Test Prep

4

Whenever I have a test or exam, I organize myself by listing the topics that I know will be on the exam!

The top photo (inspired by success-without-a-mess) is my topic list for the three midterm exams I have (Canadian Law, American History, and World History to the 1600s).

The middle two photos are just closeups of my printing and the pens I used, which were pink and orange Sharpie pens.

The bottom photo is an example of how I prepare for a smaller test like a unit test or a quiz. The idea is the exact same, but since there is less material, I put the list on a sticky note and keep it in my planner!

Tips for the SATs: Things Prep Books Won’t Tell You

I took the SATs twice. First time I got 2080. Second time I got 2390. It’s a bullshit test that isn’t correlated with future success or grades, and it has several weak spots. So here’s a guide of unconventional hacks, tips, and tricks that you won’t learn in most test prep books. This is specifically for people taking the SAT before March 2016. OKAY HERE WE GO:

Past Tests and Prep

Miscellaneous (important!) tips: Essay

  • 5 paragraphs- intro, 3 points, conclusion. Yada yada, you’ve heard this before.
  • Pick a side. Don’t try to be all smart and argue both. You think you can, and you’re probably right, but your argument will be a lot more nuanced and well-supported (which is a chunk of the mark) if you choose one side
  • You don’t need to worry about actually forming an argument supported by evidence. Spend 2 minutes planning and come up with exactly 3 points. In each paragraph, make your point and then bam, you’re good to go. You know why? Because you make up examples. Whatever you want- Make up dates! Make up people! Make up absolute shit that the grader knows isn’t true! I mean, try not to write 500 words on how Shakespeare’s most famous play, ‘Roly-poly Ollie and Julianne Moore’, changed your life, but. Make up books, plays, personal anecdotes, whatever. It does not matter. You can do that. They’re marking you on whether or not you have examples, not whether or not they happen to be true.
  • Listen up, because this is the most important: write a lot. Write two pages, or more, and if you can’t, write bullshit but write two pages as long as it’s semi-coherent.
  • There is a direct and strong correlation between length of essay and mark assigned. What does this mean? You write shit, you get a higher mark. Collegeboard says it ain’t so, but the facts disprove it. 
  • Memorize a couple of big words like “deluge”, “guile”, and “plethora”, and make sure you know how to use them. Then just shove ‘em in when you’re sure you’ve used them right. Preferably in the first page, and the conclusion.
  • Here’s a handy guide to basically bullshitting your way through the essay

Miscellaneous (important!) tips: Vocabulary/Grammar

  • Do not try to cram vocabulary two weeks in advance. The words aren’t obscure enough to justify that.
  • Read. Read books, read newspapers, read articles, read journals. If you read voraciously the year before you take the SAT, I guarantee you’ll ace the vocab section without studying.
  • But. If you don’t have a year and you gotta hit the vocab lists, here’s how to do it:
  • Get a list of a certain number of words to memorize, depending on how long you have: like this, for 100 words, or this one, for 500 words. Use the good/medium/bad system. Every day, do the words in the bad pile. If you can do them after 4 days, move them to the medium pile. Those are words you do every 3 or 4 days. The good pile is words you go over every week. If you fail at a word in the good or medium pile, move it down to bad.
  • Learn the meanings of some prefixes and suffixes, and several or more common roots of words (again, depending on time). This means if you come across words you don’t know, you can make a good guess.
  • Seriously though, just read
  • Memorize the grammar rules. There’s about 10 that they always re-use and they’re not complicated

Miscellaneous (important!) tips: Math

  • During the SATs you’re allowed to bring in a calculator with programs. DO NOT WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY. But don’t waste precious time using a program when you could use your head and be faster
  • Here’s the programs you can put in yourself
  • Here are ones you can download (about the same)
  • A program isn’t there to do hard math; it’s there to save time. You need time. 
  • You also don’t need to memorize formulas for anything because you can get a program that’ll do anything with formulas for you
  • I highly 150% recommend getting your hands on a graphing calculator if you don’t have one. Get one off your friend or rent one or something, but get one

