The SAT vs. ACT decision: how many practice tests do you need to take?

For those of you still deciding between the SAT and the ACT, one factor that you need to take into account is the number of practice tests you’re planning to take. I touched on this point in a recent post, but I’d like to revisit it here from a slightly different angle. I’m insisting on it because of a couple of recent tutoring inquiries regarding students who want to start test prep early in junior year, and who are looking to raise their reading scores by enormous...
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My top tip for managing college essays

College application season is upon us again, and if you’re a rising senior or the parent of a rising senior just starting to pull a final list of colleges together, you might be starting to notice that the whole process is, well, a little bit complicated. Everyone talks about the famous “college essay,” but in reality that should be “essays,” plural. And potentially lots of them. There is of course the main Common App personal statement, but what you might not realize until you actually sit...
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New! financial aid resources page

After I finished my recent post explaining how National Merit Scholarships work, it occurred to me that I had acquired an awful lot of links in the course of my research, and that I might as well compile the most useful ones into a separate resource page. I’ve now done so, and you can view the page here. 

Why you won’t get a full ride to Harvard on a National Merit Scholarship

After I posted a list of reasons that students should continue to consider passing up the new SAT in favor of the ACT, I received messages from a couple of readers who said that they shared my misgiving about the redesigned test, but that they had a very practical concern regarding that exam: namely, the PSAT and qualification for National Merit Scholarships. In both cases, they indicated that their children would be dependent on scholarship money to attend college, and that they could not afford to pass up the opportunities offered by...
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What is “active learning?” (in defense of contemplation)

I think it’s fair to say that one of progressive education’s central characteristics is its obsession with so-called “active learning” and its abhorrence of student passivity. The Center for Research on Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan defines active learning as “a process whereby students engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content,” which seems like a perfectly reasonable pedagogical prescription. Obviously, one of the primary goals of teaching is to encourage students to...
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Five reasons to continue avoiding the new SAT

When the redesigned SAT was rolled out this past March, most test-prep professionals that there would be a few bumps; however, there was also a general assumption that after the first few administrations of the new test, the College Board would regain its footing, the way it did in 2005, after the last major change. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be happening. If anything, the problems appear to be growing worse. If you’ve been following my recent posts, much of this will familiar. That...
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The College Board’s useless SAT reports

The following was sent to me by a colleague, a longtime teacher and tutor who runs her own business; I’m posting it here with her permission. Keep in mind that the College Board has repeatedly touted “transparency” (ha!) as one of the key features of the SAT redesign.  I have a student who scored in the 400’s on her  June SAT. Thought I’d look at her report (granted, not a queestion-and-answer service report) online to see what areas need work. This is what I got. Your...
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Progressive education goes to college

While looking for models for the little sendup of progressive education that I posted recently, I came across a New York Times op-ed piece entitled “What Babies Know About Physics and Foreign Languages.” As the title and tag line (“Our kids don’t need to be taught in order to learn”) suggest, the piece is a pitch-perfect paean to the progressive ethos, touting the benefits of allowing preschoolers to learn “naturally,” through imitation. While preschoolers can of course acquire many important skills this way, my immediate...
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