Posts Tagged ‘exams’

SAT II: Subject Tests—What Are They and Do You Need to Take Them?

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Another question that we are frequently asked is “What are the SAT II’s and do I need to take them?”.

The SAT II’s are content based tests.  They are each one hour long and are multiple choice.  Students can choose from a variety of subjects including literature, government, history, biology, chemistry, physics, two levels of math, and languages.  Students can take up to three exams on one test day.

The SAT II’s are generally required or recommended by highly competitive schools.  If you are a student that is planning to apply to schools, such as UVA or other similarly competitive colleges, then you will need to take at least two subjects.  Some schools require specific tests for particular programs.  For example, an engineering or architecture program may require that one of the tests be in the maths or sciences.   Schools that are competitive generally have a strong pool of applicants.  They use the SAT II’s as another factor in their admissions decisions.

To determine if you need to take the SAT II’s, decide on the list of colleges to which you’d like to apply.  Then, you can look up the application requirements on the school’s website or by using a college search engine like Bright Futures.  On this site, you can search for a school, then go to applying and admissions information to see what tests are required and how they are used (admissions decisions or placement only). Here is an example of UVA’s profile.  As you can see, UVA says that SAT II’s are recommended.  If a college says recommended, you should consider it required to have a strong application.

Now that you know if you need to take the SAT II’s, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Not all subjects are given on all test dates.  It is important to decide which tests you would like to take and plan a date that those tests are given. CollegeBoard has practice questions for each test and the dates that the tests are given.  Often, the best time to take the SAT II’s is May or June.  This is especially true if you are currently in the course in which you plan to test.  For example, if physics is a strength of yours and you are currently in AP physics, it is a good idea to take the SAT II around the same time that you take your AP exam.  This way, you can prepare for both tests at the same time.

Plan the calendar of test dates early.  You cannot take the SAT and the SAT II’s on the same test date.  Plan for this at the beginning of your junior year so you can map out dates for the SAT, ACT and/or SAT II’s.  If you plan to space out the testing throughout your junior year, you will avoid a very overwhelming spring when AP exams, SOL’s, and finals can make for a heavy workload.

Don’t Let Mid-Terms Get You Down

Friday, January 11th, 2013

It’s that dreaded time of year: mid-term season. Parents and students alike dread mid-term exams, but with a few tips, there is no reason to be afraid. The key— as in all things — is to be prepared.

The first step is to be organized. Don’t study in a slapdash manner. Instead plan out ahead of time how you want to tackle your studies. You should try to determine which topics are going to be most important on the exam. Often a teacher will give students some idea of what areas to focus on. Then, when setting aside time to study, give focus to those areas that will be most relevant on the exam. Additionally, if there are areas where you have more trouble than others set aside extra time for those. If you plan ahead and know just how much time and attention you want to give to each subject, your studies will be less stressful and more manageable.

It’s important in preparing for exams to take a look at old tests and study guides. Old tests can give you some idea of what types of subjects will be most relevant, and additionally, they will show you what types of answers may be expected of you. Parents, point out to children how to examine past tests to determine which topics are most important. You can do this by indicating which topics get more questions, and thus, higher priority on a test. Help your children examine the mistakes they made on their past tests and help them develop strategies to avoid making them again. Also, you can compare the study guides to old tests and see what kind of questions actually made it onto the test from the guide. A lot is revealed in writing, and by seeing how teachers constructed previous tests, you can get a good idea of what to expect from mid-terms.

Find the best way to organize information. Develop graphic organizers or flow charts to make information manageable. And of course, the tried and true method of putting information on index cards for rapid review is always a good move.

For those of you who learn better from pictures, it will be helpful to draw pictures of material to help better memorize what you’re studying. Also, parents, while encouraging this, you should also be going through your children’s books with them. Help them understand how to use their textbooks. For example, point out the importance of bolded words and graphics. Also, chapter reviews and tests at the end of the chapters can be good study tools. Finally, when a student has gone over a chapter, have that student summarize it in his or her own words. Other helpful tactics are to give your children mini quizzes or give them work with mistakes on it for them to correct.

Parents should also help students understand how to think about tests. Guide them through the proper ways to approach a question. Try to explain to them what the thought process is when determining the answer to a question. Also, help your children understand what information is most important in texts and how they should pinpoint that information by use of highlighters. Teach them that highlighting is for keywords, pertinent information and for weeding out the less important information in the text.

No matter how you decide to study for mid-term exams, remember to take study breaks, eat well, and get lots of sleep.  Lastly, plan something fun to do after exams are over.  After all, you deserve it for a job well done.

OK, I’m Prepared–Now for the Test

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Previously we examined some tips for mid-term exam studies. We will continue that here by talking about specific strategies to use on different types of exam questions.

If there is one thing students are familiar with, it’s multiple choice exams. But as important as knowing the answer is, it is also important to know strategies to deduce the answer if one is not readily apparent. The first thing you should do after reading the question is to answer it before looking at your choices. Does you answer seem to fit? If so, good. Then you can look at the possible answers listed and choose the closest one. If you are still unsure, you should go through all the answers and try out each one. Which one seems to fit best? Next, you can eliminate the answers that seem furthest from the truth. That way, if you have to guess, you will have fewer possible answers to choose from. Two final words of advice. Don’t second guess yourself. It will only create unnecessary anxiety; and besides, if you’re gut is telling you something, it is best to listen. Lastly, beware of questions that say things like “All of the following EXCEPT…” Don’t get fooled by the tricky wording.

