Top Three Tips to Improve your AWA Score Reply

I’m going to do something bold here: I’m not going to include one of the most common–if not the most common–essay writing tips. And that is organization. Surely, you contend, that must be one of the top three tips. Arguably so. But it is also the one that many GRE students internalize and obsess over, often to the exclusion of other, arguably, more important aspects.

Additionally, most of us (let’s be honest: practically all of us) have had the five-paragraph structure hammered into our heads long before we were able to legally drive a car. The AWA, though, has its own rules, which many are aware of, stuff that can impress the graders (just writing a standard paragraph essay isn’t one of them). The following three tips will shed insights into what the graders are looking for.

  1. Read real sample essays

Both essays are graded from 0.0 to a 6.0. A zero score essentially means that you decided to fall asleep, your forehead pressed on the keyboard, a torrent of gibberish appearing on the screen. A 6.0 is a well-crafted essay, full of analysis, nuanced thinking, specific examples, and stylistic, sophisticated writing. There’s even a specific rubric describing exactly what each 1-point increment on the six-point scale means.

But I would recommend skipping this part. Interpreting the descriptions of those scores is too subjective. Really, what does “stylistic, sophisticated writing” mean to the GRE grader?

Well, to get that answer all you have to do is read the sample essays of actual student responses. This can be found online or in the GRE ETS Official Guide. You’ll get to see the kind of response that merits a ‘2’, a ‘4’, and a ‘6’. Below each response, the GRE graders themselves have given an analysis of the essay: what it did well, and what it could do better. When you go to write your own practice essay, you’ll already know what the GRE graders are looking for–and aren’t looking for.

  1. Work on sentence construction

One thing the graders love is logical flow. Your sentences should have key transition words (“for example,” “however,” “therefore,” etc.) that allow you to persuasively make your point. When you lack that logical flow, even if you have the right ideas coursing through your brain, your writing becomes muddled, and the test graders become confused.

To avoid this, go back to the basics: sentence construction. What is the difference between an independent and a dependent clause? What transition words most effectively link ideas within–and between–sentences?

This is the kind of logical organization that gets overlooked in favor of holistic organization: intro, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. But as long as you have a clear topic sentence for your paragraph, and your ideas logically flow from that first sentence and end with a clear statement of your point at the end of the paragraph, it isn’t that big of a deal whether you write two body paragraphs or four body paragraphs. (Though make sure you do have a clear intro and a conclusion–neither of which, by the way, has to be more than a few sentences.)

  1. Don’t time every practice essay

When learning a new skill, or even refining an old one, you have to practice or develop it under non-stressful conditions. Otherwise, it is difficult for such learning to take root. However, many mistakenly assume that it is always a bad idea to write the AWA essays without having a time limit. Unless, the essay is two days off and there really isn’t much time for “learning to take root,” begin without a timer. (I’d recommend at least 30-days to prep for the GRE–check out this helpful GRE study guide.)

For example, if you’ve been practicing clause construction by writing simple example sentences (“Because I gave myself plenty of time to prep for the GRE, I felt prepared. Nonetheless, I arrived 15 minutes late to the test center”), you’ll want to give yourself time to apply what you’ve learned about clauses when writing a practice essay. Or, if you’re just learning how to identify logical fallacies in the Argument essay, you’ll want to give yourself time to identify these fallacies and express them logically. Conversely, starting the timer will put you in a “flight or fight” mode and you are likely to fall back into your old habits (which for many is to write whatever comes to mind).

Once you’ve noticed improvements in your writing, give yourself a “soft” time limit. Keep practicing until you are writing comfortably within this time limit. Then put a slightly more aggressive time limit in place, until you are finally down to the allowed time. Your final score will thank you.

Chris Lele is the GRE Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of or its parent company Nelnet.

