How to Improve Your SAT Reading Score?

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Most students struggle with time management when it comes to reading passages in the SAT, and end up sabotaging their SAT Reading score. Usually, they rush with the passages and even end up answering easy questions incorrectly simply because they did not have enough time to understand what the question was asking them or because they didn’t comprehend the passage at all.

Remember that the SAT gives you ample time to complete and it is not impossible to solve the entire exam. All you need is loads and loads of practice and clear concepts. Most importantly, you need to understand that the SAT is not like those high school exams you take. Those exams were pretty straightforward and the comprehensions required you to thoroughly read every word of the passage so you could answer questions like “What were two things Jane couldn’t stand about Sasha?” The SAT has been designed to trick you and the only way you can tackle it is by figuring out all those tricks.

The first step I suggest is be optimistic and confident. If you believe you won’t be able to do, it will make things way harder than they already are. Not being able to finish the SAT Reading section in time is a common problem students come across when they give the SAT, so don’t degrade yourself thinking that you are the only one out there who is frustrated because of this.

Next SAT Session with Talal starts from 22nd of Sep ’18. Register!

Let me walk you through some steps to help you improve your SAT Reading Score. If you follow these and practice a great deal, your reading speed will increase significantly:

  • SAVE TIME READING THE PASSAGE: Like I mentioned before, the SAT is different and so you need to understand the ideology behind this exam. Don’t waste time scanning and absorbing the passage like your life depended on it, thinking that you might miss out something they’d ask you about. I suggest reading at a normal pace and make small summary notes alongside every paragraph. Just try to understand the main idea of every paragraph and summarize it in 5-7 words. Ideally, you should take about 4-5 minutes to read or skim through the passage and that can easily be managed if you read normally, underline and make summaries.
  • LEARN TO ELIMINATE 3 WRONG ANSWERS: This requires a lot of practice but you’ll be able to get the hang of it eventually. You need to be able to figure out which of the 4 options are clearly wrong. Once you scratch them off, the list you’re left with the ones that you can spend a few seconds thinking about. On the contrary, if you feel like all four are correct, then this might be a problem because you’ll be spending way too much time trying to pick out the right one. Understand that one answer is 100% correct and the other three are 100% wrong so you need to know what makes the choices totally wrong and completely right. Again, practice is key as well as having a good eye for any tiny hints that could make an option wrong.
  • KNOW WHAT TYPE OF QUESTIONS YOU HAVE TROUBLE SOLVING: Among students, question types that they usually get wrong, varies. When you solve a couple of practice tests, you’ll know what type of questions you usually have a problem with. There are a couple of types like Big Picture/Main Point, Words in Context, Command of Evidence Inference, Perspective, Analogies, Tone and Attitude etc. Once you know which ones you have a problem with, make sure you send extra time practicing them so you can polish the concept up. This will save a great deal of time on test day because you’ll be familiar with the tricks of this question.
  • SAT READING MATERIAL: Make sure you practice authentic SAT passages so you know what exactly the passages would look like on test day. You need to choose a good SAT book or source because this will create all the difference. Ample material is available online and in market but you need to choose the right material which is in align with the ideology of test makers (more detail on this in another article).
  • DON’T FOCUS ON MEMORIZING VOCABULARY: A lot of students, literally a lot of students have this wrong notion that by memorizing vocabulary they will be able to easily pass the reading test. This is not going to happen! There are questions (words in context) about vocabulary in the Reading section but not all of them ask you about vocabulary so memorizing 1000 or 10,000 words won’t help you a lot. Also, the vocabulary questions ask you the meaning of a specific word according to the context in which it has been used in the passage and not the literal meaning. So you see memorizing literal definitions won’t help you a whole lot. You need to understand the CONTEXT in which the specific word has been used to gain more points. Instead of spending hours memorizing words, work on practice tests and concepts and improving your comprehension skills by becoming an avid reader.
  • UNDERSTAND THE MISTAKES YOU MAKE: Do NOT skip the mistakes you make on practice tests. Instead, read the questions over and over, know WHY you got it wrong and what information you need to look for in order to get it right. This will help you on test day immensely because you’ll know exactly what to do and what mistakes to avoid. You’ll develop a sixth sense that will make you more careful while answering the questions. If you overlook your mistakes thinking “Oh its okay I won’t make this mistake again, I know better now,” let me make it clear for you that you will make that mistake over and over again so know the reasons behind your mistakes and work harder on them.
  • GUESS ON THE QUESTIONS YOU DON’T KNOW: Don’t make this a habit when you’re practicing because that won’t help you gain marks. This strategy is for when you’re in the exam room and have the SAT booklet in front of you, you’ve got the Reading section right there and a couple of questions you just do NOT understand. That is the time where you begin the guessing game. Don’t leave questions blank, you never know your wild guesses could actually be correct. The New SAT does not have a wrong answer penalty so you can always guess and not worry about getting a negative mark. While doing this, eliminate the obvious wrong answers first and then you have a better chance at getting it right.

