Category: Newsletter

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.

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This past spring, the College Board announced major changes to the SAT. The changes will be implemented in the spring of 2016, so those who will be entering their junior year of high school in the fall of 2015 will be the first to have the opportunity to take the new SAT.

Test prep businesses and academic organizations of all types have been buzzing about the changes and what they mean for students and colleges. The exam’s math section is one area where the new SAT will be a little bit different.

As before, the math section will measure a student’s familiarity with concepts typically covered in high school math courses up through sophomore or junior year (depending on when a student takes Algebra 2). Two significant changes are that the new SAT will place more emphasis on algebra (and correspondingly less emphasis on geometry), and students will only be able to use a calculator on one of the math sections.

Students should now focus on studying algebra with extra attention, knowing that it will be more heavily featured on the exam. The no-calculator portion of the math section will be worth one-third of the math score for the exam. The purpose of this change is to test a student’s ability to recognize how certain math problems can be solved more efficiently by utilizing a logic-based approach, rather than relying primarily on a calculator to perform routine computation.

The College Board has decided based on research that problem solving and data analysis  are the most important aspects of mathematics  to prepare students for higher education and for the workplace of the future, so we can expect the new SAT to place more emphasis on quantitative reasoning skills and less emphasis on memorization and rote learning.

If you are interested in more of the changes coming for the SAT, check out this video from Sandweiss Test Prep.

Sandweiss Test Prep specializes in test preparation, academic tutoring, and admissions consulting. Visit the Sandweiss Test Prep website for more information about our services.

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Spring SAT/ACT scores are in and members of the class of 2015 should now turn their attention to college applications.

To guide students through the options and tasks they need to complete for college admissions, Sandweiss Test Prep offers in-depth support and admissions counseling at reasonable hourly rates.

Sandweiss Test Prep’s admissions counseling services include student guidance and support for their college selection process as well as help with college applications and essays. According to owner Steve Sandweiss, “I have been helping students with their applications for several years, [and] I can be useful in three principal areas: 1) narrowing the college list; 2) designing a “marketing” strategy for each application; and 3) drafting and polishing the common app and supplemental essays.”

In admissions counseling sessions, students will receive help narrowing their search for the right colleges and learn how to create a good list of schools (including safety schools and ‘reach’ schools). Once the school list has been assembled, students will receive assistance in drafting their essays for both the Common App (used by several hundred colleges and universities) and for the supplementary essays required by individual schools.

To further expand their support for high school seniors this year and in future years, Laurie Gordon, co-owner of Sandweiss Test Prep, is pursuing a certification in college admissions counseling from UCLA. This coursework will provide her with the skills and resources necessary to aid students in finding the “right fit” college.

Although we are in the midst of summer and students may be putting off their application process, it is a good idea to commence this process as soon as possible.

Once school starts in the fall, seniors will be busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and possibly preparing for one more round of standardized testing, so those students who can get a jump on the applications process this summer will be much happier and less stressed than their procrastinating peers.


Sandweiss Test Prep offers extensive college admissions counseling services to students in the greater Seattle area. Contact us to learn more about admissions counseling, or to book your student’s session!

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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.

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Graduation season has passed, and it’s time to think about college applications! Recent college admissions trends offer important information to students applying in the next few months…

The Importance of a High School Record.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, your child’s high school record is the number-one most important factor in college admissions. Good grades, rigorous course loads, and challenging courses have a stronger influence on admissions decisions than class rank or even standardized test scores. Essentially, colleges want to see that you’ve taken the most challenging classes that your school has to offer, and that you received strong grades in these classes.

College Applications Increase.

Students are sending out more college applications than they used to, and so colleges and universities around the U.S. are getting more and more applications every year. In 2011, 29 percent of the pool of college applicants sent seven or more applications (up from 9 percent in 1990), and the average number of applications per student has increased since then. This increase in the average number of applications per student has resulted in a negative cycle: more applications lead to lower admission rates, which leads to more applications as students try to hedge their bets, and so on.

Acceptance Rates are Dropping.

The lowest recorded admission rate (5.07%, according to research from Ivy Wise) happened this year. The average overall admission rate is probably closer to 50% or more, and several Ivy League colleges are accepting a higher rate of applications for the class of 2018 than they did for last year’s class; however the difference is not great. Many Ivy League schools received a higher number of early decision applications. Since most schools accept a significantly higher percentage of early applicants over regular submission applicants, early decision is to your student’s advantage. Also, now that colleges are receiving so many (and not accepting) applications, it’s critical that students find a way to break through the noise.

Demonstrated Interest is Key.

Most selective schools are becoming even more selective in their admissions decisions. Colleges and universities nationwide are placing stronger emphasis on students’ demonstrated interest in attending their school. They track student visits and interviews, check to see if the student has contacted faculty or alumni, and analyze their supplemental essays to gauge how well the student knows the school (and therefore, the likelihood of enrolling). College admissions officers want to see that your student has done his or her homework on the school. They will almost always look at your child’s social media profiles, too, so remind your student to be careful!

Contact us to learn about test preparation, tutoring, and admissions counseling services to help your student through the college application process.