In addition to multiple choice questions, there is also the dreaded true/false question. It seems easier since you have a 50-50 chance of being right. But these questions can still be tough, and a good strategy can go a long way towards helping you answer them. First thing, analyze the question. Break it down and figure out what exactly the question is asking. Then try to prove the answer false. It is important when doing this to remember that if any part of the question is false, then the whole answer is false. Finally, as with the multiple choice questions, watch out for tricky wording. Words like “Always, Sometimes,” or “Never” should be red flags reminding you to pay special attention.

Another section you may encounter on mid-terms is the essay question. This requires more thought and strategy than the other two because much of it is subjective. But there are still ways you can make sure you do your best on this portion of the exam. The first thing to do is brainstorm. Get all your thoughts down on paper then prepare to organize. You can do this by creating an outline or a graphic organization chart, which will give you something to follow as you structure your essay. When you write your essay, make sure you have an intro, a thesis, body, and conclusion. This may seem self evident, but you could lose big points if you overlook one of these vital components. Also, make sure that everything you write relates back to the thesis. Consider the thesis the paper’s commander. It must be obeyed and adhered to. Any attempt to step outside the thesis in your essay will end up with lost points. Also make sure to answer all parts of the questions asked. Oftentimes essays will ask you to answer multiple questions. Make sure you don’t leave one out. Also, use vocabulary that is appropriate to the subject matter, but make sure you are well acquainted with that vocabulary. It does no good to use fancy words if you’re not sure if you’re using them correctly. Finally, make sure you leave time to review your essay. Don’t turn it in without having read it over.

The last section we will go over is the math section. For some of you, this will be a joy. For others, a fear. Either way, we have some tips that can help you. First you want to make sure that you read the question carefully and underline the key points. It is hard to get the right answer if you aren’t clear on what the question is asking. Also make sure to show your work. Sometimes teachers will give only partial credit if the way you arrived at your answer isn’t demonstrated. For clarity’s sake, make sure your answer is circled. There will probably be a lot of numbers twirling around your answer space, and you want to make sure your teacher knows which one is the final answer. Also, be sure you plug the answer you get into the original question to make sure it fits.

When evaluating the question, especially word problems, make sure to break them down into their different parts. After you have done that, drawing a diagram can also be helpful. Other helpful tips are to write down any formulas for the variables in the problem so you can have them handy, make sure you include units of measure, put the answer in its simplest form, and round to the correct number of decimal places. Math is about being exact, so any little thing that you neglect can mean fewer points for you.

Mid-terms are certainly a stressful time of year, but that doesn’t mean you need to go in unprepared. Using some of these simple strategies, you can ensure that you get the most out of each question on your exams.

Don’t Let Mid-Terms Get You Down

Friday, January 21st, 2011

It’s that dreaded time of year: mid-term season. Parents and students alike dread mid-terms, but with a few tips, there is no reason to be afraid. The key— as in all things — is to be prepared.  Today we are going to cover some of the study skills you will need to get ready for exams.

The first step is to be organized. Don’t study in a slapdash manner. Instead plan out ahead of time how you want to tackle your studies. You should try to determine which topics are going to be most important on the exam. Often a teacher will give students some idea of what areas to focus on. Then, when setting aside time to study, give focus to those areas that will be most relevant on the exam. Additionally, if there are areas where you have more trouble than others set aside extra time for those. If you plan ahead and know just how much time and attention you want to give to each subject, your studies will be less stressful and more manageable.

It’s important in preparing for exams to take a look at old tests and study guides. Old tests can give you some idea of what types of subjects will be most relevant; and, additionally, they will show you what types of answers may be expected of you.  A parent or tutor can help guide a student in examining past tests to determine which topics are most important. You can do this by indicating which topics get more questions, and thus, higher priority on a test. Help your students examine the mistakes they made on their past tests and help them develop strategies to avoid making them again. Also, you can compare the study guides to old tests and see what kind of questions actually made it onto the test from the guide. A lot is revealed in writing, and by seeing how teachers constructed previous tests, you can get a good idea of what to expect from mid-terms.

The more connections that can be made to a topic, the better chance there is of recalling that information.  This can be seen in everyday tasks, such as learning a new friend’s name.  It is easier to learn a person’s name if you associate the name with another connection that you may have.  This principle is also true when studying for classes.  Develop graphic organizers or flow charts to make information manageable and to map the connections between topics. And of course, the tried and true method of putting information on index cards for rapid review is always a good move.

For those of you who learn better from pictures, it will be helpful to draw pictures of material to help better memorize what you’re studying.  This is especially helpful for visual learners when trying to learn new vocabulary.  Textbooks are an often overlooked resource.  A parent or tutor can help students better understand how to use textbooks as a valuable resource. For example, point out the importance of bolded words and graphics. Also, chapter reviews and tests at the end of the chapters can be good study tools. Finally, when a student has gone over a chapter, have that student summarize it in his or her own words.

Another helpful tactic is to give your children mini quizzes in timed environment so that they have practice working in time constraints.  Also, stress the importance of reviewing work for simple mistakes.    Parents can also help students understand how to think about tests. Guide them through the proper ways to approach a question based on the type of question. Try to explain to them what the thought process is when determining the answer to a question.

Finally, here are a couple common sense tactics for students:

Take breaks when you need them. Don’t slog through your studies without giving yourself a breather. And review study materials the morning before a test after having a good night’s sleep.

Follow these guidelines and you will find that preparing for mid-terms isn’t as scary as you may have thought.