Miscellaneous (important!) tips: Critical Reading

  • In my opinion, the most bullshit part of the whole test. And the essay is a thing that exists, so.
  • Don’t read the text first. That’s ridiculous. Skim the text, just the first bit of every paragraph. Then close your eyes and in less than 10 seconds, think of a summary. What’s the author’s main point? A line or two, like ‘Technology is helping restaurants. The food is cheaper which is benefitting consumers.’ It sounds stupid but do it.
  • Read the question and go to that part of the text (it goes in order). Knock off any that are obviously wrong. Now you’re looking for the ‘most correct’ one which, what the fuck, should not be a thing! But anyways, most times, from the remaining options one will be in-line with your little summary from before, and one won’t.
  • There will never be two right answers. If two answers seem right to you, it’s because you’re thinking ‘oh, but this sentence suggests that-’ stop. Don’t overthink these questions. Often, people will be trying to think of the implications, themes, etc. and you don’t need to. This section is superficial as fuck.
  • If y’all have any specific questions you want to send me to get advice on how to tackle them, feel free.

General Advice for the Day Before/On the Day

  • Get a good night’s sleep! You got this. But if you can’t sleep, don’t worry! You still got this.
  • Get there early if you can, so you’re not adding anxiety to yourself
  • Don’t spend longer than a minute on a question. If you haven’t got it in that time, come back to it at the end. You’ll be more relaxed after having finished the ones you do know.

Once You’re Done

  • Yay! I’m proud of you
  • Don’t look up the answers. And if you do, don’t stress about any that you got wrong
  • Go have lunch or dinner with your friends or family and rant about how you just spent 6 hours in a stuffy room and stuff your face with cheesy pizza and chips bc you deserve it

Important Final Points

  • No matter what CollegeBoard says, the SATs are not an IQ test. It is very possible to boost your scores by 300 points
  • Your score does not define you. All it does is tell you how you did on that one day, but that’s not all you are. That’s not even 0.0001% of who you are
  • If a college doesn’t accept you because your score isn’t as high as they’d like, even after going over the rest of your application, then you don’t want to be there anyways
  • You will get in somewhere, and you’ll have a great time

Any juniors/seniors/college freshmen, feel free to hmu for general or specific advice on college, SATs, or studying

Learned this the other day in BioPsych: 

The reason why flashcards are a great way to memorize concepts and terms is because when you study with them, you make your brain work hard to retrieve information from your memory.The more you do this, the better it stays in your long-term memory. 

–> To remember things better, you must make yourself retrieve that information several times. 

This is also the reason why simply reading over your notes a thousand times won’t help you study. Because you’re not working hard to retrieve any information, the info is not consolidated in your long-term memory and stays in your working memory (only up to 5 seconds max). 

P.S. Sorry about the long absence! Last couple weeks of the quarter are crazy. 

College Admissions

Hi friends! I just finished 17 college applications and I’m fresh with advice for you all so here it is: 

STANDARDIZED TESTING: 

  • get this shit done ASAP; I started taking practice tests my freshman year and by the end of my sophomore year I had the score I wanted 
  • it literally does not matter if you take the ACT or SAT, colleges don’t fucking care just pick one and do well on it 
  • if you can, take 2 SAT subject tests; many colleges require them and so do special BA/MD programs so its best to have them prepared 
  • “how do you get a good score??”: PRACTICE TESTS! literally take as many as you can and make sure you correct the mistakes you make on each of them so you’re actually learning 

COMMON APPLICATION:

  • opens august 1; you do not have to submit anything then
  • you only get 10 slots for extracurricular activities so choose wisely; also you don’t necessarily need to fill all 10 slots; quality over quantity always 
  • you can submit the common app to a school before you submit the writing supplement! get that shit submitted so you don’t have to worry about it later on 
  • don’t type your essays on the common app; type them on a google doc and then transfer them later on so you can avoid it from crashing and not saving your work 

