Category Archives: Test Prep

How to Get a College Scholarship


“Getting a college scholarship is your new summer job.”

These words spoken by my mom shaped my four years of high school and eventually landed me a full tuition scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. She believed I could earn more money by developing a stellar transcript than by working a minimum wage job…and she was right.

You can design a high school plan that uniquely positions you to win a free (or almost free) ride to school. Here are the top three things you need to do to make that happen:

  1. Ace the SATs. The new SAT is harder but it is easier to prepare for. You can take an SAT prep course or just work your way through all the free material on Khan Academy. But whatever you do, make sure you give yourself at least 6 weeks to prepare. A score of 700 turns heads and pushes your application into the right pile.
  2. Plan for Letters of Recommendation. You need someone to validate your education, especially if you are home schooled. You can have a transcript full of honors classes but without an outside expert adding a stamp of approval the admissions board might question the level of rigor. The ideal candidate to write a letter of recommendation is someone with a PhD or an expert in your future field. When you ask for the letter type up a list of your accomplishments or things you’d like them to reference. And don’t forget to send a thank-you note afterwards.
  3. Study your school. Every college and university is unique. I poured over Pitt’s website and memorized their core values. I knew what type of student body they were trying to foster. That information influenced my admissions essays and helped me on my interview. As soon as you know what school (or schools) you might be interested in start tailoring your high school program to fit their vision.

There are thousands and thousands of scholarship dollars out there just waiting to be claimed. In the end, working on all those applications ends up being a very high paying summer job 🙂

Photo source

Two Sections of SAT Prep Start April 18th

Parents face many challenges in preparing their students for the New SAT:

  • keeping your child motivated and on track
  • familiarizing yourself with the changes to the test so your child is prepared
  • helping your child find time to study given all his or her other coursework

The spring session SAT Math class is a great option for students, and it starts right as full year coursework is winding down. The course is aligned with the June SAT test so the material will be fresh in their minds when they sit for the test.

Benefits of the course include:

  •  It is aligned with the new test and students are clearly taught about the changes in the live sessions.
  • The class provides the structure and accountability students need to stay on track.
  • Students learn test-taking strategies and calculator skills to improve their speed.
  • Each student receives an individualized study plan tailored to his or her specific needs.
  • Students have access to 35 videos explaining the content on the test step-by-step.

A higher SAT math score
builds confidence and has helped many students earn scholarships.

There are now two sections available (Mondays at 7pm and Tuesdays at 1:30 pm).

Tricky SAT Problem

tricky SAT problem

This problem from Khan Academy earned my respect this morning. Although the numbers and math are quite simple it contains several details that might trip you up. First they wrote the binomials with the constant first and then the variable which always kind of annoys me (and sometimes leads to me making mistakes!).

Why does x+2 look so much better than 2+x?  I don’t know but whenever I see it written the second way I tell myself to slow down and proceed with caution. That is of course after I sigh and wonder why’d they have to write it like that?

Next, they’ve mixed order of operations and polynomials. Do I FOIL or subtract first?

And then there is that pesky subtraction sign to be distributed…so many math students have died in that battle 🙂

Finally, the answer choices are written differently than the question. So when you finish you have to see if you can rearrange your answer to match theirs.

Phew! Not bad for a practice problem.

Post your answers and explanations below 🙂

The Top 3 Reasons You Should Take an Online Math Class

Registration for Aim Academy’s 2015-2016 classes opens on March 2nd.  Below I have listed the top three reasons you might want to consider an online math class for next year.

  1. The accountability. This is by far the number one reason students sign up for my classes.  You know that if you’re in a class with deadlines, live sessions, and a teacher checking in regularly you won’t be able to just put it off.  The easiest way to change oh yeah, I need to study for the SATs at some point into 30 hours of solid preparation is to sign up for a class.
  2. The fun. Yes, I did say “fun.” J  When I wrap up my first week of live class a lot of my students message me privately in surprise, they really enjoyed it and were not expecting that.  Who knew you could actually look forward to math class?  When we solve a problem in a new way or use math to explain a card trick I get a bunch of fun reactions (“I’m going to show that problem to my little sister!”).   I’m not offended by the tone of surprise.  If math means getting a textbook out on your own morning after morning and doing problems 1-23 odds that is just boring.  I’m a math nerd and I think that is boring!  With a class you get to have all the fun interaction between students and there is a greater opportunity for activities, lively discussions, and even the occasional math joke (see below).  Even without these added bonuses it is more fun to learn math with students from Hawaii, Alaska, and the Czech Republic.
  3. The reinforcement. One solid math course can really help a struggling student get back on track.  Most students don’t know where they went wrong they just know that suddenly they “don’t understand anything.”  But that is rarely the case. Normally there are just a few skills they never mastered.  With a teacher there to find these gaps and address them they can quickly catch up.

I’d encourage you to sign up for one of my classes.  If not for these three reasons listed above than for the math jokes J

math jokes

SAT Math Summer Session

SAT Math starts on Monday and I cannot wait, I’ve been missing math problems in my life lately 🙂 If you were thinking about taking the class there is only one spot remaining. Otherwise consider taking the identical 7-week course this fall.

The Latest on the Redesigned SAT

In a previous post I talked about the general changes to the SAT coming in March 2016. I also went over the specific changes to the math content and my recommendations on how to prepare. Recently I found this video from Khan Academy.  He explains everything so well and I loved his visual of the breakdown of the sections.

It is a little long (just over 8 minutes) but he is very thorough and it is a worthwhile use of your time.

The Use of a Calculator is NOT Permitted

The PSAT this fall is aligned with the Redesigned SAT so it now included a 25 minute 17 question section that you have to complete without the aid of any technology.  If that makes your heart race don’t worry, I had the same reaction.  I’m in this with you and I just took the non-calculator section myself and I have to say it was pretty challenging.

Below are my thoughts but read no further until you take the test and check your answers.  And be sure to print the test out so you can write right on the problems instead of copying. The College Board only releases so many practice items and you don’t want to waste this opportunity to prepare.

1. I was nervous!  Not having my calculator there in case I got stuck made me panic.  On the first question I had to remind myself to calm down.  Trying to do long division by hand can cause your brain to freeze and then you’ll get basic problems wrong.  So remember to breathe and be sure to practice lots of non-calculator problems so your nerves won’t get the best of you.

2. Basic calculations slowed me down.  Some of the numbers were large and they didn’t completely shy away from fractions and decimals.  My main reaction was annoyance.  I have to divide 1950 by 30 without a calculator….really?  But once I pushed through it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I do wish I had marked the problems where I was a little unsure of my calculations with “check math” or something like that.  I had time left over at the end and then I could have double checked my computations. I’d definitely recommend brushing up on multiplication, division, and operations with fractions before the test if you are calculator dependent.

3. It was difficult…but not that difficult.  There were some tough problems!  I got #12 wrong because I blanked at first about how to solve it.  There really weren’t any freebies, you had to have a solid understanding of algebra 1 to even begin the problem.  At the same time all you really needed was algebra 1 and some basic geometry.  On some of the problems I freaked out at first and thought I had to use some advanced algebra 2 method to solve it and then I realized there was a much simpler way.

It was tough…but it was a good test.  I thought the questions were really fair and the great news is once we get through the transition it will be a much better test than the old one.  All the time you spend reviewing will help you out tremendously in your high school math classes.