How Many Times Should You Take The GRE And When Should You Start? Reply

how-many-times-should-youThese days, many students are realizing that submitting GRE scores is a part of the graduate school application process. With this reality in mind, you may be wondering when you should start preparing for the GRE and how many times you should take it. Review the short outline below to obtain answers to these questions and more:

It’s Never Too Soon To Start

If you’re wondering when you should begin preparing for the GRE, know that it’s never too soon to start. Familiarizing yourself with the format and content of the exam can alleviate test anxiety and empower you to attain a higher score. As such, it’s a good idea to get started immediately. Luckily, there are a wide range of learning resources at your disposal. For example, companies like ETS, Barron, Peterson’s and Kaplan provide a wide range of test prep material you can use to study for the Verbal, Math, and Written components of the exam.

Taking online courses in the fields of English, Math, and Writing is another technique you can implement to prepare for the exam. If you’ve already obtained your bachelor’s in English, you may want to consider completing an online masters computer science program. This can make you a more competitive candidate for a grad school program while also sharpening your reasoning skills.

How Many Times Should You Take The GRE?

Before you decide how many times you should take the GRE, consider the following facts:

  • You can take the computer-based test once every 21 days.
  • You may take the GRE up to five times within one year.
  • If you cancel your GRE scores, the test that you took still counts towards the five annual test dates.

There are several reasons why an individual might want to take the GRE again or several times. Generally, the reason pertains to the score. In some cases, an individual might not have had sufficient time to prepare for the exam. When this happens, a substandard score may be the unwanted outcome. If you know that the score you’ve obtained is below the average score that individuals admitted into the learning institution attained, it’s definitely a good idea to retake the exam.

Keep in mind that you can take the GRE as many times as you want and submit your highest scores to the college in question. However, if you’re taking the test over and over to try to attain a perfect score, keep in mind that the GRE is not the only component of your application process. You’ll also want to concentrate on other critical elements like your letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, curriculum vitae, writing sample, etc.

If you’re serious about acing the GRE so that you can get into your dream school, now is the time to start studying. Review the information and instructions found in this quick reference guide to get on the path to an excellent score today!

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.

All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of or its parent company Nelnet.

Juniors: Prepare and Sign up for the ACT in February 1

It can sneak up on you. Sure, you’ve thought about college in the past, but suddenly now it’s just over the horizon. One more year of high school is all there is before you pack your bags and head off to higher education. Now, in addition to your current schoolwork, homework, and extracurricular activities, you’re looking at colleges and researching scholarships. There’s so much to do!

Contemplating the ACT® test can be daunting, but it’s an important part of preparing for college. Your ACT scores will be a very important factor schools look at during the application process. If you feel overwhelmed or concerned, it’s tempting to postpone the test. After all, you could take the test as late as September of your senior year.

That may not be the wisest course. Unless you have a very specific reason to wait, it’s a good idea to start preparing and schedule your test as soon as possible. We have two great ways to help you prepare for the test: Peterson’s ACT Prep Guide and online practice tests.

Petersons ACT Prep Guide_NonDVD_FrontCover

Peterson’s ACT Prep Guide

The Peterson’s ACT Prep Guide provides detailed information on each of the five test categories, general information on the test itself, and six full-length practice tests.

The Online Prep Course provides similar information on the test but has a few more added features. You can get an initial diagnostic that will give you an idea of where you should focus your study. It also allows you to enter your testing date and even has automated essay scoring to take the guesswork out of the test.

Remember, if you do your prep work, take the test, and are not satisfied with your results, you can take the test again. Testing early gives you more of an opportunity to continue ACT prep and re-take the test than if you waited until later in your junior year to take it the first time.

If you take the test the first time, and feel that more assistance might help you get a better score on the test, these ACT preparation products are readily available to you.

There is a lot to do between now and the end for your senior year to prepare for college. The best course is to continue to make steady progress. Getting the ACT under your belt sooner will allow you to focus on your other goals. This is one you shouldn’t put off. Take the test as soon as you can!

