Tag Archives: SAT


November 2010 SAT: 5 Things You Can Do to Prepare in Your Last Week

The November 2010 SAT is coming up next week! So what’s the best way to spend your last few days leading up to the test?

To start, check out our free test week workshops. Then, follow these five tips for exam day readiness:

1. Buddy up

Get together one night during test week (not Friday night!) with a few friends who are also taking the exam and share study tips and strategies. If you can stay focused (perhaps have a parent in the next room) this is a great way to make last minute prep more fun and less stressful. You may even learn a super-helpful new strategy from one of your friends.

2. Take one last test run

Take a practice test early in the week (definitely not Friday night!) under test conditions similar to that of the actual exam (i.e. time yourself and take the test in a quiet room without distractions). Go through each of your wrong answer choices and review the appropriate content that is related to the questions you are getting wrong. Don’t worry about your score on this test — due to stress and other mitigating factors there is a chance it will not be indicative of how you will do this weekend – just use the experience as a study tool.

3. Ask for help!

Everyone can use a little guidance sometimes. Have a specific question in mind that needs answering. Going up to your high school math teacher and saying “I need help with SAT math, what can you tell me?” is not going to go over well (especially the week before the test). However, a question like, “Do you have any advice for approaching questions about x-y planes”  might just get you a helpful response. You can even consulting a parent or an older sibling with questions like “How do you best prepare for a stressful situation?” or “Can you review some vocabulary with me?” Take advantage of all the people around you who are ready and willing to help!

4. Head outside

Get some fresh air and exercise. You want to de-stress your mind and body. Anxiety can be your biggest enemy on test day. Oxygen helps brain function — aerobic exercise is the most effective study break possible. Studies show that 30-40 minutes of exercise can boost performance on mental tasks.

5. Don’t cram

The night before the test, just take care of the practical stuff. Put your exam ticket and other relevant documents someplace safe where you won’t forget them. Plan your travel to the exam center wisely in order to reach the test center well in time. Be sure to get adequate sleep. Prepare breakfast, or at least plan what you will eat (something with a balance of proteins and carbohydrates is best). If you think it will save you time and early morning stress, lay out your clothing the night before. Be sure to dress in layers!

The Freshman 15 Writing Rules: The "Whichcraft" of Adjective Clauses

We here at Knewton are feeling benevolent, so we have decided that it’s high time to roll out another of our Freshman 15 Writing Rules. We have heard your cries and felt your hunger, and in our infinite wisdom and mercy, we respond with a new grammar tip. Your prayers have been answered. The long wait is over.

Last time, we learned how to be a pro at pronouns. This week, we will examine an especially tricky rule concerning adjective clauses. This is another rule that is broken regularly in speech and writing, making related errors incredibly difficult to spot with an untrained eye.

So without further ado, we give you:

Rule 7. An adjective clause must describe the noun right before it

An adjective clause begins with the pronoun “which,” “that,” “who,” “whose,” or “whom” and describes a specific noun that must immediately precede the clause. If the adjective clause describes a different noun in the sentence or if there is no specific noun logically described, the clause is not correctly placed. Just as an adjective must describe a noun, so an adjective clause must also describe a noun.

For example, the sentence “A truck is speeding down the street that is the same color as a banana” is incorrect and should be written as “A truck that is the same color as a banana is speeding down the street.” The truck, not the street, is logically described as the same color as a banana.

In real life, the word “which” is frequently used to modify a general idea or an action hinted at by the preceding clause, but on the SAT, this is incorrect! When “which” introduces an adjective clause, make sure that the clause IMMEDIATELY follows the noun it modifies. If the clause introduced by “which” describes an abstract idea rather than a specific noun in the sentence, you’ve found a modifier error.

For example, “I drink a glass of warm milk, wash my face, and write in my journal every night before bed, which helps me fall asleep” is not correct because the clause beginning with which does not describe a single noun within the sentence. What noun, specifically, helps me fall asleep? The clause does not logically describe the noun, bed, that comes before it, and the idea that this routine helps me fall asleep cannot be described by the adjective clause.

Let’s take a stab at a revision: “Every night before bed, my routine, which helps me fall asleep, involves drinking a glass of warm milk, washing my face, and writing in my journal.” This sentence correctly uses the adjective clause beginning with which to describe the noun routine, and the verb helps agrees with the noun that is described, routine.

There is one exception to this rule about adjective clauses. When a noun followed by a prepositional phrase is described by an adjective clause, the clause can describe either the first noun or the noun after the preposition.

  • The presents for the party, which starts in three hours, have not been wrapped.
  • The presents for the party, which were purchased from the corner store, have not been wrapped.

Both sentences are correct. In the first, the clause which starts in three hours clearly describes the party. The verb is agrees with the singular noun described. In the second clause, which were purchased from the corner store clearly describes presents, and the verb were properly agrees with the plural noun described.

Precision is power. Make sure that each part of the sentences on the writing section of the SAT has a specific purpose and that it executes its purpose as clearly and concisely as possible. A sentence will almost never hint at an idea or refer to an entity that is not already present in the sentence. The clauses should fit together like a tightly woven web. Used correctly, an adjective clause, which must immediately follow the noun it describes, can serve as one of the web’s strongest threads.

