About PSAT / SAT / ACT


About PSAT / SAT / ACT

Please feel free to download a complimentary audio track: General Information About the PSAT and SAT (a 20-minute audio excerpt)

The ACT, SAT, and PSAT are similar:

Arithmetic 1 & 2XXX
Grammar & ParagraphsXXX
Reading CompXXX
Optional EssayXX 

Why prep for the PSAT?

Prepping for the PSAT goes a long way toward helping students do better on the SAT, because unlike students who begin prep in January, students who prep now and then again later are on square 2 rather than square 1. Most kids who prep for both do better on the SAT.

The PSAT helps determine who is a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist. Many of Ken’s students have become National Merit Scholars and Commended Scholars. Although colleges pay attention mostly to students’ best SAT and ACT scores, the PSAT scores are recorded on students’ transcripts. PSAT prep stops in mid-October. When students receive their PSAT results in December, test prep for the SAT/ACT begins in early January. Some counselors advise students to take the SAT “on their own” in December/January to see where they land, and then take a prep course after that, if necessary. To me, this is like “putting the cart in front of the horse”. Why take a test before you prep, and take a chance that the score result is not optimal? Ken’s recommendation is to prep first and take the test when ready.

The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT (5 sections vs. 10), so many of the same strategies are stressed such that students lock in these critical timing, guessing, concept tips. To begin prep in January for both the March SAT and April ACT once weekly, does not always give Ken enough time to really meet all students’ goals. Some students need more prep than others. Some do well enough on the PSAT that they do not need Ken’s services for the SAT – they step right up to the plate and take the test on their own.

One last reason that students should prep for the PSAT is that those who work with Ken now typically come back in January for later SAT/ACT prep and have their time slots reserved. For others, space/time availability is often times limited (pending availability).

Feel free to (contact Ken ContactUs.html) with questions, or return to the (Services and Fees page Services&Fees.html) to sign up for classes.

How the SAT and ACT relate to in-state college admissions

Required scores: For the class of 2006 and beyond, ASU and NAU will guarantee unconditional admission to students having an SAT I score of 1040 (critical reading and math only – not writing), or an ACT score of 22, or a class ranking in the top 50% of their class, or a cumulative GPA of 3.00. Conditional admission can be granted, upon review, to students with lower scores and class ranking, and a cumulative GPA of 2.50-3.00. For U of A, the only criterion that guarantees unconditional admission to students is a ranking in the top 25% of their class. However, students not ranking in the top 25% of their class can be admitted with unconditional or conditional admission status after review, on an individual basis, of SAT and ACT scores, class ranking, academic course selection, grades, recommendations, and the degree of success the student’s high school has had with placing students into U of A in the past, thus giving extra consideration to students who have been successful in a challenging academic environment.

Students considering admission to the Honors College at an in-state university, should know that minimum GPA and test score requirements are higher. As an example, a recent University of Arizona admitted freshman class had an average SAT I score of 1300 (critical reading and math), ACT score of 29, and an average GPA (unweighted) of 3.88 on a 4.0 scale.

A look at the SAT test

The revised test, administered since March 2005, has 10 sections: 3 critical reading, 3 math, 3 writing (including an essay session), and 1 experimental section (either critical reading, math, or writing). This experimental section will not be counted toward your score; it is used to statistically validate the questions for use on future tests. There is no way to tell which section is experimental, so all sections must be approached with equal diligence. The total score possible is 2400 (800 critical reading, 800 math, and 800 writing skills). The essay section is allotted 25 minutes, and counts as 30% of the 800 point writing score, and thus only 10% of the total 2400 point score.

The testing time for SAT I math is 70 minutes. There are 3 sections with a total of 54 questions, including multiple choice and student-produced response types. The times for the three sections are 25 minutes, 25 minutes, and 20 minutes. The verbal sections center on critical reading. The three critical reading sections also total 70 minutes and have a total of 67 questions. The sections are broken down into the same time intervals as the math. The essay section is first and is 25 minutes in duration, and the two multiple choice sections will be 25 minutes long and 10 minutes long. Again, there is an experimental that will be either critical reading, math, or writing skills. There is not an experimental essay section.

The content areas of the math sections are diverse. They cover arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, probability, logic, functions (including domain and range problems), direct and inverse variations, absolute value problems, conic sections ( like parabolas, hyperbolas, ellipses, and circles), and translations of absolute value and conic graphs. There are no quantitative comparison questions on the SAT I. Instead there are more multiple choice questions. There are also student-produced response questions.

