Waitlisted? Here are 3 Things You Should Do Next.

RoadThis time of year is full of so many highs and lows for college applicants. Many students will be jumping for joy when they learn that they’ve been admitted to the school of their dreams. Others may learn that they have been denied admission placed on the waitlist, and can’t help but feel defeated. If you happen to find yourself in the camp of waitlisted students, here are some strategies to help you figure out next steps.

Reach out to the school immediately.

If you’re still dreaming about attending the school that waitlisted you, open communication as soon as possible. Write a letter or send an email detailing that if they were to admit you, you would accept the spot in their incoming freshman class without question. Reiterate the reasons why this school is your dream institution and update them on any new developments in your candidacy.

Get excited about your Plan B.

Obviously your dream school is still your goal, but you’re likely going to head somewhere in the fall, so it’s time to psyche yourself up for Plan B! Since it is uncertain whether or not you will be lifted from the waitlist at your dream school, put down a deposit at a school that admitted you. The last thing you want is to be stuck after May 1st with nowhere to go, so set yourself up for success by paying an enrollment deposit at another school. Buy a t-shirt or hat for that school, too. You might end up being a student there, so it’s time to get into the school spirit!

Keep your eye on the prize.

If you’ve been waitlisted, you might consider just walking away altogether to take a Gap Year. For some students, this might be a good option, because you can spend your Gap Year doing things to boost your candidacy in anticipation of applying again. However, it is important to note that it is easier to try and transfer to your dream institution from another college than taking a stab at the first-time admissions odds again. In most cases, you are better off enrolling in your Plan B, kicking butt in challenging courses and ultimately positioning yourself to be a compelling transfer applicant in a few years. Who knows, you might fall in love with your Plan B and realize that’s where you were meant to be all along!

Being placed on a waitlist definitely isn’t ideal, but there are actions you can take to position yourself well for the future! Veritas Prep college admissions consultants are ready to help you with strategies to get off the waitlist at your top-choice school.

We are happy to review your waitlist school letter or assist you as you decide on which college is right for you. Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

5 Basic ACT English Rules to Live By

ProfessorThe questions in the English section on the ACT measure your grammar, usage, and punctuation skills along with others. As you study for this part of the test, it’s a good idea to review the basic rules of grammar and create some practice sentences. Additionally, learn a few basic ACT English rules of thumb as you prep for the test to maximize your chances of a high score.

1) Look for Subject and Verb Agreement
Looking for agreement between the subject and verb in a sentence is one of the most important ACT grammar rules to remember. As an example, in the sentence, “The horse runs through the field,” “horse” is a singular subject and “runs” is a singular verb. You might also say, “The horses run through the field,” which would pair the plural subject “horses” with the plural verb “run.” If an underlined portion of a passage has a subject and verb that disagree, then it’s time to look to the answer options for a replacement.

2) Read the Entire Sentence Before Answering
The English section on the ACT consists of several passages, and each passage contains underlined words or sentences. Your task is to read the question connected with each underlined portion to find the best answer option. If you think the sentence is correct as is, you can also choose “no change.” You may be tempted to focus on the underlined portion of a passage while ignoring the rest of it, but this is a mistake. Make it a point to read the entire sentence as well as the paragraph. Examining the context in which the underlined word or phrase appears can help you recognize the best answer option.

3) Use the Answer Options to Your Advantage
One of the easiest ACT English rules to remember is to scan the answer options before reading the question. Do the answer options have anything in common? Perhaps all of the options look the same except for adjustments in punctuation or spelling. Does one answer option seem wordy while another is succinct? Scanning the answer options can help you determine the specific skill being tested. Once you know what the question is asking, you are more likely to end up with the correct answer.

4) Check for Agreement Between the Pronoun and Antecedent
Checking for agreement between the pronoun and antecedent is one of the most basic ACT grammar rules to keep in mind. As an example, consider the sentence, “Catherine read her report to the class.” In this sentence, “Catherine” is the antecedent and the word “her” is the pronoun. If a sentence has a plural antecedent, then the pronoun needs to be plural as well. These two parts of speech must agree for a sentence to be correct.

5) Look for Clear and Concise Sentences
As you practice ACT English questions, get into the habit of looking for clear, concise sentences. The creators of the ACT want to know if you can state ideas in a succinct way. For instance, you may see three answer options that all convey the same meaning, but one of those options is short and to the point while the other two seem to have unnecessary and redundant words thrown in. For example, “He made the decision to walk to work on account of the dozens of people already on the bus” is an idea that can be conveyed with fewer words: “He decided to walk to work because the bus was crowded.” Often, the correct answer option is the least complicated one.

At Veritas Prep, all of our ACT tutors achieved a minimum score of 34 out of 36 on the exam. This means that our tutors really know what they’re talking about! Students who study with us learn strategies and tips from experts who have practical experience with the ACT. In addition, you’ll get to work with someone who can provide encouragement as test day approaches: After all, they’ve been in your shoes. When you sign up for ACT instruction, you can choose to participate either online or in person. We make it easy to fit our quality ACT tutoring services into your busy schedule of activities. Contact Veritas Prep and sign up for one of our excellent ACT courses today!

What to Expect from Possible ACT Essay Prompts

SAT WorryToday, many students choose to write the optional ACT essay. Some write it because a Writing section score is required by the colleges they are applying to. Others write it because they excel in essay-writing and want to showcase their skills to college admissions officials. If you plan to write the essay, you’ll want to become familiar with the types of writing prompts given on this exam.

The Different Types of ACT Essay Prompts
Each essay prompt on the ACT concerns a complex issue. For instance, one sample prompt released by the ACT concerns individual freedom and public health. Other writing prompts may deal with technology, the media, education, the arts, and other issues. Even if you don’t have a great deal of knowledge about the topic in the essay prompt, you can still write an essay that is organized, logical, and convincing. In fact, all of the information you need to complete the writing task is given to you in the prompt.

Your Task on the Essay
After reading the essay prompt, you’re given three perspectives on the issue. Your task is to develop your own perspective, then use evidence and examples to support it. Furthermore, you’re asked to analyze how your perspective is similar to or different from at least one of the given perspectives. Think about the possible counterarguments to your perspective and address them.

The individuals who grade your essay won’t be looking at whether you agreed or disagreed with the given perspectives: In fact, that part is irrelevant. Instead, they’ll be evaluating your essay based on its organization, use of supporting evidence, idea development, and language use. College admissions officials want to see a sample of your writing to find out if you can express your ideas in a coherent way. Many colleges will look at your ACT English, Reading, and Writing scores to get a full picture of your ability to interpret and communicate ideas.

Preparing for the Essay
The best way to prep for the essay on the ACT is to practice your writing skills. This includes working on organizing your ideas in the form of an outline before beginning your essay. Also, reading online newspaper and magazine articles gives you practice developing perspectives on current issues. You have only 40 minutes to write the ACT essay, so it’s a good idea to time your practice essays so you can establish a writing speed that doesn’t make you feel rushed. The professional ACT instructors at Veritas Prep have been where you are right now: They’ve prepared for and taken the ACT, including the essay. More importantly, each of our instructors earned a score on the ACT landing them in the 99th percentile. So when you sign up with Veritas Prep, you’ll be studying with tutors who have excellent teaching skills and impressive experience with the test.

Tips for Writing the Essay
The ACT essay is given on paper, so you’ll have space to jot down an outline and organize your thoughts. You’ll probably want to start writing your essay right away, but creating an outline is an effective strategy if you want to end up with a high score. Take the time to think about your perspective on the issue and make sure you have plenty of evidence to support it. Try to leave yourself with a few minutes at the end of the writing test so you can proofread and make small changes if necessary.

The instructors at Veritas Prep have the skills and knowledge to prepare you for the Writing section on the ACT along with the rest of the exam. We are familiar with the different types of ACT essay prompts and can guide you on the best approaches to them. Our strategies can help you to create an essay that fulfills all of the requirements necessary to achieve the highest score possible. We offer online courses that are convenient for high school students on the go, and we also have in-person ACT prep courses if you prefer that type of learning environment. Look at our FAQ page to find more information about our tutoring services, or give us a call or email to let us know how we can help you conquer the ACT essay!

How is the ACT Composite Score Calculated?

GMATIf you’re a Junior in high school, you may have already signed up to take the ACT. Chances are good that you know that a composite score of 36 is the highest you can achieve on the ACT. But do you know how an ACT composite score is calculated? Learning how graders arrive at your ACT composite score can help you feel more at ease as you sit down to take the test.

How Are ACT Scores Calculated?
To get to your composite score on the ACT, you must begin with your raw scores. You receive a raw score for each of the four sections on the ACT. Your raw score represents the number of questions you got right. There are 75 questions in the English section, 60 in the Math section, 40 in the Reading section, and 40 in the Science section. (The ACT essay is optional, and its score is not factored into your composite score.) So if you answered 55 questions correctly out of 60 in the Math section, your raw score for Math would be 55.

After arriving at a raw score for each of the four sections, you are now given a scaled score for each one. Your scaled scores will range from one to 36. Each individual version of the ACT has a chart used to make this conversion, adjusted based on the difficulty of the specific questions used on each test date. For instance, a raw score of 55 in the Math section usually converts to a scaled score somewhere around 33. Now, add your four scaled scores together and average them: The average of your four scaled scores is your ACT composite score.

What Is on an Official ACT Score Report?
Now that you know how an ACT composite score is calculated, you know what to look for on your official score report. But there’s a lot more on your score report than just your composite score. You’ll also see a detailed breakdown of your scores for the skills tested within each section. For example, you’ll see scores for “Production of Writing,” “Knowledge of Language,” and “Conventions of Standard English” beneath the scaled score you receive on the English section. There is also information on how your test performance ranked compared to other students taking the ACT in your state as well as throughout the country. The information on your official score report can be very useful if you decide to retake the ACT.

ACT Prep Tips
Start your preparations for the ACT by taking a practice test to determine where you need to begin your studies. Next, make your study plan based on the results of your practice test. As an example, if you see the need to sharpen your algebra skills, put aside some time to review the basics. Then, put this information to work by completing practice algebra problems each day. If you’re focusing on the Reading section of the ACT, take the opportunity to read online newspaper articles, magazines, and nonfiction books to get some practice spotting main ideas. Also, look for unfamiliar words in these publications to determine if you can figure out the meaning of a word by looking at its context. In addition, examine these reading materials for the proper use of grammar and correct spelling. These skills are helpful on both the Reading and English sections of the ACT.

The Benefits of Studying With a Tutor
Learning how the ACT is scored is easy when you have an experienced tutor to explain the process. The tutors at Veritas Prep have many qualifications that benefit our students. For one, each of them has scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. As if this isn’t impressive enough, our supportive instructors are experts at conveying the strategies and lessons that lead our students to ACT success!

If you have any more questions about how an ACT score is calculated, we have the answers you’re looking for. We can also provide several tutoring options so you can choose the one that’s most appropriate for you. Whether you want to take part in our in-person classes, private online tutoring sessions, or live online courses, we are ready to help you excel on the ACT.

ACT Geometry Practice and Tips

tutoringThe Math section on the ACT challenges you with several types of questions. About 12 to 15 percent of those questions are related to geometry. Putting a few easy tips into practice can help you to perform your best on the ACT geometry questions.

Memorize Formulas
As you prep for these questions, it’s a good idea to memorize some basic formulas of geometry. Some formulas are not provided for you on the test. A few examples include:

  • Volume = (area of base) (height)
  • Circle circumference = 2πr
  • Circle area = πr2
  • Rectangle = lwh

When you memorize basic geometry formulas, you’ll be able to work through the questions in a timely and efficient way. Of course, knowing the formulas is not enough: You must be able to put them into practice.

Take Timed Practice Tests
Working through ACT geometry practice questions is an essential part of preparing for this section of the test. However, don’t forget to time your practice tests. You have 60 minutes to complete all 60 questions on the ACT Math section. This means you have no more than a minute to dedicate to each one. Chances are good that you’ll spend just a few seconds on some questions and up to 30 seconds on others. Completing a timed practice test is an excellent way to establish a test-taking rhythm so you know when to move on to the next problem. You can always skip a problem that is especially puzzling and return to it later on. Ideally, you want to finish the Math section with a few minutes to spare so you can review your answers.

Analyze Incorrect Answers to Practice Questions
Analyzing the answers to your ACT geometry practice questions should be part of your test prep. If you got an answer wrong, it’s important to go back and look at your work. Where did you make the mistake? You may find that you’ve made the same mistake on other problems. This is helpful information because once you’re aware of it, you can avoid making the same error again. An important question to ask is, “Why did I make that mistake?” You may find that you rushed through a problem, forgetting part of the formula, or perhaps you calculated the area when the question asked for the perimeter. Being aware of why you made a mistake can help you refocus and avoid making the same errors.

Draw Diagrams and Shapes
You can use scratch paper on the ACT. Drawing shapes and diagrams can help you to organize the elements of each geometry question. Also, you can write down the formula for a problem as well as its steps so you can review what went wrong if your answer is not among the options. It’s unnecessary to mentally picture a shape labeled with all of its measurements as well as the formula that goes with the problem. Using your scratch paper saves time and can clarify each step in the process.

Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices
Another tip to remember as you practice ACT geometry problems is to get into the habit of eliminating answer options that are clearly incorrect. Dealing with fewer answer options can make a problem look a lot simpler. Also, it can help you complete all of the problems more quickly.

Practice Throughout the Day
It’s a good idea to create a detailed study schedule that includes practicing your geometry skills for the ACT. In addition to that, try reviewing geometry problems throughout the day. One idea is to make flashcards that display the different formulas you need to memorize. Keep them in your bag or pocket to review while you’re standing in line to buy lunch, waiting for the bus, or waiting for class to begin. Studying and reviewing throughout the day gives you several more opportunities to sharpen your geometry skills outside of your formal study time.

The professional instructors at Veritas Prep are experts when it comes to geometry, algebra, statistics, and every other type of math on the ACT. In fact, we can prep you for all sections of the test! You’ll study with an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the exam. Plus, we give you several options so you can study for the ACT in a way that is most convenient for you. We have online and in-person courses, private tutoring, and On Demand instruction. Call today and give us the opportunity to guide you toward excellence on the ACT!

