Category: Test Preparation

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!

By now, many people are aware that the SAT is changing.  Starting next March 2016, the redesigned SAT will replace the current SAT for many students in the class of 2017 and beyond.  It will return to its roots of having two main sections:  Math and Verbal, each scored on a 200-800 point scale with the total scoring range between 400-1600.  The essay will be optional and it will be scored separately from the two main sections, similar to the way the ACT essay is scored.  The new SAT will also have another scoring difference from its current version:  There will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers, and there will only be 4 possible answer choices instead of the 5 there are now.

There are several other similarities between the new SAT and the ACT.  The SAT will have science questions, although there won’t be a separate Science section; instead the science questions will be spread throughout the Math and Verbal sections of the new SAT.  There will also be social studies questions throughout the test, including a Reading passage from a U.S. “founding document.”  The ACT has also always had Trigonometry questions in the Math Section, and the new SAT will have them now as well.

So, if students from the Class of 2017 are preparing for these standardized tests early in their junior year, which test should they take?  First of all, we at Sandweiss Test Prep recommend that students take a diagnostic test for the current SAT and the ACT.  We will compare the two sets of scores, and if the SAT is the “better” test, we’ll recommend that the student take the SAT once in the fall and again in the winter, with the goal of completing the SAT prior to March of 2016.  If the ACT is the better test, we’ll still recommend that juniors take the test for the first time as early in the school year as possible, given each student’s after school activities and other time constraints.  For either test, making sure there is adequate time for any necessary preparation is essential for score improvement.

Finally, we generally recommend against taking the new SAT on the first three or so test dates.  This is to insure that there are adequate practice tests available, as well as other practice material.  Also, the questions on the new test have not necessarily been proven to be a reliable indicator of college preparedness as they are generally designed to be.  Instead, students taking the new SAT in the first three test dates will sort of be the guinea pigs of the College Board’s test designers.   Since the new PSAT will be in the new, redesigned format, students will get a chance to sample the new SAT.  If they absolutely need to wait, and must take the SAT or ACT in the Spring of their Junior year, we can use that new PSAT from the fall to compare with the ACT.

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.


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.


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 ( 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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Slacking off during the summer may feel like a fantastic way to spend three months, but studies have shown that students tend to lose their learning skills during the summer. By ignoring your studies and entering the school year unprepared, you can significantly harm your standardized test scores and affect your college admissions chances. Here are four ways to boost your test scores during the off-season and before the school year starts again.

Focus on One Test

Not all students respond to either the SAT or the ACT the same way. ACT gurus tend to have great memory retention, reading comprehension, and can sift through detailed information very quickly. Those who score highly on the SAT are strong readers with good vocabularies and are very good at taking tests.

That being said, determining which test you’re more comfortable with isn’t just a matter of identifying what type of student you are. Taking a couple of practice tests over the summer can help you decide which test you want to hone in on and prepare for going forward. 

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

If you’ve taken either the ACT or SAT before and weren’t satisfied with the results, reassess your test preparation strategies before the next go-around. Mix up your process by incorporating quizzes (on your own and with others), verbalizing your questions and answers, and be sure to study in a conducive environment free from distractions.

Don’t stop reviewing and re-attacking the same material over and over again. Even if you feel comfortable with a subject or section, get back into it and try to analyze it from a different angle to make sure you truly understand it. The more ways you train yourself on a subject, the better the results will be.

Make a Lifestyle Change

Test scores have a lot to do with overall health and nutrition leading up to the test day. Summer is a great time to make a significant lifestyle change towards healthier eating, regular exercise, and positive activities. A better overall outlook and active people tend to be more confident, which can help come test day.

Summer is also a good time to develop healthy sleeping habits. Without the rigorous schedules that come with classes and extra-curricular activities, it can be easy to slip into an unhealthy sleep cycle. Rather than staying up late every single night, try and establish a consistent pattern. After all, good sleep will come in handy when your studies begin again.

Enroll in a Test Preparation Course

Private tutoring and test prep classes for the ACT and SAT are available during the summer months, so if you’re getting down to the wire and you’re still worrying about your test performance, you’ll want to explore all your options. A thorough test preparation class led by a talented instructor could be the difference between improving your test scores and being disappointed in the results.

Contact Sandweiss Test Prep to discuss your summertime test preparation options before the school year begins again. Our team has decades of experience in the test preparation field and our students have gone onto successful academic careers in Ivy League schools around the country, so give us a call today!

