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Tricky SAT Grammar Rules

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There are a number of difficult grammar rules that seem to exist solely to cause problems for students writing the SAT. Today, I will be focusing on two in particular, the distinction between ‘was’ and ‘were’, and how to distinguish a correct parallelism from an incorrect one. In order to dispel some of the confusion and ambiguity surrounding these rules, each one will be explained in detail to provide a clear distinction between the various usages of words or punctuation.

Rule Number One: Was vs. Were

This is a rule that trips up many students who are writing the SAT. Many people think that the word ‘was’ is used when referring to something in the singular, while ‘were’ is used as a plural form. However, this is not entirely correct. There are cases where it is necessary to use ‘were’ even when referring to a singular thing. For example, consider these two sentences, and try to decide which one is correct.

“I wish I were able to remember that tricky grammar rule.”

Or “I wish I was able to remember that tricky grammar rule.”

The actual correct form to use here is ‘were’. This is because the word ‘were’ is actually used in the hypothetical in this case. The correct usage is to use the word ‘were’ when referring to something in a wishful manner, or something that is not possible or true. This distinction is made clearer in the example “I wish you was here” versus “I wish you were here”. In this case, the difference between the two is more familiar, as it is much less common to use ‘was’ in this fashion. The word ‘was’ is used to the past, and specifically things that actually happened or exist, in comparison to hypothetical pondering.

Rule Number Two: Parallelism

Parallelism is another popular topic on the SAT. To have a proper list, all of the pieces of the list must be in the same form, and this is called parallelism. Often, this is presented in the form of a list of things, such as nouns, verbs, or prepositions, and then the test taker is asked to select the correct form or identify an incorrect form.

Here is an example of faulty parallelism, and how to correct the error:

Incorrect: My grandfather likes to eat in expensive restaurants, and visiting art galleries.

Correct: My grandfather likes to eat in expensive restaurants, and to visit art galleries.

Also Correct: My grandfather likes eating in expensive restaurants, and visiting art galleries.

Looking to get ready for the SAT? We can help with SAT Prep
This article was written for you by Tobias, one of the tutors with Test Prep Academy.

How the SAT is Scored

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When writing the SAT, the academic material covered on the exam is not the only thing that is important understand. Knowing how the exam is scored can make a significant difference in your performance, and can lead to strategies that will improve your score. It can also be interesting to learn what goes on behind the scenes to make the SAT and the ACT good predictors of college performance.

So how Does it Work?

One of the most distinctive features of the SAT scoring system is the way in which multiple choice questions are scored. When you get an answer correct on the SAT, you receive 1 mark in the given section. If you do not fill the answer in, you receive 0 marks for the question, but strangely, if you answer a given question incorrectly, you actually lose ¼ of a mark in the relevant section. This means that blindly guessing will gain a net score of zero points, on average. For more information on this topic, see my blog post on whether SAT guessing is worthwhile. However, this means that it is necessary to give each student a free 200 points in each section simply for writing their name, as if someone actually managed to get enough marks incorrect in a section, their mark could actually fall below the original starting point. Since it would be silly to give them a negative score, this strange system where students receive “free” points was created to ensure that all students have a positive score.

Another strange effect of this scoring system is that students can receive fractions of points on a section. What happens then? Well, if a student gets 15 questions correct, 5 wrong, and does not answer 1, they should have a total of 13.75 points in the section. What happens is that if the final score contains a decimal that is .5 or greater, the score will be rounded up. So, in this case, 13.75 becomes 14. However, 13.25 would round down to 13. This means that the third, seventh, eleventh, and so on incorrect answers cause the student to lose two points instead of one. This has a limited usefulness in practical terms, but if a student is aiming for a very high score, and they know they might have missed one or two questions already, they should consider not guessing for the third one they are not sure about in order to save a point. This can be a difference of 20-30 points in some cases, but it is hard to know if an answer would be the third incorrect one.

Luckily for students taking the ACT, there are no scoring oddities like this to worry about. Since no marks are deducted for incorrect answers, it is always beneficial to guess if you are not sure which answer is correct, and there is no need to worry about partial marks or rounding. For SAT students, this information is important to know, since it can have an effect on student results.

This article was written for you by Tobias, one of the tutors with Test Prep Academy.

Four Tips to Get Better at Math

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Students struggling with math are common, but the struggle does not need to be a permanent one. Every student will be able to accomplish their goals with some hard work and an encouraging support system around them.

Here are some tips to start down the road to improvement today:

 Realize math is not magic.

Mathematics is full of algorithms, which are specific sets of steps meant to guide you to the solution to a problem. Math can often be compared to cooking. The algorithm for a math problem is like the recipe for a meal. It tells you want ingredients you need and what you need to do with each ingredient in order to end up with a delicious result.

 Don’t associate math with math teachers.

Many students are scared away from math due to a poor experience with a school math teacher. Don’t let a bad experience scare you away from the subject forever. Math can be fun. Each question you are given has a solution, you just need to be able to discover it. Tackle each exercise you are given like a puzzle. Find out what information you have, what information you need and what information you are trying to find. Then you are well on your way to discovering that answer.

 Practice makes perfect.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Build your confidence by doing as many exercises as you can. Learn a concept and then do lots of exercises to develop that skill. No math geniuses are born overnight; it takes time so be sure to be patient and you will start to improve.

 Believe that you are good at math.

Don’t be afraid to say that you are good at math. Belief can become reality. If you continuously tell yourself that you are good at math and you work hard to improve upon your skills then there is no reason that you won’t be successful in the future.

This article was written for you by Mia, one of the tutors with Test Prep Academy.

How to Prepare for SAT Testing

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The SAT is a standardized test designed for college admission in the United States. Taking the SAT (or ACT) is required for freshman entry to many universities in the United States. A student’s performance on the SAT is crucial to admission and scholarship decisions. Preparing for the SAT is an important factor in how well a student performs on the test. Preparation involves time, effort, and extensive practise.

1. Plan early

Studying one week ahead of your test is never a good way to get ready. Know when you will be taking the test, how many times you will take it, and plan ahead. Give yourself months to study. For each topic, set a specific date and goal.

2. Identify weaknesses and seek help

Focus on your weaknesses while studying. It is essential that you evaluate how good you are with the concepts. Try a few sample tests and find the topics that you often get stuck on. If necessary, seek tutoring through companies and from your school.

3. Practise, practise, practise

Never say that you’ve done enough problems. Students often succeed on the SAT because they have reviewed not only the concepts but different types of questions. Make sure that you are equipped to eliminate answers, narrow choices and effectively guess on concepts you do not know. This will increase your chances of gaining a higher score on the SAT.

4. Find study groups

You can motivate yourself by joining study groups. Many schools offer SAT workshops so that you can review key concepts and do some problems with other students. Build a good relationship with other students. You can help each other and improve together. You may achieve much more than a high score through this experience.

5. Build confidence

It is quite normal that you don’t perform well on some practise tests. You might get anxious, but never give up. You should be happy because every time you make a mistake, you can learn from it so that you won’t make the same mistake when you take the actual test. If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one will.

6. Sleep early, and relax!

Do not let anything negative distract you on the test day. Sleep early the day before, and don’t drink too much water. Take a deep breath, and you will nail it!

This article was written for you by Stanley, one of the tutors with Test Prep Academy.

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