a clearly visible photograph.
Note: Not all of these requirements apply to Talent Search Identification documents used by students who are in the eighth grade or below at the time of testing; however, Talent Search Identification Forms must bear an original student/parent signature.
Examples of Acceptable ID include:
• Government-issued driver’s license or non-driver ID card
• Official school-produced student-identification card from the school you currently attend
• Government-issued passport
• Government-issued military or national identification card
• Talent Search Identification Forms (allowed for eighth grade and below)
• SAT Student ID Form (must be prepared by the school you currently attend or a notary, if homeschooled)
Acceptable forms of identification:
Only the following forms of identification are acceptable. If it is not on this list, it is not acceptable, and you will not be admitted to test.
• Current official photo ID
o Must be an original, current (valid) ID issued by a city/state/federal government agency or your school. Note: School ID must be in hard plastic card format. Paper or electronic formats are NOT acceptable.
o Your first and last names must match the ticket.
o The photo must be clearly recognizable as you.
• ACT Student Identification Letter with Photo
o You MUST present this ACT Student Identification Letter with Photo if you do not have a current official photo ID as described above.
o It must be completed by a school official or notary public; neither may be a relative.
o All items must be completed.
o Download the letter here.
• ACT Talent Search Identification Letter
o If you are participating in an academic talent search program and were not required to submit a photo with your registration you must present your ACT Talent Search Identification Letter. If you are participating in an academic talent search program and were required to submit a photo when you registered, you must present either a current official photo ID or an ACT Student Identification Letter with Photo.

Register early, do your prep and relax: you’ve got this!