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The new version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will be administered starting on April 17, 2015. As we’ve covered before, there are some important changes to the MCAT that will change the way students prepare for the exam.

One of the most significant changes consists of the addition of a new section called “Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior.” Also, the Biological Sciences section will change to focus more on biochemistry. The entire test is increasing in length, with each section allowing for more time.

The new MCAT will increase in overall duration from 5 hours, 10 minutes to 7 hours, 30 minutes. Individual sections will use a scoring scale from 118-132 with a median score of 125, and the cumulative score will range from 472-528 (median 500).

There are some added benefits of taking the new MCAT exam in the first offering. First, students can still submit their completed application through the AMCAS to medical schools at the same time as those who took the previous version of the exam. Test results will be sent in early July. Second, students are able to learn more about their scores much earlier in the application process. Preliminary estimates of score ranges are sent to you about three weeks after the test. Third, if you take the April exam, you’ll be sent an Amazon gift card worth half of your registration fee. More information is available here.

Sandweiss Test Prep offers free seminars to learn more about the changes to the MCAT and about our revised MCAT course. The next MCAT seminar will be Thursday, February 26th at 6:30 in our Seattle office, located at 444 NE Ravenna Blvd. Suite 108. Attendees will receive $100 off the tuition for any of our 2015 MCAT courses. Our next course begins on February 28, 2015.

Feel free to contact us to see if we’re offering any MCAT courses, and how you can register.

There’s only a month until the next ACT exam but it’s not too late to get help with your studying and practice tests! Sandweiss Test Prep is currently offering two condensed ACT courses – one for Bellevue and another for Seattle.

Here are the details:

Full ACT Course – $599

Verbal Portion Only (Includes Practice Tests and Reviews) – $415

Math and Science Portion Only (Includes Practice Tests and Reviews) – $475

Condensed Course (February Exam) – $499

Bellevue ACT Condensed Course Schedule:

Instructor: Duncan Hussey

ACT 0215B Condensed Course – Bellevue for the February 2015 Exam

English & Essay & Reading Saturday, Jan 3rd 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Science & Math I Saturday, Jan 10th 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Math II Saturday, Jan 17th 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Practice Test I Saturday, Jan 24th 10:00am – 1:30pm
Test Review I Saturday, Jan 24th 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Practice Test II Saturday, Jan 31st 10:00am – 1:30pm
Test Review II Saturday, Jan 31st 2:00pm – 3:30pm
ACT Exam Saturday, Feb  7th Good Luck!

Seattle ACT Condensed Course Schedule:

Instructor: Steve Sandweiss

ACT 0215S Condensed Course – Seattle for the February 2015 Exam

English & Essay & Reading Sunday, Jan 4th 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Science & Math I Sunday, Jan 11th 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Math II Sunday, Jan 18th 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Practice Test I Sunday, Jan 25th 10:00am – 1:30pm
Test Review I Sunday, Jan 25th 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Practice Test II Sunday, Feb 1st 10:00am – 1:30pm
Test Review II Sunday, Feb 1st 2:00pm – 3:30pm
ACT Exam Saturday, Feb  7th Good Luck!

Our instructors design each course to maximize your opportunity to ask questions, learn effective study strategies and testing processes, and ultimately help you improve your final score.

The best part? The class size is limited to 12-15 students, so you know you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get the attention you need. If you feel more comfortable learning in a private environment, we offer tutoring services that will give you the individualized support you want.

You can easily enroll in our condensed ACT courses by clicking here. If you want more information about our services, don’t hesitate to contact us. It’s not too late to prepare yourself for the February ACT exam!

The College Board recently announced significant revisions to the SAT exam. In our last post, we told you about upcoming changes to the writing section. Today we will outline the changes to the Critical Reading portion of the exam. The current version of the SAT contains three scored Critical Reading sections and three scored Writing sections (an essay and two multiple choice sections). On the new SAT, both reading and writing will be combined to produce one score on what will be called the “Verbal” sections of the exam.

The new reading questions will be focused on evidence-based responses to expose students’ factual reasoning and contextual understanding. This means that as they answer questions on the reading portion of the exam, students will be asked to use evidence to support their answer choices. The goal is to measure a student’s ability to analyze the components of an author’s argument and identify the relationship between an author’s claims and the supporting information used to justify those claims.

Additionally, test-takers may need to reference and cite certain parts of a passage in order to demonstrate the ability to recognize ways in which authors support arguments.  The new reading portion of the ‘Verbal’ section is designed to allow test-takers to analyze and reference sources in a variety of disciplines, including literature, nonfiction, natural science, humanities, and social science.