Read Shahmeer’s SAT Journey to 1550!

If you follow these steps, it is highly likely you will save heaps of time so make sure you practice while keeping these steps in mind. Remember that these habits cannot be formed in a day or two. It is a long term approach and it takes a great deal of time and effort. You cannot expect to give your best without spending time on practice.

 

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My SAT Journey to 1550

 

The sly CollegeBoard is looking to trick test-takers throughout the SAT and cause them to slip up, so it’s imperative that you develop solid strategies to tackle each section on the exam. When you start preparing, play around with a few strategies that seem the most effective to you and lock them down two weeks before the test. I’ll detail the strategies that worked for me in the section-specific parts below.

Reading

For reading, time management and solid comprehension skills are critical. Practice doing TIMED passages from Khan Academy after doing all the manuals and drill sets provided by Sir Talal. You should be completing one passage in under 11 or 12 minutes – these precious minutes saved per passage give you ample time to recheck your answers and practicing timed passages is the best way to achieve this. The strategy that worked best for me was to carefully read the passage through once in 2-3 minutes and then answer the questions within the next 7-8 minutes. Alternate strategies that might work for you are skimming through the passage as a first pass, reading the questions first, or specifically making note of the questions that refer you back to specific lines. Although this didn’t work well for me, annotating while reading the passage could be very beneficial in allowing you to pinpoint relevant, important information. Make sure you understand the central theme of any given passage – this allows you to easily connect what the question is asking of you with your understanding of the passage. Another strategy, which I learnt from Sir Talal, is that you attempt the questions of a passage backward as they tend to get more specific towards the end and might give you a better understanding of the passage’s main theme. However, I tended to shy away from this strategy as my technique of carefully reading and comprehending a passage in only one go usually provided me with a good grip on the passage’s theme. Also keep in mind that in certain trickier questions, you might be tempted to select a more ‘obvious’ answer choice which is not backed up by evidence in the passage. This was my number one mistake when I started out and becoming wary of this mistake caused my reading score to skyrocket.

Apart from these tips and tricks, develop a regular reading habit. Focus on a wide variety of reading material. I already was a fairly avid reader, but only read sci-fi, non-fiction or related material, so the literature passage was usually my worst attempted. As soon as I diversified my reading habits, I was consistently scoring good in every passage type. In fact, funnily enough, the reading section went from being my most despised section to one I actually enjoyed, since I started finding the passage texts interesting.

Next SAT Session with Talal starts from 22nd of Sep ’18. Register!

Writing

You should aim to perfect this section, as there are usually fairly hard and fast rules in most cases, unlike in the reading section. Make sure you know all the grammar rules, their exceptions and edge cases. A lot of great material for SAT writing will be provided by Sir Talal, including the manuals, New SAT Writing, drill sets, Khan Acadamy and much more. Time management is imperative, and you should have a solid technique of working through the section in place to save every precious second. I used to skim through the chunks where underlined parts were few and far between. However, this technique does have the potential to confuse your understanding of the sentence or paragraph, especially in longer sentences, so it’s important to go back and make sure your selected option choice fits in well. To save even more time, I used to circle the answers on the question paper and fill in the bubbles once I was done with one page. Usually, I ended with a comfortable 5-7 minutes to recheck.

Math

Math is the section in which your score has the potential to quickly improve dramatically. Make sure you have the basics nailed down and that you know the quick, most efficient methods of solving any question. Things like the shape of quadratic functions, the values of common trigonometric ratios, methods like completing the square, various forms of an equation like the one for a circle should be on your fingertips and are vital to efficient time management. A variety of material, again, is available at Tutoria (Brightlink Prep SAT) including the manuals, drill sets and various exercises shared by Sir Talal from various sources. Careless mistakes are your worst enemy in this section, and spending a minute per question gives you ample time to come back and recheck.

How to write a perfect SAT Essay!