The Case for Smaller Schools

Applying for college, while exciting, can also be incredibly stressful, tedious, and frustrating. Many students feel an intense pressure to attempt to get into the “best” school that they possibly can and, in the process, begin to miss the point. While all schools are certainly not of equal quality, it’s important to remember: there are no objectively “best” schools. Those schools that are touted as the “best” are, more accurately, the most famous and universally renowned. From the perspective of an incoming undergraduate student this should be a very important distinction, because the fame and renown that the “best” schools enjoy does not always come solely from their undergraduate teaching but from their graduate programs, research, and publishing. Continue reading

The College Admissions Essay: What Not to Do

This week’s college admissions tip comes from Dan Stern, founder of College Essay Organizer. His product is designed to streamline the essay process, and so will his tips below.

Over the years of advising on the college essay process, we’ve seen every trick in the book: the gimmick essay, the avant-garde essay, the comedy essay. (About this last one – how funny is it? Are you sure?) But there are a few very common pitfalls that we know you’re considering and we want you to avoid. Here’s what not to do with your college essay:

1. The down-and-dirty essay.

We all know how desperate you can feel. But addressing the admissions officer like he’s your bro can give you more headaches than easy ins. Try not to tell the awesome party story, try not to mention the police, try not to begin paragraphs with the single-word sentence, “Look.” I know you dress to impress, but let’s maintain some semblance of formality here. The person reading your essay is likely wearing a tie.

2. An essay about how awesome you are.

This piece of advice may seem like a trick. Even, perchance, a snarky bit of round-a-bout. All essays are implicitly about how awesome you are. Of course. But if you say things like “I don’t want to sound arrogant,” you are. You really, really are. Find a way to slip in how incredibly awesome you are by describing what you doare. rather than how you

3. Bribes.

We’ve all heard the stories of the kid who stapled the twenty (or the hundred) to his application and waltzed in. Generally speaking, your spot is worth a whole lot more than you can afford. Don’t try to buy your way in, unless you’re ready to have the school build a library with your name on it. Save your paper route money and think about upping the ante with your essays rather than with your ante.

The college essay can be a bit of a minefield so keep plugging along, and remember, this ought to be the first piece of writing you do ten drafts on. Then, after you’ve wrapped out draft no. 10, you have finally figured out what the essay is about. Now you can begin.

October 2010 SAT Results

It’s that time of year: when a young student’s fancy turns to thoughts of…standardized testing. Yes, the SAT is back! Many Knewton students woke up bright and early on October 9 to brave the test. After it was over, they filled us in on the test day experience.

A full 72.7% of students surveyed said that the test went “better than expected.” The rest of the students felt they had done “as expected.” No one thought s/he had done worse than expected. See — we told you the SAT doesn’t bite! Reading offered some hurdles this time around, winning for most difficult section, with 45.5% of the vote. Math and Writing tied with 27.3% apiece. The majority of students (72.7%) felt best prepared for Math. The rest (27.3%) said they were most prepared for Writing. Let’s take a look at the breakdown in more detail:

• Math posed the most timing issues, but over half (54.6%) said they were able to answer every question. Reading and Writing were slightly less rushed, with 63.7% able to tackle everything on Reading, and 72.7% getting to every question on the Writing.

• 45.5% said they had done “better than expected” on the Math. 36.4% reported doing “as expected.” Only 18.2% felt they had done “worse than expected.”
• Strategy definitely helped for math, with 81.8% saying they approached the problems with a combination of strategy and general math concepts. 54.5% said the strategies helped them “a lot!”

• As with Math, 45.5% reported doing “better than expected.” An equal 45.5% said they performed “as expected.”
• Strategy definitely helped for this “toughest” section — 91% of students used and loved such Knewton techniques as “zoning” passages.

• 63.6% of students said they had performed “better than expected,” while 27.3% reported doing “as expected.”
• The Essay proved to be the Writing section’s biggest challenge — 45% of students voted it “most difficult.” Improving Sentences came in second with 27.3% of the vote. Identifying Sentence Errors was third (18.2%) and Improving Paragraphs came in a distant fourth (9.1%).
• 100% of students surveyed were glad to have Knewton’s Writing section strategies in their SAT tool kit.

• While Reading was the trickiest section overall and Math offered the most timing issues, the majority of Knewton students left the test feeling that it went pretty darn well. And Knewton strategies were definitely put to good use!
• When asked: “How well did Knewton prepare you for the SAT?” 100% of students said that Knewton really helped them come test day (and 36.4% actually said they couldn’t imagine being more prepared).
• 100% said they’d recommend Knewton to a friend. Aww shucks!

You survived the SAT – congratulations! And please keep in touch :)

The Freshman 15 Writing Rules: How to Be a Pro at Pronouns

You’ve heard of the Ten Commandments, the G8, the Big Ten, Top 40 Pop, the Three Musketeers, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 1001 Things to Do Before You Die. The lists of impressive numbers are endless. But at Knewton, we’ve compiled the most impressive list of them all: the SAT Freshman 15 Grammar Rules. These are, in all their splendor, the top fifteen most commonly tested grammar rules on the SAT. Learn these, and your whole life will fall into place (that is, if your whole life is the verbal section of the SAT).