Study Habits of the Top 10% of Test Takers Reply

Sure, everyone knows you should study to do well on a standardized test, but what does it take to get a top score? Are there certain study habits that correlate with better scores?
We wanted to find out, so we surveyed more than 400 Magoosh students who scored in the top 10% for the GRE, GMAT, SAT and ACT. Here’s what we learned about the way they prep for test day.

The Big Takeaways

  • Lone wolves get awesome scores. 98% of respondents said they chose to study alone when asked if they preferred to study solo or with a group.Top scorers give themselves enough time to study. 84% of students in the survey studied for a month or longer for their exams.
  • Spending thousands isn’t necessary to get a high score. When asked how much they spent on test prep, 88% of respondents said they spent $300 or less. A majority also reported that they performed better than they thought they would on test day.
  • There’s no need to cram. 71% of respondents said they gave themselves a break the day before the exam instead studying to the last minute.
  • Scores benefit from the silent treatment. When asked if they preferred listening to music while studying, 63% of students said they chose to study in complete silence rather than with any kind of music or background noise.
  • Top scorers do sometimes leave the library. 68% of respondents said they exercised at least 1-2 times a week while studying.
  • It’s possible to score big the first time around. 68% students nailed the exam the first time they took it.

The Survey Also Suggests…

Money doesn’t guarantee satisfaction. More than 20% of students who spent over $500 on test prep said that they felt like they performed worse than they expected they would on test day. In contrast, fewer than 9% of students who spent less than $500 felt that way.
Paying more might actually stress you out. A majority of the students that reported paying more than $1000 felt nervous on test day. In contrast, fewer than 35% of students who paid less than $1000 felt that way.
Your study efficiency might decrease after 6 months. Fewer than 5% of respondents who studied between 1 and 6 months performed worse than expected on test day. That number jumped to 16% for those who studied for more than 6 months.

Most Common Advice From Top Scorers:

  • Once you know how long you have to prepare, develop a study routine and stick to it. Many students from the survey said it was helpful to work a strict study schedule into their daily routines. It helped them manage the workload and spread their study time out evenly across their few months of prep. Magoosh recommends giving yourself 3-6 months of prep time. That’s because studying more than that might burn you out, but anything less than that might mean you’re inadequately prepared for the exam. In addition, make sure you manage your intensity and try not to study for more than 4 hours in a day.
  • Dedicate a significant amount of time to learning from each question you miss. A large handful of top scorers from the survey said that while studying, you should be mindful of the mistakes you make. Try and learn from each and every question you miss, and — above all — avoid rushing through them. Several students also mentioned that keeping a log of their errors helped them learn and move on from each mistake.
  • Study strategically by focusing more on your weak spots. After your diagnostic test, review your answers and identify the types of questions you struggle with most. Top scorers from the survey said that other studiers should make a point to focus on their weak points, then practice those question types until approaching and solving them feels natural. (Don’t be alarmed if you start dreaming about certain test questions after a while.
  • Timing is everything. Knowing how to approach a question is great, but if it takes you five minutes to get to one answer, that won’t help you on test day. The top scorers from the survey said it’s crucial to be able to complete questions accurately under intense time constraints. At the beginning, you should study slowly and focus on developing techniques, but start timing yourself toward the end to prepare for the realities of test day.

This post originally appeared on the Magoosh Blog.

High School Juniors Will Get to Take the SAT for Free Reply

New York City public schools have taken a big leap in helping students pay for standardized testing and ease the burden of the college application process. The New York Department of Education has announced an initiative coined SAT School Day that will allow high school juniors to take the SAT for free starting in the spring of 2016.

By waiving the registration charge of around $54.50, free testing will go a long way in helping students get into college. Though it was intended to help low-income families have an equal chance of going to college, all students, no matter their income, will be able to take the test free-of-charge.  

Schools will also be scheduling SAT test-taking time during the school day so that students won’t have to take time out of their weekends, which is how it is typically done now. High schools won’t make the test mandatory, but this should help improve test participation.