A very understated aid in the calculator section is your mastery of the calculator. The calculator, a dumb rock that we’ve literally made think for us, is an incredible tool and you should know it like the back of your hand. I could solve quadratic equations, trigonometric ratios, calculate permutations etc. within seconds because of the hidden modes on my calculator. Conversely, you should know that some questions are better off done without a calculator.You should aim to develop a mathematical ‘intuition’ of sorts, which’ll aid you in quickly being able to identify the best way to solve a certain problem. The only way to develop this intuition is through practice, especially timed one.

The key to improving your score holistically is to practice, practice, practice. The SAT is not just a test of your mastery of this material, but of how well you manage time and stress as well. Attempt all the official CollegeBoard practice tests followed by the Ivy Global ones, which are most similar to the official ones. Move onto Princeton, Kaplan and Barrons once you’ve exhausted all other material to get a wider understanding of the whole range of questions you could be asked. I stress repeatedly, attempt all these mocks in a timed manner, in an exam environment, free of distractions. Push yourself further and build endurance by doing two back to back, which will give you confidence in your ability to comfortably sit through one hellish sitting on the actual day of the test.

More than enough material is available and Sir Talal’s incredibly captivating lessons and solid guidance are super helpful. Make a plan, stick to it, practice regularly and you’ll be set.

My SAT Journey to 1560

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SAT Breakdown:
Reading: 390

Writing: 390

Math: 780

Introduction

How well you do on the SAT depends on how you approach the exam. This approach depends on your resources, how you react to mistakes and obstacles, and how much you practice. Usually, where students go wrong is with resources. There are many test prep companies which don’t go into much detail on how the exam really works and what it tests. The result is irrelevant practice material that not only wastes the reader’s time but also harms their score. It is really imperative that you only expose yourself to material that exactly or nearly exactly resembles the actual test. This is because you need to only practice what you will be tested with. I will be detailing each section on the basis of approach, the amount of practice required, most recommended resources, and what obstacles you may encounter. Rest assured, this guide will include everything you need to get your target score.

Reading

This section is where most students fail. I too had a very tough time with this, but having practiced a lot and with the right strategies, I was able to improve from 280 to 390. You need to very intelligently approach this section. If you are not a habitual reader, I suggest you start reading now. The reason why a lot of students fail in this section is because of a lack of comprehension skills. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who didn’t get in the habit of reading early on, then you need to start either reading novels or SAT-style passages usually found from New York Times, Independent, Time magazine etc. If you are short of time, then you have no choice but to practice with individual Reading tests, which also works so no need to worry. For strategies, I highly recommend Sir Talal’s classes. He discusses various strategies on how to approach the different types of passages including but not limited to “marking-up and summarizing.” Once you really understand these strategies and start applying them, you will realize the passages aren’t that difficult. Once you get down the strategies, you need to move on to practice. The best practice materials that I have come across are from Khan Academy, various drill sets and exams uploaded on the portal by Sir Talal. You should also refer to UWorld.com when you are done with most of your practice. This website contains more difficult material, but has better explanations and really helps over-prepare you for the section. I don’t think many resources resemble the section as well as these resources do. The quality of your practice is also really important. Always time yourself strictly, and try not to be lenient. A digital watch works wonders to help you pace yourself with each passage, and really helps your focus. The best tip that I can give you for this section, is that there will only be one correct answer choice. This answer choice can be proven with explicit evidence from text, context included, and the other three wrong answer choices can be proven wrong the same way. Always actively use text evidence to either prove an answer choice wrong or correct. When doing so, only refer back to the text when you have to. Otherwise rely on your comprehension for evidence. As for practice, I recommend doing one practice test each day. Out of the three, this section requires the most practice. When you have done a practice test, score yourself, and analyze your mistakes. Now, this is where you will either improve a lot or not improve at all. This is the most important step. When I was preparing, I would either not look at my mistakes, or just look at them at the surface and move on. This is why most students don’t improve in this section, and I too didn’t for quite some time until I really started scrutinizing my mistakes. You need to see why an answer choice is wrong and why an answer choice is correct. You need to really think how, if you were to go back in time and do the question again, you would have arrived to the correct answer. Once I started really applying this one principle to my practice, only then did my reading score improve. Otherwise, I was stuck in the range of 280-340. Getting stuck is one of the major obstacles of this section and only by really analyzing your mistakes will you be able to overcome it.

Next SAT Session with Talal starts from 22nd of Sep ’18‘. Register!