Today, we’re going to talk about just one of these illustrious rules:

Rule 15. A pronoun must refer to a specific noun or a group of nouns (no matter how correct the pronoun may sound in a sentence)

In everyday speech, we break this rule all the time. It allows us to express ideas easily and generally causes little confusion. Consequently, we often overlook ambiguous pronouns when they appear on the SAT. Rule 15 is meant to remind you that every pronoun on the SAT must logically refer to a noun or group of nouns in the sentence. These nouns, or groups of nouns, are known as “antecedents.”

Keep these three sub-rules in mind:

1. A pronoun cannot refer to an abstract idea. The most common offenders are the pronouns it, this, and that. These pronouns are often used to refer to broad ideas expressed in entire sentences or clauses. For example: “Devon broke his knee playing basketball, and because of this he had to quit the team.” This sentence is flawed because this must refer to a noun, but the only previous nouns in the sentence are Devon, knee, and basketball. This might be attempting to refer to a general idea, such as the fact that Devon played basketball, or the fact that his knee was broken, but specifically which idea is not clear.

These sorts of sentences can be revised either by replacing the pronoun with a noun or by supplying a clear antecedent for the pronoun. If we say, “Devon broke his knee playing basketball, and because of this injury he had to quit the team,” the pronoun this now logically refers to the injury. This construction clarifies that the injury caused Devon to quit the team.

2. The pronoun “it” at the beginning of a sentence is not preferable. When the pronoun “it” begins a sentence or is part of the phrase “it is,” be on the lookout for a better option. Sentences that begin with “it” tend to be unnecessarily wordy, and the pronoun “it” is usually ambiguous. For example, in the sentence: “It is not typical for an adult to prefer cartoons,” the antecedent of the pronoun it is slightly unclear. Exactly what is not typical? An adult who prefers cartoons? The occurrence of an adult preferring cartoons? A better way to phrase this sentence would be: “An adult typically does not prefer cartoons.”

3. When a modifying phrase begins a sentence, the pronoun “it” can never be the first noun after the comma. In the sentence: “Traveling across the country in an RV, it is the first vacation that Edna is able to go on all year,” the pronoun it does not have an antecedent. It does not logically refer to the gerund traveling or to the nouns country or RV. The sentence should read: “Traveling across the country in an RV, Edna is on vacation for the first time this year.” In fact, the pronoun “it” will never have an antecedent when placed immediately after the comma. “It” cannot be modified by an opening phrase; without a prior subject, it doesn’t stand for anything.

The same rule applies to personal pronouns. Although a modifier may strongly imply a pronoun’s antecedent, it cannot itself function as that antecedent. Check out this example:

Incorrect: In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he weaves a tale of death and deceit.
Correct: In Hamlet, Shakespeare weaves a tale of death and deceit.

The possessive modifier Shakespeare’s cannot function as the antecedent of he. The rewritten sentence eliminates the pronoun and inserts its implied antecedent, Shakespeare.

Well, there you have it: rule number 15, last but certainly not least on our Freshman 15. Tune in again to learn about subject-verb agreement, verb tense, modifiers, and sentence fragments. For now, go practice the skills you’ve gained from rule 15 on your friends and family. It… I mean, your proper use of pronouns is guaranteed to blow them away.

Disney Vocab to Help You Prep for the SAT

For many of you, songs from Disney movies probably formed the soundtrack to your grade-school friendships and pre-adolescent bonding rituals.

Now, what if we told you that you could use Disney songs – and more specifically, vocab words contained within these songs – to help prepare for the SAT? Below, we’ve taken a fond look back at our favorite Disney lyrics. Guess the missing word from the following snippets to get 26 words closer to your desired SAT Verbal score.

Who knew studying could be so… magical?

1. “Part of Your World,” The Little Mermaid Continue reading


SAT Essay Prompts: What They Look Like and How to Approach Them

First on the list of Cailey Hall’s recent post, Top 10 SAT Essay Do’s and Don’ts: Take the time to read the essay prompt and make sure you understand what it’s asking. Knewton recommends that you devote a full minute of your total 25 to reading and thinking carefully about the prompt before deciding on an answer to the question.

A minute might not seem like a long time, but if you’re familiar in advance with the types of prompts you’ll see on the test, it should be all you need.

Every SAT essay prompt begins with a short paragraph, 50-80 words long, that touches on an issue of broad relevance to the studies and experiences of a typical high school student. About half of the prompts will be adapted excerpts from books. For example: Continue reading


Top 10 Movies to See Before Going to College

Off to college soon? If so, we’ve got a list for you: the top 10 classic collegiate masterpieces that everyone should see.

Sure, most of the movies don’t represent the average college experience. But who wants to watch a movie about that? Instead, you’ll get hilarity, inspiration, and many quotable moments to last you for years to come!

Without further ado, the list:

1. Rudy (1993)
In a nutshell: If you work hard enough, any dream is possible. Continue reading