What is a School Code for, and Why Do I Need it?

SAT Scantron TestAs you register for the ACT, you’ll see that there are codes for different institutions, both high schools and colleges. Entering the proper code for a school seems like a small detail, but it’s a significant step in the ACT registration process.

The Purpose of High School Codes
You have to submit a code for your high school before you’re officially signed up to take the ACT. High school codes are used by the ACT to make sure that each student’s score report is delivered to the proper location. Assigning a code to every high school makes it easier for the ACT to connect each student with a high school as well as a testing location.

How Do I Find My High School Code?
You can find the proper code for your school while registering for the ACT. High school codes can be accessed via the test’s official website, ACT.org. Simply go to the high school code search tool on the website and enter your country, state, and city in the blanks. Click on “search” and you’ll see the name of your high school accompanied by its assigned code. If you are homeschooled, be sure to consult the special instructions on the ACT’s website.

The Purpose of College Codes
Once you have your high school code in place, it’s time to take a look at college codes for the ACT. College codes are used to organize the process of sending your ACT scores to universities. Instead of typing the names of colleges on your registration forms, you’ll enter codes that represent those colleges. This helps the ACT to avoid sending a student’s score reports to the wrong colleges. Keep in mind that each year, there are millions of students who take the ACT. College codes prove very helpful in keeping all of those score reports sorted out and headed to the right places.

How to Find College Codes
There is a college code search tool on the ACT’s official website. Simply click on the state and city where the college is located. You will receive results that include the name of the college and its code.

Preparing for the ACT
Finding high school and college codes is the easy part of getting ready for the ACT. The more challenging part is actually getting down to work and studying for this important test. The first thing on your to-do list should be to take a timed practice ACT test. The results let you know how your skills measure up on the English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing portions of the exam. Plus, a practice test can give you insight on your test-taking skills. Did you finish all of the Math questions in the allotted 60 minutes? If not, you can begin to refresh your math skills to reduce the time it takes to finish each problem.

Often, it’s helpful to have expert guidance when preparing for a standardized test. This is where the ACT instructors at Veritas Prep come in. Each of our professional instructors not only took the ACT but achieved a score of at least 33 out of 36 on the test. Making the decision to prep for the ACT with our instructors means you’ll be studying with experts on the material. You’ll receive a customized study plan that addresses your weakest skills and gives you strategies to boost your abilities in those areas. Each instructional session is valuable and productive because we pair you with a tutor who understands the way you learn. We are proud to say that our proven strategies and practical tips have led many students to success on the ACT.

Still not sure whether you want help studying for the ACT? Check out our ACT trial class for free to see for yourself what we have to offer you. You have a choice of online or in-person classes, private tutoring, or On Demand instruction. We give you several options to consider so you can settle on what works best for you. On top of all of that, we back up our instruction with a guarantee that your ACT score will improve. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us play a part in your victory over the ACT!

Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

3.14 Reasons to Love Pi

Pie ChartEvery March 14, numerically expressed as 3/14, math nerds and test prep instructors celebrate the time-honored tradition of “Pi Day,” deriving plenty of happiness from the fact that the date looks like the number 3.14, the approximation of π. Pi (π) is, of course, the lynchpin value in all circle calculations. The area of a circle is π(r^2), and the circumference of a circle is 2πr or πd.

As you study for a major standardized test, you know that you’ll be working with circles at some point, so here are 3.14 reasons that you should learn to love the number π:

1) Pi should make you salivate.
On any standardized test question, if you see the value π, whether in the question itself of in the answer choices, that π tells you that you’re dealing with a circle. Some test questions disguise what they want you to do – you may have to draw in a triangle to find the diagonal of a square, for example – but circle problems cannot hide from you! π is a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a circle, so like Pavlov’s Dog, when you see that signal, π, you should respond with a biological response and conjure up all your knowledge of circles immediately.

2) Pi can be easily cut into slices.
Whether you’re dealing with a section of the area of a circle or a section of the circumference (arc length), the fact that a circle is perfectly symmetrical makes the job of cutting that circle into slices an easy one. With arc length, all you end up doing is using the central angle to determine the proportion of that section (angle/360 = proportion of what you want), making it very easy to slice up a circle using π. With the area of a section, as long as the arms of that section are equal to the radius of the circle, you can do the exact same thing. Just like an apple pie or pizza pie, if you’re cutting into slices from the center of the circle, cutting that pie into slices is a relatively simple task.

3) You can take your pi to go.
You will almost never have to calculate the value of pi on a standardized test: almost always, the symbol π will appear in the answer choices (e.g. 5π, 7π, etc.), meaning that you can just carry π through your calculations and bring it with you to the answer choices. If, for example, you need to calculate the area of a circle with radius 3, you’ll plug the radius into your formula [π(3^2)] and just end up with 9π, which you’ll find in the answer choices. With most other symbols (x, y, r, etc.) you’ll need to do some work to turn them into numbers. Pi is great because you can take it to go.

3.14) The decimals in pi are just a sliver.
If you ever are asked to “calculate” pi (which typically means that the question is asking you to approximate a value, not to directly calculate it), you can use the fact that the .14 in 3.14 is a tiny sliver of a decimal. For example, if you had to estimate a value for 5π, 5 times 3 is clearly 15, but 5 times .14 is so small that it won’t require you to go all the way to 16. So if your answer choices were 15.7, 16.1, 16.4, etc., you could rely on the fact that the decimal .14 is so small that you can eliminate all the 16s.

Other irrational numbers like the square root of 2 and square root of 3 have decimal places more in the neighborhood of .5, so you will probably need to work a little harder to estimate how they’ll react when you multiply them even by relatively small numbers. But π’s decimals come in small slivers, allowing you to manage your calculations in bite size pieces.

So remember – there are 3.14 (and counting) reasons to love pi, and learning to love pi can help turn your test day into a piece of cake.

Are you getting ready to take the SAT, ACT, GMAT or GRE? Check out our website for a variety of helpful test prep resources. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

The Pros and Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay-Writing Section

SAT WorryAs you read about the different sections on the ACT, you’ll notice that the essay (or Writing section) is optional. So should you do the ACT Writing section or opt out of it?

The best way to answer this question is to check out both the pros and cons of signing up for the ACT without the essay:

Pros of Skipping the ACT Essay

Saving Time
One of the advantages of signing up for the ACT without the essay is you can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for the exam. Preparation for the ACT Writing section means learning the scoring rubric to find out the elements necessary to achieve a high score. Also, you must spend time practicing your essay-writing skills to ensure that you’re ready to create an impressive essay. Skipping the ACT essay means you have more study time to dedicate to the other sections on the test. Plus, taking the ACT without writing time means your total testing period is shortened by 40 minutes.

Saving Money
The official website for the ACT displays one fee for taking the test with the Writing section and another for taking the ACT without the essay, so if you decide to skip the essay, you can save a little money on your testing fees. This can be important, especially if you have a tight budget for standardized tests taken in your junior and senior year in high school.

Sticking With Your Strengths
Perhaps essay-writing is not one of your strengths – when you take the ACT without the Writing section, time can be spent studying for the other sections of the test. You can focus on the Math, Reading, Science, and English sections to achieve scores that will impress college admissions officials. However, if you want to improve your essay-writing skills, our capable instructors can help you to achieve that goal. We can teach you strategies for how to set up a logical, well-organized essay and provide you with guided practice to help make your essay the best it can be.

Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay

Lacking a Requirement?
One of the cons of taking the ACT without the essay is that you may want to apply to colleges that list a score for the Writing section as an admissions requirement. In order to apply to those colleges, you would have to go back and take the entire test again to get an essay score. Checking to see if the ACT essay is a requirement for the colleges you plan to apply to is a wise idea. But keep in mind that you may want to add a college to your list later or even transfer to another school that requires an ACT essay score.

Skipping the Opportunity to Make an Impression
Another con of skipping the essay section on the ACT is that you’ll miss out on an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Earning a high score on the essay is sure to capture the attention of college admissions officials. If writing is one of your strengths, why not take the time to highlight that talent to colleges?

Missing Out on an Intro to College-Level Work
If you skip the ACT essay, you miss out on the chance to become familiar with college-level work. The task of writing this essay is similar to what you’ll be doing in your English classes as a college freshman. You’ll be writing a lot of papers for classes once you start working toward a degree, so why not give yourself the opportunity to dip your toe into the type of academic work you’ll be doing as a college student?

Whether you decide to take the ACT with or without the essay, we are here to help you prep for the test. You may want to start by trying a free ACT trial class taught by one of our professional, 99th percentile instructors. This will give you an idea of all that we have to offer you at Veritas Prep. Sign up for our test prep services and you have the choice of online tutoring, in-person courses, or On Demand instruction. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to learn what you need to know to ace the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT Vocabulary Tricks and Tips

ReflectingStudying vocabulary should be on your schedule of things to do as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT. Numerous lists are available online that feature words commonly seen on the test.

Fortunately, there are many simple tricks and techniques to help you learn and remember ACT vocabulary words and definitions.

Personalize Your Flashcards
Flashcards are a traditional tool for students who are learning vocabulary for the ACT. But you can make your flashcards more effective by taking them a step further. Include the word, its definition, and a personalized sentence on each flashcard. For instance, if you’re learning the word “cunning,” you may create a sentence about your little sister such as, “My sister is cunning about stealing cookies out of the cookie jar.” The word “cunning” means “crafty” or “clever.” You’re more likely to remember a word and its definition when you study it in a personalized context.

The creators of the ACT are interested in measuring your understanding of words and how they are used as opposed to just the number of words you’re able to memorize, so it’s important to thoroughly understand each word you learn.

Expand Your Reading List
Another successful strategy to use when learning vocabulary for the ACT is to read a wide variety of material. For instance, if you usually limit your recreational reading to fiction, try reading some biographies or articles in science or nature magazines, or choose a subject you want to learn more about, such as an animal, a country, space travel, the Industrial Revolution, or a famous individual in history. You are more likely to be an active reader when delving into a subject you’re curious about.

When you vary your reading material, you are exposing yourself to larger amounts of unfamiliar vocabulary. As you read, make a list of the words you don’t know and look up the definitions later. Try to determine the definition of a word by looking at the context in which it’s used, then check the dictionary to see if you were right.

Use New Words on a Daily Basis
As you are focusing on learning ACT vocabulary, try using some of your newly acquired words in your daily life. Saying a word aloud in the correct context is an excellent way to solidify it in your memory. You could do this in your classes at school, during club meetings, or at home with your family. In addition, try including a few of the words in papers and other assignments for your English classes. Why not score some extra points on your schoolwork as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT?

Play Word Games
Playing word games is one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT. There are many online games that ask you to match a definition with the correct word or vice-versa. Some games test your speed at unscrambling letters to make a word that pairs with a definition. Various types of word games can be played by two or more people, so you can get together to play a game with a few friends who are also preparing for the ACT. Making the learning process fun with colorful graphics, music, and exciting challenges helps you add to your growing supply of words.

Take Several Practice Tests
Another effective way to prep for the Reading and English sections on the ACT is to take practice tests. This helps you to figure out which skills you’ve mastered as well as the ones that need work. If you’re worried about these two sections on the ACT, completing practice questions can make you feel more prepared on test day.

Our instructors achieved extremely high scores on the ACT, so when you study with us, you have access to the proven tips and tricks used by our instructors to learn ACT vocabulary. But the ACT tutors at Veritas Prep are more than experts at helping you learn ACT vocabulary: we can also teach you strategies you can use on all parts of the exam. Take advantage of our free trial class to become familiar with the material on the ACT and discover what our instructors at Veritas Prep can do to help you succeed on test day.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT English Tips to Improve Your Score

writing essayIn the English section on the ACT, you have 45 minutes to finish all 75 multiple-choice questions. This section tests your grammar and punctuation skills. Also, you have the opportunity to showcase your skills when it comes to understanding sentence structure.

There’s also a Reading section that evaluates your comprehension skills with 40 multiple-choice questions in 35 minutes. But with a little preparation and some useful strategies, you can improve your score on both the ACT English and Reading sections.

Read the Entire Passage
Most students understand the importance of reading all of the passages included on the ACT Reading test, as this section includes questions designed to measure how well you can understand and interpret the text. But it’s just as important to fully read the passages on the English section of the test.

The English section is made up of five passages containing underlined phrases. You’re given several alternative options for each underlined phrase. Your job is to choose the one that’s a better fit for the sentence. You also have a “no change” option if you think the sentence is correct as it is.

One of the most valuable ACT English tips to keep in mind is to read the entire passage instead of just the underlined phrase. Other sentences in the passage can give you clues about the correct answer. The ACT instructors at Veritas Prep can help you boost your score on the English section by guiding you through practice English questions. We’ll provide you with strategies on how to evaluate the options to arrive at the correct answer. Each of our instructors scored in the top one percent of ACT test-takers, so when you study for the ACT with Veritas Prep, you’re working with someone who has mastered the material!

Be on the Lookout for Parallel Structure
Looking for parallel structure in the sentences of each passage can help you to find the correct alternative to an underlined phrase. If an underlined phrase isn’t parallel with the rest of the sentence, then it needs to be replaced with one of the answer options.

An example sentence might be, “Philip enjoys reading, horseback riding, and to swim.” This sentence is not parallel because it contains mixed verb forms. The correct version of this sentence is, “Philip enjoys reading, horseback riding, and swimming.” Philip’s third hobby, “swimming,” should have the same verb form as his first two hobbies. Reading articles in science magazines, online newspapers, and other publications can help you become familiar with parallel structure. The more reading you do, the easier it will be to recognize a passage with sentences that are not parallel in form.

Look for Subject and Verb Agreement
One of simplest tips to remember when completing the ACT English section is to look for agreement between the subject and the verb of a sentence. If the subject of a sentence is singular, then its verb should also be singular. The same goes for plural subjects and plural verbs.

Consider All of the Answer Options
This is a necessary addition to any list of ACT English tips. Understandably, many students are anxious or nervous on test day. Most want to jump right in and get started on the questions. Because of this nervousness, a student may skim passages, glance at the answer options, and choose one that looks like the obvious answer. This is a trap you want to avoid. Take the time to look at all of the answer choices before selecting one. The most obvious answer is not always the right one.