Writing

This section is the easiest to improve out of the three since it relies on grammar rules and your ability to understand context. However, without good resources to guide you through, there is a tendency to get stuck in a certain score range. I recommend Sir Talal’s lectures and manuals. His writing manuals cover everything in detail while his lectures break down all the grammar rules you need to know for the SAT exam. Additional material provided by him on his portal is cherry on top of cake. You won’t be needing anything else if you cover the above thoroughly. Practice is the key in this section so make sure you don’t miss out on anything. Extra practice on Khan Academy will also be beneficial. Again, you need to be really mindful of your mistakes and really analyze them and try not make them again. I recommend doing about one practice test every 1-3 days. The obstacles that you may encounter in this section are a) not improving despite doing a lot of practice tests and b) a dip in the score despite consistently scoring higher. To address a), you need to revise grammar rules. Usually, students have a hard time answering sentence/paragraph placement and add/delete/revise questions because they don’t exactly understand how context works in the flow of questions. You need to see that each sentence has its own idea, and this idea is related to the idea of sentences before and after. If a sentence breaks flow or does not transition smoothly to the next idea, it needs to be revised. To really see how this works, refer to the material mentioned above. You need to practice a lot for it to become apparent. To address b), just see what mistakes you have made and whether it is something that you need to work on. Usually, dips happen either because a certain test contains your weakest points or because of a lack of focus. If it’s the former, you have a great opportunity to address your weaknesses. If it’s the latter, you can ignore the dip since there’s not much you can do about it other than working on your concentration.

Mathematics

This section is usually the most reliable in terms of score since you can be sure to consistently get 770+ once you make it work. The plethora of topics that the SAT tests in this section can be intimidating, but once you really put in the time and practice them, you will see that this section is the least tricky of the three, and usually tests the same topics over and over with just a few changes to its questions and a few tricks. Doing all of the questions in Khan Academy and the material provided by Sir Talal should be enough to get you to the 700-750 range. You should reliably get 770+ in every test after you go through all this material. Your approach should be to solve each question in as much time as possible. This requires thinking a bit creatively around your problems, but once you get that down, you can effortlessly get through this section. The only obstacle in this section is falling into the trap of a few tricky questions and therefore getting stuck. Usually, when the solution to a question becomes too long, it is a good sign that you are going in the wrong direction. This is when you need to stop, rethink how you are approaching the question, and come up with a less time-consuming route unless you don’t have any other way.

How to avail study abroad scholarships!

Parting Words

I would also highly recommend Tutoria (previously Brightlink Prep – SAT). Sir Talal has himself gone through this process. He knows each and every angle of the test, every good resource, and knows the usual difficulties that students go through. Having an experienced mentor answer every single query in less than a minute was extremely helpful in preparing me for the test and really made the process easier. The most unique aspect of Tutoria that I find worth mentioning is that Sir Talal himself routinely takes the SAT. He has a track record that qualifies him for the one of the best tutors of the country, if not the best.

Now, the most important thing that usually goes overlooked is that, while the SAT is a very important exam, you need to be careful not to let it take over your life. This is also really important in getting your target score. Always give yourself occasional breaks. There’s no point in practicing when you are too exhausted to learn anything. Eat right, sleep well, be sure to exercise. Remember, this exam is not a measure of your intelligence or your self-worth. Getting a good score doesn’t mean you will succeed. Getting a low score doesn’t mean you won’t. Think of the SAT as only an opportunity. Nothing more.  There will be countless more opportunities like it in the future. Be sure to have a backup in case anything goes wrong. I think one of the things that helped me get my score is that I had reliable backup options which I was happy with, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t gotten my target score. Having a safe backup option will help you get over your anxiety, and you won’t be up the whole night before test day thinking about how the test will decide your life, which is really not a fun state to be in.

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University Deadlines: What’s the best time to apply?

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With an ambitious desirable list of colleges, it is imperative that you follow your passion through to the most important part of college application: the deadline of application itself. I believe every student aspiring to apply abroad, especially in the US, UK or LUMS, should have a list of tentative colleges drawn up at least a year if not more than the fall semester they intend to attend. On the top right hand side of each of your college resume applications, you should place in bold numbers the deadline of application, both the early admissions as well as regular. I counsel my students to prepare for the early admissions and send their application during that time as the application pool is limited and so chances of acceptances increase. To help our most students tally the deadlines of US colleges, I have drawn up a list of some top tier as well as other reputable universities deadlines to help you plan your schedule better. Keep in mind these are dates for 2018 fall undergraduate admissions and are subject to variation from course to course.