COLLEGE LIST:

  • don’t fucking apply to all 8 Ivies 
  • make sure you have safeties (easy to get into/affordable), matches (most likely will get in) along with your reaches (no fucking clue if you’ll get in)
  • be realistic about how many applications you can fill out 
  • try to finalize by 1st semester senior year 

COLLEGE ESSAYS: 

  • genuinely spend time on these 
  • don’t reuse your why X college essays 
  • when answering the why X college prompt: DO YOUR RESEARCH! specifics are key; they want students that will actually matriculate 
  • you can usually reuse your why X major essay so be sure to write a really good one 
  • don’t be someone you’re not; just be natural and let your personality shine 
  • they aren’t as bad as they seem I swear you just have to really work with 
  • if you’re really having trouble with a prompt, google it and there’s bound to be admissions blogs that have written tips about answering it 

GENERAL TIMELINE OF COLLEGE SHENANIGANS 

freshman year: 

  • don’t worry about harvard 
  • literally just enjoy your only peaceful year of high school 
  • join a few clubs 
  • get good grades 
  • you’re set

sophomore year: 

  • start looking at schools and figure out what you want in a college 
  • begin building your list 
  • start taking APs (if your school allows you) 
  • look for leadership opportunities 
  • look for summer programs and other things to keep you busy in the summer 
  • get ready for the hellstorm that is junior year

junior year:

  • get testing done by the end of this year 
  • figure out who you’re asking for letters of rec 
  • take AP classes 
  • maintain your GPA 
  • become a leader in your clubs 

senior year: 

  • lay on the floor and cry 
  • like really let it out bc this year is hell 
  • take a rigorous course load and get good grades 
  • finish last minute testing if you still haven’t 
  • register for common app 
  • get letters of rec 
  • send scores to colleges 
  • start writing college essays 
  • apply to scholarships 
  • fill out FAFSA and CSS 

good luck my lovelies xx my inbox is always open as always 

-Ramya

10

These are photos of students preparing for their Gaokao exams in China. I don’t know if this is your cup of tea but for me this reminds me that there are millions of kids my age who study far longer and far harder than I do…And that the things I currently study for my exams are nothing compared to what Mainlanders do.

Forge on my friends, forge on. You are capable of things far beyond your imagination.

please maintain your sanity during finals :))

ACT RESOURCES

Here’s some (mostly free) links that might be helpful to you while studying. If you have any new ones that aren’t on here, let me know! These are just all the ones I’ve come across. I plan on adding to this often, so keep checking back! 

Last Update // 8/29/15

* indicates something I use/love and can vouch for

FREE STUFF

General

About the ACT

Official Practice Questions from the ACT people

More stuff from the ACT people (these are actually really great, you should be going here before anywhere else)

*ACT QOTD

*Prepfactory.com An amazing website with quizzes and videos to help you prepare!!

Quizzes 

Guessing

Pacing and a nice score chart

Study Guide 

A nice YouTube vid with some basic tips 

Flashcards (this is a webpage promoting flashcards that you need to pay for but the list of topics on it is a great list of everything covered on the ACT)

Only have one month to study?

Only have one week?

Kaplan’s Free Online Test 

How to study (x

Last minute tips

A free customizable test

LOTS of practice tests 

Tips

Another masterpost with apps, SAT help, and more

*A playlist with 111 ACT QOTD’s solved

Princeton’s Free Online Practice Test

Peterson’s Free Online Practice Test 

McGraw Hill’s Free Online Practice Test (also has some subject specific quizzes)

English

Punctuation Rules

Grammar Rules (x) (x)

Sparknotes Guide (click through)

Practice questions (Punctuation/Capitalization) (Grammar)

Magoosh Blog Posts

Strategies

Reading

Reading Tips

Sparknotes Guide (click through)