Read the Corrected Sentences to Yourself
Once you choose an alternative option for an underlined phrase, it’s a smart idea to insert it into the sentence and quietly read it to yourself. This can help you to determine whether the changed sentence flows or sounds clunky. If the sentence doesn’t sound right in your mind, it is worth your time to go back and reconsider the option you selected.

At Veritas Prep, we offer a free online ACT prep seminar that gives you the chance to see what our study program is all about. We give you the guidance you need for tackling the ACT Reading and English sections as well as the rest of the exam. Students who work with us prep for the test using the most effective study materials and resources. Our professional instructors are not only experts on the ACT, but they recognize the value of providing lots of encouragement to their students. And you have the option of either taking an online class or participating in one of our in-person courses. Either way, we’ll give you the preparation you need to excel on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

4 Predictions for Test Prep and Admissions in 2017

There goes another year. Seemingly no sooner than it started, 2016 has packed up and stormed off, leaving many dizzy in its wake. Now that 2017 is underway, it’s time to dust off the old Veritas Prep crystal ball and see what may be in store for 2017 in the worlds of test preparation and admissions. Odds are that we won’t be right on all of these — and we may even manage to get all four wrong — but let’s dig in and predict a few things that we expect to see in 2017:

One-year MBA programs will reach a tipping point in the United States.
For decades, one-year programs have been more popular in Europe than in the United States, although some prominent American programs, such as Kellogg, have moved to expand their one-year programs in recent years. With more and more articles appearing in the media about students and their families questioning the costs of higher education, accelerated programs will keep looking more and more appealing to applicants who don’t want to spend six figures on an MBA. The globalization of management graduate education will continue, and more American business schools will start to embrace what’s traditionally been a more Euro-flavored program type.

Video prompts will become much more common in business school applications.
Yes, we predicted this last year, and it didn’t quite come to fruition. But, schools are becoming more and more comfortable with video as a medium for learning about applicants, and — probably more importantly — applicants themselves mostly seem to be comfortable with video. In AIGAC’s 2016 MBA Applicant Survey, only 16% of applicants surveyed said that video responses were the most challenging part of the application. That’s far smaller than the percentage of applicants who said that standardized tests (61%) and written essays (46%) were the most challenging! Rotman, Yale, Kellogg, and McCombs have helped blaze a video trail that we expect others will soon follow.

An Asia-scale cheating scandal will hit the SAT or ACT in the United States.
News articles about standardized test cheating scandals like this one and this one seem to come out nearly every month. Much of the blame lies with the pressure that students — and especially their families — put on themselves to do well on these exams.

It’s also greed. For every student that will do anything to do well on an exam, there’s a person or company who’s happy to take their money and do whatever it takes to give that student a leg up. Sometimes that means legally and ethically training that student to perform to the best of their ability, but many other times it means falsifying documents or providing students with live test questions for large sums of money. This kind of greed exists everywhere in the world, and it’s only a matter of time until a similar large-scale scandal happens in the U.S.

Community colleges will gain a lot more recognition.
Did you know that more than half of students who enroll in college first do so at a community college? Most Americans don’t know that, even though community colleges have been the engine that educates millions of Americans each year. We’ll see the federal government putting more emphasis on jobs and job training in the coming year, and community colleges are perfectly positioned to serve that role. While it remains to be seen whether community colleges get all of the funding they need to keep serving their mission, we expect that, at a minimum, they’ll start to get more recognition for the job they do to train and retrain America’s workforce.

Happy New Year, everyone. We can’t wait to check back in 2018 and see how this year turned out!

By Scott Shrum

The New SAT vs. the ACT: A Simple Test Comparison

Law School Images“Are ‘SAT’ and ‘ACT’ the same thing?” If you’ve been thinking about this question, you’re not alone. Many high school students are curious about the similarities between these two tests and how different they really are.

A quick SAT-to-ACT comparison can help you to decide whether to take the new SAT, the ACT, or both.

The scoring scales for the ACT versus new SAT are very different. The highest score you can earn on the ACT is a 36. There are four sections on the ACT, and you receive a raw score for each section, which is changed into a scaled score ranging from one to 36. Your final score is the average of your four scaled scores. On the other hand, the highest score you can achieve on the new SAT is 1600. You receive a subscore for each section of the new SAT, and your final score is the sum of your subscores.

Math Questions
When making an SAT-to-ACT comparison, you’ll find that both tests include questions on advanced math concepts such as geometry and trigonometry as well as algebra. Of course, knowledge of arithmetic is necessary on both tests. One difference between the two Math sections is that you’re given 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the ACT and 80 minutes to complete 58 questions on the new SAT. You’re also allowed to use a calculator throughout the Math section on the ACT, but your calculator use is limited on the new SAT.

Science Questions
One major difference in the new SAT versus ACT test is that there’s no specific Science section on the new SAT. However, some of the skills you use in science class are tested in other sections on the new SAT. For instance, in the Math section you’re often asked to analyze the information given on a chart or graph, and the Reading section contains passages that cover science-related topics. The ACT does have a section of Science questions – earth science, chemistry, and biology are among the sciences found on the ACT. You must answer a total of 40 questions in 35 minutes in the Science section of the ACT.

Reading Questions
When making an SAT-vs.-ACT comparison, you’ll see that the Reading sections on both tests share a lot of similarities. The Reading sections on both exams feature several passages accompanied by questions. The SAT has five passages, while the ACT has four. In addition, the two tests share many of the same question types. For instance, they both have main idea, detail, vocabulary-in-context, and inference questions. In addition to those, the new SAT has data reasoning, technique, and evidence support questions. You’re given 35 minutes to finish 40 questions on the ACT and 65 minutes to finish 52 questions on the new SAT Reading section.

Writing and English Tests
There is a Writing & Language section on the new SAT that requires you to improve on phrases found within the given passages. There may be grammar or punctuation errors in the passage or problems with sentence structure. You’ll read the passage and select the better options for the underlined phrases.

The ACT has an English section with passages that also contain underlined phrases. Your task is to find a better alternative to the phrase or, in some cases, select the “no change” option. Once again, there may be grammar errors or problems with punctuation, sentence structure, or organization. You are given 45 minutes to finish 75 questions in the English section on the ACT and 35 minutes to complete 44 Writing & Language questions on the new SAT.

The Essay
When it comes to the essay on the ACT vs. new SAT, both tests make this section optional. For the new SAT Essay section, you’re required to analyze an argument and offer evidence as to why the author’s argument is valid or invalid. Alternatively, the ACT Essay section presents you with three different perspectives on a particular issue, and your job is to evaluate each of them. On both essays, your score depends on your ability to organize your thoughts, present evidence, and convey your ideas in a clear way.

Are “SAT” and “ACT” the same? In some ways, the answer is “yes,” but in many others, the answer is “no.” Regardless of which test you take, our professional instructors can help you practice for it. Look at our video tutorials and sign up for our in-person or online test prep courses today!

Want to learn more about how the SAT and ACT differ? Attend one of our upcoming free live online SAT vs. ACT workshops to determine which exam is right for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT Registration Checklist and Testing Dates

ChecklistCompleting the ACT registration process is the first step toward sitting down to take the test. Having a checklist of things to do can help you to organize the process.

Learn about the steps you need to take, as well as some important things to consider, before you sit down to register for the ACT.

Create a Student Account Online
ACT registration can be accomplished very easily by visiting their official website, ACT.org. After creating an account, it takes about 40 minutes to complete the registration forms. There is a test fee that you can pay with a credit card via a secure payment system. Also, you must upload a photo of yourself during ACT test registration. This photo is used for identification purposes and will be put onto the ticket that you’ll take with you to the testing center.

Special Accommodations for the Test
If you have a disability, it’s possible to get special accommodations for the ACT. For instance, if you’re visually impaired, you may be able to arrange for a magnifying device or a reader. During the registration process, you have the chance to express the need for special accommodations. After registration is complete, you will receive an email explaining how to request testing accommodations. You must then work with the officials at your school to secure accommodations for the ACT. You will have to submit proof of a disability along with other documentation. Your school must submit the actual request for accommodations to ACT testing officials.

The Writing Test
The writing test on the ACT is optional. During registration, you can specify whether you want to take it. If you change your mind later about taking the writing test, you can log onto the website and make this adjustment. Keep in mind that you must make the change before the late registration deadline connected with your test date. There is an additional fee for the writing test.

Choose a Test Date and Location
You’ll have the opportunity to choose a test date as well as a testing center located near you. On the website, there is a chart that displays upcoming test dates as well as corresponding ACT registration dates. The ACT registration dates are the deadlines for anyone who wants to take the test on a particular day. It’s possible to register for the test after the deadline passes, but the ACT charges a late fee for that service. The test center locator on the website makes it simple for you to find a location that is convenient. Your test date and location will be confirmed after you finish the ACT test registration process.

Arranging for the Delivery of Score Reports
As part of your testing fee, the ACT sends your score report to four colleges. You can specify these colleges during test registration. You have the option of sending your score report to more than four colleges, but there is a fee for each additional request.

Preparing for the Test
After going through the process of ACT registration, your next step is to prep for the test! That’s where we can help. At Veritas Prep, our talented instructors can provide you with tools that enable you to highlight your skills on the ACT. We’ll guide you through taking a practice ACT to reveal both your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the material on this test. In addition, we’ll pair you with an instructor who knows how to convey lessons with your learning style in mind. We’ll help you improve your test performance by giving you strategies to use on every section of the ACT.

When you sign up with Veritas Prep, you get to study with an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the test, so the study tips you receive are coming from someone who has taken and conquered the ACT! Our team is proud to provide quality ACT tutoring both online and in person. We use proven study resources in our classes so you know you’re getting practical information you can use on the test.

If you’re looking for the best in ACT prep, send us an email or give us a call today. Let Veritas Prep play a part in your victory on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Your ACT Is Done: Now What? How and When ACT Scores Are Available

Letter of Recommendation“Are ACT scores out yet?” “Are ACT scores posted online?” These are just two of the many questions that you and other high school students may have after taking the ACT. Naturally, most students want to know when ACT scores are available as well as how to send them to their preferred colleges. We can help you get the answers to these pertinent queries and others relating to ACT score reports.

How to Get Your Scores
Are ACT scores posted online? The answer is yes! In order to register for the test, you had to create a student account at the official website, ACT.org. This same account gives you access to your test scores. In addition to online access, you will get a score report in the form of a PDF via your student account. Remember that those who have taken the ACT view scores through their secure online account – the ACT doesn’t deliver scores via email, fax, chat, or telephone.

When Will My ACT Scores Be Available?
Normally, your composite score for the multiple-choice sections of the test can be viewed within two weeks after your test date. After getting your composite score, it takes approximately two more weeks to get your writing score. When ACT test results for the writing portion of the test are available, you’ll be notified via your online account. Keep in mind that the ACT’s official time frame for releasing a student’s scores is between two and eight weeks, so if your scores aren’t available within two weeks after the test, try checking back in another week or two.

What Can Delay the Arrival of My ACT Scores?
These are the basics on when ACT scores are available, but there are some circumstances that can delay the arrival of your scores. For example, a rescheduled testing date may mean that your scores are made available later than expected. Inaccuracies on your test forms can also cause a delay in the arrival of your scores. That’s why it’s so important to fill out the test forms completely and as instructed. Of course, you can contact those who administer the ACT via their website if you have any questions.

Sending Scores to Colleges
The most important people who will see your ACT scores are admissions officers, so you’ll want to make sure that your preferred colleges get them as well. During the test registration process, you can arrange for your test scores to be sent to four colleges. Make sure that you enter the correct college codes as you move through the process so there won’t be any delays in the delivery of your score reports.

Retaking the ACT
If you decide you want to retake the ACT, you’re allowed to do so as many times as you want. But before signing up to take the test again, make sure that you have a good reason to think that you’ll do better the second time. For example, perhaps you were sick on test day and felt that your illness affected your performance. Or maybe you felt unprepared for a particular section of the test and you want to review some things before giving the test another try. As far as ACT scores are concerned, colleges only consider your highest score on the test, so it can’t hurt to study up and try again.

Starting Off on the Right Foot
Whether you plan to retake the ACT or you’re taking it for the first time, our instructors are here to help! We give you strategies you can use on all sections of the test, including the essay. We guide you in taking a practice ACT, then review the results with you. This is an effective way to focus your efforts on the subjects that need the most work. You’ll be paired with a Veritas Prep instructor who is familiar with your learning style, making each of your tutoring sessions all the more productive. We use professional study materials and resources in our online and in-person courses. When you study with us, you receive the tools you need to master the ACT on test day.

If you want to know more about the study program at Veritas Prep, check out our ACT trial class. You’ll learn about the subtleties of the ACT and get valuable tips from an experienced instructor. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

What’s Going on With the ACT Essay: A Synopsis of Recent Issues with ACT Essay Scoring

tutoringIn September of 2015, changes were made to the essay on the ACT. The essay now has a new system of scoring. In addition, students are asked to approach the essay in a different way than in previous years.

There have been some issues that have come up as a result of these changes. Learn the specifics about some of the changes relating to the ACT essay:

Differences Between the Old ACT Essay and the New ACT Essay
On the old ACT essay, students were given a prompt and asked to take a stand on a particular issue. The new version of the essay gives students a prompt that outlines an issue and offers three perspectives on it. Students must analyze the issue as well as offer their own perspective on it. In addition, they are asked to describe the relationship between their perspective and the ones offered.

Students are given 40 minutes to finish the essay, whereas they were given just 30 minutes on the previous version of the test. As a note, a student’s essay score is not affected by the stance they take on the given issue.

The Old ACT Essay Scoring System vs. the Current System
On the old ACT, students could score from two to 12 points on the essay. A student’s essay was read by two graders – each of these graders gave an essay a score ranging from one to six. The two scores were combined to determine the total amount of points.

Today, students can score from one to 36 points on the new ACT essay. Graders evaluate several aspects of an essay, including its organization, language use, development, support, ideas, and analysis. This new scoring system is designed to reveal more information about a student’s specific writing skills.