  1. Brown University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 1st

  1. Columbia University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 1st

  1. Cornell University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 2nd

  1. Dartmouth College:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 1st

  1. Stanford University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 3rd

  1. Princeton University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 1st

  1. Yale University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 2nd

  1. Ohio State University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: February 1st

Tutoria’s student scores 1570! Learn from his experience.

  1. Pennsylvania State University:

Regular admissions: February 1st

  1. MIT:

Early admissions fall: October 20th

Regular admissions: December 10th

  1. Texas Austin University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: December 1st

  1. University of Notre Dame:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 1st

  1. Duke University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 3rd

  1. Harvard University:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 1st

  1. University of Chicago Illinois:

Early admissions fall: November 1st

Regular admissions: January 31st

  1. University of Oxford:

Regular admission: October 15th

There is no early admission.

  1. University of Cambridge

Regular admission: October 15th

  1. London School of Economics:

Regular admission: January 15th

  1. Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Deadline to apply for admission (online): February 16th, 2017 (dates for 2018 yet to be released)

Deadline to submit supporting documents: February 17th, 2017 (dates for 2018 yet to be released)

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How to tackle the SAT Writing Section!

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Students applying particularly for liberal arts and social science majors have technically more chance to avail scholarships and admissions in top tier universities based on their SAT’s English scores. I always tell my students not to worry if they are a bit weak when it comes to numbers since they can make up for it with the English section. Writing in SAT, although often interpreted as taxing and put aside till the end to be dealt with later, should be prepared for as systematically and consistently as possible.

Next SAT Session with Talal starts from 22nd of Sep ’18. Register Now!

For starters, all students should not be under the impression that since they have a general idea about grammar they are prepared to attempt the SAT writing section. When preparing for the writing section you need to follow the grammar rules of SAT books and practice paper keys. A few rules differ from your basic perception of grammar and so have to be practiced over and over again. Some of the grammar rules I impress upon my students to focus upon most are:

Subject-Verb Agreement, Pronoun-Antecedent, Modifiers, Parallel Structure, Punctuation, Infographics, Diction, Idioms and Confused Words, etc.

For practice sessions, it is vital for you to grasp the above mentioned topics especially punctuation and how to combine clauses. You should know how to use commas, periods, colons, dashes, etc since a lot of questions are set to deliberately confuse the student with interplay of punctuations.

How to tackle the SAT Reading Section!

Having analyzed SAT papers with great scrutiny, I have realized around 10-12 questions are easily doable since they do not deal with hardcore grammar but general concepts like Adding, Deleting and Revising Information. At Brightlink- SAT, my first lecture focuses on this aspect encouraging students to make transitions between some basic ideas to choose from: reinforcement, cause and effect, contrast, topic sentence, conclusion sentence, transitions etc. Furthermore, I stress upon understanding the main theme of the paragraph by highlighting important points, how the paragraphs relate to each other and how the ideas and sentences relate to each other.

Time management costs a lot of potential marks even if you have prepared well. When aiming for 750 or 800, even seconds delay matters and so every 35 min section should be practiced at home at your own schedule everyday for at least 2 months. The 4 passages should be read using the “mark up and summarize strategy” which I always stress upon to highlight important points and summarize the passage briefly before proceeding to questions. Every missed question should not be let go of and you should ponder over why it took so much time to identify the clue to the answer. Identify patterns of SAT grammar questions that perplex you more than others and work on it. With practice and intelligent approach, you will be able to ace the writing section 🙂

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How to Avail Study-Abroad Scholarships

For most students, in Pakistan especially, the question about pursing bachelors abroad isn’t about the grades, it is about the funding. With both the increasing dip in our currency and the inflating tuition fees of US universities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pursue studies abroad. I have had so many bright students come to Brightlink prep – SAT with exceptional resumes who have even received acceptances from some of the best universities but never avail the opportunity due to lack of funds. Therefore, I have decided to enlist some measures for students to prepare way beforehand for scholarship applications. Here, I would like to stress the preparation of scholarship applications starts way before the college application itself. To begin with:

1) Organize and Focus

The key to avail a scholarship lies in taking an early start, preferably in O Levels. I know it sounds too early to decide your career pathway but at least work on perfecting your grades, taking extra subjects, acquiring general charity summer experiences, participating and pursuing excellence in one if not more extracurricular activities. Utilize these three years of school to experiment and find one extracurricular that you think you could build on later in your A Levels or High School.

