Ace Any Standardized Test (SAT, GRE, MCAT) For Free

The original purpose of the standardized test was to level out the playing field for applicants to degree programs. As we all know, the magnitude of expensive prep programs and materials have tipped the balance in the favor of those that can afford them. Nevertheless, there is still a way to uncrack these tests without spending such a large sum. The great thing about standardized test prep is that a lot of the things you learn while studying can also help you in all your other academic work as well.

At home test preparation requires some effort, especially motivation to do well in the first place. For many test preparation classes, this is the job of the instructor. The instructor supervises performance and supports improvement. However, if you are self-disciplined enough, you can be your own teacher.

The first step for at home prep is to develop a realistic study schedule. If you plan on studying for the SAT during the school year, you must assign a day and/or time that you will stick to until your test date. Ask yourself: how long will you give yourself before your registered test date to study? 6 months? A year? Will you be willing to study daily in small increments or study weekly in larger ones? Planning is another thing that you pay test prep companies to do for you and if this already seems overwhelming to you, check out my time management section. I must warn you that I’m still working on this section (I have only 2 articles up at this point), but if you would like some personalized advice, please feel free to email me.

The first thing you can do to improve your English score is to memorize vocabulary. My favorite tool for this task is Visual Education Study Card sets. Instead of buying the SAT vocabulary, I highly recommend the English I and II cards. The great thing about VisEd is that they include a sentence using the word on the flashcard, which made it easy for me to learn the definitions as well as incorporating these words are best used in my own writing. So in a lot of ways, this method kills two birds with one stone: you are improving your verbal score plus improving your ability to write concisely. Also, you do not need to buy these vocabulary sets. You can always make your own vocabulary flashcards inexpensively by pulling up test-specific vocabulary lists online.

Although it may seem like a mundane task, vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of any standardized test and you can never learn too many words. If you go for the VisEd card sets, there are a total of 2,000 words to be memorized. Whatever you may choose as your vocabulary test prep, do recognize that vocabulary is important in both the critical reading and grammar sections of the test. It improves comprehension of passages, elucidates on grammatical usage of words, and reveals redundancy.

Learning 2,000 words may appear impossible, but this is when your time management comes into play. For example, if you are committing your entire 10-week summer to the test and want to learn all of the words by then, you will need to memorize 200 words/week. This means 40 words/day if you want your weekends off. It took me about an hour to really get the words down.

You will also need test preparation books by any major test prep company. These can be found at the library for free and the sample tests, the most important part, copied quite cheaply. Otherwise, you can always purchase them used or new. I have also found that the these books do not normally vary much year-to-year, but it is more helpful to use books that are geared towards a newer version of the test such as the new 2400 SAT rather than the old 1600.

Getting as many of the sample tests and their answer keys with explanations is key to doing well on standardized tests. Finding a resource that provides real previous tests is even better. But in the end, once you have a method to build your vocabulary and your practice tests, you are set to start.

Increasing your vocabulary will surely affect your performance, but there is still that dreaded reading comprehension section. There is a solution to this. For me, I always did well on the reading comprehension because I outlined every passage while reading. By outlining, I mean quickly writing down a summary of each sentence. For instance, the following passage is Sparknotes’s current example:

Galileo Galilei was born in 1564 into a Europe wracked by cultural ferment and religious strife. The popes of the Roman Catholic Church, powerful in their roles as both religious and secular leaders, had proven vulnerable to the worldly and decadent spirit of the age, and their personal immorality brought the reputation of the papacy to historic lows. In 1517, Martin Luther, a former monk, attacked Catholicism for having become too worldly and politically corrupt and for obscuring the fundamentals of Christianity with pagan elements. His reforming zeal, which appealed to a notion of an original, “purified”

Christianity, set in motion the Protestant Reformation and split European Christianity in two.

My outline would look something like this:

-Galileo was born in Europe when there was cultural boom and religious upheaval.

-Even the popes succumbed to the pressures and gave into their immorality

-Martin Luther later appeared to denounce Catholicism and it’s corruption and proposed a more “purified” form of Christianity

-This led to the split of Christianity into Catholicism and Protestantism.

Now the question:

Which of the following was not a reason for Martin Luther’s attack on the church?

a. pagan elements in its practices

b. the amorality of its leadership

c. its excessive attention to piety

d. its corruption and worldliness

e. the political involvement of the popes

As you can see, the answer cannot necessarily be found in the outline (i.e. I did not include that Luther had an issue with pagan elements in it) but by the act of outlining, it has increased your comprehension by having to mull over the content of the passage. Also, you can see that knowing the definition of words such as ferment and strife could have significantly improved your comprehension of the purpose of the passage. The answer to this question is C.

Generally, this works best with non-narrative passages, where you will most likely be given a question speculating the author’s opinion and/or argument. The outline format could work with narratives as well, but the trick is moreover identifying points of ambiguity in the passage, such as vocabulary words, that will most likely be questioned in the multiple choice.

There are many other methods you can find in test prep books, but I find this one the most effective. The secret is to find the method that you are best at, which can only be figured out by practicing as much as you can. Realistically, your outline will not look like the one I have typed above because of the time constraint. My outlines normally were sloppily written phrases or words, but they were well worth the effort. This plan can serve as a disadvantage at first since it will take longer to finish a section. However, it enough practice, I’m sure you’ll be able to pick up the pace.

With the math portion, I suggest that you go over all the algebra and geometry rules that are summarized in test prep books. Usually, any test prep book that has an overview of topics can do the trick and if you find that there is one topic, such as right triangle rules, that you do not know make sure you have them hammered down by test time. For any difficulties in the math section, they best way to conquer them is with PRACTICE. Practicing increases your speed and familiarity with common mathematical problems as well as the identification of trick questions.