What Sorts of Issues Are Occurring With the New Essay Scoring System on the ACT?
One of the recent issues with the new ACT essay scoring system involves students reporting unexpectedly low scores on the essay. Some students are performing well on every other part of the ACT but are getting a low score on the essay, and teachers and school counselors who know the capabilities of their students are questioning these low essay scores. This issue is prompting some students to request that their essay be re-scored.

Another issue with the ACT essay has had to do with timing. Some students who took the ACT in September of 2015 applied to college via early decision or early action. Generally, the deadline for early decision applications is in November and the deadline for early action applications is usually in November or early December. In some cases, ACT essay scores were delayed, making students wonder if their application would still be eligible for early decision or early action.

What Options Do Students Have Regarding Their Essay Score?
Students who don’t agree with their ACT essay score can request to have their essay re-scored. They must make this request in writing within three months of getting their score. There is a fee of $50 to have an essay hand-scored. It takes up to five weeks to get the hand-scoring results. If an error is found, the updated scores are sent out to the student as well as others who received the original scores. Also, a student’s re-scoring fee is refunded.

Tips for Writing an Effective ACT Essay
One of the most effective ways students can prep for this section of the ACT is to write a practice essay. It’s a good idea for a student to time the essay-writing process so they will be able to finish in the allotted 40 minutes. Many students look at high-scoring essays to see what they need to include in order to earn an impressive ACT essay score.

Our ACT courses at Veritas Prep are designed to help students tackle the essay as well as every other section on the test. Each of our talented instructors scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. This means that Veritas Prep students are learning test-taking strategies from the experts! Students can take ACT prep classes from Veritas Prep either online or in person. We give you the tools to showcase your talents on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Understanding the ACT Essay Grading Rubric

writing essayThe writing test is one of the five sections that make up the ACT. Each student’s writing test is evaluated based on the elements in the ACT essay scoring rubric. The ACT writing rubric features four areas or domains. The four domains are ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. The scores a student receives in each of these domains contribute to a student’s total score on the essay.

Let’s examine the scoring process for the writing test and take a closer look at the ACT essay scoring rubric:

The Scoring System for the ACT Essay
Each student’s essay is evaluated by two individuals who are familiar with the ACT essay rubric. A score of one to six points is given for each of the four domains in the ACT writing rubric. The scores of both graders are added together to get a total score for each domain. If there is a discrepancy of more than one point between the individual scores of the two readers, then a third reader is brought in to re-evaluate the student’s essay. Otherwise, an essay receives a total score based on the domain scores awarded by the two readers.

Ideas and Analysis
The first item in the ACT essay rubric concerns ideas and analysis. Essay graders evaluate a student’s ability to understand and express the ideas contained in the given issue. In order to achieve a high score on the essay, students must also be able to understand the different perspectives offered on the issue. An essay should contain relevant ideas expressed in a clear, succinct fashion.

Development and Support
Students who achieve a high score in this domain offer solid evidence to support their points of view. In fact, they provide specific examples that help to support their perspectives. Students are able to convey their ideas in a way that is easy to understand. They take their audience into account as they craft their arguments. At the end of the essay, the reader should be able to see a student’s way of thinking regarding the given issue.

Students receive a score for the way they organize their essay. Their ideas should be organized in a logical way that lends to the reader’s understanding. A student must transition from idea to idea in a smooth way. An essay should have a clear purpose and end with a conclusion that sums up the student’s thoughts on the issue. A typical format for an ACT essay includes an introduction, three or four paragraphs in the body, and a solid conclusion.

Language Use and Conventions
Essay graders evaluate a student’s skill at using written language to clearly express ideas. A student’s grammar, spelling, and mechanics all play a part in a grader’s final evaluation of the essay. Incorrect punctuation and misspellings are a distraction for essay readers. A student who can use vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence style to convey ideas in an effective way will receive a high score in this domain.

Tips for Writing an ACT Essay
Students who want to excel on the ACT writing test should practice their essay-writing skills on a regular basis. This is all the more effective if a student studies high-scoring ACT essays. They can practice including all of the components necessary for an essay worthy of a high score.

Another tip for writing a convincing ACT essay is to learn new vocabulary words. Students can use these vocabulary words to fully express the ideas in their essay. Plus, learning these words can also be useful in answering questions in the reading section of the ACT. Students can also benefit from making practice outlines. A solid outline can help students organize all of their ideas and supporting evidence. Furthermore, an outline is a helpful guide if a student loses their train of thought while writing the essay on test day.

Our encouraging instructors at Veritas Prep can provide students with guidance on the essay portion of the ACT. Also, we can advise them on the various components of the ACT essay rubric. We hire instructors who achieved a score of at least 33 on the ACT: Veritas Prep students learn from tutors who have real-life experience with the exam! Choose from our in-person or online prep courses and gain the confidence you need to ace the ACT.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

5 Signs You May Benefit From Math Skills Help

help - wordsFor some high school students, math classes are a breeze, but other students have difficulty understanding various types of math concepts. A knowledgeable math skills tutor can be invaluable to high school students who need a bit of help in their math courses.

Students who can relate to the following five signs are likely to benefit from working with a math tutor.

Five Signs That a Student May Benefit from Math Skills Help:

1) Making the Same Mistakes on Math Tests
Though most students study diligently for math tests and quizzes, some of them find that they miss the same types of questions on every math test. After getting their graded test back, they take the time to review incorrect answers and rework the problems. Often, these students arrive at the same incorrect answers. Not surprisingly, this is a very frustrating and discouraging situation for a high school student.

The good news is that a math tutor can step in and partner with a student as they review incorrect answers on a test. Furthermore, the tutor can evaluate a student’s approach to solving math problems to find out what the student needs to change in order to get the correct answer. Sometimes a tutor’s perspective is a necessary element in a student’s success with math.

2) A Growing Collection of Unanswered Questions
Understandably, students who are struggling in math have a lot of questions. They might ask their math teachers for answers but don’t receive any that are helpful to them. Their teacher may be explaining math concepts in an unclear or confusing way. As these questions pile up, a student may start to feel discouraged. Can a math tutor help with getting a student’s questions answered in a satisfactory way? Yes! It helps that a tutor has the opportunity to get to know a student’s learning style. A tutor can explain a concept in a way that their student can understand. Once a student starts getting answers to questions, they are able to grasp more and more mathematical concepts.

3) A High Level of Math Test Anxiety
When a student is struggling in math class, they may feel anxious at the mention of an upcoming test. This is a definite sign that a student could benefit from studying with a math skills tutor. Of course, a tutor’s main responsibility is to help a student strengthen weak math skills. But a tutor is also a source of encouragement. The professional math tutors at Veritas Prep are experts at helping high school students build up their math skills as well as their confidence. Students who have confidence in their math skills are less likely to feel anxious about quizzes and tests.

4) Spending an Excessive Amount of Time on Math Homework
Students who sit for hours at their desk at home puzzling over math homework assignments may benefit from math tutor help. A student may spend hours trying to figure out how to approach a collection of math equations or spend a lot of time erasing answers and going back to review the steps in a problem. Tutors work with students to teach them specific ways to approach equations. Once a student learns how to approach different types of problems, they can quickly move through homework assignments.

5) Feeling Lost in Math Class
This is an unmistakable sign that a student could benefit from working with a math tutor. Each student sitting in a math class has a different learning style. A student who is struggling in math may not be comfortable with the way the lessons are being presented. This can be solved by getting some math help. Tutor-led study sessions can be tailored to a student’s learning style. The material is the same as the student received in math class, but the tutor presents it in a way that is more easily understandable to the student.

For students in need of math help, tutor-led instruction can be the answer. Veritas Prep tutors convey simple tips and strategies to students that can help them boost their performance on math tests and quizzes. We offer online tutoring that gives students the advantage they need to master all of the skills taught in their math courses. Contact our offices to find the help you need today!

Want more math help? Check out our YouTube channel, where you’ll find helpful math tips for both the SAT and the ACT. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT and SAT Score Conversion

ACT vs SATMany students who plan to go to college choose to take both the ACT and the SAT – in many cases, students will take the ACT during their junior year of high school and complete the SAT during their senior year. The results of these tests help college admissions officials gauge whether an individual might be a positive addition to their student body.

While some schools will want to see scores for both exams, others request scores for either the ACT or the SAT. Naturally, if a student is applying to one of the latter schools, they will want to take both tests and submit the better of their two scores. This is where the process of score conversion comes in.

Take a look at how some students are using ACT to SAT score conversion to determine which score to submit with their college applications. Also, learn how our instructors at Veritas Prep can help students perform their best on both tests.

The Process of Score Conversion
The highest achievable score on the ACT is a 36, whereas students can earn up to 1600 points on the new SAT. Score conversion allows students to compare their scores on both exams to determine which is more impressive overall – this can be done using a concordance chart (PDF). Though the ACT and SAT are different types of tests, this chart equates their results in a reasonable way.

Students are able to garner a larger amount of total points on the SAT than on the ACT – as a result, a student’s ACT composite score can equate with a range of scores on the SAT. A score conversion can then help highlight the student’s academic strengths on their college application.

What if a student only takes one of the two tests?
A student who takes the ACT instead of the SAT may try to use a concordance chart to predict their possible SAT score based on their current ACT score, however, without having actually taken the SAT, the student will never know how they might have performed. A concordance chart is not a completely reliable predictor of a student’s performance on either exam – instead, it is meant to be used as a means of comparing the results of both standardized tests. A student can determine which of these two results they should submit to colleges by using the concordance chart to convert an SAT score to an ACT score (conversion to SAT format from an ACT score would help in the same way).

Expert Prep for the ACT and SAT
It’s important for students to begin with a thorough study program for both the ACT and the SAT. Veritas Prep offers SAT and ACT preparation courses that give students the tools they need to tackle all of the challenging questions on the test.

Both our ACT and SAT instructors have first-hand experience with these exams – in fact, our instructors at Veritas Prep must have exemplary scores on these tests in order to work for us, as we want our students to learn from the very best! Students who sign up with Veritas Prep will definitely have an advantage over their peers.

Learning Practical Strategies
We use top quality study materials and professional educational resources to teach our students how to approach the questions on the ACT, as well as on the SAT. For instance, we share tips on how to spot and eliminate wrong answer choices so students can find the correct answer in a more efficient way. We also assist students in dissecting their SAT and ACT practice tests to find the areas that need improvement.

As students prepare for the ACT, the SAT, or both, they can meet with our instructors online or in person and benefit from their skills and know-how. We provide students with plenty of encouragement, so they’ll feel at ease when they sit down on test day to tackle either the ACT or the SAT.

We are proud to guide students in achieving their highest potential scores on the SAT and ACT. Contact Veritas Prep today and sign up for our first-rate ACT and SAT prep courses.

Still need to take the SAT or ACT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources and free ACT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Improve Your Speed on the ACT Math Section Using Math Fluidity

stopwatch-620Speed is key on the Math Section of the ACT – you have only 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. However, this doesn’t mean you should spend one minute on each question, as not every question on in this section is created equal. Many questions (particularly Questions 1-30) are problems that you can solve in under one minute. In fact, you should aim to solve Questions 1-30 in less than 30 minutes – around 25 minutes is the goal.

That’s because some of the later questions, particularly the questions from Questions 40-60, will require more than a minute. Basically, you want to put aside extra time for the tricky questions at end of the section by completing the easier, earlier questions as quickly as possible. If you do Questions 1-30 in 25 minutes, then you have 35 minutes to do Questions 31-60.

One way to improve your speed on the Math Section is to develop what I call “math fluidity.” That means recognizing how common patterns, formulas and special rules can help you solve any particular problem. To illustrate, take a look at the following triangle problem:

Triangle ABC (below) is an equilateral triangle with side of length 4. What is the area of triangle ABC?

ACT Triangle 1




The first step to any geometry problem is writing down what relevant common formula you’ll need to solve the problem; i.e. whenever I’m asked the area of a triangle, at the top of my work space I’ll write:

A = (b*h)/2

Having the formula in front of you will be helpful because right away, it’s clear that although we have some information, we don’t have all the information we need to solve this problem – we have the base of the triangle (4), but not the height. Since the height of an equilateral triangle always goes from one angle to the opposite side, where it forms two 90-degree angles, drawing the height of an equilateral triangle creates two identical triangles, as shown below:

ACT Triangle 2




Many students would now conclude that they need the Pythagorean theorem to solve for the height (that line bisecting the equilateral triangle). This is where math fluidity comes in. Although you could use the Pythagorean theorem, it’s much faster to instead recognize what type of triangle you are dealing with.

Whenever you split an equilateral triangle in half, you create two 30-60-90 triangles. These are also called “special right triangles” because they always follow the rule that the shortest side is always “x,” the side opposite the 60-degree angle is always x√3, and the hypotenuse is always 2x. See the triangle below:

ACT Triangle 3




So, rather than spend any time solving for the height of the our triangle by using the Pythagorean Theorem, recognize that because the hypotenuse is 4 and the base is 2 (of either of the smaller triangles), and because the triangle is a right triangle, the height must be 2√3. Therefore, the area of the larger triangle is  (2√3)(4)(1/2), which equals 4√3.

Instantly recognizing that the two smaller triangles are 30-60-90 triangles only saves a little bit of time – if you can regularly shave off 20 seconds on question after question by recognizing special rules or how best to apply formulas, you’ll accrue saved time that can later be spent on harder math questions. Speaking of which, math fluidity also applies to tricky questions – similar to what we previously saw, recognition will break down hard questions into easier, faster steps.

So, let’s take a look at a more difficult question. Note, this next example is especially relevant for students shooting for 99th percentile or perfect scores. Although many students can solve the following question if given enough time, few students can solve it quickly enough to get it correct on the ACT. Here’s the problem:

In triangle ABC below, angle BAE measures 30 degrees. What is the value of angle AED minus angle ABE?

A) 30ACT Triangle 4
B) 60
C) 90
D) 120
E) 150


Although there are several ways to solve this problem, math fluidity will help with whatever approach you choose. As I mentioned earlier, it is always best to start by writing down a relevant formula, as it will include what information you have and what information you need. In this case, I’m looking for AED-ABE. Because I’ve also been given the measure of angle BAE, I’ll write down:

BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED

Here’s where math fluidity comes in; the second formula is based off a theorem that you probably learned (and then forgot!) in your geometry class. I do recommend (re)memorizing it for the ACT as follows: a measure of an exterior angle of a triangle is equal to the sum of the measures of the two non-adjacent interior angles.