2) Grades matter

As clichéd as it sounds, in all your efforts to build your profile, one should never ignore the importance of grades. Primarily, O Level grades matter more than A Levels so you would have to be on your best from the very beginning. Try to study smart and aim for the apex. You are competing with students with 20 A*, 18 A* and so on (yes I have had these students at Brightlink Prep – SAT :p). Having said that, let me also assure you straight A’s do not guarantee admission anywhere; you need to have a very strong profile and application to secure a good college placement. I have had students with average grades get into the finest colleges abroad because they have had the right approach, understand the application criteria and what is being asked of them.

3) Research and Discover

As soon as you are done with your O-levels, I would suggest you come out of your experimental mode and start dedicating your efforts into a focused aim. Ideally, by now, you should have thought about your major and dedicated some time to research on the list of colleges you plan to apply into. Thoroughly research every university, keeping a track of their programs, faculty members, scholarships available, their alumni network etc. Make a folder of every college’s scholarship application requirements. Work on extracurricular activities more suited to your major, one that would make your overall application stronger because universities are very interested to see how FOCUSED you are. That is the key word for me here.

4) The Application Itself

Towards the end of your A-1, you should have a folder made of colleges offering scholarships. Keep in mind to highlight their eligibility criteria and see whether you fit into that criteria or not. Some colleges even have special award schemes which although are difficult to avail are nevertheless worth a shot. Some colleges offer need-based funding, while others are need-blind. Look into every colleges alumni profiles and see what scholarship they got and on what basis. Remember, you should never disregard the financial worth of any scholarship no matter how small, apply to every scholarship you think you are eligible for. Provide all the required information correctly with as much certified proofs of your resume as possible. If you are aiming for a need-based scholarship, work on your application story making it seem as real as possible. If you are aiming for need-blind, your resume needs to stand apart from all the multitudes of others in terms of dedication and commitment.

Other than this, look out for various other scholarships that are available. I have shared a link below which contains some extremely good scholarships that are available to the US.

5) The CSS/Financial Aid Profile – The Collegeboard

Fill the CSS application form of the Collegeboard and apply for scholarships there. In my personal experience, this is the best way to apply for scholarships. Here is the link to the website:

https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile

6) Getting into College

In all your efforts, make sure you apply and meet all college deadlines and work on your SAT score. A good SAT score is the final deciding factor, in fact, the basis of selection for most colleges.

Looking to improve your SAT score? Read one of the best debriefs of 2017 to learn how.

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Maths: 790

English: 660

Reading:

Reading proved to be the trickiest part: not only for preparation but also in the exam as well. Starting with the preparation, I knew that reading would be hard. It is the most infamous section of the SAT. However, I had this misconception that due to being an avid novel reader for the last eleven years, I would have the English section under my belt. This is not the case; while it is true that being a regular reader does make a few things easy, most of the reading section depends upon your practice and how you choose to approach the passages.

I started approaching the passages in a different way than usual. Owing to my fast speed in reading, I started by skimming through the passage in 1-2 minutes, and then started from the last question of the passage to the first. I employed this method due to the trend of the passage questions. Most of them have the central theme related question in the beginning and then the specific evidence related question in the end. So by starting from the end, even if you didn’t understand the passage upon skimming, the specific evidence related questions would give you a better idea of what’s being talked about. This technique worked out for me and in practice exams, I was able to achieve a score of 720-740, which was the great improvement from my original 630.

I practiced all the material that was provided by Sir Talal, which helped me immensely in understanding all the concepts. The “Qs Types” and the “Reading exams” that he shares are extremely relevant and provide the perfect practice that you need.

Writing:

This section was the second hardest. First of all, get acquainted with all the grammar rules and their examples. Half of your job is done already once you do this. I recommend the manuals shared by Brightlink and all the material posted online. It is all you require to ace this section. The next part is your implication of these newly learned rules. This relies greatly on your practice. For writing, I practiced it harder than either Mathematics or Reading, because, as an O-levels English student, grammar was alien to me. I practiced up to 4-5 passages every day and then was able to improve my score from 32/44 to an average of 40 or 42. This, I believe, is the most practice-intensive part of the SAT.

Mathematics:

Mathematics, for me, was the easiest. SAT maths focuses on the basics and does not go into much detail. Most of the questions in SAT maths are very generic and upon doing a few practice tests, you will realize that there is no huge variation in the types of questions given in the SAT. What needs to be done is, first and foremost, strengthening of core concepts through revision of notes and then extensive practice. A score of above 750 in SAT Maths can guarantee you a safe overall (or super score), so when your reading goes bad, you can fall back on Maths (that is what I did). All in all, the strategy I employed is easy to understand. I used the material provided by Sir Talal and after exhausting all of that I attempted the question bank of Uworld.com which has 400+ questions for maths (very accurate towards the real thing) and completed them all. The amazing thing about this website is, it categorizes the wrong answers as well, so you always have an idea where you went wrong.