Practice Questions (x)

Magoosh Blog Posts

Free Reading Resources

*100 Vocab Words

Math

Formulas (x)

Strategies (warning: comic sans)

Sparknotes Guide (click through)

Practice Questions (Algebra 1) (Geometry)

Magoosh Blog Posts 

Math Review 

Flashcards

Science

Sparknotes Guide (click through)

Practice Questions

Magoosh Blog Posts

*Top Science Vocab Words (x)

Writing (optional section)

Essay Tips (x)

Sparknotes Guide (click through)

Magoosh Blog posts


PAID STUFF

Books

You should be able to use any older ACT prep books you find, so checking out a discount book store, eBay, or even your local library might help you out! This is because the format and the question type stay the same so as long as it’s ACT, it’s good. However, if you are taking the optional writing section, you might want to check out something newer.

*If you need help with a particular section, try the Sparknotes ACT Prep Books. Math/Science here, English/Reading here

The REAL ACT Prep Guide 

Barron’s ACT 36

ACT Prep Black Book 

1,460 ACT Practice Questions

ACT Elite 36 This has some test specific strategies, so if you’re already solid on the material and want to “cheat the test” check this one out! 

Book reviews (mentions some of the books mentioned here)

Online Tutors

This might not be everyone’s thing, but here are some resources if you’re looking for this! I have never used these sources so I cannot comment on the amount of help they provide.

Critical Reader Tutoring 

Kaplan Tutoring (offers in-person, online, free events, and group tutoring)

The Promised No-study SAT Tips

I saw that a lot of you wanted these~ Disclaimer: You still have to know English and the basics of math for these. This goes especially if you’re not a native speaker - your English needs to be at a pretty good level.

General:

  1. Read. A lot. Whenever you see a text that’s at least a paragraph or two long, take time to practice skimming. If you’re bored and have a little time, take something, for example a food wrapper, and try to find occurrences of a word (for example “Acid” for food) as quickly as possible. Hard mode: look for synonyms.
  2. Practice filling out the answer sheet. This is a massive time-sink for a lot of people, so you should practice to eliminate it. Print out an example answer sheet and try filling out the circles quickly and accurately without distracting yourself a lot. Hard mode:Try doing it while not focusing only on the circles - look away or start thinking about the next question.
  3. Check. A lot. The main goal of this strategy is to leave yourself enough time when you’ve filled out an answer for each question when you’re calm, know the questions and can focus on checking. Try and go through the questions, thinking, “This question tests this and that.” If you have the time, look at each answer and identify the error in it (harder for the math questions, but loads of fun if you can do it).
  4. Think in patterns: Whenever you’re stuck on an example question, don’t just check the answer. Try and understand how the person found it, if this question is similar to others you have seen. The SAT only uses a few different types of questions, there will rarely be something to surprise you if you know the common patterns.
  5. Rest: The SAT is a very demanding exam. Give your brain time to relax - my advice would be not to do anything mentally strenuous the day before the test. Also, something I found out from competitions - bring chocolate. The sugar in it helps your brain work better and shrug off tiredness and eating it will draw blood away from your brain, effectively hibernating it for the break to conserve energy. Also, it’s just a really tasty snack!

Writing:

  1. Use the right format for the essay. There are a lot of easy points for using the four/five paragraph system. Introduction, Reason 1, Reason 2, Conclusion. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence and follow up with a story from your life or a book/movie to illustrate it. This way, even without using fancy vocab or grammar, you can get the points for structure and critical thought. Now just try not to make any obvious spelling mistakes and call it a day!
  2. Try to quickly find an argument for the essay. They don’t actually rate how intelligent your argument is. So, take a minute or two, breathe deeply, and no matter how stupid your idea is, write it out. (You might still want to take caution with sensitive topics, especially if you’re an international. A dumb mistake I made in my first sitting was bashing on American charity - that definitely did not endear me to the proctors.)
  3. Paragraphs: You have to have experience reading - look at how the topic never changes abruptly. Insert sentences that link what’s written before and after the gap. Final sentences of paragraphs shouldn’t raise more questions.
  4. Sentence questions: Skim through the questions. Try to answer most of them, the first thing that comes to mind, and fill out the answer sheet immediately. Chances are, if it sounds good to you, it’s the correct choice. Do this quickly, then try and do the paragraphs. After you’ve done this, go back to the questions and start checking.
  5. They usually test for a few broad topics. Identify if each sentence fits one of the patterns and answer accordingly. For the others, try and think what error they might want you to make. If you know you have the time, look at each answer in turn and identify the mistake in it. The most common ways for you to change a sentence would be:
  • Fragments: Try and see if each clause has a subject and a verb. Example: “In the dim light, making his way through the cave.” -> “In the dim light, he makes his way through the cave.”
  • Subject-verb agreement: Make sure that the subject is the one actually doing the action and singular/plural match. Example: “Gathering stones, the river was blocked by the men.” Did the river gather stones? No.
  • Consistency: Make sure that something introduced one way is always referred to like that (don’t switch out ‘one’ for ‘you’ or ‘they’). Make sure there are no extra linkers (”Since I was there, but he went too.”). Check if any verbs change tense when they shouldn’t. Don’t compare apples to oranges (”His homework was as good as John.” -> “As good as John’s”).
  • Adverb or adjective? If it describes a verb, it has a ‘ly’. Example: “She winked playful.” -> “She winked playfully.”
  • Singular or plural? Make sure not to refer to a plural object in singular. “Pandas, numbering in the hundreds now, is an endangered species.”
  • Prepositions, linkers, all the small words Sadly, you’ll have to know how they’re used.

Reading

  1. Word fill: Note the answers that obviously don’t make sense. Mark the one of the others that sounds best to you (in the answer sheet, too!). If you don’t know one or more of the words, aim for simplicity. After you’ve quickly answered all of the reading questions, come back to these. Look at the relationships between the gap and the sentence - are you looking for a positive or negative word? Antonyms or synonyms to something before? Try and guess what unknown words mean. This way, you will probably be able to eliminate all the wrong answers.
  2. Reading comprehension: You are not tested for understanding the text. Keep this in mind. What you are actually trying to do here is quickly find synonyms. If the question asks for “Was Anna’s family a) warm b) cold c) the spawn of Cthulhu?”, chances are that the text contains “Anna’s relatives acted chilly.” or something like that. Read the first question. Skim the text until it comes to that topic, then look for synonyms of the answers. Don’t make deductions! If you come across a ‘general message’ or ‘tone of the author’ question, skip it and answer it at the end of the text. The other questions will be in the same order as the answers are mentioned in the text. Checking: If you have time, look at each answer and try to see what in the text could mislead somebody to make that mistake.

Mathematics

  1. Calculator use: My advice would be to not bring a complex graphing calculator. They just slow you down. Try and do most operations by hand, then use the calculator only for, well, calculations.
  2. Basic topics to know: You are expected to be familiar with how to rearrange equations (ab=1 is the same as a=1/b) and solve linear and quadratics; cosine and Pythagorean theorems; number representations of lines and their intersections; median, mean and mode.
  3. Solve like a crab! One of the best things I learnt in “Fun Math” classes was that problems are solved more easily if you work from the answer back. Try and see what you would need (in terms of information) to find the answer. Then look back to the text of the problem - is what you need there? In most SAT problems, it is, or you can easily find it.
  4. Visualise: Especially for distance or geometry problems, make a small chart of what’s happening. Make lines for the distances the cars traveled or draw that pesky cylinder. Try and see in your mind how different elements move and which stay the same.

I guess this is all that I can say for now. Of course, this is my strategy so it might not work for everyone or it might not work without practice, so don’t think it’s a miracle solve-all. I’m always open for questions about ideas or specific problems, just write an ask~ And good luck to all future test-takers!