The other major change to the Critical Reading component of the current SAT involves the dreaded Sentence Completion questions, which test vocabulary that students have not and will not likely ever use in their college studies, profession, or day-to-day lives. Students preparing for the current test will often memorize vocabulary for no other reason than to score higher on the SAT. Instead, on the new exam, the vocabulary-based questions will test words people actually use on a regular basis and/or words that most students will encounter in their college curriculum. 

Sandweiss Test Prep recently released a video explaining this and some of the other changes to the SAT. The first students to be affected by the new SAT are going to be juniors in the fall of 2015 who will take the exam in the spring of 2016.

 

Sandweiss Test Prep specializes in exam preparation classes and tutoring, college admissions counseling, and academic tutoring for students of all ages. Visit the Sandweiss Test Prep website for more information about our services.

Featured photo credit Flickr user beggs.

This past March, the College Board announced plans to release a new SAT in the spring of 2016.  Details about the impending changes are being released in stages; however one of the most notable changes since the initial announcement has been to the writing portion of the exam.

While writing and reading are currently separate components of the SAT, they will be combined in a ‘verbal’ section on the new exam. At present, the essay portion of the writing section counts for 30% of the overall writing score. On the revised SAT, the essay score will be reported separately, using a 2-12 scale.

The essay on the new SAT will be labeled as “optional,” meaning that students are not required to complete the essay portion of the exam. This is similar to the current version of the ACT exam, with the essay also considered optional. However, this is a bit misleading, since nearly all of the more selective colleges in the country require ACT test takers to submit an essay score. We expect that many colleges will regard the “optional” essay on the SAT in a similar fashion.

On the current version of the SAT, students are asked to offer an argument in response to a statement. The standard instructions are to “discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree” with the prompt. Essay graders have been instructed not to take into account whether the evidence students provide to support their arguments is factually accurate. It has also been demonstrated that longer essays are correlated with higher scores. Accordingly, many students have adopted a “kitchen sink” approach to the essay, tossing in as many details as they can think of, regardless of the appropriateness of this evidence.

The new SAT essay is intended to end this practice and to focus more on a student’s reasoning and analytical skills. Students will be provided with an argument that they will need to analyze with respect to the quality of the reasoning displayed. For example, students will be asked to identify an argument’s underlying assumptions or to discuss what kind of evidence might strengthen or weaken the logic of the argument.

Student responses on the new essay portion of the exam will be evaluated for both clarity of communication and demonstration of critical thinking skills. In recognition of the increased complexity of the new essay task, students will be given 50 minutes to complete this portion of the SAT, which is double the amount of time allotted on the current exam.

For more information about changes to the SAT, Sandweiss Test Prep released a video explaining the most notable differences.

 

Sandweiss Test Prep specializes in exam preparation classes and tutoring, college admissions counseling, and academic tutoring for students of all ages. Visit the Sandweiss Test Prep website for more information about our services.

Featured photo from Pixabay.com.

Did you take the June LSAT? Scores are beginning to come out, and if yours was lower than anticipated or necessary, Sandweiss Test Prep can help with LSAT test preparation classes or tutoring.

Re-taking the LSAT could certainly improve your score. A recent report by the Law School Admission Council shows that LSAT test takers had higher scores after their second time taking the exam.

The study tracked results of LSAT takers from 2006-2007 to the 2012-2013 test periods. The percentages and performance of these repeat test takers are classified by testing administration, test year, gender, and race/ethnicity, however the report is “purely descriptive in nature” and “explanation of the underlying causes of any differences is beyond the scope of this report.” Even if you’ve already taken the test it is important to re-prepare for the second attempt, which is perhaps the cause of second-time test takers getting higher scores than first-timers.

The council’s research found that the average of LSAT scores across the testing years was 151.7 for second-timers, 151 for first-timers, and 149.4 for those taking it a third time. Second-time test takers gained an average of 2.8 points over their first attempt. The test takers involved in this study were not selected to participate in this research; they had chosen to re-take the exam on their own.

According to this table, which lists the LSAT repeat-tester data from 2012-2013, approximately 66 percent of students who re-took the LSAT received a higher score on the second test. Slightly more than 8 percent had no change in score, and 25 percent earned a lower score on the second exam.