More than anything, this is part of New York State’s educational plan to increase the number of students applying to college after high school graduation. The hope is that taking the SAT will become a regular part of a student’s high school atmosphere. Kids take enough standardized tests as it is, but the SAT has become a requirement for admittance into most major colleges and universities across the nation.  

High School sophomores and juniors were given free access to take the PSATs back in 2007 as a step towards ensuring student success. On the same day sophomores take the PSAT, juniors will have the option to take the SAT.

Six thousand students in 40 NYC public schools participated in the SAT School Day pilot program in the spring of 2015, and another 52 schools and 9,000 students will be added to the program. The citywide implementation of the SAT School Day program will happen in the Spring of 2017.

Peterson’s to Release ACT Prep Guide in March 2016 Reply

Petersons ACT Prep Guide_NonDVD_FrontCoverPeterson’s ACT® Prep Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the ACT is the latest installment in Peterson’s very successful history of publishing leading ACT test prep. Peterson’s published ACT titles have sold more than one million copies over the past five years and have been the preeminent ACT resources on the market.

“Peterson’s is excited to announce that the story continues with the latest addition to our product line, the Peterson’s ACT® Prep Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the ACT,” says Jeffrey Noordhoek, Nelnet CEO. “Peterson’s published the official ACT test preparation guide for over a decade and we know how and where students prepare for their academic future. We remain committed to publishing resources with the highest standards to ensure accurate, dependable, high-quality content to help students prepare for the best score possible.”

The ACT® Prep Guide offers students exactly what they need to prepare with confidence for this important college admission test, including: a full-length diagnostic test to evaluate a student’s strengths and weaknesses, six practice tests – four in print and two online – all with detailed answer explanations and in-depth review of all test sections, as well as strategies on how to raise test scores and feel at ease on test day.

For more information on this publication, see the full press release on PRWeb.

Don’t Procrastinate, Register to take the GRE 1

Register for the GRESo you’ve just started up school again (or you’re getting ready to). Summer is over and it is time to get back into the college routine. Getting registered and prepared for a new school year can be a crazy process. There are many things to do in a short period of time. You’ve received your financial aid package, bought your books, and are probably getting settled back into school life. Starting a new school year is stressful and full of activity, especially your senior year. Even though it may be difficult to add even one more thing to your busy schedule, you should take the time to schedule to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). It’s important because the sooner you register, the better.

The Revised General Test

You’ll take the GRE revised General Test as part of your preparation for graduate school. The test is a requirement for most graduate schools and business schools. The GRE test is one of the first steps you should take toward preparing for graduate school. You can take the test up to 5 times in a 12-month period, so by registering now, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to re-take the test if you are not satisfied with your results. If you take the test multiple times, you get to choose which test results you submit to graduate or business schools. Also, different schools have different deadlines when it comes to submitting the GRE during the application process. It’s best to take the test as soon as possible so that you are ready to submit your results as soon as your chosen grad school is ready to receive them.

Registering before Preparation

What if you’re not prepared to take the test yet, should you still register? Yes! Once you register, you’ll have access to test preparation software developed by the same people who develop the test itself. It’s one more test to prepare for, one more thing to study, but the sooner you start, the more successful you are liable to be.

Even if you are unsure that you will pursue a graduate degree, it’s still a good idea to take the test. Taking the test allows you to be prepared if and when you do decide to get a graduate degree. The last thing you want is to decide to apply for a graduate program only to find that you don’t have time to take the test before the school’s deadline. Your test scores are held for five years, so even if you decide to take a break before applying to graduate school, or decide not to go to graduate school but change your mind later, you can still submit these scores. It is always good to keep your options open. Be smart and be prepared.

How to Organize Your Summer Test Prep Reply

The summertime is upon us! While every high school student deserves some rest and relaxation, it’s also the perfect time to kick your SAT and ACT prep into gear. With no academic obligations on your plate and a long runway to improve your testing performance, now is the time to start setting yourself up for college success. In this brief guide, I’ll show you exactly how to make the most of your summer and walk into the fall ready to knock these tests out of the park.