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Last month, we recommended summer internships as an excellent option for your student to make the most of his or her summer (Here’s some more reporting on the topic, if you are interested). Today, we would like to articulate some of the best ways for students to find a valuable and fitting high school summer internship, and to gain the most education and experience possible.

Find a Valuable Internship

Research is key to finding internships that will meet student interests and provide adequate learning and hands-on opportunities. Start by asking your student to consider his or her goals with an internship, with some of the following questions:

  • Do you have a specific career or profession in mind, which you’d like to learn?
  • Are there certain skills or lifestyles that you are curious about?
  • What do you like to do for fun, and that can be accomplished in a modern-day job?
  • Are you looking more for education and learning from your internship, or hands-on experience with a job or industry?

After you and your child have a general idea about what you hope to get from your internship, begin researching the possibilities using tools like,, or Idealist. Meet together with your child’s high school counselor to gain additional insight, and consider people in your network whose careers may align with your student’s interests. Click here for some other ways to approach finding an internship.

Gain Maximum Benefit

A good college internship should provide your son or daughter with valuable work experience and training, a real-life perspective on how the workplace functions, and hopefully a boost in the college admissions process. During the course of an internship, ask your son or daughter to make the following items a priority:

  • Take advantage of opportunities to explore various jobs within the business in order to get the most from your experience. If you can, try to ‘shadow’ as many different positions within the company as possible, to learn the full scope of everyone’s job.
  • Consider this a chance to learn everything there is to know about a job that might be turn into a career someday. Remind your child not to sit on the sidelines; if the internship supervisor and other management is open to it, encourage your child to offer his or her own creative solutions and ideas on how to make the job better – respectfully, of course!
  • Ask lots of questions. No matter what type of internship or business your child works for this summer, asking lots of questions and taking note of the answers is going to be vital to the experience and education the internship provides.

If your student works hard this summer in a high school internship, he or she will certainly learn a lot – not just about a particular  business or industry, but also about the adult world and how things work within the workplace.

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When school’s out and the sun is shining it can be difficult to focus on pre-college preparation. Don’t forget that summer is not a three-month break when it comes to your applications—colleges want to see that you spent your time doing something useful. You can make yourself appealing to colleges while still having plenty of time to enjoy the dog days of summer. Here’s how:


Seattle and its surrounding areas offer an endless amount of volunteer opportunities for people with all types of interests. Community service is a great way to get involved in your community and give back to those in need. These types of rewarding experiences will give you inspiration for college essays and provide lifelong character building.

College Prep

Get to know your dream schools before it’s time to start the applications process. Visit college campuses, research the academics offered, look into housing options. Many universities offer pre-college programs for incoming freshmen. Check out the services we offer at Sandweiss Test Prep if you need to re-take or study for an exam.


It’s never too early to get your foot in the door. Don’t rule out internships before college—if a company offers positions to high school students, apply! An internship is an important way to start building your network while learning about a career path that could influence your academic choices.

Summer job

Summer break is perhaps the best time to save money, and you’ll be glad you have some savings once school comes around again. Don’t fret if your job isn’t necessarily glamorous—a steady job shows college admissions advisers that you are devoted and hard-working.


A traveller knows that a trip can be so much more than relaxing vacation time. Some of the best life experiences come from travel, as well as increased cultural awareness and self-realization that can aid in your college admissions essays.

Personal Project

Now that you have some spare time, work on something that interests you. Want to learn a language? Paint? Build something? Now’s the time! Following your passion is a reflection of your character and provides a vital foundation to future endeavors.

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Most high school juniors have taken the SAT or ACT by now, and it’s time to focus on the next steps in college preparation. The top things juniors should be focused on through the spring are:

 1. AP Exams and/or SAT Subject Tests (if applicable to your student)

This May, students will have the opportunity to take AP exams to determine their eligibility for college credit and/or placement beyond prerequisite introductory college courses. Now is the time to enroll in AP reviews and classes, or to prepare for the exams and SAT Subject Tests with individual and/or small group tutoring.

2. Finishing junior year with strong grades

Good grades should be at the top of your student’s list of academic goals this season, since junior year grades are probably the most important ones for the purpose of applying to college. They show colleges that you have learned how to be a good student, particularly if they are stronger than your grades from 9th or 10th grade. Colleges will look at your first semester grades from senior year, but won’t have a chance to do so if you choose to apply Early Decision or Early Action, and have to submit your application by November.

3. Retaking the SAT or ACT (if needed)

If your student received a less-than-desirable score on the SAT or ACT, it may be wise to retake the test now in the late spring of his or her junior year, or later in the fall of his or her senior year. Click here for data on students retaking the SAT, or click here for data on retaking the ACT. We have SAT and ACT test prep courses coming up in late spring. Our SAT test prep course for the June 7th exam is starting next week on April 26th in Seattle, or 27th in Bellevue. Sandweiss Test Prep’s ACT course for the June 14th exam is beginning April 26th in Bellevue and 27th in Seattle.

Remember, the time to finalize the “college list” will come in the fall. There is still plenty of time to visit colleges throughout the spring and summer, and even in late August, when many colleges begin their school year. If your junior waits until this fall when he or she is a senior, there will likely be more access to dorm stays and campus interviews, since most schools only extend this option to seniors.