Critical reading questions are included. There are 48 reading comprehension questions that deal with short and long reading passages and 19 sentence completion questions. There are no analogy questions. The writing skills sections includes handwriting a 25 minute essay, one 25 minute multiple choice question section, and one 10 minute multiple choice question section. Both of these sections ask students to identify errors in a sentence or improve a sentence or paragraph. The total writing sections testing time is 60 minutes. The total testing time for the SAT I is 225 minutes (3 hours and 45 minutes).

An essay writing requirement is included. A sample essay assignment might look like this: Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. At the time the United States was coming off the Great Depression and thrust into World War II. Roosevelt made his statement at a time when people were experiencing personal depression, financial depression, and a lack of security in their lives. ASSIGNMENT: What is your point of view on the idea that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself? Plan an esay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Use examples from your readings, history, literature, current events, or personal experiences.

THE SAT IS NOT TO BE FEARED. Yes, it covers advanced math topics and has more reading comprehension questions, and an impromptu essay. The revised format will hopefully measure what students have learned by the middle or late junior year, and will test these skills. Ken has looked through resource books on the new test. There are still questions which are tricky and well-improvised. The strategies that Ken uses for his SAT course are relevant, as are the techniques for writing skills he has used over the years helping students with the PSAT and SAT II.

Ken is currently writing a book called “Think Like the Test Makers – Proven PSAT/SAT Breakthrough Tips,” which is designed to provide proven tips and strategies that will help test takers maximize their scores. These strategies include his 100 secret math tips that you will not find in other test prep books. Valuable critical reading and writings skills tips, including how to write an effective essay, are also included. (Click here documents/SAT_Book_Intro.pdf) for more information.

A look at the ACT test

Optional Essay: An optional essay section is included on this test. The essay is 25 minutes long and is given at the conclusion of the other four sections. The student will be given a topic prompt to write in response to, and support arguments for or against the topic based on readings and experience.

The four content areas of the ACT are: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning.

The English section: It requires identification of mistakes in the underlined portions of reading passages. The student is asked to edit grammar and punctuation and then select in multiple choice format the response that corrects the mistake. The time period for this section is 45 minutes during which students must edit five reading passages.

The Math section: It consists of 60 arithmetic, geometry, probability, and basic trigonometry problems which must be completed in 60 minutes. This is one section of a total of 60 minutes; it is not broken down into 30 minute sections. All answer choices are in multiple choice format.

The Reading section: It contains four reading passages to be read and analyzed in a 35 minute period. Each passage consists of a page of reading, followed by 10 questions each, for a total of 40 questions. Students are asked to read and the answer the questions which are in multiple choice format.

The Science Reasoning section: It consists of 40 multiple choice questions about seven short science experiments or passages. The time period is 35 minutes, so each passage must be read and answered within about 5 minutes. Each experiment typically has 5 or 6 questions. Answer choices again are in multiple choice format.

A look at the AIMS test

AIMS and Provost Scholarships: Note also though that the qualifications for a Provost Scholarship to the 3 in-state universities are still the same and such scholarship distribution is active. The Provost Scholarship is automatically given to a student who has a 3.75 unweighted GPA on a 4.0 scale, and a combined 1200 SAT I (critical reading and math), or a 26 ACT score.

AIMS Scholarships: As of May 2007, the Arizona Board of Regents has approved changes that improve the chances of qualifying for tuition waivers (now being referred to as the AIMS Scholarship) at our three state universities. Still, excelling on the AIMS does not guarantee an AIMS Scholarship. However, in April 2009, changes were made that affect the financial distribution of AIMS scholarships, effective in the Fall of 2009. Please check with the Arizona university of your choice for more details.

AIMS Scholarship Requirements: There are three eligibility requirements: First, the student must earn “exceeds” scores on all three parts of the AIMS test. Second, the student must have at least 3.5 GPA or graduate in the top 5% of their class. Third, the student must earn at least “B” grades in 16 core (not elective) courses.

AIMS Retakes: The Arizona Regents voted to limit the number of times a student can retake the AIMS test to earn their “exceeds” score. Starting with the class of 2009, the last time the AIMS can be taken is in Spring of their junior year.

Some Statistics: In the first year this program was offered, 2489 students were eligible, and 1561 students received scholarships. This last number represents 6% of the total high school graduates that year. Total value of the scholarships was $7.1 million.

If You Get It: Congratulations! Now be prepared to keep it. To remain eligible, you must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and take 24 credits each year. If tuition increases after your freshman year, you will be expected to make up the difference.

Ken’s Advice: Don’t shy away from tough courses just to pad your GPA. Your job in life right now is to learn. Give some serious thought to taking Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. The Arizona Regents voted to accept “satisfactory” grades on the end-of-year tests instead of course grades. This translates to a score of 4 on the IB test, and (depending on subject) a score of 3 or 4 on the AP test.