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
No Comments

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.  

Which Letter is Best to Guess on the ACT, SAT, GED, GRE and other major tests?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, GED, PSAT, SAT Prep, SAT Subject Tests, Test Anxiety
No Comments

“Always Guess C!”  How did I learn the hard way the reality of which letter is best to guess? 

Last December, I was tutoring a young lady for the ACT.  I advised her to guess on quite a few questions  because she had difficulty with time management.  On her math practice test, she guessed “C” on the last 20 questions.  Much to my surprise, she only got one of them correct! 

After discovering this, I looked at every publicly available ACT test to see if there was a pattern on the last few questions of the Math test.  On every single one, I found that “C” or “H” (the middle choice of the 5 since the ACT alternates between ABCDE and FGHJK on the Math Questions) was used less frequently than the other choices. 

I thought about it, and it made sense to me why this would be true.  1.  Most students don’t finish the ACT Math section.  2.  Most students guess “C” when they run out of time. 

So, I figured that ACT realized that people guessing “C” quite a bit at the end must be blindly guessing rather than actually knowing the material.  I guessed that they were trying to punish these guessers by turning conventional wisdom on its head and penalizing those who followed the “Guess C!” rule of thumb. 

I thought I was on to something – I advised my students prior to the December ACT to not guess C on the last 10-20 math questions.  I was really excited that I had discovered a hidden strategy that I hadn’t found stated elsewhere. 

Then, I took the ACT in December and ordered the question/answer service so I could review my answers.  And guess what:  THEY USED “C” A WHOLE BUNCH ON THE LAST FEW QUESTIONS OF THE MATH!  I had given my students terrible advice for that test date.  Fortunately, the rest of my advice was much more sound.   ;-)

Lesson learned – one letter is as good as any other on major tests like the ACT or SAT.  If it were as easy as picking a particular letter, why on earth would colleges put any stock in these tests? 

The Most Important Test Taking Strategy

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT Prep, AP, GED, IB, PSAT, SAT Prep, SAT Subject Tests, Study Tips, Teaching, Tutoring
No Comments

When I was a public high school teacher, one of the courses I instructed was AP World History.  The AP World History Exam typically has around 3 out of 9 as the median score on its extended responses.  One year, the median for a questions was only around 1.5 out of 9.  Why was this the case?  Because the vast majority of students thought the question included countries from “South-East Asia”, like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, when in fact the question asked only about “South Asia”, which included countries like India and Pakistan.  If a student taking the test had simply answered the question discussing what little he or she knew about India, he or she would like have received a score well above average. 

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

Why do we do this?  In school, we often have questions that are quite simple in their wording:  “solve for x”, “who was the main character?”, and “define mitosis.”  Quite frankly, we don’t even need to read the questions much of the time on school tests – look at the choices and you know what you have to do. 

On standardized tests, on the other hand, the questions 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 allowing yourself to misread the question. 

For any teachers reading this, know that you can help your students quite a bit by giving your students 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 in the future.  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, very important skill of learning to carefully read and understand what one is supposed to do.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely would want my accountant, lawyer or doctor able to carefully read what they are supposed to do and not make careless errors.  J

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

Bubble Trouble on the SAT or ACT?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, SAT Prep, SAT Subject Tests
No Comments

Students often ask me, “should I bubble in the answers as I go or should I wait until the end of a couple pages and then bubble?”  My short answer:  it depends on the test and your approach.

The Test – Better to bubble as you go on the SAT, and do it out of order more on the ACT.  Why?  

  • The SAT answers are all A, B, C, D, and E on all the multiple choice questions, so it is more likely that if you do the questions out of order on the SAT, you will get off by one and you won’t notice that you have messed it up. 
  • The SAT bubble sheet has more answers than bubbles, making it more likely that you will make a careless error. 
  • The SAT questions almost always go in order of difficulty, so you won’t be skipping around as much as you would on the ACT, which has a more random ordering of difficulty. 
  • The ACT alternates its lettering between A, B, C, D, and E & F, G, H, J and K.  This makes is easier to avoid putting the answer immediately before or after the one you meant to put it in. 

 Your Approach – If you like to skip questions and come back to them, bubble later.  Why? 

  • With the time pressures you are under and the general stress level you will feel, know that you may make careless mistakes.  If you tend to skip tougher questions and come back to them, you have less room for error if you circle several questions in the booklet and then transfer them all at once. 
  • Students find that on the Math and Reading sections, skipping and coming back to questions often makes more sense.  I have found that students tend to become stuck on these questions more than they do on Grammar and Science questions.  And if you are skipping around, you should bubble later on.  You don’t have to have the same approach to every test section – you can mix it up.   

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  I look forward to your comments. 

SAT Subject Tests

SAT Subject Tests
No Comments

What are the SAT Subject Tests? 

They are used by some colleges to assess academic achievement as a supplement to the SAT and ACT tests.  They are offered in the following areas: 

  • English Literature
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Mathematics Level 1 (Less Advanced Math)
  • Mathematics Level 2 (More Advanced Math – Pre-calculus)
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Spanish Language with Listening
  • Chinese with Listening
  • Japanese with Listening
  • French with Listening
  • German with Listening
  • Korean with Listening


Who requires SAT Subject Tests?

Most colleges do not require them, but some more selective ones do.  You can find a list of colleges that would like you to take them here:


How should I practice and prepare for the SAT Subject Tests?

If you would like to do a bit of free practice to get a feel for them and see what test(s) you may want to take, this is the best place to go:

If you want to do more in-depth practice, this is by far the best book out there:

Official SAT Subject Test Study Guide

If you are looking for review of specific content for a particular Subject Test, I would recommend going to and checking out the reviews for different books by Barron’s, Kaplan, Princeton Review and others.  In my experience, the quality of the content review depends less on the book publisher and much more on the book author. 


When should you take the SAT Subject Tests? 

I would take them in the Spring of your Junior year immediately after you have taken an Honors, AP or IB class that generally corresponds to the material on the Subject Tests.  That way, the material is super-fresh for you.  Also, after an AP or IB exam, teachers generally do not have students do much in-class work.  You can take advantage of the extra in-class time to study independently and prepare to do well on the SAT Subject Tests.


Are there any other benefits to taking the SAT Subject Tests? 

Yes.  There are some colleges that will give you college credit or advanced placement for high performance on the Subject Tests.  Check with individual colleges to learn about their policies. 


Where can I find out further information? 

The College Board has registration and other information right here:

Copyright 2019 | Blog Powered by Wordpress
Website By |