When taking practice tests, I think the best way to start off is to time how long it takes you to complete each section rather than trying to beat the clock. This way, you’ll know by how much you will need to speed up. I can almost guarantee that your speed will increase with enough practice and the time limitation should not be stressed unless you are experiencing circumstances where your speed is not increasing as much as you hoped.

While taking these tests, it is important to write down your answer and how you feel about this answer. Are you sure? Unsure? Make sure you do this because this is the best way to be able to gauge your correctness during the actual test. When you go back and correct the test, do not just mark the wrong answers and give yourself a score. Go over the detailed answers of every question, if available, and if you got the question wrong, jot down why you got it wrong. Was it a concept error? Attention to detail? Time constraints? If it is a concept error, make sure you take note that you will need to relearn this concept. If it was more logistically, make sure you read the passage more carefully next time and take your time with those types of questions.

There are stories out there of people that have been out of school for years and managed to score in the 98th percentile for both the math and english portions of the GRE. I do not think it is impossible to do well on any standardized test without shelling out the big bucks to test prep companies. It is very possible and the secret ingredient is practice. If you would like more tips and help, please let me know at .

10 Foolproof Tips About How To Ace Your English ACT Test

ACT English Test Prep and Practice Makes Perfect

The ACT test can be daunting, especially for newbies and first timers. It takes a lot of prep and practice to be able to muster confidence come the ACT test day. So what ACT prep methods are considered to be effective? You’ll want to pass the ACT test with flying colors to be able to gain admission to the college of your choice. Among the most challenging sections of this test is the ACT English Test. Just like with the other topics, you’re aiming to get hold of foolproof tips about how to ace your English ACT test. You will find them in the discussion below.

Ace The ACT English Test With These Valuable Tips

Avoid giving wordy answers. That is, keep it simple when conveying your thoughts and ideas in the ACT English test. Not that you’ll have to give short answers either. Sometimes you need to put in more words in your phrases and sentences so that they become grammatically correct. The key to providing efficient answers in your ACT English is to be concise and straight to the point.

Read the whole sentences in the questions. Don’t rush when answering the questions in the test. It’ll make you frazzled and haphazard as you respond to the items. It may be tempting to read only the underlined portion of the sentence, but steer clear of this tendency. Be particular that the wrong clause or clauses in your sentence can affect your answer.

Consider the context and the meaning of the test items. Just because you’re tackling the grammar portion of the test doesn’t mean that you should disregard the meaning of the sentence. In many of the questions in ACT English, the context must be taken into account. This ought to be applied, especially in transition word questions and questions that require you to find the proper placement of a sentence in the whole paragraph.

Take into account the consistency of the sentence. A major example of this the proper placement of the verb tense and the voice. When adding the tense of the sentence, look for cues in the surrounding sentences and accord their tenses. But there are exceptions, such as when a certain clause conveys a past event within a paragraph that is set in the present tense.

Steer clear of being redundant. Avoid stating a meaning or idea that has already been conveyed or implied. Likewise, refrain from using two adjectives that mean the same. As mentioned earlier in this text, keep your sentences simple and consider the whole sentence when answering the questions. Remember that reading only the underlined phrase in the items can make you go amiss on the other parts that also state the same idea.

Apply the rule of sentence parallelism in grammar. You can easily spot the parallelism of ideas in a sentence the more you familiarize yourself with them. A sentence that is parallel have clauses that match in structure. An example of a sentence that lacks parallelism is:

My hobbies are swimming, running and to sing.

“Swimming” and “running” are in gerund form while “to sing” is in infinitive form. The above sentence can become parallel if the infinitive form “to sing” is changed to its gerund form which is “singing”.

Be careful of run-on sentences. In everyday writing, common mistakes such as comma splices might also jump out as mistakes in the ACT English test. A sentence becomes a run-on if it is comprised of a comma splice wherein two independent clauses are combined with only a comma. If an independent clause can stand on its own as a sentence, then it has a complete thought. Adding a conjunction rectifies a comma splice. The same happens when one of the clauses is made to be dependent or when a comma is changed into a semi-colon.

Be aware of subject-verb agreement. If a subject is singular, it has to be connected with a verb that is singular. In the same way, plural subjects have to be followed by plural verbs. Generally, errors in subject-verb agreement are easily spotted if the subject and the verb are next to each other. The tricky part is when they are not, specifically if prepositional phrases are placed in between them. If you want to do away with this dilemma, take the prepositional phrase out and figure out if the subject and verb agree with each other now that they are side by side. Don’t confuse the object of the prepositional phrase as the subject.

Be particular about pronoun- antecedent agreement. The noun that the pronoun replaces in a sentence is known as the antecedent. To check for accuracy, you can mark the pronoun with an arrow that points back to its antecedent. See to it that they agree in gender and number. As examples, the pronoun “they” may refer to the antecedent “students”, and these are plural, while the pronoun “her”, which is singular may refer to the feminine antecedent “Jane” which is singular.

Make sure that ideas from current and previous paragraphs are included in transitional sentences. There are items in the ACT English test wherein you will be required to choose the most fitting opening or closing sentence in a paragraph. You’ll want your sentences to create a smooth transition by incorporating ideas in your sentences from the current, previous or following paragraphs. Your goal here is to connect two ideas, that’s why ideas from the surrounding paragraphs have to be considered.

Be One Step Ahead, ACT English Can Be Tricky

Because the ACT English test can be tricky, you have to watch out as well. While you carry on with the necessary prep, be one step ahead by being armed with tips about how to approach the questions. You can always do practice tests, but be keen about the structure, context and meaning of the items in the test. Well-equipped with smarts, skills and confidence, you can ace your English ACT test and pursue your desired higher learning in the college of your choice.