ACT Triangle 5Are you drawing a blank? If so, take a moment to think about why that statement is true. If the smaller two angles of a right-angle triangle, as shown at left, are 40 and 50, then if we extend a line as shown to form the adjacent exterior angle x, then x + 50 = 180, so x = 130.


Also, 40 + 50 + 90 = 180, since the sum of interior angles of a triangle always add up to 180. So, if x + 50 = 180, and  40 + 50 + 90 = 180, then x+ 50 = 40 + 50 + 90.

Removing the 50 from both sides, we can conclude that x = 40 + 90, or x (the adjacent  exterior angle of one interior angle) is equal to the sum of the other two interior angles.

Now, returning to our original problem:

If BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED, then:

30 + ABE = AED

AED – ABE = 30

Therefore, our answer is A, 30.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

Answer ACT Reading Questions By Matching the Author’s Tone to the Answer Choices

ReflectingOne of the best ways to attack the Reading Section on the ACT is to look for reasons to eliminate answer choices. In other words, rather than try to find evidence for each answer choice to determine whether or not it is correct, you can identify reasons as to why you can eliminate answer choices because they are incorrect.

In this post, I’ll be covering one easy trick you can use to eliminate at least one answer choice on a surprisingly high number of questions in the ACT Reading Section – matching the author’s tone to the choices. Quickly read the following excerpt:

Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, perhaps better known as Leo Tolstoy, is largely considered the most prolific Russian novelist in history. Most famous for his two long novels War and Peace, which he penned in 1869, and Anna Karenina, which he wrote in 1877, Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction. While not the beginning of his literary career, his rise to prominence began when he accounted his experiences in the Crimean War with Sevastopol Sketches, his first acclaimed work. Soon after, between 1855 and 1858, he published a self-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, recounting through fictional characters his own childhood with a sentimentality he later rebuffed as poor writing. Toward the end of his life, Tolstoy became more of a moral thinker and social reformer, transitioning from poplar novelist to evangelical essayist.

Even after a quick read-through, you should be able to describe the author’s tone. (And if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, now is the time to start!) That is, you should be able to ask yourself, “Is the author’s tone laudatory? Is it critical? Is it neutral? Is it persuasive?” and so on. In short, you should have a general sense of whether or not the author has a positive, negative, or neutral stance towards their subject, and you should also have a sense of the degree – i.e. is the author strongly critical, or do they just have some reservations?

Now, go ahead and write down what you think the author’s tone is in the above excerpt.

In this case, the author’s tone is laudatory, as the author calls Tolstoy “prolific” and  a “master of realistic fiction.” So, keep in mind that descriptive terms – adjectives, descriptive phrases, and the like – will clue you in on what the author’s tone is.

Now that we’ve identified the author’s tone, take a look at the following question*:

According to the passage, it could be concluded that the novel War and Peace was:

(A) The first of Leo Tolstoy’s works to be published.
(B) Leo Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance.
(C) Written by Leo Tolstoy after he wrote his self-autobiographical trilogy.
(D) Written by Leo Tolstoy using inspirations from his experience in the Crimean War.

Without rereading the passage, I can immediately eliminate one of the answer choices. Why?  Because it is distinctly different than the author’s tone. The author is praising Tolstoy, so answer choice B, which comes off as critical (Saying that the book is Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance is pretty dang snarky!), couldn’t be the correct answer.

Let’s use this strategy again on a few more questions. First, read the following excerpt and identify the author’s tone:

“A handicapped child represents a qualitative different, unique type of development… If a blind child or a deaf child achieves the same level of development as a normal child, then the child with a defect achieves this in another way, by another course, by another means; and, for the pedagogue, it is particularly important to know the uniqueness of the course along which he must lead the child. This uniqueness transforms the minus of a handicap into the plus of compensation.”

That such radical adaptions could occur demanded, Luria thought, a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active, a supremely efficient adaptive system geared for evolution and change, ceaselessly adapting to the needs of the organism – its need, above all, to construct a coherent self and world, whatever defects or disorders of brain functions befell it. That the brain is minutely differentiated is clear: there are hundreds of tiny areas crucial for every aspect of perception and behavior. The miracle is how they all cooperate, are integrated together, in the creation of a self.

In this passage, the author’s tone is positive. The author uses the words  “dynamic,” “active” and “miracle,” and cites another author (in the first paragraph) who uses the word “unique.” Thus, these descriptive phrases allow me to conclude that the author takes a positive tone towards his or her subjects of handicaps and the brain.

Now, let’s take a look at some questions. The goal of this exercise is simply to notice what answer choices we can eliminate (not what the correct answers are) without rereading by simply noticing which tones of the answer choices does not match the tone of the author.

The author’s main purpose in the second paragraph is to show:

(A) how he has come to think differently about the brain.
(B) why sickness often causes a contraction of life.
(C) when he had made new discoveries about the brain.
(D) which of his subjects helped him redefine the term “norm.”

With just a quick look at this question, I can immediately eliminate answer choice B. This option takes a negative tone towards sickness, which is clearly out of line with the author’s tone.

Simple enough! Let’s try another question:

The quotation in the first paragraph is used in this passage to support the idea that:

(A) children with handicaps should be studied in the same way as children defined by physicians as “normal.”
(B) deficits need to demonstrate intactness in order to be judged acceptable.
(C) neural or sensory mishap occurs in children as well as adults.
(D) development of children with handicaps may proceed in positive yet quite distinctive ways.

Once again, you will notice that the tone of one of the answer choices stands out as distinctly different from the author’s tone: answer choice B is unusually harsh in tone (judging a deficit “acceptable” comes off as rather cold, if not outright inhumane), so I can make the decision, even without rereading the quote, to eliminate B.

The more adept you get at noting the author’s tone, the more naturally this strategy will come to you. So, next time you do a practice reading section, try incorporating this strategy into your studies.

*Note that I can use the matching tone strategy on these questions because they all reference the purpose of the author (namely, they begin with the phrases “according to the passage,” “the author’s main purpose,” “the quotation is used in this passage to support,” etc.). However, if the questions had asked about a different point of view than the author’s, I wouldn’t be able to use this strategy.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

ACT Science: What To Do on Test Day

SATIn my last post, I covered why the ACT science test is so difficult, and what habits you can develop to overcome its particular pitfalls and obstacles. However, with an ACT coming up in mid-December, you might not have time to fully perfect those habits. As the saying goes, no plan survives the first bullet; I’m sure no one is a stranger to the awful experience of totally freezing up on a timed test. Here are two strategies that could come in handy on test day in case you do get stumped on the Science Test:

1) Skip and Do What You Can
On nearly any given section on the science test, some questions will be significantly easier than others. As noted in my last post, when a question begins with the phrase “according to figure x…” or “according to the results of…” you probably can get the answer (in well under a minute!) by studying the relevant graph or table. However, some questions aren’t as straightforward, so one way you may lose a significant number of points in a section is if you get hung up on a tricky question. Some questions are so jargon heavy that they simply don’t make sense on a first read-through. Others require you to make logical inferences based on multiple paragraphs and corresponding visuals, making it unclear where to get the information you need from. The number one mistake students make when encountering such a question (either one they don’t understand or one they don’t know how to answer) is wasting too much time reading the adjoining dense paragraphs. There will always be more information in the accompanying piece than you need, so if you begin reading through it without an idea of what you need to look for, you’re likely to get bogged down in technical details. It’s easy to waste two or three minutes trying to answer a question this way.

In such situations, it’s much more pragmatic for you to identify which questions you can answer in the section. Chances are, there will be two or more questions that can be answered by looking at the provided visuals and ignoring everything else. And if you are sure to answer the easy questions first, then at least you’re making sure not to miss out on any easy points.

2) When You Return, Start Fresh
Although I do recommend initially skipping questions that seem unapproachable, I still think that all students can answer them correctly. That’s because the two major advantages of skipping hard questions are that 1) you have a chance to calm down and rebuild your confidence on easy questions and 2)you’ll have a chance to look at the hard question again with fresh eyes. If you answer all of the easy questions in the Science Test quickly (which you can do if you remember that tables and graphs are your friend!) you will have enough time left to work through the more difficult questions. And when you look at them a second time, you’ll also have to chance to use strategies you may have forgotten to use the first time. For example, take a look at the following difficult question:



















The first time I ever did this question, it stumped me, because the corresponding tables (copied below) didn’t mention either paper or plastic.

So, I skipped the question, finished the rest of the questions, and then returned to it. The rest of the Science Test went more smoothly, so by the time I was back to the question, I was feeling more relaxed and confident. I even remembered my strategy: that whenever the tables didn’t provide enough information to answer a question, I needed to scan the paragraphs for the important words (in this case, paper and plastic, which aren’t listed on the tables). When I did, I found exactly what I needed:



By reading just the smallest chunk of each experiment description, I was able to realize that Experiment 1 measured how well tape stuck to paper, and that Experiment 2 measured how well tape stuck to plastic. I then noticed that, according to the tables,* it took more force to remove brand X tape from paper than it did plastic. Thus, I correctly chose answer A.



For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

*Table 1 tells the results of Experiment 1, and Table 2 tells the results of Experiment 2

ACT Scores to Get Into an Ivy League School

Harvard Business School GuideIt’s likely that any high school student who wants to apply to several Ivy League colleges knows that these exclusive schools have especially high standards. For instance, an applicant must have impressive SAT scores and a well-written admissions essay along with glowing letters of recommendation. Students who are applying to these schools must be able to achieve high ACT scores for Ivy Leagues. These eight schools see an excellent ACT score as one indication that a student will be able to excel in challenging courses. Consider the typical ACT scores for Ivy League college students and learn what you can do to perform well on this difficult exam.

A Look at the ACT

What is the ACT? The ACT is a standardized test that gauges a student’s skills in the subjects of math, reading, science, and English. The results of the ACT reveal a student’s understanding of high-school-level material. An impressive ACT score means that a student has grasped high school work and is ready to move on to more challenging material. The ACT is usually taken during a student’s junior year of high school. Taking the ACT during junior year allows a student plenty of time to retake the test if necessary. Also, most high school students want to take the ACT during their junior year so they can tackle the SAT in their senior year.

Ivy League Schools and High ACT Scores

When it comes to ACT scores, Ivy League college applicants should earn a score of at least 32. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36 and a score of less than 31 is not likely to earn a student a place in the Ivy League.

ACT scores are important, but they aren’t the only thing taken into consideration by Ivy League schools. Admissions officials also look at a student’s academic performance during all four years of high school. They take special notice of students who sign up for challenging courses. A student who takes on the challenge of more difficult material is demonstrating an intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning. These are both important qualities in an incoming freshman.

In addition, Ivy League admissions officials pay attention to a student’s extracurricular activities, including sports teams, clubs, volunteer work, and more. They like to see students who dedicate themselves to worthwhile pursuits. So although a student does need a high ACT score for Ivy League acceptance, it does not override every other qualification.

Tips for Earning Impressive ACT Scores

High school students who want to earn ACT scores for Ivy Leagues should start by taking a practice test. The results of a practice test are invaluable as a student starts to craft a study plan. One student may find that they need to focus a lot of attention on improving their performance in plane geometry, while another student may see the need to improve their punctuation and grammar skills. The results of a practice test give students the opportunity to use their study periods in the most efficient way. Another tip for students who want to earn their best ACT score is to make studying for the ACT a part-time job. Preparing for the ACT in a gradual way over a period of months is the most effective method of absorbing all of the necessary material.

Our diligent instructors at Veritas Prep have navigated the ACT and achieved scores in the top one percent of all who took the test and teach strategies to students that allow them to showcase their strengths on the ACT. We instill in our students the confidence they need to earn high ACT scores. Ivy League admissions officials are sure to take notice!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on FacebookGoogle+, YouTube, and  Twitter!

The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 2

professor futuramaWelcome back ACT Preppies! If you recall from last weeks blog post, we started to deconstruct the ACT science section. We reviewed the first part of the strategy “changing where you first look.” Now, let’s go over the second step.

As you may have noticed, some questions refer to information from the dense paragraphs that accompany tables. In these cases, language in the question will tip you off; for example, the question will read something like this:

rp sci 6




Notice that the question asks you about the design of the study. Whenever you are asked about the design or set-up, rather than just the results, you should know to immediately look at the referenced study, because the tables will not give you enough information. Note, in addition to looking first at the referenced study, you should specifically look for words from the answer choices, since those are the relevant terms to pay attention to.

Here are the related paragraphs in the section. Give them a read, and then see if you can answer the question on your own, before looking at the explanation:

rp sci 7










The correct answer is G. Given that a controlled variable is one that scientists keep constant in order to measure other variables, the line “two seed dishes were placed in each site” clearly communicates that the dishes are the controlled variable.

In sum, the most important habit you can develop to master the ACT Science Test is always looking at the most relevant piece of information first. When you are asked about the results*, always look at the tables or other relevant visual information pieces. When you are asked about experiment design or underlying concepts in the experiments, use the terms in the answer choices to skim the dense paragraphs.


*When you are asked about simple relationships between variables:

Tables, graphs, and visual information pieces are often also often the best places to find your answer. The question will usually begin with a phrase like,” According to Figure, Graph, or Chart x…”, which will tip you off as to which graph you should look at. Consider:

rp sci 8




Even without knowing anything about the study, you can answer this question if you just look at the axis of Figure 1:

rp sci 9









Answer: C!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson


The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 1

science flaskIf you’re like 90% of my students, then you find the ACT Science Test to be the either the first or second most difficult section on the ACT. Which makes total sense, given that you are dealing with questions such as this:

Scientist 2 says that a protein may be trapped in a moderately high-energy shape. Which of the following findings, if true, could be used to counter this argument?

