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A Seattle Times article debuted this week that highlights the changes and challenges presented by the new SAT.

The article focuses on how the new SAT test requires students to rely more heavily than ever on language abilities to succeed. Though the reading portion is roughly the same length as the previous SAT–3,250 words on the new, 3,300 on the old–and about 30 percent of the math problems are still word problems, analysts say that the way words are used on the new test can be confusing for many students.

For example, the article highlights a question on the new SAT that begins, “An anthropologist studies a woman’s femur that was uncovered in Madagascar.” It’s highly probable that many students won’t know the meaning of the words anthropologist, femur, or Madagascar, and yet those words actually have nothing to do with the question, which asks students to find the length of the bone using an algebraic equation.

If you’re one of the many students who is nervous about the new SAT, Sandweiss Test Prep can help! We help students determine whether they should take the SAT or if they’d be better off taking the ACT.  We provide diagnostic testing that enables us to recommend one test or the other, as well as a course or tutoring program for either the SAT or ACT.

Due to the SAT changing this year, however, there are several obstacles in terms of analyzing and comparing the results against the ACT for current juniors.  The new SAT isn’t being administered for the first time until March and those results won’t be available until mid-late May.  Until the new SAT has been administered a few times to weed out the outliers in the data pool, and to provide concrete scoring data, it’s not feasible to make a direct comparison between the SAT and the ACT.  We can of course make an educated guess regarding which test may be better for you, but the only data that has even been made available regarding the new SAT are the PSAT percentiles from earlier this year, and that test is scored on a slightly different scale than the new SAT.  Also, there are many reports indicating that the PSAT percentile scores have been inflated and are unreliable.  Due to these factors, we are generally recommending that current juniors stick with the ACT.  The ACT is accepted everywhere the SAT is accepted and without preference.

Call us today to learn more about how you can help your student excel in college standardized testing!

SAT Subject Tests—also known as the SAT IIs—shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for college-bound high school students. The Subject Tests are actually an opportunity to show off what you know, highlight your skills and strengths, and potentially compensate for any gaps or low marks on your transcript. At Sandweiss Test Prep, we want to encourage students to think of their SAT Subject Tests as an opportunity, and not an obstacle.

What are They?

The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour multiple-choice exams in the subject areas of Literature, U.S. History, World History, Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Foreign Language. These tests are supplemental to the regular SAT and are meant to demonstrate your strength in a particular area. Selective schools—especially selective private schools—often either require, recommend, or consider Subject Tests, usually requesting two tests, at least one of which would be in your intended field of study. For students hoping to major in math or any of the sciences, many schools will require the results of a relevant math or science SAT Subject Test.

Who Needs Them?

You can find a list of the schools that require, recommend, or consider SAT Subject Tests online. Note that some schools will also accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT and two Subject Tests

If you are considering applying to one of the schools on this list, be aware that schools that “recommend” Subject Tests usually expect and desire them, and one should definitely submit SAT Subject Tests if you want your application to be competitive. You can also submit Subject Tests to schools that “consider” them if you’d like to show off a particular strength, or if your grades were low for some reason in a subject you actually understand quite well you can take a Subject Test to demonstrate your comprehension. With the possible exception of a required Math Subject Test for competitive STEM programs, a Subject Test can only help your application and will rarely hurt it.

When Should I Take Them?

SAT Subject Tests should be taken by high school juniors in May or June, or by seniors in October or November.  Since the tests align with AP coursework and AP tests, we recommend taking the Subject Tests after the matching AP test has been, or is almost, completed.  You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date, although we have found that it is more effective to do no more than two at a time to keep your mind as fresh and limber as possible.

How Can I Prepare?

If you’re applying to schools that recommend or require Subject Tests, or if you’d like to strengthen your application by demonstrating a good knowledge in an area of study, we recommend coming in and taking our diagnostic tests to help determine which Subject Tests may work best with your application, and whether or not supplemental tutoring may be warranted.  For example, we will take a look at 2-4 sets of diagnostic scores and recommend which tests may be most worthwhile for achieving the highest percentile score, as well as how much, if any, tutoring may be beneficial.

For more information about SAT Subject tests, ACT or SAT preparation or any other college application related question, call or email Sandweiss Test Prep!