Masterpost

I’ve seen a lot of masterposts lately, but this one is the first I’ve ever done. Feel free to add to it, or make suggests for things I should add. Links will be under certain categories, so feel free to skip to the one you feel like you need. If you see something you posted and you’d like me to take it off, please let me know. I will add to this as I find more useful links. {Last Edited 10/8/15}


Study Tricks/Tips/Advice


Note Taking


Test Prep


Health Related


When You Need To Read

  •  How To Read Shakespeare/Old English Texts {1} {2} {3}


Course Specific Help- Math


Course Specific Help- Chemisty


Course Specific Help- History


Websites/Apps


Language Learning/Writing


Sleep


Motivation


Time Management


Music

  •  Hit The Books Playlist {1} {2} 


Printables


Masterposts (Not Specific To 1 Course/Topic)

don’t let a bad grade make you think any less of yourself.

Succeeding in Math... When You’re Bad at Math

Disclaimer: This post is targeted towards people who are working towards earning math credits to graduate and will never again have to use math after they finish that one, last class. 

  • Figure out what math courses you need to graduate and be accepted to post-secondary. This ties into what I said in my disclaimer! I’m guaranteeing that there are some math courses you need to take to graduate, so get them out of the way first. Also, research the program you want to do in university and college and make sure there isn’t any required math courses that you have to do! You don’t want to lose out on your top choice of program because you didn’t get the prereqs. 
  • Try and get really good at simple questions. I personally find that the easiest way to get marks on tests is to ace the easy, one or two step problems at the beginning of the test. Being good at these simpler questions will make up for the marks you might lose on word problems or more intense questions. 
  • Don’t skip anything on a test. Most teachers will give part marks for trying, especially if you show that you at least vaguely know how to do the question. Even if you know you can’t get the right answer, just right something! 
  • Figure out the steps for longer problems. This technique was literally my saviour last year when I was bombing math. I couldn’t figure out how to do word problems easily, so as soon as I figured one out, I would write down the steps I used. Memorizing that made it so much easier for me to solve a problem without having to really spend a ton of time thinking about it first. There is an example of this here: (x).
  • Remember definitions and formulas. For those of us who are more language based, memorizing definitions can be a great way to earn easy marks on tests. Also, depending on the level you are at, just stating the formula can sometimes be worth a mark. If you can get 5 marks from definitions and formulas, you’ve basically just earned marks without doing any math at all… and that is fantastic. Also, memorizing formulas is pretty much mandatory anyways, so it will help on more than one level. 
  • Do all of your homework. The more practise you have, the easier it is! I know homework for math can be really tedious, but it helps so much. It will help you get really good at the simpler problems and also help you show your teacher that you actually care about the class. 
  • Prove to your teacher that you’re trying. This is so crucial for those of us who are not going to succeed in math no matter how hard we try. Ask your teacher questions from the homework, and they’ll see that you are doing the homework. Ask questions in class to show that you’re paying attention and want to understand. This is how I scraped a 70 in math last year even though I probably deserved a 60… My teacher knew I was trying and helped me out. 
  • Come in for extra help. This connects to my last point, because it shows that teacher that you care. Its also a lot easier to understand the material when you can have one on one time and go a lot slower than in class. Also, you can ask specific questions from the homework that you might not have had time to ask for help with in class. 
  • Get a tutor, if needed. Last year, I refused to get a tutor because I thought it meant I was stupid and couldn’t do it on my own… which is a huge regret!! Getting a tutor doesn’t mean you’re stupid and will help you so much. 
  • Consider switching classes if you can. This is another regret of mine. Last year, I didn’t need to be in the highest level of math because I intend to study arts, but I stayed in the class anyways (again, because of my weird sense of pride). Switching down to a lower level or switching to a different teacher is a great option for success if the course isn’t mandatory.