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Muaaz got 1510 on his SAT! Learn from his experience.

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Reading

Reading is the trickiest part because you have to extract critical information from the passage given. There is no hard and fast rule for it – you can prepare and use tips and tricks to make yourself better at it as I got a lot of help from my mentor at Brightlink Prep but you cannot rely on rules and formulae for this one. None the less, for reading you need to be able to make sense of a passage that is provided to you. One of the things that help with that is the type of passage and the text given as an introduction of it. Bear both of those in mind as you read through, and try to make a basic sense of the passage. Don’t get confused with some of the irrelevant tiny detail that might be given in the passage, rather focus on your questions. Elimination is the most helpful one in this part. By eliminating the wrong choices, you can get to lesser of the options or a better standing in guessing, at least than you would have otherwise. And be confident in your answers! I used the resources provided by Brightlink Prep plus Khan Academy for the reading practice. They definitely have a lot of great resources!

Writing

Writing is much simpler than the reading section and revolves around knowing some of the basic rules of grammar (and some not so basic ones). The way I played through them was using the manuals provided by Sir Talal which cover all the major rules that can be tested. Brightlink also provided me with ample practice material which helped me a lot in applying those rules on the various types of passages. For more practice, Khan Academy!
For writing, don’t get confused by the numbering and underlining – learn to get accustomed to the way the questions are presented on the actual SAT or otherwise it could jumble up and get confusing.

Math

Math wasn’t my strongest suit, so I don’t have a lot to suggest in that regard. However, one thing that really put me off mark was bad practice. DO NOT use sites that throw only the easiest of the questions at you. They tend to make you feel comfortable with some questions but those aren’t going to get you to the benchmarks. Thoroughly practice all the material, drill sets, assignments, practice questions and exams that are provided by Sir Talal; they will definitely help you a lot in achieving the score you desire. There are some tips which I learned at Brightlink Prep which came to my rescue: one tip was to define a value for “x” wherever you can, it really helps in solving a lot of otherwise complicated questions. Another one was using the numbers given in the answer choices and working backwards – it makes calculations a lot easier and simpler.

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How to write a perfect SAT Essay!

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Although the essay section in SAT is optional but bare in mind that most, if not all, reputable universities require SAT essay scores to further judge your comprehension skills. The essay is the last section of the SAT exam, marked out of 12 points but since it is checked by two examiners, the total achievable score comes to be 24. The essential breakdown of the score grants equal distribution to all three components of criteria: Reading: 2-8 marks (how well your essay shows that you have understood the source text), Writing: 2-8 marks (how effectively you use language, how skillfully did you craft your response? Is your essay’s structure clear? Does your essay have a clear thesis or claim? Are the sentences varied? Is your choice of words precise? etc), and Analysis: 2-8 marks (how well did you analyze the passage and carried out the task of explaining how the author builds the argument to persuade the reader using evidence, reasoning and other persuasive elements).

When students at Tutoria apply for universities, they are always encouraged to prepare for the essay section pre-hand along with the other three sections as a respectable score in essay gives the final boost to your resume.

Next SAT Session with Talal starts on 22nd of Sep ’18. Register Now!

Structure: The most important part of your essay is the structure which should contain the Introduction, Main Body, and the Conclusion.

To begin with, the introduction should entail your thesis statement which is the crux of your essay. While coming up with your thesis statement, keep in mind it should be derived solely from ideas and facts from the passage and be easily justifiable. Along with your thesis, you should also state whether you think the argument presented by the author is effective, strong, flawed or lacks reasoning, etc. Avoid giving your own opinion by agreeing or disagreeing with the author; you will be strictly penalized if you share your own opinion rather than analyzing the text. After giving the thesis statement, STATE your agenda in simple words. I have come up with certain examples that you can write in the introduction which fit in almost all the passages:

  • Organization/Structure
  • Language
  • Examples/Facts
  • Reasoning
  • Stats
  • Personal Anecdotes
  • Emotions
  • Logos, Pathos, Ethos
  • Acknowledging the other side/challenging assumptions
  • Rhetorical Questions
  • Any other strategy the author uses in the passage

Moving on to the body of the essay, where you have to do your best to elaborate on your agenda. Start explaining your above-mentioned agenda from the most relevant point to the least: analyzing the passage and making use of quotations wherever they make your point stronger. You must use quotations to back-up your claims and reasoning. This shows not only that you’ve read the passage, but also that you understand what the author is saying and the way the author constructed the argument.

