What is the College Board is doing with your data?

What is the College Board is doing with your data?

A few months back, a rather startling article appeared in the Education section of The Washington Post. Written by Colorado mother Cheri Kiesecker, who decided to investigate the College Board’s use of student data after seeing the number of personal questions asked on her child’s school-administered PSAT 8/9 test, the piece explains how the College Board has effectively transformed itself into a massive data-collection organization and is profiting from the sale of student information.

The entire article is well worth reading — and I would strongly recommend that anyone who is about to take the PSAT or who has a child about to take the PSAT do so — but one of the most important takeaways is as follows: (more…)

“GRE Vocabulary in Practice” is now available on Amazon

“GRE Vocabulary in Practice” is now available on Amazon

At long (long, long) last, GRE Vocabulary in Practice is available for purchase on Amazon

The book does have lists of words and definitions, but the focus is on application rather than memorization. While there are obviously many traditional GRE vocabulary books/apps out there, this is the only one designed entirely to help you make the leap from the words to the test. Learning definitions is not the same thing as learning to work through Text Completions and Sentence Equivalences! 

When the GRE was updated in 2012, the focus of the test shifted from straight-up definitions to context-based understanding. So while traditional “hard” words are still tested (many overlapping with the old SAT pool), you’ll also find plenty of common words with second meanings (bent, tap, table), plus passages that function more like mini-logic puzzles than like traditional vocabulary questions: the answers themselves might be fairly easy, but the challenge is determining what sorts of words belong in the blanks. That means figuring out relationships without transition words to anchor you, double negatives, and challenging vocabulary in the sentences/passages themselves. 

The book gives you practice working with those challenging questions types (lots and lots of practice), and teaches you to break things down so that you don’t get tripped up. 

If you’re interested in a review copy, we can still send a few more out. You can use the contact form or send an email to thecriticalreader@gmail.com with your info.

Book updates, study guides & announcements

Book updates, study guides & announcements

So after about two consecutive months of non-stop book updates, I’m finally getting to do some serious work on my long-awaited, much-needed new website. (Thank you, Chuck Moran at Bald Guy Studio, for doing such a fantastic job, and for taking the time to understand what this site was really all about.)

I’m hoping to return to posting on at least a semi-regular basis — assuming that I don’t get completely swallowed up by my books again — but before I start ranting and raving about the College Board’s antics again, I have a few organizational things to cover. (more…)

The hidden costs of “full-tuition” scholarships

The New York Times Education Life section has published a very important article about some of the hidden costs of college. It focuses on the fees that schools tack on for everything from orientation to “student excellence,” and that families paying for college may not even be aware of until they get the bill.

Apparently, many of these charges used to be covered by tuition but in recent years have been increasingly shifted to the “fees” category, where they can no longer be covered by scholarship money. (more…)

Why is the Atlantic publishing false information about the SAT?

From Emmanuel Felton’s Atlantic article, “How the New SAT is Taking Cues from Common Core:

While other standardized tests have also been criticized for rewarding the students who’ve mastered the idiosyncrasies of the test over those who have the best command of the underlying substance, the SAT—with its arcane analogy questions and somewhat counterintuitive scoring practices—often received special scorn.

And this:

On the reading side, gone are analogies like “equanimity is to harried” as “moderation is to dissolute…Eliminating “SAT words” isn’t the only change to the new reading and writing section, which will require a lot more reading…The passages themselves are changing, as The College Board tries to have them represent a range of topics from across the disciplines of social studies, science, and history. 

Emmanuel Felton is entitled to his own opinion about the SAT; he is not entitled to his own facts.

The SAT eliminated analogy questions in 2005 — that was 10 full years ago, in case you didn’t care to do the math. Yet his article very directly implies that these questions are still part of the exam.

Felton also does not acknowledge that the SAT already includes passages drawn from fiction, social science, science, and history, on every single test. The fact that the passages are not explicitly labeled as such, as they are on the ACT, does not mean that they are drawn randomly.

These are exceedingly basic facts, which presumably could have been checked with five seconds of internet research and a quick glance through the Official Guide.

Does the Atlantic not employ fact-checkers? Or does it simply not care about facts?

Furthermore, the small print at the bottom of Felton’s article indicates that it was written “in collaboration with the Hechinger Report.” On its website, The Hechinger Report  describes itself as  “… an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based at Teachers CollegeColumbia University. We on support from foundations and individual donors to carry out our work.” (Unsurprisingly, the Gates Foundation is listed among those donors.)

Why on earth is a publication produced by an Ivy League university allowing this type of blatant misinformation to be disseminated?

If you are going to take potshots at the SAT in a major national magazine, fine; people have been doing that for decades. At the very least, though, those criticisms should be anchored in some sort of reality.

Even by the very questionable standards of general reporting about the new SAT, this is sloppy, lazy work.

What parts of speech can be subjects?


Nouns are the most common type of subjects. They include people, places, and things and can be concrete (book, chair, house) or abstract (belief, notion, theory).

Example:  Bats are able to hang upside down for long periods because they possess specialized tendons in their feet.



Pronouns are words that replace nouns. Common pronouns include she, he, it, one, you, this, that, and there.

Less common pronouns include what, how, whether, and that, all of which are singular. They are typically used as part of a much longer complete subject (underlined in the second example below).

Example: They are able to hang upside down for long periods because they possess specialized tendons in their feet.

Example: How bats hang upside down for long periods was a mystery until it was discovered that they possess specialized tendons in their feet.



Gerunds are formed by adding -ING to the ends of verbs (e.g. read – reading; talk – talking). Although gerunds look like verbs, they act like nouns. They are always singular and take singular verbs.

Example: Hanging upside down for long periods is a skill that both bats and sloths possess.



The infinitive is the “to” form of a verb. Infinitives are always singular when they are used as subjects. They are most commonly used to create the parallel structure “To do x is to do y.”

Example: To hang upside down for a long period of time is to experience the world as a bat or sloth does.