SAT scores: When another 50 (or 100) points makes no difference

When you’ve been doing test preparation and college admissions advising as long as I have, one invariably has this conversation with bright, ambitious students or their parents.

“I scored a 2200 on my SAT.   If I take it again and get a 2300, will that ensure I get into (insert name of preferred college or university here)?”

The answer is there is no score that will ensure acceptance into a given school—

Word Challenge I: Two Words One Speech – MLK

Word Challenge: Two Words, One Speech- MLK

This marks the first installment of an innovative series written by Bell Curves co-founder Akil Bello for Riise to College‘s blog in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr Day.  It was originally posted on 1/16/12. 

By examining famous speeches by great orators we can see how vocabulary words are used to inspire change, and also how these same words might appear on standardized tests like the SAT. 

Our first vocabulary challenge comes to you on MLK Day and inspired by his 1963 speech, “I   Have a Dream.” Not only is  this speech uplifting in its message but it also demonstrates the scope and beauty of the English language. As you celebrate MLK Day, Black History Month, and Presidents’ Day, take the opportunity to explore and appreciate the things that brought these various people to the public eye. As you complete assignments in school exploring MLK’s message of Civil Rights and equality, make sure you take time to appreciate the beauty of the words he chose and the importance of a well-developed vocabulary. As you read his words accept the challenge of improving your vocabulary so that one day you may deliver an equally rousing oration that could go on to inspire generations of children.

How to buy 10 points on the SAT from the College Board

I sent the College Board a check for $55 and that got me an additional 10 points on my SAT.


For most of us that might sound like a good deal, but it really is not. If you’re a follower of this blog or me on twitter ( you probably know that  I took the SAT in October of 2011. Being a self-proclaimed “test prep dude” I of course ordered the QAS service so I could review the questions after the test.

SSAT and ISEE: What makes these tests so darn hard?!?

Admissions tests (while this post is focused on the SSAT and ISEE, it’s also applicable to the SAT and ACT) are notoriously difficult for students and confusing to parents, especially when otherwise high-performing students get “low” scores. While there are many possible reasons for a student to under-perform on a test, we’ll tackle some of the most common. Hopefully this will give you some insight into how to help your child succeed on a standardized admission tests. Here are a few reasons students struggle with admissions tests:

Starting Prep Early: SAT Vocabulary Strategies

Earlier this year we joined SAT aficionados and college counselors on Twitter for the bi-weekly #CampusChat. The topic was SAT vocabulary and it sparked a zany hour of interesting words being used in fun context. By our estimation the prize for most interesting use of SAT vocab was taken by Suzanne Schaeffer (mostly because of her fun digs at Bell Curves founder @akilbello). If you’re interested you can see the full twitter transcript here.

This chat got the juices flowing over in BC central and sparked us to ask our teachers for recommendations for short-term (less than 6 months) and longer term vocab acquisition tools and tricks. In this blog we’ll address some of the long term vocabulary strategies that parents can use to help their children develop college-ready vocabularies.

Test Prep Tip: Loving the Wrong Answer

No matter what test you take (SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, PSAT, PLAN, SAT, ACT, etc) when you are preparing, your best friend is the wrong answer, if you use it as an opportunity to learn. This is the first in a series of tips on using fallacious answers to help you in your studies and on test day.

To properly take advantage of the wrong answers, you have to first understand that there are different types of wrong answers. The Loving the Wrong Answer series will discuss the major types of wrong answers, and how to use them to help you become a better test-taker.

October 2011 SAT: You Be the (Essay) Judge

If you thought grading SAT essays was easy, in part 3 of our report on the October 1, 2011 SAT, (part 1 is here and part 2 here) we’re asking you to grade an actual essay submitted on the October 1, 2011 SAT. This essay was written by me and was mostly done to test a theory and have some fun..

I wrote this essay to test what happens if you got a few (ok every fact) facts wrong during the essay. So in case you were wondering I’ll post the score the essay actually got after we get some votes in! So leave a comment below!

October 2011 SAT: Reading Comprehension, a.k.a., Those Crazy Stories

Is this an SAT Passage author?

In part 2 of our report on the October 1, 2011 SAT, (part 1 is here) we’ve decided to answer the question, “From where do they get those crazy stories?”

If you’re like us, you’ve wondered where they dredged up the reading passages they use on the SAT. Were they some crazy 100-year-old professors of Shakespearean literature creating these passages? Or perhaps they hired some psychologist — one who specializes in torturing teenagers — to design these new unique ways to get under your skin. In truth, the passages are works of literature that have been written and published, typically, in the last century. Some have come from the hallowed halls of academia and some have come from popular culture (one test featured Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club).

October 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Cocksure Fallacious Killjoys

So the first SAT of the 2011 – 2012 academic year has come and gone and as usual it was full of words ranging from the commonplace (longevity) to the esoteric (recondite). We sent in our teachers to check it out and here are some of the words we remember. We’ve taken words from the reading passages as well as the Sentence Completions. Keep in mind that the SAT doesn’t simply tests random words, it tests words that are used in “well-written college level texts.”

Study Tips: Brain Space

Image by Zillafag

In this installment of our new (and ongoing) series of study tips, we bring more cognitive neuroscience (Ooooh! SAT vocabulary makes everything sound big and fancy, but cognitive neuroscience simply means the study of how we think) to bear with distributed learning.

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