Summer Prep Tip #1: Cancel the Cramming and Covet Consistency

The most underrated ingredient in any successful test prep program is long-term effort. You can’t cram for the SAT and the ACT – they test large banks of information applied in unique ways, and they test process more than they test knowledge. If you give your brain the time to develop thick, well-developed pathways for these processes and facts, you’ll have an incredibly easy time tackling these exams.

With that in mind, your focus should be on small bits of steady, everyday effort. If you can put in 20-45 minutes a day throughout the summer, you won’t just be making things easier on yourself – you’ll also be using your brain the way it’s meant to be used. Don’t put off your prep and then try to get in eight hours on a Sunday – instead, try to focus on small, consistent study sessions on a daily basis, and feel free to split them up! If you can do twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon, you’ll be in amazing shape.

With that in mind, make sure to pick a program that allows you to study on your own schedule! Most SAT and ACT classes and tutors have somewhat restrictive scheduling limitations, which won’t allow you to optimize your summer prep. Instead, find a way to study that allows you to do small bits of work on your schedule, whenever you have the time.

Summer Prep Tip #2: Make Sure You’re Studying for the Right Test

Things in the testing world have gone topsy turvy. The PSAT is now in the New SAT format starting this fall, the SAT is going to switch in March of 2016, and the most recent versions of the current SAT have had their fair share of problems over the last few months. Fortunately for you, this makes life easier, not harder.

As far as I’m concerned, your best bet is to pursue one of these two paths:

  1. Study for the ACT, which will kill two birds with one stone. Because the New SAT is almost identical to the current ACT, by studying for the ACT, you’ll be able to knock out the ACT, the New SAT, and the New PSAT (I guess that’s three birds…).
  2. If you vastly prefer the current version of the SAT to the ACT, you should study up and take it before it changes in March.

Summer Prep Tip #3: Pick a Flexible Program

Summertime is marked by totally unpredictable schedules. You never know where you’ll be, when, or for how long. With that in mind, it’s essential that you pick a program that works wherever you happen to be, and that doesn’t rely on a set-in-stone schedule. As we already discussed, consistency is key, so choosing a program that accommodates the flexibility of your summer schedule will be essential.

Classroom courses are the worst offenders. If you have to be in a specific place at a specific time week in and week out, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. If you work with a tutor, make sure that he or she can work with you online via Skype or video conferencing software, and be sure that he or she can work on different schedules throughout the summer.

The most flexible way to prep is usually through an online course (a reason why online SAT and ACT prep programs are rapidly increasing in popularity). As long as you have a laptop with you, you can prepare whenever you find the time and wherever you happen to be. All you’ll need is the discipline to log into the program after a day at the lake or the beach (sometimes, it’s easier to study before you’ve been out in the sun all day).

No Matter What, Starting Early is Essential

No matter which program you use, and no matter which test you decide to take, the best thing you can do for your performance is to start preparing today. The longer the runway you give yourself to prepare, the less work you have to do on a daily basis, the more breathing room you have, and the more effectively your brain will be able to retain information. Even if you only put in ten minutes a day, starting now will be the smartest decision you can possibly make!

Thanks so much for reading my guide! Have a great summer, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

Anthony-James Green is a world-renowned SAT and ACT tutor with over 13,000 hours of experience teaching these tests, crafting curriculum, and training other tutors to teach their own students. Business Insider recently named Anthony: “America’s Top SAT Tutor

All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of or its parent company Nelnet.

The New SAT: What to Do, When, and How 2

As if the college application process wasn’t enough to worry about, the College Board has decided to layer on an entirely new complication: the announcement of the New SAT, arriving March, 2016 in school gyms near you. Fortunately, while the reasons for the launch of the New SAT are a bit complicated, the actions you should take to deal with it are not.

