Sunday, March 1, 2015

Study materials review: Ultimate Guide to the Math ACT

This book is basically the 2012 edition of The Ultimate Guide to the Math SAT, which I reviewed here, with a few ACT-specific sections added. Most of what I said about the SAT version still applies.  This book is a good source of practice problems, but the review and explanations are not user-friendly to non-math types.  The prose is clear, but the book "feels" wrong.  It doesn't draw the reader in.  I think it would benefit greatly by having a graphic designer come in and reformat everything.

When I say that it is drawn mainly from the SAT-version, I mean that 90% or more of the books are absolutely identical.  Author Richard Corn has added a few sections and has expanded the sections on sequences and parabolas.  If you plan to take both tests, there is little reason to spend an extra $20 to get both books.  Buy the ACT version since nearly all of the SAT version is included.  Besides, the SAT version will be obsolete in a year, while the ACT version will still have some staying power.

To my disappointment, several topics are absent from this book:  the less-used chord and angle relationships for circles, unit circle trigonometry, and the conic sections.  Parabolas are covered, but the standard equation of a circle isn't even mentioned even though it comes up often in The REAL ACT Prep Guide.  I was particularly hoping to augment my lists of practice problems in those areas. Perhaps in a later edition, Mr. Corn?  It should be noted, however, that I have not found an ACT book that I consider comprehensive.  This one probably comes as close as any.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'll be keeping an eye on this list.

Here is an interesting post from Applerouth tutoring:  How Will Top Colleges Use the Redesigned SAT?

To be honest, while I was wondering if colleges would take the new SAT, the possibility that they might not continue to take the OLD SAT never crossed my mind.  However,  rumors have been flying that college XYZ would not take the old SAT for current sophomores.  Apparently, all colleges that have made a decision will take either test for the class of 2017.  Applerouth is kindly maintaining a list of college admissions office decisions regarding the tests.  I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

By the way, if you will be preparing for the new SAT you'll want this:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Common Core and the SAT

Today I saw my first high school junior who had completed Common Core High School Math I, II, and III.  His mother had called me for SAT preparation because his math PSAT scores were disappointing.  A glance at his score report revealed the problem:  He either omitted or missed two thirds of the geometry problems.  Uh oh. Here's a pretty good student with pretty good teachers who is the victim of a curriculum change that has left him unprepared for his college entrance exams.
(You can read my prior comments on geometry and the Common Core here and here.)

Current sophomores may benefit from the redesigned SAT in 2016 since the College Board has indirectly hinted that geometry will be given a lot less emphasis on the new test.  Current juniors who were strong enough in math to have finished the Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II sequence by the end of sophomore year should also be fine.  However for this one year, we have a group of juniors with a fairly serious problem when it comes to gaining admission to even moderately selective colleges.

I think I will need to offer a geometry course for students to take this spring and summer.  An Introduction to SAT and ACT Geometry.  I'll have to work out a curriculum, but I'm thinking a total of 7 - 10 hours.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I'll say it again: Top SAT scores begin in the sandbox!

I've written about this topic before here:  Top SAT scores begin in the Sandbox.  However, it bears repeating:  When I work with high school students who are studying for their college entrance exams, I sometimes see evidence of what I have come to refer to as a Sandbox Deficit.  Children who don't spend enough time in unstructured play fail to develop the foundation for basic math, reading and science.  To compensate, they memorize steps, algorithms and strategies, but that only takes them so far.

Unfortunately, academics are getting pushed to earlier and earlier ages.  The good news is that more people are waking up to the problem.  Spread the news!  Share the studies!  And make time for children to play!

The most recent article I have run across regarding this subject can be found here:

And here is what Matt Walsh had to say about the same headline referred to in the above article:

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Official SAT Study Guide for the redesigned SAT is available for preorder

The Official Study Guide for the redesigned SAT will be released this summer.  I just pre-ordered a copy and was informed that it should be delivered the first week of July.  If you plan to take the redesigned SAT starting in March of 2016, then you can pre-order your copy here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A gift idea for your freshman or sophomore

If you have come to this site for information about the ACT Winter Workout, click here.

About 10 years ago, someone did a study to see what teens wanted to read.  One surprising result was that the size and shape of the book matters!  The next time you are in the nearest big-box bookstore, check out the teen section.  You will see some of the same titles that are on the shelves in other sections, but in different formats.  Teens like books that are smaller – particularly volumes that can be slipped into the rear pocket of a pair of jeans. Books exactly like these:

Fall River Press has introduced a set of books that have elicited actual “ooh’s” from teens I have lent them to.  The first set of volumes was focused on the Founding Documents and other historically significant writing:  Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the writings and speeches of Abraham Lincoln, and The Constitution among them.  Recently they have added volumes of classical literature:  A Christmas Carol, Pride and Prejudice, and a copy of the Psalms.  These beautiful little books look like they are bound in leather and are the perfect size to tuck into the back pocket of your skinniest jeans. 

The historical set will be perfect for that junior or senior year APUSH class (AP US History for the uninitiated) and will serve your student well while practicing for the new SAT which will be introduced in March of 2016.  Besides, don’t we each need our very own copy of the US Constitution?

To order through Amazon:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Announcing a new series of ACT Prep Classes!

From December 29 to January 2 I will hold an ACT Winter Workout for students in the Raleigh, NC area.  These small classes are appropriate for juniors who will be taking the ACT in the spring and for seniors who have been deferred or waitlisted and who would like to improve their test scores to improve their chances of acceptance.  The classes are broken down into morning and afternoon sessions and you may sign up for either or both. Students who are enrolled in both sessions may bring a sack lunch to eat during the hour break.

Morning sessions will run from 10 am to 12 noon and will primarily cover the Reading section with some timing advice for the Science section. 

Afternoon sessions will run from 1 pm to 2:30 pm and will cover the Math and English sections.

Students should have (and should bring) a copy of The Real ACT Prep Guide.  There is a link below to order it from Amazon.  Students in the afternoon sessions should bring their calculators.

The morning sessions are $200, and the afternoon sessions are $150.  Sign up for both for $325.  Visitors to Holly Days at Sanderson High School on December 6 may find $50-off coupons on their windshields when they exit!

Space is limited to 7 students per session, so sign up soon. Students will be enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis. You can contact me here: