Knewton Blogs: Quick Tips for SAT Success - Reading Comprehension

Today's blog post comes again from Josh at Knewton. Enjoy.

As an apple falls from a tree, so does Josh's knowledge of the SAT...

As an apple falls from a tree, Josh's knowledge of the SAT travels swiftly to your head... Or something. So glad they ditched the analogies section.

If you've begun your SAT prep, you've probably realized that the SAT reading comprehension passages aren't exactly a walk in the park. In fact, the test-makers pride themselves on trying to confuse you by featuring passages with strange or unfamiliar subject matter—and it's not like you can Google the topic for some quick background. What's more, you only have a limited amount of time to read the passages and answer the attached questions.

The instructors at Knewton are here to help! Smart SAT strategies will help ensure you approach this part of the Critical Reading section with confidence—and improve your score!

Check out these quick tips to help you make the most out of the time allotted for reading comprehension questions:

1. Don’t spend all your time reading the passages. Instead, scan each passage for main ideas. You can often find the main argument in the first paragraph; once you locate it, skim through the rest of the passage to get a gist of the purpose of each subsequent paragraph. It's always a good idea to jot down a few notes in the margin to refer back to when it comes time to answer questions.

2. Easy passages first! If you’re into science, the easy passage for you might be the one that focuses on the biochemical make-up of pheasants. If you’re more of a literature type, you’ll probably gravitate towards the discussion of Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter. Either way, get the easy subject matter out of the way so you’ll have more time to focus on the tough stuff later on.

3. Read the questions carefully. In fact, you probably want to read them more carefully than the passages. Make sure you know what the question is asking before trying to arrive at an answer. There might be answer choices that are technically true—but that don’t answer the question at hand. The test-makers put these choices there on purpose—don't fall into their trap!

4. Answer general questions before detail questions. Detail questions will generally take more time to answer, as you’ll have to search through the passage for evidence. If you’ve skimmed well, you should be able to answer general, main-idea questions without too much of a problem. Don't forget to refer back to your margin notes to save time!

5. Don’t get creative. Hate to break it to you, but the SAT doesn’t want your opinion. You should be able to find evidence for all your answer choices in the passage—not in your head.

6. Don’t freak out. This one goes for the whole test. The time constraints of the reading comprehension section—of all the sections, in fact—can make for a stressful test-day experience. Take a deep breath if you start feeling overwhelmed. It's definitely important to keep a steady pace, but you also want to make sure you're giving yourself enough time to understand the general outlines of the passage, and the angle of the question, before attempting an answer.

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College Essay Organizer Helps Defeat Plagiarism

There is no better opening. But you cannot have this opening. Sorry.

There is no better opening. But you cannot have this opening. Sorry.

Tom Robinson at Today's Campus Online recently addressed an issue that we've found CEO is well-designed to defeat, that of plagiarism in college essays.

Robinson discusses a recently published study that a jaw-dropping 36 percent of personal statements were found to include "significant matching text" when put through plagiarism-checking software, leading the researchers to believe that more than a third of all applicants were lifting parts or all of their college essays.

There are a whole lot of issues that come to mind when discussing this, not least of which are the problems of the naturally overloaded guidance counselors of America. Without meaningful one-on-one collaboration between students and faculty, it can be difficult for writers to be aware of the significant differences between the college essay and the standard five-paragraph essays they've been expected to churn out for years.

Another significant issue is the overwhelming amount of work that seniors are saddled with each fall. Most have their hearts set on an individual school, and if their early applications are denied, are often surprised to learn the actual amount of writing they have to do for their other applications. Panic sets in, and cheating begins to feel inevitable.

Our president and CEO, Daniel Stern, is quoted in Robinson's article and talks about how CEO provides an ethical solution.

For juniors who are looking to avoid that time crunch in the first place, we've offered steep discounts, encouraging them to get started ahead of time and capitalize on the free time available in the summer.

For seniors, we provide an automatic, low-cost solution to the organizational challenge they're bound to face, and we show them how to repurpose the work they've already done for many applications without resorting to taking others' words.

Hey, if putting a dent in plagiarism is our good deed for the day then it's been a good day. Shoot us an email and let us know what CEO's doing right for you.