Before we jump in, let’s take a very quick look at the reasons why the College Board has decided to change its exam for the second time in a decade:

  1. The ACT has become more popular. The College Board is losing market share. The ACT is now taken by more students each year, and the trend away from the SAT and toward the ACT is getting steeper by the season.
  2. The SAT is now seen as the “more complicated” test. Which it is. The ACT and the SAT are both equally as difficult, but the ACT is more straightforward and As a result, the College Board is trying to craft an exam that’s much more like the current version of the ACT.
  3. People hate the current version of the SAT. Switching from 1600 to 2400 points, requiring an essay that no one reads, and disrupting the familiar format of the exam were all very unpopular moves. The new (2005) version of the test was a flop (and largely responsible for the ACT’s surge in popularity), and so the College Board is recognizing their need to change.

What’s going to change on the new test? You can find the entire list of changes here. It’s a lot to digest, so here’s an extremely brief summary:

  1. The test is going back to a 1600-point format. No more 2400-point scale – the test will go back to the familiar 1600-point scale we all know and hate, with two sections: one for math, and one for “verbal.”
  2. The essay will be optional, rather than required. Just like the ACT.
  3. Vocabulary will be less of a concern. There will still be some “in context” vocab, but for the most part, the “pure vocabulary” elements will get nixed.
  4. No more “wrong answer penalty.” Just like the ACT.
  5. More emphasis on “digesting and analyzing graphs and real-time information.” Just like the ACT.

Basically, the test as you know it is gone. For all intents and purposes, it’s going to turn into an ACT with a slightly different structure and a 1600-point grading scale.

The biggest question is this: what do you do about it?

1. If you’re taking either test before March 2016, it’s business as usual. If you want to take the SAT, take the SAT. If you want to take the ACT, take the ACT. To figure out which one you should take, use my free guide here.

2. If you’re taking your standardized tests between March 2016 and June 2016, stick with the ACT. We don’t know exactly what the new SAT will look like, or how well the College Board will roll it out, or how the grading curve will look. If you want to be a guinea pig for the College Board, then by all means – take the March, May, and June 2016 versions of the exam. Otherwise, let them work out their kinks and focus on the ACT instead. The ACT is reliable and predictable – best to stick with the devil you know.

3. After June 2016, we’ll all have a much better idea of what the new SAT looks like, acts like, and “grades” like – from there, pick whichever test works best for you. In June 2016, I’ll be launching a new, free guide to help you decide which test you should focus on.

4. If you’re planning on taking the 2015 PSAT (which will be in the “New SAT” format), study for the ACT! Currently, there aren’t enough materials out to study for the new SAT (the College Board is yet to release their guide, due in mid-June). But the New SAT will be in almost exactly the same format as the current ACT – if you prep for the ACT now, you’ll basically be killing two birds with one stone – knocking out the ACT and prepping for the PSAT. When the new PSAT materials come out this summer, you can just check those for a quick brush up and alteration before you head into the exam.

Not so bad, right? Just follow the four steps above and you’ll be all set. The New SAT is certainly a thorn in our sides, but it’s far from the end of the world. Now that you know what to do, the best piece of advice is to start prepping as soon as you possibly can! The earlier you begin this process, the sooner you’ll have it off your plate, and the more time you’ll have to improve your scores.

Anthony-James Green is world-renowned SAT and ACT tutor with over 10,000 hours of experience teaching these tests, crafting curriculum, and training other tutors to teach their own students. He is also the founder of CNN recently named Anthony: “The SAT tutor to the 1%

Is Studying for the SAT Useless? Reply

iStock_000001927691SmallThe SAT is a test shrouded in myths. One of the most prominent is the idea that woven deep into the very fabric of your DNA is an “SAT gene”, and stamped on that gene is a number as immutable as the number of commandments Moses received up on Mt. Sinai. Those who buy into this idea regard prepping for the SAT as akin to moving Mt. Sinai itself. More…