SATTopics: Our Philosophy | Should I Prep? | About the SAT
About the PSAT
Cardinal Education administers a diagnostic practice test to every student before beginning tutoring. This allows us to assess the strengths and weaknesses, get a baseline score, and develop an individualized tutoring plan for each student. Tutoring sessions typically last 1.5-2 hours and are held 1-2 times a week; the schedule is adapted to fit your student’s particular needs, goals, and timeline. All our sessions are 1-on-1 tutoring, which we have found to be the most successful way to motivate and raise students’ scores. All Cardinal Education test prep specialists are experts in the tests they teach. We not only know the best way to do each problem, but we can also explain each question in several ways your student will understand.
Students complete homework outside of the tutoring session and come in for numerous practice tests, as huge score gains are only achieved through intimate familiarity with SAT question types. To ensure that students are learning the SAT as it really is, we only use official SAT material produced by the College Board, the company that makes the SAT. While other test prep companies spend much of their time to replicating the SAT in order to produce their own prep materials, we devote our time to in-depth analysis of the official SAT material. Our analysis has helped our tutors to master the nuances of the test and has led us to develop the most effective strategies for students to use on the SAT. Our methods are proven, and we consistently see score increases of 250-300 points. Contact us today to schedule a diagnostic test and get started.
Does your student need to prep for the SAT?
The College Board will always insist that no preparation is needed for the SAT, while most colleges will, if asked, discourage students from preparing for the SAT. Yet, the SAT is very consistent. It asks the same types of questions in the same manner year after year. Students who are familiar with these question types and know the best ways to approach them will always have an advantage over less-informed students. Our results prove that with the right preparation regimen, SAT scores can improve significantly. For more details about our success preparing students for the SAT, see our results.
About the SAT
The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long and is broken into ten sections that alternate between Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. Wrong answers are counted against the score, so blindly guessing is not advantageous. Compared to the ACT, it asks trickier questions but gives more time per question. For a full breakdown of the differences between the SAT and ACT, visit our SAT vs. ACT blog article. The SAT is offered every October, November, December, January, March, May, and June. Click here for this year’s testing dates and registration deadlines. When to begin test prep depends entirely on what score the student wants to achieve: the higher the goal, the earlier preparation needs to start. We suggest taking a practice test six months prior to the actual exam to get a benchmark score and to provide ample time for preparation.
Critical Reading: The Critical Reading sections of the SAT test a student’s vocabulary, ability to draw inferences, and ability to identify tone and points of view. The first five to eight questions in each Critical Reading section are sentence completions, which require students to select the best word(s) to fill in the blank(s) in each sentence. Our comprehensive vocabulary program and tactical approaches help students score highly on the sentence completions.
Following the sentence completions are passage questions, which ask students to answer questions about a reading passage. There are four very different types of reading passages on the SAT: short independent passages, short paired passages, long independent passages, and long paired passages. Most test prep companies advise students to simply read each passage, regardless of passage type, and then answer the questions that follow. We have developed unique strategies for approaching each passage type, which save our students time and maximize their accuracy.
Math: The concepts tested by the SAT are not highly advanced. The SAT only covers math topics up through geometry and selected topics from algebra II. Yet, the SAT manages to set up math questions designed specifically to trick students. Even strong math students often find themselves bewildered by the SAT’s cryptic math questions. We teach students to recognize the most common types of math questions, and show students strategies and tricks for mastering these question types. For weaker math students, we also do a thorough review of all the math content that will show up on the test. By the time they take the SAT, our students are able to see through the SAT’s tricks and conquer the questions on the Math section.
Writing: The Writing portion of the SAT is divided into two entirely separate parts. The first part asks students to respond to a prompt with a well-crafted essay in 25 minutes. Most students panic when they read the prompt and think they are expected to write a strong, well-edited, 5-paragraph essay in 25 minutes; however, students do not realize that a good school essay and a good SAT essay are very different. Because a good SAT essay is graded on a consistent rubric, it can be simplified and taught with a few keys concepts, ensuring any student with proper guidance can get a good essay score. We teach students to write persuasive 4-paragraph essays that effectively display the student’s ability to form a cohesive argument. By breaking down practice essays, we are able to target each student’s weaknesses. We also provide students with several time-saving techniques and ideas that apply to any essay topic.
Multiple choice grammar questions form the second part of the Writing section. These questions test a student’s ability to identify grammatical errors, select the best variation of a sentence, and edit paragraphs. Because the SAT always tests the same grammar concepts, students do not need to be strong writers to do well on the Writing section. Our students learn to identify and fix the specific grammar errors that appear on the SAT Writing section, often leading to large score increases in the Writing section.
About the PSAT
The PSAT is a standardized test usually taken sophomore and junior years. The PSAT is a shortened version of the SAT that only contains five sections (no essay). Because its format is so similar, the PSAT is a helpful predictor of the SAT scores. Its primary purposes are to accustom students to the SAT format, provide a predictive score, and enter students into the National Merit Scholarship competition. Strong students who scored highly on their sophomore year PSAT should consider preparing for the junior year PSAT, as the National Merit Scholarship is one of just a few nationally recognized competitions open to high school students. Contact us for further advice on whether PSAT prep would be worthwhile for your student.
|Essay||1 prompt, 25 minutes||None|
|Critical Reading||3 sections, 25, 25, & 20 minutes||2 sections, 25 minutes each|
|Math||3 sections, 25, 25, & 20 minutes||2 sections, 25 minutes each|
|Writing||2 sections, 25 & 10 minutes||1 section, 30 minutes|
|Total||3 hours 45 minutes||2 hours 10 minutes|