  1. A) Once a protein has achieved its tertiary structure, all of the folding patterns at the local level are stable.
  2. B) Enough energy is available in the environment to overcome local energy barriers, driving the protein to its lowest energy shape.
  3. C) During protein synthesis, the secondary structure of a protein is determined before the tertiary structure is formed.
  4. D) Proteins that lose their tertiary or quaternary structure also tend to lose their biological functions.

And this:

Which of the following equations correctly calculates R (in nm) for Objective Lens 2, using light with a wavelength of 425nm?

  1. A) R = 425 / 2(.10)
  2. B) R = 425 / 2(.25)
  3. C) R = 10/ 2(425)
  4. D) R = 0.25 / 2(425)

Questions like these seem challenging for two related reasons. The first reason has to do with the technical jargon (i.e. all those headache-inducing terms like “moderately high-energy shape”, “wavelength of 425nm”  and  “tertiary structure”) that seems to complicate both of the above questions. In brief, as Daniel Kahneman describes in his magnum opus, Thinking, Fast and Slow, when a person encounters anything unfamiliar, including words she rarely comes across in everyday life, she is more likely to feel drained and/or frustrated. This is exactly what happens to many students when they read the above questions; almost right away, they feel stressed. And notably, their first reaction is to assume that because of all the big, ugly words, the question will be difficult to answer.

This brings us to the second reason as to why these questions are challenging. Because most students immediately assume that such questions will be difficult to answer, they don’t search for an easy way to solve them. For example, they waste time by reading the dense paragraphs that accompany the tables or by trying to understand the exact meanings of complicated words. In order to help my students get in the habit of finding more efficient and less-stressful approaches (which do exist!) to solving such problems, I teach them the following test strategy, which I call “change where you first look”.

The most important habit you need to learn to tackle the ACT section:

Let’s take a look at some real ACT Science questions chalk full of technical jargon.

rp sci 1





rp sci 2





The biggest mistake a student answering these questions could make would be to read the accompanying paragraphs to try to understand what the heck “elaisome” is, or why “ant-planted’ plants survive longer. The reason you don’t need to waste time doing this? Whenever you see questions that say “according to the results of the studies”, nine times out of ten you only have to look at the provided tables, graphs, or charts, to find the all information you need to answer the questions. And on the ACT Science Test, tables are your best friend. I’ll show you what I mean; take a look at the following tables that will give us the answers to the above questions:

rp sci 3






rp sci 4



rp sci 5







The key to reading these tables is to look along their rows and columns to find the labels that match the terms (the technical jargon) in the questions. For example, notice that the answer choices in the first question match the row labels on Table 3 (seeds that germinated, plants alive after 1 year, plants alive after 2 years, seeds produced per plant after 2 years), and that the question (what can be said when comparing hand-planted and ant-planted seeds) corresponds to the column labels on Table 3. In other words, all you have to do to find the answer is find which answer choice correctly matches one of the rows. And that would be answer choice A; according to the table 39 ant-planted seeds germinated, whereas only hand-planted seeds germinated.

Now that you’ve seen the power of using tables, go ahead and see if you can answer the second question on your own! All the information you need to answer is on Table 1.

Explanation for second question: The correct answer is C. Both species have elaisome masses of 6.2, so their masses of such are the same.

Stay tuned to next week for a second step to this strategy! See you next Monday!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

Should You Take the ACT Plus Writing Test?

Essay As an ACT tutor, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by students is whether or not they should take the ACT Plus Writing test. Don’t let the fancy name throw you off; the ACT Plus Writing Test is just the ACT with an essay added onto the end. Unlike the SAT essay, however, the ACT essay is optional, so most ACT-takers inevitably wonder if it’s worth the extra time and effort to prepare for the ACT essay.

When I speak to any of my students about this in person, I always ask them the following questions, which I’ll now give to you:

  • Do the colleges you are applying to require it?
  • How much time do you have to prepare for the upcoming ACT?
  • How comfortable are you with timed and/or in-class essays in general?

So, let’s start with question 1. If you can’t answer that question now, not to worry, this handy search engine on the ACT website can find out the answer for you. I would recommend that you search for the requirements of both your “reach schools” and your “safety schools”. I say this because you’ll find as you get deeper into the college application process, you may change your mind about which school you actually want to attend. Maybe you thought that you wanted to go out of state, to one of your reach schools, but now you’ve decided that you’d like to stay closer to home. Or maybe you’ll realize that you could be a candidate for scholarship to a school that wasn’t on your mind a few months ago, because it didn’t have an elite name. In other words, be sure to cover all of your bases, so that you don’t run into a situation where you have to take an additional ACT just to get the essay score, because now you’re trying to get into a school (that requires the essay) that you’d previously overlooked.

An aside, your essay score will not affect your score for the English section, nor will it affect your composite score. In other words, if you get your dream composite score on the ACT (like a 32 or higher!) and you don’t do so hot on the essay, your overall score won’t drop. The only additional thing that happens when you take the ACT essay is that you will receive a Writing test score on a scale of 1-36 (as well as individual scores for Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions) and an image of your essay will be available to colleges that you have the ACT send that test date’s scores to. This means that worrying about how the ACT essay will “make you appear to colleges” shouldn’t be a determining factor in your decision. The primary factor that will help you choose whether or not to do the essay is whether or not any of your reach or safety schools require the essay.

Onto question two. If you are, at the moment, fairly certain that you won’t be applying to schools that require the essay, you may still be one the fence about taking it because you can’t quite dismiss the thought that in the future you may want to apply to a college that does require it. This is especially relevant if you are a junior, since you still have a good deal of time to get your dream score and figure out what colleges you want to apply to. If this is you, I would ask you to consider how much time you have to prepare for the upcoming ACT. If you are extremely busy in the morning, afternoon, and night with homework, extra-curriculas, and other work, and you only have a month or so until the ACT, you may want to spend your time focusing on studying for the other four sections. Basically, it may be a better use of your time to focus on less, that way you can really improve your test-taking habits, rather than to try to cram everything in at once. However, once you’ve taken one official ACT, if you do need to get an essay score, you will want to start carving out time to add the essay to your studying plan.

As a tutor, I believe that the ACT essay is actually fairly straightforward to prepare for, just as long as you have enough time. So, if you can commit to both writing at least 3 or 4 practice essays before test day and reviewing those tests using the ACT grading rubric so that you can steadily improve, I’d tell you to go ahead and do it.

Finally, my last question for you is how comfortable you feel writing in-class essays or timed essays in general.  If you struggle with these, the ACT Plus Writing may actually be an opportunity for you to improve this skill. It is a skill! In college, you will regularly be asked to write in-class essays on both your mid-terms and your finals, so learning how to write an essay under timed conditions while you are still in high school is a skill with long term benefits.

Happy Studying!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

3 Most Common Mistakes You Want to Avoid On the ACT Math Section

Veritas Prep ACTThe ACT Math has one major advantage compared to the ACT English and Reading portions: no “best answer” choices. Instead, there will be only one possible, objective, absolute correct selection to make. So if your calculator spits out a number that isn’t A, B, C, D, or E, you know you need to re-do your math.

If you’ve taken algebra and geometry classes in your high school career, you will know 99% of the content of the exam. The trick is avoiding simple errors in your calculations that also yield a multiple choice answer. The following is an example excerpted from a sample math question on the ACT website:


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This is a simple solve-for-x scenario that most ACT Math test-takers are familiar with. Note the answer choices.


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With both sides of the equation balanced properly, the correct answer is E.


Say, for instance, that a student who knew how to balance equations accidentally added three instead of subtracting 3 to one side. The answer yielded, “1,” is among of the multiple choice. C.


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In this way, the multiple choice selections for the majority of the ACT Math portion rely on students making errors in basic operations. Below are a few of those common errors:


  1. Distributing the Negative

-2(x+2) does NOT equal -2x+4.

-2(x+2) = -2x 4.

It’s a simple rule, but always be wary of negative signs on the ACT Math.

  1. Square Roots:

The square root of 64 is 8. But it’s not the *only* square root. -8 is the other.

This detail is especially important on questions that concern quadratic functions or ask for the “number of possible solutions.”        

  1. Percent Change:

Take the given, simplified example: “A $100,000 investment grows by 50 percent in the course of 2015.=

What is it’s new value in 2016?”

Too many students will solve this question using the equation below:

100,000 x .50 = $50,000

Whenever calculating new value in a percent growth problem, the solution must be higher than the original value.

100,000 x 1.50 = $150,000   ==> This is correct.

The new value = $150,000.

The difference = $50,000.

As always, if time allows, the most valuable strategy is to check your answers before proceeding to the next problem. A quick calculation to make sure that your multiple choice selection satisfies the conditions and equations of the original question will catch most of these errors!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

4 Ways Sleep Can Make or Break Your SAT or ACT Score

sleepYou have a big test coming up at the end of the week. You’re a dedicated, hard-working student, so you know you have to study to do well. The nights before the test, you stay up late, pushing yourself to review and learn as much as you can.

However, while taking the test, you can’t remember a lot of the information you spent so much time going over. Focusing on longer questions is more of a struggle than it should be, and you get irritated or panicked easily when you can’t figure out the answer. In the end, when you see your score, you feel that all that hard work and those late nights didn’t pay off as much as they should have. You wonder what you could have done wrong.

If this story sounds familiar, as it should to many ambitious high schoolers, it’s because you’ve experienced for yourself how sleep deprivation can hurt your performance on test day. Getting enough sleep is one of the most crucial steps you can take to achieve your highest potential score. Here’s how to make sure sleep deprivation isn’t holding you back:

1. Know how much you need. Several recent studies have shown that high school students are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep scientists agree that adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers probably need even more. If you’re consistently falling behind these numbers, you’ll need to make some changes in your schedule if you really want to get that high score you’re after.

2. Know you might not realize you’re sleep-deprived. Most people assume that as long as they don’t feel tired and drowsy, they aren’t really behind on sleep. In fact, studies show a person can become used to sleep deprivation to the point that they no longer recognize that they’re tired. However, the negative consequences of sleep deprivation still persist. Just because you’re not yawning, it doesn’t mean you’re fully awake and alert.

3. Know what the consequences are. Sleep loss can cause a host of problems for any high-achieving student. Lack of sleep leads to lapses in focus, difficulty memorizing new information, inability to recall important words and facts, problems with multitasking, increased irritability and stress, and quite a few other issues. If you want all your studying to pay off on test day, you have to eliminate these problems. Put simply, you have to get enough sleep to be the best test-taker you can be.

4. Know how to catch up. It’s not enough just to sleep 8 or 9 hours the night before your test. Due to a phenomenon called “sleep debt,” sleep loss actually accumulates over time. Essentially, every time you sleep 5 hours instead of 8, you fall that much further behind the sleep you need. The only way to catch up and get back to your peak self is to sleep well for several nights in a row. You’ll need to plan ahead and make sleep a priority in the week before the test.

Stay well rested and you’ll be at your best on test day! Good luck with the SAT tomorrow!

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Cambrian Thomas-Adams

Tackling the Tricky “Best Answer”: 3 Steps to Succeed on the ACT Reading

writing essayUnlike the ACT Math, in which there is only one correct possibility, the ACT Reading will present multiple interpretations of a passage that are defensible. Rarely will one choice distinguish itself as the clear solution or, in the language of the exam, as the “best answer.”

Obviously, in literature classes, there really are no “best answers” for interpreting subjective art, poetry, and prose. But as far as the ACT Reading is concerned, here’s a simple formula for determining the correct multiple choice:

1. Identify which is wordier: the question or the possible answers?

If the question is longer, jump to 2A. If the possible answers are longer, jump to 2B.

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2A. Simplify the question.

*This sample question is excerpted from Passage 5.B of the ACT’s Sample Reading Questions. The original passage can be found here. Try it out for practice!

Distill the original question into its most significant question words. In this example, the question is very specific about the comparison. In this example, the correct answer will very specifically relate the narrator’s expectations to reality— be wary of options that open with the wrong claim, such as “similar,” but follow-up with a soundproof justification for why the expectations are dissimilar from reality.

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2B. Simplify the multiple choice.

*This sample question is excerpted from Passage 5.A of the ACT’s Sample Reading Questions. The original passage can be found here. Try it out for practice!

Before reading too deeply into the nuances of A, B, C, and D, break them down into their core essences (ideally 4-8 words). Using the example above, which best describes the transition? A description to a reflection? Or an overview to an explanation? The “best answer” will usually be the most apt summary of a passage, even in the simplest of terms.

3. Check your work

Confirm that all parts of the multiple choice selection are accurate. For instance, using the example question provided for 2B: If A, “a description of events,” was the best general summary, read the whole of option A to verify its accuracy.

If “a description of events leading up to sudden action by the narrator to a reflection on the intentions and meanings behind that action” is 100% correct, great! Bubble it in on the answer sheet.

If it’s not— in this case, the passage might not reflect on the meaning behind an action— don’t bubble it in. An answer must be 100% correct to be the “best answer.” If any part of a multiple choice selection is fallible, the whole thing is wrong. (One bad apple spoils the bunch.)

Just try again with another simplified summary!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, check out our free online ACT resources, and be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.


6 Steps to Succeed on the ACT Science Section

i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing-science-dog1I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the ACT Science section is just Reading in disguise!

For the vast majority of questions on the Science section, you don’t need to really know anything about science. You only need to follow these six simple steps:

1. Spot the Data

Any chart, table, or graph attached to a passage will be significant. If it’s there, you will be tested on your ability to interpret it.

2. Interpret the Data

Once you’ve located an important-looking chart, table, or graph, it’s time to decipher it. Don’t go overboard just yet; for now, identify the variables and how those variables are related (the basic trend).

For example:


Here are the important things to immediately note about the graph above:

A. The x-variable is the number of snacks and the y-variable is the number of smiles.

B. As the number of snacks increases, so does the number of smiles.

3. Compare the Data

Often there will be more than one graph/chart/table in a given passage. If this is the case, there is guaranteed to be a question that will require you to compare/contrast the data at hand. BE SURE TO REMEMBER THE DIFFERENCE(S) BETWEEN THE CHARTS/TABLES/GRAPHS. These questions almost always emphasize the difference(s) between the variables and/or results in the data. Always, always, always note the changes between “Scientist 1” and “Scientist 2,” or “Experiment 1” and “Experiment 2.”