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College graduates planning to apply to business school must first take the GMAT, or Graduate Management Admissions Test. Programs like the Harvard Business School, Tusk School of Business, and the Columbia Business School require GMAT scores as part of the application process and review applicants in rounds. Depending on the school, the deadlines for each round vary, but the deadline for consideration in the first round is generally in early fall of each calendar year with deadlines for other rounds staggered over several months.

Taking the GMAT is different than the ACT or SAT. Because the test is taken through a computerized system, you must simply make an appointment at an authorized testing facility during a test session and reserve a seat. It also doesn’t rely on your skills as a student or measure your intelligence level. Instead, the GMAT tests your basic knowledge and reasoning capabilities, giving the advantage to students who are able to quickly and strategically answer questions.

There are three sections of the GMAT: a two-part Analytical Writing Assessment that requires an essay, a Quantitative section comprised of math questions, and a 75-minute Verbal section. Students are subjected to a severe penalty if sections are not completed within the allotted time period. Unlike other standardized tests, the GMAT’s multiple-choice sections are computer adaptive, meaning the test actively reacts to your test performance and adjusts the difficulty of questions accordingly.

As with many standardized tests, test scores and results for the GMAT will not be ready for a few weeks after the test, so you should allow for a couple of months between your GMAT test date and the application deadline for your preferred MBA program. It’s common knowledge that admissions departments at major business schools prefer candidates that apply during the first round, so if you want to hit those early fall deadlines, taking the GMAT sooner rather than later is a good idea.

Sandweiss Test Prep offers customized GMAT preparation tutoring for college graduates planning to apply to a business school. Click here to enroll in a GMAT preparation tutoring before the fall application deadline!

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Access to the Internet allows people all over the world to learn about millions of topics, but with everything moving towards a digital equivalent (or in some cases, replacement) of a real-life counterpart, there’s a danger to students who rely on it for their studies. Online test preparation classes are becoming a popular alternative for students getting ready for the SAT and ACT, but there are a few reasons you should avoid them entirely.

No Classroom

This should read as a benefit, right? Many online test preparation services promote this fact, but studies have shown that placing students in environments that are associated with learning improves memory retention and, ultimately, test scores. Without a direct interaction with the instructors and the ability to ask questions of your instructors and peers in the same room, there’s potential for missed learning opportunities that could pay off come test day.

Less Qualified Instructors

Good people cost more money, so even if your online test preparation classes are cheaper than the real-world equivalent, that doesn’t mean you’re getting the same level of quality. Potential for disingenuous accreditation and qualifications are greatly increased with online test prep services, so we’d recommend a brick-and-mortar approach if you want to get the best educators possible.


Having your classroom just one click away from Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the vast Internet is not a very conductive learning environment. Keeping your pen and paper handy as your essential learning tools in a traditional classroom will cut down on distractions and help you stay focused on the task at hand – social media can wait until you get home.

For more information about our test preparation classes or other tips to help improve your test scores, contact Sandweiss Test Prep at 206-417-5050 or use the contact form to get in touch.

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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The application process is relatively easy – waiting to hear back from colleges about your application is the hard part. February and March are particularly stressful for students who just submitted their applications and are waiting to hear back. Frustration, stress, and pressure put on by your parents probably won’t help your mood, especially since you’re still in school at the time.

Sandweiss Test Prep has helped students through every level of their education reach their goals and we’ve seen firsthand how stressful the waiting around can be. Here are a few things to do while you wait for your college acceptance letter: 

Apply for Financial Aid

January and February are good times to apply for FAFSA aid, even if you’re not actively considering financial aid. Having the acceptance already approved will help safeguard against any potential issues before you go to school. Don’t forget to talk with your parents about financial aid and their status. Don’t put this off, though – FAFSA funding in the State of Washington is awarded until depleted starting January 1st. Other states vary – check deadlines here.

Check Your Status Online

Typically, harassing the admissions department isn’t usually a good strategy. Most colleges have automated systems that allow you to check the status of your application. Remember, everyone else who applied is also waiting to hear back too, so piling on probably won’t get you anywhere. If a university’s website doesn’t specify when letters will be sent, that’s something you should call about.

Update Your Information

If anything’s changed in your address, contact information, financial aid status, or personal life that affects your ability to go to school, you should inform the universities of the changes. Test scores, final grades, and awards or scholarships you’ve been awarded since your application was filed should be sent to each institution to help them make a more informed decision about your achievements.

For more information about preparing for college or the standardized tests required for applications, contact Sandweiss Test Prep today. We offer admissions seminars to help you get into more prestigious or selective institutions and can prepare you for the ACT or SAT.

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