Required for admission to private and secondary grade schools, the ISEE and SSAT exams can be a challenge to many younger students. While the tests share many similarities, the differences between the ISEE and the SSAT have many parents and students confused each year. In the Seattle/Bellevue area, most private schools prefer one test over the other, although many schools will take either test.  Let’s take a look at each test and we’ll explain some of the key differences so you will have much of the information you need when choosing which test to focus your attention on this summer or fall.

ISEE

The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is offered at four different levels: Primary Level (entering grades 2-4, Lower Level (applicants to grades 4, 5 and 6), Middle Level (applicants to grades 7-8), and Upper Level (applicants to grades 9-12).

The Verbal Section of the test includes synonyms and sentence completion exercises.  This test tends to be fairly challenging in the math sections and is generally preferred by those students who enjoy, or at least feel competent at, doing math.  There’s no penalty for incorrect answers, four choices to choose from, and the ISEE can only be taken once every six months.

SSAT

Available at three different levels, the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) tests students for admission at the Elementary Level (applicants to grades 4-5), Middle Level (applicants to grades 6-8), or Upper Level (applicants to grades 9-12).  The Verbal Section of the exam includes 60 questions of synonyms and analogies, and this test tends to be preferred by those students who have stronger vocabularies and overall verbal skills.  The SSAT deducts one-quarter of a point for incorrect answers for the middle and upper level versions, but since it may be taken multiple times during each application cycle, it may be a more attractive option for students who are nervous about their performance.

Each test also has an essay that is not scored but it is sent to the applicant’s schools and used as part of the comprehensive evaluation process.  Also keep in mind that students’ tests are scored only in comparison to their own grade level peers, not those in higher or lower grades.

When Should You Take These Exams

Both tests are offered on multiple dates throughout the fall:  The SSAT is offered once per month between October and February. The ISEE is offered multiple times per month during this same time period, so if students are considering taking both tests, they should plan to take the SSAT first, with the option to come back to it a second or even third time after taking the ISEE.

Be sure to carve out at least a couple of months to prepare, and keep your application deadlines in mind when scheduling your official test date(s).  Test results are usually available within a few days (ISEE) to a week or two (SSAT), so make sure your test date is scheduled with enough time for your chosen schools to receive the scores in time.  Some schools do accept test scores after the application deadlines have passed, as long as all the other application materials have been submitted.

Commonalities Between the SSAT and ISEE

While the ISEE and SSAT are different tests, they have a lot in common. Both exams are similar in length and duration and include five comparable sections: verbal skills, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, writing, and math achievement.

Both exams test include a series of out-of-context vocabulary questions. The ISEE includes in-context vocabulary testing, while the SSAT tests on analogies. While both tests include a writing section, neither of the tests will score the writing sample unless you purchase the optional writing scoring. Instead, these writing samples will be sent directly to the school you apply to for them to review.

Both exams provide different versions depending upon the student’s grade level. The SSAT splits the tests, the easier of the two being used for everyone up to seventh grade and the more difficult for those in eighth grade or higher. The ISEE does something similar with a three-way split. This is discussed in more depth below.

Preparing for the SSAT and ISEE

Both exams offer some practice materials to prepare for the test. The ISEE has a guide titled “What to Expect on the ISEE,” which is available for download from the Educational Records Bureau’s website. Similarly, the SSAT offers downloadable guides for each level of test taker. 

If you’re interested in taking admissions exams for private schools but are struggling with the preparation process, it might be a good idea to register for an ISEE/SSAT diagnostic test, group course, or private tutoring program with Sandweiss Test Prep. Our experienced instructors can help guide you through the testing process and help you prepare for standardized tests throughout every level of your academic career. Call (206-417-5050) or email (sandweiss@gmail.com) us at your convenience to learn more about our ISEE/SSAT programs or use the online tool to sign up for a diagnostic test or class today.

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If you’re like any typical high school student, you probably caught a bit of “senioritis” as soon as the graduating seniors left on their last day. While your senior year can be a fun and formative time in your life, there are a few significant hurdles you need to clear if you’re planning to attend college the following year. Don’t take things easy, either – you’ll kick yourself for slacking behind and stressing deadlines, so allowing yourself some breathing room can be greatly beneficial.