4. Examine the Questions

You will always be tested on the data presented, but peruse the multiple choice to determine what else you need to read. Immediately answer the questions that directly address the data included; there are reliably 1-3 questions specifically about the graph(s) following a given science passage.

5. Skim for Key Words

For the other questions not concerning graphs or specific data, seek key words. More often than not, the phrasing of a multiple choice question will be excerpted directly from the passage.

For example: if a question asks you about the relationship between atmospheric pressure and wind speeds, locate the word “atmospheric pressure” in the passage and only study sentences in the nearby vicinity. Be selective about the text you choose to read closely.

6. Don’t Get Intimidated

If I had to summarize the best strategy for the ACT Science section in two words, it would be, “Avoid reading.” The rambling science passages are intended to lose you, bruise you, abuse you and confuse you. Seriously. Some of them are long enough to give The Odyssey a run for its money.

I’m a fairly fast reader and I didn’t have enough time to finish the ACT Science section. I spent my 35 minutes attempting to comprehend overly-complicated paragraphs about experimental design and the scientific method. Don’t let this happen to you.

Stay focused. Watch the variables. Eat snacks. Smile.

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, check out our free online ACT resources, and be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, hosts podcasts, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.


Are Brain Training Exercises Helpful When Studying for Standardized Tests?

StudentIn the last two classes I’ve taught, I’ve had students come up to me after a session to ask about the value of brain-training exercises. The brain-training industry has been getting more attention recently as neuroscience sheds new light on how the brain works, baby-boomers worry about cognitive decline, and companies offering brain-improvement software expand. It’s impossible to listen to NPR without hearing an advertisement for Lumosity, a brain-training website that now boasts 70 million subscribers.  The site claims that the benefits of a regular practice range from adolescents improving their academic performance to the elderly staving off dementia.

The truth is, I never know quite what to tell these students. The research in this field, so far as I can tell is in its infancy. For years, the conventional wisdom regarding claims about brain-improvement exercises had been somewhat paradoxical. No one really believed that there was any magic regimen that would improve intelligence, and yet, most people accepted that there were tangible benefits to pursuing advanced degrees, learning another language, and generally trying to keep our brains active. In other words, we accepted that there were things we could do to improve our minds, but that such endeavors would never be a quick fix. The explanation for this disconnect is that there are two different kinds of intelligence. There is crystalized intelligence, the store of knowledge that we accumulate over a lifetime. And then there is fluid intelligence, our ability to quickly process novel stimuli. The assumption had been that crystallized intelligence could be improved, but fluid intelligence was a genetic endowment.

Things changed in 2008 with the release of a paper written by the researchers Susanne Jaeggi, martin Buschkuehl, John Jonides, and Walter Perrig. In this paper, the researches claimed to have shown that when subjects regularly played a memory game called Dual N-Back, which involved having to internalize two streams of data simultaneously, their fluid intelligence improved. This was ground-breaking.

This research has played an integral in role in facilitating the growth of the brain-training industry. Some estimates put industry revenue at over a billion dollars. There have been articles about the brain-training revolution in publications as wide-ranging as The New York Times and Wired. This cultural saturation has made it inevitable that those studying for standardized tests occasionally wonder if they’re shortchanging themselves by not doing these exercises.

Unfortunately, not much research has been performed to assess the value of these brain-training exercises on standardized tests. (A few smaller studies suggest promise, but the challenge of creating a true control group makes such studies extraordinarily difficult to evaluate). Moreover, there’s still debate about whether these brain-training exercises confer any benefit at all beyond helping the person training to improve his particular facility with the game he’s using to train.  Put another way, some say that games like Dual N-Back will improve your fluid intelligence, and this improvement translates into improvements in other domains. Others say that training with Dual N-Back will do little aside from making you unusually proficient at Dual N-Back.

It’s hard to arrive at any conclusion aside from this: the debate is seriously muddled. There are claims that the research has been poorly done. There are claims that the research is so persuasive that the question has been definitively answered. Obviously, both cannot be true. My suspicion is that the better-researched exercises, such as Dual N-Back, confer some modest benefit, but that this benefit is likely to be most conspicuous in populations that are starting from an unusually low baseline.

This brings us to the relevant question: is it worth it to incorporate these brain-exercise programs into a GMAT preparation regime? The answer is a qualified ‘maybe.’ If you’re very busy, there is no scenario in which it is worthwhile to sacrifice GMAT study time to play brain-training games that may or may not benefit you. Secondly, the research regarding the cognitive benefits of aerobic exercise, mindfulness meditation, and social interaction is far more persuasive than anything I’ve seen about brain-training games.

However, if you’re already studying hard, working out regularly, and finding time for family and friends, and you think can sneak in another 20 minutes a day for brain-training without negatively impacting the other more important facets of your life, it can’t hurt. Just know that, as with most challenging things in life, the shortcuts and hacks should always be subordinated to good, old-fashioned hard work and patience.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles by him here

This is How You Become an Awesome Student

tutoringI’ve been a full time student for about fifteen years now–elementary, middle, high school, college. It wasn’t until I began teaching, though, that I really understood how to be a good student. My best students haven’t necessarily been the ones who scored highest, knew the most, or learned most quickly; they were the ones who studied, practiced, and listened in ways that maximized our communication and made the most of our tutoring hours together. A few of their best habits:

  • Admitting spacing out. We all zone out from time to time–not necessarily because we want to, because we’re tired, or because classes aren’t interesting. Sometimes there’s a distracting noise nearby. Sometimes we’re having trouble understanding part of the lesson. Sometimes we’re just preoccupied with non-academic things. One of my students had just accepted a prom invitation about twenty minutes before we were scheduled to work–through no fault of hers, for about the first twenty minutes of our class she had a lot of trouble focusing on misplaced modifiers. As a teacher and a student, I fully recognize that sometimes, classwork is hard to focus on. As a tutor, I have ways to help students work through it: we can take breaks, slow down, approach material in a new way, or temporarily switch over to more interesting classwork. However, I can only help if I’m aware there’s a problem. I promise I won’t be offended if you politely mention that you’re having trouble focusing. You’ll be saving both of us a lot of time and repetition.
  • Avoiding spacing out. It’s great if you let me know when you space out, but it’s even better if you avoid spacing out in the first place. Before class starts, make sure you’re in a quiet, non-distracting environment. Use the restroom or grab snacks/water before we start, to avoid interrupting the lesson later. If we’re working through an online classroom, do your best to find a place with strong wifi. Get a good night’s sleep, and eat reasonably healthily (meaning: don’t scarf five donuts thirty minutes before the lesson. Food comas are real.) Try to schedule our practice hours on a day and time you know you won’t be exhausted or distracted–for instance, don’t schedule a class at 7am, or right before your tennis championship game. These may all seem like minor details, but they can have a huge effect on the quality of our limited tutoring time. I can usually help you pay attention if you’re distracted, but my job will be next to impossible if you’re trying to learn while your parents are throwing a loud dinner party, or while you’re running off of two hours of sleep.
  • Immediately before class, quickly review material we’ve gone over in previous lessons. Don’t redo every one of our past practice questions or try to memorize our old outlines–you don’t want to tire yourself out before we’ve even started–but double-check that you remember what happened in our most recent lesson, and that you understand all the major concepts we’ve discussed before. That way, we can start our lesson by jumping right in to the core of that day’s material, instead of spending time repeating things we’ve already gone over.
  • Tell me when I’m not making sense, or when you don’t agree with a strategy/approach. I’d much rather explain something several times, or in several different ways, than move through a lesson thinking you understand concepts that you actually don’t. My goal isn’t to cover all of our planned material, or even to finish the lesson on time, but to improve your understanding of the ideas we’re covering. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and don’t think that doing so constitutes blaming me for not teaching well enough, or admitting that you’re not smart enough to “get it”. Tutoring is a dynamic and interactive communication process, and it’s perfectly fine (even expected) that it might take a few tries to figure out what strategies of communication and explanation work best for us. By speaking up about things you don’t understand or don’t agree with, you’re helping that process happen more efficiently.
  • Understand the type of relationship you and your tutor want to build. Different students and tutors work best in different ways. I, for instance, am usually only a few years older than my students, so I’m most comfortable working in a fairly informal and friendly setting, and I find it a bit strange when students call me “Ms. Tran”. In order to improve communication and rapport, I like to get to know the students I’m working with; as long as we stay on task and use our time efficiently, I’m more than happy to crack a joke or to take thirty seconds to chat about the adorable puppy who jumped on your lap during our math review. Other tutors and students prefer a more formal environment, or get frustrated when they’re not running through material quickly. Instead of coming into a lesson with a firmly set idea of what the tutoring setting should feel like, try adapting the way you learn best, and to the way your tutor teaches best. If you just don’t get along with your tutor to the point that you’re not learning as well as you could be, consider finding another. Remember that the goal of individual tutoring is to facilitate your understanding of the material, and be aware that the way you interact with your tutor can plays an important role in achieving that.

Still need to take the SAT or ACT? We run a free online SAT prep seminars and ACT prep seminars very few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

This is How You Can Be Successful on the ACT!

DSC_0038 - Version 2The following interview comes from testprepstore.com. Testprepstore.com recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A session with Jonathan Er, one of Veritas Prep’s expert ACT instructors, to inquire about the ACT and get his take on the questions that many college applicants would like to ask with regards to ACT prep courses and how to be successful at achieving their desired ACT score.

1. How do you personally ensure that students who are struggling end up with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful on the ACT?

No two students approach the ACT with the same set of skills or the same grasp of concepts. If anyone has difficulty with the lesson, I try to find out what knowledge we share, and then I steadily build on that while maintaining flexibility in my explanations. I also regularly communicate with my students so I can track their progress and address issues or concerns as they arise.

2. If you could give three pieces of advice to future ACT test takers, what would they be?

First, Practice and review. You (and your instructor) should seek a proper balance between learning material, practicing questions (as many real ones as possible), and reviewing whatever time permits.

Second, Be specific. The ideal study session, anywhere from 30-90 minutes long, should exclusively deal with a single test subject, perhaps revolving around one problem set or one tricky concept. You should set goals that are verifiable, often in quantitative terms, such as how many questions you want to answer and review, how many terms you want to learn, etc. And you should be intent but realistic about reaching your target score, which can still be flexible (hopefully upwards!)

3. Is there a common misconception of the ACT or of what is a realistic ACT score?

On the East Coast the SAT is emphasized while the ACT is overlooked, and the situation is reversed in the West. Colleges are usually fine with either test (although you should confirm with specific schools), so you shouldn’t feel that you can only take one or that you must take one over the other. However, I do think the ACT is better aligned with what is taught and assessed in most high schools and that it should receive more attention where I’m from.

Read the rest of the interview here!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Shay Davis

I’m a High School Junior: What Should I Do Now for College Admission?

As a junior, you’re actually really well positioned to get a leg up on the college admissions process.  You still have some time to complete your testing requirements and you can start to research colleges before the crunch of application season.  Here are some things you can get started on right away:

1)      Study for the SAT or ACT.  This is a great time to start studying for the SAT or ACT.  But which one should you take?  Try out some practice test questions and see which might be a better fit test for you.  The key differences between to two tests are the tone of the questions, the math sections, the number of sections, the writing sections, scoring, and focus on vocabulary words.  This is a great time to figure out which test would be best for you so that you can also determine a plan of action for how to best spend your summer.  If you’re in the U.S., register by February 13th for the March 14th SAT test and March 13th for the April 18th ACT test.  For more information on getting help for these tests, visit our SAT and ACT pages.

2)      Research colleges you are interested in.  Just like in the dating world, it’s really important to make sure that you are a good match for a college and that the college is a good match for you.  This is a great time to discover what things matter to you and which colleges have those things.  For example, would you thrive in classes that have less than 30 students or would you prefer large lectures of 200+ students?  Do you need to be in or very close to a big city or would you prefer a college in the suburbs?  Make a list and take notes on what you like and do not like about the colleges.  This will help you to narrow your list down when it comes time to make your final college application decisions.  In addition, you may want to take advantage of your upcoming spring break or long weekends and fit in some college visits.  You can request guided campuses from a number of colleges; go directly to the college websites and search for “campus tours” for a list of dates and times.  You may even be able to meet with an admissions officer! Visiting the campus is a great way to get a feel for the student body and the school’s culture.

3)      Analyze your extracurricular activities.  What do your activities say about you?  Are you pursuing extracurricular activities that demonstrate your passions and interests?  If yes, great!  How can you deepen your commitment to these organizations or roles?  If not, let’s find activities that you can get excited about.  Remember, colleges are looking for depth over breadth so don’t wait until the last minute to suddenly add more extracurricular activities. Find something that really interests you and dig in!

Need more guidance in planning for college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Jennifer Sohn Lim is Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep. Jennifer received her Bachelor of Arts at Wellesley College, followed by her Master of Education and Certificate of Advanced Study in Counseling at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Your Timeline to Success on the ACT

Veritas Prep ACTJunior year can be challenging. Especially with the looming presence of standardized tests. For all those planning on taking the ACT, the first step towards success is simple: create a study timeline for your exam. Most students opt to take the ACT some time during their junior year.  While test prep time will vary student to student, a good rule of thumb is to start preparing about 5-6 months in advance. Keep in mind that you may need to take the exam more than one time.

Six Months Before
Figure out if the ACT is the right exam for you! Test prep experts, like our Veritas team, are a great resource to help you figure out whether you should take the SAT or ACT. Test prep experts can pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses in standardized testing and direct you accordingly. If you chose the ACT, this is also the time to take a practice exam to establish your baseline score. Knowing your baseline score will allow you to create a realistic target score. Your baseline score can also help guide your choice of test prep courses.

This is the time to choose your course and talk to an expert about what course will best fulfill your learning needs. Veritas Prep offers three general kinds of ACT prep courses: Full Course, Private Tutoring, and On Demand. The 36 hour Full Course offers all live instruction. Private tutoring can be adjusted to your personal schedule and can also be in person or online. The On Demand Course offers HD video lessons that allow you to pause, fast forward, and rewind your lessons. Most ACT test prep courses run for about 6 weeks.