I have come up with the following list of words and phrases to help you quote effectively:
The author…..

discusses frequently uses brings up cites writes
expresses establishes the fact that indicates that argues that makes the conclusion that
represents this issue as mentions notes that calls upon voices his concern that
tells the reader that shows that continues goes on to state that characterizes
warns connects this and that to points out quotes acknowledges
contends states maintains emphasizes highlights
makes reference to asserts that sets the stage for his argument

Moving on, there will be a lot of explaining involved in your essay as well. My favorite expressions to use when explaining are:

The implication is that The suggestion is that …serves to… The inclusion of …helps to…
…..elicits…. grounds her/his argument in reality so that even skeptical readers won’t be able to dismiss it ….marks the extent of the problem By appealing to our sense of…., the author…..
The author exploits the fact that…. Given that… By showing that there is…., the author… …compels the reader to…

How to tackle the SAT Reading Section!

Your essay should contain your thesis statement at least 3-4 times to make it easier for the reader to grasp your main idea. The Collegeboard recently stated that the length of the essay does matter so, to be on the safe side, write 2 sides of A4 paper to the minimum without compromising on the analytical strength of the essay. The biggest mistake, I believe, students do is that they end up writing summaries of the passage instead of analyzing it. Please avoid committing this crime. The main focus of the essay is on analysis and how you dissect the author’s argument.

After the body paragraphs, you will have a conclusion where you will sum up everything. As it is an analytical essay, you must write on both the positive and the negative aspects of the argument and then conclude your argument in a coherent thesis statement.

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Want to Score 1570 in SAT? Find out how.

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Math – 800

English – 770


The Reading Section

For me, this was the hardest section on the test, mainly because I’ve never been an avid reader. But then Sir Talal helped me realize that more than anything, this section requires the use of common sense. Even seemingly difficult questions can be correctly solved by logically eliminating answer choices. And no, you do not need to memorize the ‘1500 most used words on the SAT’. The new SAT requires you to choose the most accurate meaning of a word in context, rather than asking for its literal definition.

When Should I Take My SAT Exam?

As a general strategy, spend 3-4 minutes going through each passage. Don’t underline stuff if you don’t want to, just concentrate on the content. Then move on to the questions. Different strategies work for different people, but I personally used this one. In my first attempt, I had a 670 on the English section with a 10 mark deduction in the reading section. That was because I did not read the passages before attempting questions. On my next attempt, I used Sir Talal’s advice to get a 770. I changed my strategy a bit and spent 4-5 minutes reading and underlining the passage. This technique helped immensely when I had to refer back to the passage while solving questions.

Another problem I faced during practice tests was the inability to manage time, and I spent a lot of time trying to answer difficult questions at the expense of the easier ones. You should spend 13 minutes per passage, rather than 15-20 minutes on a difficult passage and less than 10 minutes on an easier one. This might affect your score on the easier passage as well.

Next SAT Session with Talal starts from 31st July ’18. Register!

Writing Section

You need to know all the grammar rules for the SAT writing section, and Sir Talal thoroughly discusses all of them in his session, providing students with a ton of practice questions. This section is easier compared to the reading section, and you rarely run short on time. With sufficient practice, you can master this part of the test. There’s a free writing course on reasonprep.com which you can use in addition to Sir Talal’s classes to sharpen your skills. Improvement in the writing section comes quicker than in the reading section, so if you want a good score on the English section, try to perfect the writing part. Complete all the Collegeboard practice tests (time yourself) so that by the time it’s test day, you have seen a wide variety of questions.

Math Section

Practice makes perfect. It seems as if this statement was made for the SAT math section. And you’ll have a lot to practice if you join Brightlink Prep SAT. I personally solved all the “Must Do Questions” Sir Talal provided, and was able to get an 800 on math. He goes through each math concept that’s tested on the SAT, and I highly recommend taking notes as he teaches. That way, you’ll be able to revise all math concepts by flipping a few pages. Other than that, Sir Talal gives Kaplan, Princeton, Ivy Global and Collegeboard practice tests, which makes a total of 20+ full length exams. Once you’re done with these, you’re good to go. Go get your 800.

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