The LSAT was implemented in 1948 for law schools to have a standardized method of evaluating applicants. Major changes have shaped the exam’s structure since then, with the most prominent being the revisions to the scoring scale. The highest score achievable is 180 and the lowest is 120. The most current version of the LSAT includes five 35-minute sections that focus on reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning.

You’re probably aware of the changes affecting the legal profession in recent years; fewer law school students are acquiring gainful employment within six months of passing the Bar exam. The exception to this current state is for law students who graduate fromthe top legal schools in the country. Therefore, it is more important than ever to get into the best law schools, because that is where the opportunity is.

To improve your chances of gaining entrance to these schools, you should work with a test preparation service like Sandweiss Test Prep before your next LSAT for a better score.

Click here to register for an upcoming LSAT, which is administered four times a year (next in September). Contact Sandweiss Test Prep to enroll in our summer LSAT course.

Featured photo credit Albert Herring, labeled for reuse under Wikipedia Commons.

Last Wednesday, March 5th, the College Board announced a number of fundamental changes to the SAT which are slated to go into effect in 2016. Students who are currently freshmen in high school will be the first to have the opportunity to take the new SAT. Included among the changes are the replacement of some of the more esoteric vocabulary words with ones common in college courses, the elimination of the guessing penalty for wrong answers, the combination of reading and writing questions into a single Verbal section, the transition to an optional essay, and the restructuring of the Math section to concentrate on more “real world” problem-solving tasks.

According to a New York Times article about the changes to the exam, College Board President David Coleman said the SAT needed to become more aligned with the work students actually do in high school, citing survey results that indicate “only 20 percent [of high school teachers] see the college-admission tests as a fair measure of the work their students have done.”

A Seattle Times columnist wrote in an op-ed published over the weekend that, “These tweaks are a shame inasmuch as educators lose measures that provided critical information. The essay, for instance, wasn’t a call to Emersonian excellence but was a way of determining whether a student can compose a coherent sentence.” Other commenters also lamented the test changes as a decision to “dumb-down” the SAT.

We here at the Sandweiss Test Prep team would disagree with this interpretation. First of all, it makes sense to view the changes to the SAT as a business move. In 2012, the number of ACT test-takers surpassed the number of students who took the SAT for the first time, and the College Board was concerned that the SAT would continue to decline in popularity relative to the ACT unless significant changes were made. Secondly, in our view, the proposed changes to the SAT should actually improve the test and not ‘dumb it down’:

1)    Unlike those found on the ACT, the essay prompts on the SAT are mostly irrelevant to the daily lives of high school students. Moreover, the students do not have to provide factually accurate examples to support their arguments, and studies have shown that longer essays receive better scores, regardless of the quality of the reasoning. The new prompts will be more like those found on the GRE and GMAT, and will require students to identify an argument’s assumptions and evaluate the strength of the logic, skills that are certainly necessary to navigate the onslaught of information in our media-saturated age. The fact that the College Board is making the essay “optional” is simply to make it more like the essay component of the ACT. Despite the optional status of the ACT essay, nearly all “competitive” colleges require students to complete the essay portion of the exam.

2) The decision to change the vocabulary portion of the SAT is, in our opinion, long overdue. The words tested on the current version of the exam bear little relevance to the vocabulary encountered and employed not only in our daily lives, but also in most academic writing intended for an audience of more than 30 fellow scholars. How many of you have used “treacly” or “abstruse” lately?

3) Taking away the calculator for one of the two math sections means that students will actually have to learn how to perform basic computation either in their heads or by using a pencil. We have worked with a number of students who, in response to a question like “how much is 47 + 38?”, have had to unzip their backpacks and remove their calculators before being able to provide an answer.

At Sandweiss Test Prep, we’ve been preparing students for the SAT and ACT since 1998. Although we would never claim that these exams are highly predictive of intelligence or academic performance, they do measure some skills that are relevant to higher education and, equally important, to life after college. In our view, any serious effort to improve the quality of the SAT should be welcomed, while all prospective college applicants (and their parents) should remember that grades matter a lot more to college admissions officers than do test scores. Accordingly, the primary focus of those concerned with college readiness should be on “smartening-up” the average high school curriculum.

Next month, the College Board will be releasing some sample questions for the new SAT, and we’ll be posting our analysis of these questions once we’ve had a chance to look them over. In the meantime, click here to view a summary of the key changes the College Board will be making to the SAT.

Learn what you need to know about the MCAT and our preparation course:

Two dates currently scheduled:

December 5, 2013 – and – January 7, 2014