Do You Have to Clear Your Calculator Memory for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, SAT Math, SAT Subject Tests
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No you don’t!  Go here for the exact College Board Policy:

The SAT gives you math formulas that come up over and over again at the beginning of each math test section.  Having a fancy, expensive calculator will not help you much at all – careful, critical thinking will.  Although many of the formulas you will need are given, many of them are not.  To make sure you are as ready as possible for test day, review the key SAT math concepts with my flashcards:

If you are having a difficult time remembering a key concept or two, go ahead and store it in your calculator and you will be all set.  You will save valuable time, however, if you don’t have to waste precious seconds going through your calculator memory to locate a formula.  

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

ACT and SAT Test Prep, PSAT, SAT Math, SAT Prep
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The Math Fill-In Questions on the PSAT and SAT can be quite unsettling for many students because they are some different from 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, sometimes there may be hundreds.  Knowing this will help you avoid overthinking several of the questions. 
  • There Is NO GUESSING PENALTY on the Fill-In Questions.   Since there are thousands and thousands of possible answers you could create, the SAT and PSAT will have no problem with you taking a wild guess on a question.  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 further details about the Fill-In Questions here on the College Board Website:

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

What is the Best Book to Use to Prepare for the SAT and PSAT?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, PSAT, SAT Essay, SAT Math, SAT Prep, SAT Reading, Tutoring
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The quality of SAT test preparation books is much higher than that of ACT test preparation books.  Why?  The SAT is much more popular in areas – large cities on the East and West Coast of the United States –   where parents invest significantly more money in test preparation for their students.  As a result, the market for creating high quality SAT test prep questions is far more competitive than it is for ACT test prep questions.  With more competition comes higher quality.  So, if you are looking for test prep materials for the SAT, you will find much more out there that is very solid to utilize. 

I have worked with a number of books over the years for the SAT:  Princeton Review, Barron’s, Kaplan, Gruber’s and others.  Overall, these are all of pretty good quality to use for practice for the SAT and PSAT.  However, the very best book to use is “The Official SAT Study Guide” from the College Board.  You can find it here:

Why is this?  Because it has 10 previously used SAT tests.  Even though it has very little in terms of strategy, it does have a decent content review for the Math and Writing sections.  Most importantly, it will give you the best replication of what you will find on the actual SAT because it comes right from the makers of the test. 

Since the SAT book has no solid answer explanations and little strategy, I have created several hundred practice questions of my own that are designed to be a bit harder than the actual SAT so that when you take the real thing, it seems easier.  Additionally, each question has a video solution so you can see how to think through the question.  I hope that they will provide a helpful resource to do targeted, in-depth practice for you as you prepare for the SAT:


Order of Difficulty of the Questions on the SAT and PSAT

ACT and SAT Test Prep, PSAT, SAT Math, SAT Prep, SAT Reading, SAT Writing
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There is a definite order of difficulty with which the questions on the SAT and PSAT appear.  By knowing the order of difficulty of the questions, you will know when you should watch out for careless mistakes and when you should be sure to allow more time to contemplate the question.  You will also realize when it might make sense to skip a question due to time considerations, since all questions are worth the same number of points. 

The general rule for question difficulty on the SAT and PSAT is as follows:  When you have a different type of question that does NOT involve paragraphs, the questions begin over in order of difficulty.  In other words, the reading & the paragraph improvement writing questions have a random order of difficulty while the math, vocab, the writing sentence error and the writing improving sentences questions do go in order of difficulty. 

Here is a more explicit presentation of the order of difficulty of the different types of questions on the sections of the SAT:

SAT Critical Reading Section:

  • Vocabulary Sentence Completion Questions – Go from Easy to Hard
  • Reading Passage Questions– Random Order of Difficulty
    • Most students find the difficulty of the SAT Reading Passages to go in this order from most difficult to least difficult:  1. Passage 1 & Passage 2; 2. Fiction 3. Non-Fiction. 

SAT Math Section:

  • Multiple Choice Math Questions – Go from Easy to Hard
  • Math Fill-in Questions– Go from Easy to Hard
    • When you do the math section with the fill-ins, the first 8 questions are multiple choice, and they go easy to hard.  When you start on the fill-ins, they begin over again going from easy to hard. 

SAT Writing Section:

  • Improving Sentences Questions – Go from Easy to Hard
  • Identifying Sentence Error Questions – Go from Easy to Hard
  • Improving Paragraph Questions – Random Order of Difficulty
  • Since there is only one Essay question, no need to worry about its order of difficulty!

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

Can you Write on the ACT and SAT Test Booklets?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, ACT Writing, SAT Math, SAT Prep
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When students are used to taking tests in school, they are usually not permitted to write on the test booklet.  This is with very good reason – teachers want to be able to use the same booklets for other groups of students and want to save paper.  Typically, teachers will let you make small pencil markings on the test as long as you come back and erase them. 

You ARE able to write all over the test booklet on the SAT and ACT!  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  What you write on the test booklet will not be graded – only what you enter on your answer document.  

Writing on the ACT and SAT test booklets is particularly useful when it comes to the Math Section.  The SAT gives you a decent amount of space to do your figuring, but nothing compared to the blank right  half of a page that the ACT gives you.  Don’t do everything in your head or on your calculator – you will make a ton of careless mistakes if you do.

The trend towards the ACT giving you more space with which to write is also present on the Essay.  The ACT provides you with 4-5 pages (it has varied in the past couple years in my experience) while the SAT only gives you 2 pages on which to write.  You will still have room to prewrite on the page where they provide you your prompt.  

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

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