Task #1: Prepare for Standardized Tests

If you didn’t already take the SAT/ACT as a junior or think you should retake either exam, it’s best to get that out of the way early so college applications won’t be delayed.  If you have early application deadlines (ACT, SAT or SAT Subject Tests), you’ll most likely need to complete your testing by October.  For later deadlines, you’ll need to take or retake your SAT or ACT by December.

Task #2: Attend College Visits

While you may already be doing this, make sure to schedule some time with parents or friends to go on college visits to those schools you may not have seen yet, but may be interested in attending.  While you’re at the schools, it’s important to attend an Information Session and/or to meet with the Admissions Representative who’s responsible for students from the area where you live.  Tell the Rep about yourself and try to figure out if the school will be a “Good Fit” for you.  Discuss issues such as your potential focus or major, and opportunities for research or other activities that may interest you, including Study Abroad, sports, clubs and living arrangements.  Don’t worry if you haven’t quite made up your mind about your major yet – part of visiting is familiarizing yourself with different schools and programs, so don’t sweat it too much. If possible, try to sit in on classes at each school you tour, and make sure to have lunch or dinner nearby each school so you can get a feel not only for the taste of the food, but for the “flavor” of the atmosphere and attitude of the students who attend each college or university.  It’s also helpful to set up meetings with faculty with whom you might be working/studying, as well as representatives from any clubs or campus organizations you’re thinking of joining.

Task #3: Start Thinking about Financial Aid and Scholarships

For either Need-based aid or Merit aid, all colleges and universities require that students and parents fill out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.  The FAFSA for the next year is due in January 2016 for the State of Washington and funds are available until depletion, so now’s a good time to start talking about money with your parents or guardians.

Most private liberal arts colleges, as well as some public universities, also require students to fill out the CSS Profile.  This is another online Aid application that allows students to apply for scholarships – both need and merit aid – at over 400 colleges and universities.  It’s detailed and specific about each family’s financial issues, so it can be a helpful complement to the FAFSA when your actual “need” doesn’t match the FAFSA’s definition of need.

Task #4: Start or Continue Working on your College Essays

First semester grades matter!  It will be a lot easier to get good grades if you don’t have to stress out about your college application essays.  Your life will be much simpler if you have at least a draft of your main college essay completed before Senior Year begins.  Since the essays are a very important part of your application, it’s beneficial to try to perfect them as much as possible.  You want to convey information about yourself that is not apparent from the rest of your application.

If you spend part of your remaining summer working on college essays, touring any schools that have students attending over the summer, and preparing for your final SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests, you’ll have a great head start to your final year of high school.

If you’re feeling stressed about the ACT or SAT exam, consider investing (both time and money) in an individual tutor or a group class to help you prepare. Sandweiss Test Prep prides itself on helping students at all levels achieve their academic goals.  We have tutors available to match your scheduling needs.  We also have group standardized test preparation courses beginning Thursday, July 23rd for the ACT exam in Seattle and an available course for the SAT beginning Wednesday, July 29th. .  We also have college counselors to help you with essays or other admissions issues.   Contact us today for more information regarding either test preparation or your college goals.

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Summer is in full swing and school is out for a few months, giving students a little bit of a break from their studies to enjoy the warm weather. However, if you’re retaking the ACT or the SAT in the fall, you should dedicate a little bit of time during the summer to studying up on the material so you’re sharp and ready to go when test day comes. There are plenty of commonplace rumors and misled beliefs about standardized tests that need to be put to rest. Here are a few myths and misnomers about standardized tests that are commonly and incorrectly propagated:

1. Your Test Score Signifies Your Intelligence

Low scores on standardized testing have no correlation between your general intelligence level or IQ score. To achieve true success on standardized tests, you must demonstrate a reasonable knowledge and understanding of the material – and that comes through weeks and months of preparation.

2. The ACT is Easier

The ACT and SAT are different, but that doesn’t mean one is easier than the other. Both tests have their own strengths and weaknesses that challenge students in multiple ways, so some may have more difficulty with one test over the other.

3. Some Colleges Prefer the SAT

This is somewhat true, but even Harvard University states that they accept both ACT and SAT scores on an equal basis, so it shouldn’t factor into your decision to take one or the other. We’d recommend all students take both tests and take them early so that there’s an opportunity to retake them and improve your scores in the future.