Four Months Before
Practice, practice, practice! Test prep courses will provide you with the foundation of essential skills you need to do well on the exam. Four months before the exam you should feel familiar with the exam and start focusing on specific strategies to improve your weaker areas.

This is also the time to choose your test date. Looking forward to the rest of the 2016 academic school year, ACT administration dates are:

  • April 9th
  • June 11th

The ACT website lists all test dates and registration deadlines. Registration deadlines are typically 5 weeks before the exam, although you can register later for an added fee. However, try and register early, as registering for the exam can provide extra motivation to study.

Two Months Before
Once you’ve completed the bulk of your test prep course, this is the time to take lots of practice exams and become very comfortable with the test. If there are still areas of the exam you feel uncomfortable with, this is a great time to really zone in on specific strategies with a tutor. Otherwise, you should focus on taking full-length exams. Once you feel comfortable with specific strategies and skills, the best thing you can do to prepare for the exam is to take full-length tests under real testing conditions (silent, no interruptions, timed, etc.).

The Night Before
Do not try and cram the night before. While it may be tempting to keep pushing yourself, keep in mind that you have studied for months for this exam. The night before the exam is a good time to relax so you feel well rested and ready to achieve success on your ACT!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Sarah Smith is a Pre-med, Bioethics major at Northwestern University. She’s editor in chief and co-founder of the student health magazine and enjoys being involved in various clubs around campus. Sarah is passionate about education and enjoys learning and teaching. She enjoys helping Veritas Prep students prepare for the ACT!


The Power of Routine: 3 Tips To Improve Your ACT Score

Once you have acquired the toolbox of skills and knowledge you need to do well on the ACT, there is one more valuable strategy to help you do well on test day: routine. Routine is one of the more underestimated elements of test-prep, but it can be a powerful aid in preparing for test day. Routine will help you conquer your nerves and walk into test day prepared and confident.

Routine works to improve your test score on a few levels. It gets your body physically accustomed to test day conditions as well as works to quell the nerves (your biggest enemy on test day can be anxiety). Routine is powerful! Here are a few ways in which you can establish a routine that will help you score better on test day.

Sleep Schedule: You want to ensure that you know exactly how your body and mind will feel on test day. Establishing a good sleep schedule in the weeks before the test will play a crucial role in this. If you’re used to sleeping in until 10am and taking your practice ACT at 11am, it will come as a shock to wake up at 6am on test day. You will know your test time weeks before the actual exam; work on getting your body accustomed to the sleep schedule that this test time requires.

“Test” Practice: You can work to simulate testing conditions in a number of ways. If you’re scheduled to take your ACT on Saturday at 8 am, practice waking up at 6am, driving to another location, sitting down, and taking a practice exam four Saturdays before the test. The more times you do the routine, the more comfortable you will feel on test day. If you can practice at your actual test center, that’s great! Be sure to account for timing and standardized breaks.

Nutrition: Food is a critical part of routine that is often forgotten. Hunger can distract your attention from the exam, so be sure to figure out what kinds of snacks you need to bring. This plays a significant role on test day, from the breakfast you eat, to the snacks you bring, to the amount of liquids you consume. Everyone is different, so it can be helpful to test out what kinds of breakfast keeps you full and satisfied throughout your exam. While it may seem trivial, making sure you stay hydrated without over-hydrating is important too; no one wants to feel uncomfortable during testing.

These three simple tips for establishing a routine will help you feel more comfortable on test day. Once you’ve established a routine, you can walk into your actual test day feeling more confident and you’ll know exactly what to expect. Happy Studying!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Sarah Smith is a Pre-med, Bioethics major at Northwestern University. She’s editor in chief and co-founder of the student health magazine and enjoys being involved in various clubs around campus. Sarah is passionate about education and enjoys learning and teaching. She enjoys helping Veritas Prep students prepare for the ACT!


How To Tackle Vocabulary (And Actually Remember!)

The groans I hear when I ask my students to memorize a new list of vocabulary words makes it seem as if I have asked them to do some impossible task akin to carving a replica of Michelangelo’s David with a dull set of dentistry tools. “It’s so tedious!” they say. To me, it does not seem more tedious than trying to slingshot exploding birds into precariously designed structures harboring evil green pigs, but what do I know? The question remains: what is the best way to learn vocabulary?

In order to address this question, let’s talk a little bit about how to form memory. If you are just trying to remember something for a second (like if a foxy lad or lass tells you their phone number and you need to remember it long enough to put in your phone) your brain can hold on to most information for a few seconds before it gets dumped.  If you desire to remember something longer (like what this lad or lass is into so you have something to talk about later) this requires memory that stays longer, which requires focus, repetition, or activation of multiple brain areas.  These are the techniques that can be utilized to form memories.

FOCUS. Trying to go over your vocabulary while listening to the new Taylor Swift album is not the best way to learn.  People need concentrated focus to add information to the brain. The brain is so powerful, but is really only good at consciously focusing on one thing at a time.  Let the focus be on learning, not on “The Evolution Of Dance”.

REPETITION. Repetition really is the easiest way to build long term memory.  You can think about the brain as a dense forest.  I need to get from point A to point B so I blaze a little trail and I have arrived! There is a connection in the brain and this connection is the memory.  If we never use that path again it will become overgrown and covered up and we won’t be able to find the trail again; we will have to blaze a new memory.  If, however, we use that trail sporadically then the trail grows more visible.  The more we use it, the more it becomes a distinct pathway until it is etched into the wood permanently.  The brain works similarly.  Take a word and a definition that you don’t know.  Look at it once then wait one minute.  Now look at the word and try to think of the definition.  Its tough right?  Now take that same word and repeat the definition seven times.  Now wait one minute.  Maybe a bit easier?  Did you get it?  If not try it again.  Repeat the word seven times.  Now wait two minutes.  I bet you can still recall the definition! This process can be used for a whole list of words. For some reason, seven seems to be a good number of repetitions to make things stick.

STORY & IMAGERY. Memory is aided by activating different parts of the brain.  The language area is most used in memorizing novel words, but anything that creates a narrative (story) or picture (visual) will help to create memories that stick much easier.  As an example, let’s take the word dogmatic, which means holding fast to beliefs. The sounds in this word can be associated with some image that both conveys sound and definition. When I think of this word I picture a bulldog hanging from the ceiling because it is biting into an attic door. Dogmatic: holding fast to a belief.  As another example, let’s look at supercilious, which means haughty or arrogant. Again, the sounds can be used to create pictures.  “Super” conjures images of a super hero, while “cilious” brings forth images of a one celled organism with lots of cilia (hairlike structures used for moving), so the image may be a paramecium with a superhero costume and a top hat and monocle (which I associate with haughty aristocracy).  The more silly or memorable the image, the better!  If it sticks in your mind, it will help you to remember the word.

All of these techniques can be used relatively quickly and effectively.  My recommendation is to start with repetition and see what sticks, then use picture memory tricks for the words that you don’t remember. You can do this with groups of words (maybe ten at a time) and in just a few minutes you have created a fairly good start toward creating long term memory.  The good news is every time you review these learned words you are strengthening the memory further.  Over the course of a few weeks you can learn hundreds of words without having to spend hours staring at a sheet of definitions.

As a final note, memory does a funny thing when you sleep.  Every day you experience so many things which create countless connections in the brain.  This means that every night your brain takes ALL the new memories and weakens them a little.  For most memories, this weakening reduces them to nothing, but the memories we create using repetition and narrative remain.  More importantly, the brain can focus on the remaining memories more effectively because all the less useful stuff has been removed.  This means, however, that it is REALLY important to review new words the next day.  It will really to strengthen that memory and get you going towards a permanent memory.  Put the words in your phone on a free flashcard app and review them when you are tired of playing “Candy Crush.” You’ll be very surprised at how quickly you retain these words.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

Your Simple Study Guide to the ACT

There are only three ACT test dates remaining for 2014! Be sure to visit www.actstudent.org to register and create your student account. The upcoming dates are as follows:

  • Saturday, September 13
  • Saturday, October 25
  • Saturday, December 13

When preparing for the exam, you will want to follow some general guidelines. Here are some basics to consider:

KNOW THE FORMAT. Become familiar with the ACT. Scores range from 1-36. There are 4 multiple choice tests which include English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.  Additionally, there is an optional Writing section. Each section is designed to measure your academic achievement in major areas of high school. Purchase the Real ACT Prep Guide and take an official practice test to review your score. Once you know your strengths and challenges, you will know where you need to focus as you begin your studies.

PREP LOCATION. It is critical that you concentrate so you don’t passively learn test taking strategies. Be sure to study in a quiet location with plenty of workspace. It is beneficial to be away from home where you can get distracted. This includes the virtual world as well – set aside your iPhone so that Facebook, Twitter, and texting don’t pull you away from precious study time.

MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS. Remember that the ACT is content based. Begin with studying 30 minutes a day, three days per week. See if you are improving on your weakest subject and if progress is slow, add an additional 10 minutes per day. Don’t fall for “cramming.” Set up reasonable goals and frequently review in small doses. Be sure to take breaks. Try to find a specific time each day to review. Having a consistent schedule will keep you in the habit of studying leading up to test day. This will help with memorization as you digest various strategies and content.

REVIEW YOUR RESOURCES. It is recommended that you take an ACT Prep Course to get the most out of your studies. Be sure log into your official ACT student account for additional self study guidelines and test taking tips. Utilize Practice Questions and answer the Question of the Day. The ACT Facebook page offers info graphics and details on how to break down the test. Reviewing the official guide with these added visuals will make your studying more effective.

TEST DAY PREP. You’ll feel psychologically ready for ACT by preparing the day before. Get a full nights rest and dress comfortably on test day. Print your registration ticket to bring to the testing center. You will need to have a photo ID as well in order to be checked in. Be sure you are aware of the location and reporting time (usually at 8AM). Pack yourself a snack and water to have during the break.  Other materials you’ll want to bring include several No. 2 pencils (with good erasers!) and permitted calculator for the mathematics section. All other items will not be allowed into the testing room. Specific details on test day can be reviewed at www.actstudent.org. Best of luck to you in  your studies!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Shay Davis

5 Things You Need to Know About the ACT

Of all of the decisions facing hopeful college applicants, the choice between admissions tests can be one of the most confusing. Should you take the SAT or the ACT? Do you need to take the ACT Writing Test? Will colleges think less of you if you submit scores from one test or the other? This quick guide provides an overview to understand the ACT.

1. What is the ACT?

The ACT is a college admissions exam that tests material typically learned in high school. It includes five tests: English, Math, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing test. Most colleges often recommend or require applicants to submit ACT scores with the Writing test.

2. What does the ACT “test”?

The English test assesses students’ ability to correct grammatical errors in 5 passages. The math test presents students with 60 math problems in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. On the reading section, students read and answer questions about four passages: prose fiction, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. The science portion consists of 7 passages that present a scientific concept or experiment about which students answer questions (the science test deals mainly with reading comprehension and data analysis and does not test specific scientific knowledge). The optional writing test gives students an essay prompt about a controversial issue, generally dealing with high school or teenagers. Students have 30 minutes to take a position on the prompt and write an essay supporting their position. The ACT (with Writing) takes about 3.5 hours to complete.

3. How does the ACT differ from the SAT?

The SAT consists of ten sections in three major subjects (math, critical reading, and writing) and is scored on a scale of 600-2400. The ACT consists of five tests and is scored on a scale of 1-36. The writing (essay) score is reported separately on a scale of 2-12, so that composite ACT scores can be compared between students who took the writing portion and those who didn’t. In general, the SAT requires more logical reasoning and “tricks” than the ACT does, and the ACT is often described as a more “straightforward” test. However, students are given less time per question on the ACT. For example, SAT math gives students about 18 seconds more per question than ACT math. The ACT also includes a science test, which focuses on data analysis, and a few more difficult math concepts that don’t appear on the SAT. The SAT focuses much more heavily on obscure vocabulary words than the ACT. Students can greatly improve their performance on either test by diligently reviewing content and learning and applying appropriate test-taking strategies.

4. Which test should I take?

The short answer: take the test you believe you will perform your best on. Fortunately, by using practice tests, you can take the guesswork out of that choice. There are official practice tests available for both tests, which means that students can do timed practice runs of each exam, and then compare scores using the official concordance table. The College Board (SAT) and ACT, Inc. work together to create a table that allows you to roughly convert scores between the two tests. This table is available on the websites of each organization. Because the SAT includes the essay in its composite score (2400) and the ACT doesn’t, the concordance table compares the sum of a student’s SAT critical reading and math scores with his or her ACT composite score.

For example, if a student scores 28 on the ACT and 600 Math / 610 Critical Reading on the SAT, she would want to submit her ACT score, because the concordance tables state that a 28 ACT is roughly equivalent to a 1250-1280 SAT.

5. What’s a “good” score on the ACT?

The idea of a “good” score varies depending on the schools you apply to. Colleges provide the composite ACT scores of the middle 50% of their incoming classes. This information is helpful in goal setting for test prep. For example, if a student wanted to apply to Duke University, she could look up ACT score data and find that first-year students at Duke typically have composite scores between 30 and 34, and set her goal accordingly.

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Emma Chomin is a Veritas Prep ACT/SAT instructor and recent graduate of Ohio State University in Columbus. She earned her Bachelor’s in linguistics and gender studies in less than two years while working on multiple research projects and taking graduate courses. Emma has tutored dozens of students in strategies for success on the ACT and SAT!

Get Your “ACT” Together: Understanding the ACT

The ACT is the most popular college admission test taken by students. Doing well on the ACT can get you into the college of your choice, expands your choice of colleges and may also land you more scholarships. Because your performance in the ACT is crucial to your future, you need to be fully prepared before taking the test.

Being prepared for test day means first getting to know every section of the ACT — how the questions work, what material is tested, and what the common mistakes tend to be. With that in mind, we have assembled the following infographic to help you fully understand the exam and get your ACT preparation started the right way!

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it.)

Veritas Prep ACT Infographic

To embed this infographic on your own website or blog, simply copy the code below:

Make no mistake about it: Doing well on the ACT takes hours of preparation, and no one book or article will make you an ACT rock star over night. But first make sure that you fully understand the test before you embark on your ACT prep odyssey. We hope this infographic helps!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.