College Essay Organizer For Juniors: Now With More Discounted Goodness

Nothing Is Inconceivable. Not even the ivies, baby.

Nothing Is Inconceivable. Not even Harvard.

CEO has taken a few proactive steps to help juniors take control of the college application process before it takes control of them. For purchases made before May 1, retail prices are being discounted 50%, just by using the promotional code 'junior'.

It's an exciting time for juniors who are beginning to wrap up what is probably the most difficult academic year they've had so far. Most can't wait to get it behind them and co-o-o-ast into that senior year of waking up late, leaving early, and doing a small version of nothing somewhere in between.

But hark, there waits a large pile of applications to be done before one can be stranded on the lawn of some weird frat house after homecoming, and the sooner you can get that pile organized and simplified, the sooner you can get the apps out the door and get yourself into the nine month vacation known as "I already turned those things in."

Have a look at the new juniors page and see why it's a great idea to get rolling on the things now, and see that by purchasing your account before the crush of work kicks in, you'll save money and put yourself ahead of the curve. Remember, with our new email notification system, you'll be updated as soon as your schools publish whatever changes they make to their application for the 2010-2011 season.

2011? Did I just write that?

New York Times Cites Problems With Guidance Counselors

Even the best get a little... hold on... wait... uh, busy.

Even the best get a little... hold on... wait... uh, busy.

Our friends at the New York Times has published an article on a recent study showing that most people who graduated from high school in the last dozen years thought their guidance counselor was unable to provide useful advice on their college decision, with a large percentage feeling that the help offered was impersonal.

Also cited in the article was the sobering statistic that the American School Counselor Association considers a student:counselor ratio of 100 to 1 as 'optimal,' but that the average nationwide is 265:1, with schools in California shooting up over 1,000:1.

We should read this as evidence that the people tasked with providing the kind of organization and optimization that today's college application process requires are understandably overwhelmed by the task much of the time. And who can blame them? Much of a guidance counselor's time is eaten up with in-school requirements, scheduling conflicts, and even disciplinary issues that have nothing to do with helping to plan college experiences for their students.

So for students, try to make your time with your counselor count - and know that they aren't necessarily going to have the resources to organize your work for you, nor are they necessarily going to be able to plan your meetings in advance in a way that will optimize the experience for both of you.

Make sure that the preliminary, basic work of organization and management of your tasks is taken care of automatically, and try your best to mine your guidance counselor's considerable knowledge of university specifics and different opportunities, rather than just focusing on "what you have to do to get these applications done." You'll be much better served the sooner you can get to the upper-level discussions your guidance counselor is qualified to have with you. And he or she will be a lot happier, more grateful, and eager to do so.

For guidance counselors, remember that there are tools out there that may seem cost-prohibitve at first, but ultimately save your school money through greater efficiency. Using CEO as a management tool, for example, makes your job easier, cuts anxiety for all involved, and helps you keep on top of where your students' applications stand without a single piece of paper to keep track of.

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Organizer For Juniors

Wasn't I Supposed To... Do..... Something.......

Wasn't I Supposed To... Do..... Something.......

It's March 1st, which means most if not all of the applications are out the door for seniors by now. But if you're a junior, now is the time to get started with CEO and have a look at the benefits it provides if you've still got a year in front of you.

When you think about your senior year, what do you think about? Probably not your bright and shining desire to achieve. In fact, you may think of it as a time for doing... absolutely nothing at all. Wanting to get out from under your work will surely include avoiding the avalanche of application requirements that'll be coming at you in the fall. CEO can make that workload shrink, and with our new email notification system, you don't even need to check to see when the applications have been released by the schools. We'll shoot you an email each week telling you which ones have been updated, so you can get going when you need to and not a second earlier.

Here are a few of the benefits juniors get from using CEO:

  • Know in advance how many essays are expected from the colleges you're considering
  • Manage all essays simultaneously, rather than one at a time
  • Receive notification over the summer each time a college updates its essay requirements
  • Finish some essays over the summer
  • And avoid the onslaught of work when the madness of the fall begins!

More than anything, CEO is about making it easy - now - and getting it done sooner rather than later.

Check out our new demo on the front page and see for yourself.