4. The More Times You Take Them, the Better!

Some colleges may ask you for all of your test scores, so you shouldn’t just take the tests willy-nilly and “wing it” at any point. Practice tests and test preparation courses exist for a reason, so you should take advantage of them and try your best every time you take one of the tests.

5. Cramming is the Only Way to Remember Everything

Both the ACT and SAT cover a lot of material. Studies have shown that cramming is unhealthy, ineffective, and ultimately bad for your test scores. Spaced repetition, practice exams, and test preparation courses are proven methods of improving subject knowledge retention and final test scores.

To find a test preparation session in the Seattle area, visit our website or contact Sandweiss Test Prep today.

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If you’re a junior in high school and you’re thinking about coasting the rest of the way through to your senior year, think again. Planning for college should have already begun, but if you’re behind due to schoolwork or extra curricular activities, there’s still time to get your ducks in a row so you can enjoy your summer break. Here are 5 things juniors in high school should do before the end of the school year:

1. Narrow Your Field of Study

While it’s not essential that you decide exactly what you want to focus your studies on right away, it will help you with the college selection process if you narrow it down to 3 or 4 potentials before the end of the year. Take some time to talk with friends, family, teachers, and school career counselors to discuss what you’re good at and what your interests are – they may know about certain career paths you’ve never considered.

2. Prepare for College Visits

The first step here is to determine which colleges you’d be interested in. Several factors should go into this decision: How far are they from home? Can you afford the tuition? What programs do they offer? How’s the campus life? Do some research online before committing to a college visit, but actually going and spending a couple of days on campus can really help with your decision.

3. Take the SAT/ACT

You should plan to take at least one of the two major standardized tests before your senior year. This will help you focus on the individual tests themselves for a longer period of time without overlapping and give you time to retake either the ACT or the SAT if you’re not satisfied with the result the first time around.

4. Consider Your Financial Aid Strategy

Have a frank conversation about your family’s financial ability to pay for your education. Talk with your parents about your college fund (if there is one) and think about which schools you can afford to attend. Begin researching and applying for scholarships to help alleviate the burden on yourself and your family. Remember – the less you have to borrow now, the easier it’ll be post-graduation.

5. Seek Outside Support

If you’re struggling with your college admissions process, seek help from a guidance counselor. Their experience can be a great benefit to you during this transitional period of your life. For students who are worried about the ACT/SAT preparation process, a test preparation course may be the best option to boost scores and better prepare yourself for the test date.

Sandweiss Test Prep is the Seattle area’s premier test preparation organization and has been helping students achieve their academic goals since 1998. As part of our guided test preparation courses, students have the opportunity to ask questions and develop their own strategies for tackling the SAT or ACT with the help from instructors.

For more information about our test prep courses, visit our site or contact Sandweiss Test Prep by using this form.

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With the next ACT National Test date coming up on April 18th, 2015, students should be preparing for the exam a little bit every day leading up to the day of the test. For students wanting an extra edge or are worried about what to expect from the test itself should consider taking an ACT diagnostic test from Sandweiss Test Prep. Here are three reasons to consider extra ACT test preparation outside of your normal studies:

Ease Test Day Jitters

Preparation is everything. You can fake confidence, but if you don’t know the material on test day, it won’t help your cause. True confidence in yourself comes from hard work, preparation, and diligent study to ensure you know the test criteria and what to expect. After taking an initial diagnostic test, many students consider their results and then enroll in a Sandweiss ACT Test Prep Course to ensure they’re prepared for the real thing. 

Maximize Your Admissions Potential

Higher standardized test scores look great on college admissions forms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that structured test preparation for months and weeks before standardized test dates have the potential to boost test scores up to 20 percentage points. That’s a significant bump that can help lift you above other students and make you look good on admissions tests.

Practice!

Practice doesn’t make “perfect,”” as the old adage suggests, but it does make “better.” Taking a free diagnostic test at Sandweiss will help you identify your areas of focus for future study and highlight your strengths in different subjects. As part of a Sandweiss ACT Course, there are three additional practice tests over the duration of the course to help you track your progress as the test date gets closer.

To learn more about a free diagnostic test, click here. The Sandweiss ACT preparation course for the April 18th, 2015 starts Saturday, February 28th in Bellevue and Sunday, March 1st in Seattle and it’s not too late to enroll. Find out more about our ACT course or contact Sandweiss Test Prep.

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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!