Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ten online SAT Test preparation services reviewed

This is the best independent review of SAT Test prep companies I have ever seen. This review was done by Consumer Reports WebWatch on May 1, 2006.

The 10 services they evaluated were: Barron’s test prep, Boston test prep, Kaplen’s SAT online prep, Number2.com, Peterson’s SAT online course, Prepmy SAT secrets, Test Preparation program, The official SAT online course, and The Princeton Review.

Overall the tester found 7 of the 10 sites generally effective. WebWatch did note the blending of advertising and educational content and aggressive marketing on some of these sites.

Key Findings:-- Number2.com was the only free-of-charge service tested, and it performed exceptionally well against expensive, better-known services such as The Princeton Review and Kaplan's.-- Testers found the prep service created by The College Board, creator of the SAT itself, had technical glitches and lacked interactive features common on other sites.-- Mistakes in online sample tests -- including grammatical problems, questions with no answers, missing sections of text, font problems, or poorly constructed questions -- were consistently present in six of the 10 services evaluated.-- One program charging $29.95 for three months contained frequent spelling errors, including words like "whore" instead of "where." The home page contained 20 non-functional links and no information about the publisher. The site's Internet Service Provider was traced to Bangkok, Thailand, and e-mail requests for refunds and technical support were not answered.

The testers did see their test scores improve 38 points per student. This is a 1.6% gain.

This report is free. It is 44 pages of great information. What I got out of reading it is that Number2.com which is free is at least as good as the other more expensive ones.

Summery written by Glen http://www.highersat.com/

Download the report here: http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/dynamic/families-reports-satprep.cfm

Monday, August 21, 2006

Choosing the right calculator for the SAT’s (and school)

With so many different calculator options out there, choosing the right one for the SAT’s can seem like a daunting task. Texas Instruments isn’t the only calculator maker out there, but they are by far the most popular, so I would suggest purchasing one of their calculators. The main calculators they offer are the Ti-83 plus, Ti-84 plus, Ti-84 plus silver edition, and the Ti-89 titanium edition. All of their other calculators are being phased out, so I would recommend going with one of these options. To further narrow the options down, you can group the 83 and 84 calculators together (they are 100% compatible keystroke for keystroke), leaving you with the 83/84 family and the 89 titanium.

Now that we have narrowed our calculator choices down to the Ti-83/84 series and Ti-89 series, the first thing that should be noted is that the Ti-89 series is more advanced than the 83/84 series. This does not necessarily mean it is better, however, as the 89 is more expensive and also more difficult to learn and use. The added capability of the 89 allows it to use variables and solve problems that the 83/84 calculators simply cannot. The Ti-89 could potentially help you solve more SAT problems than the Ti-83/84 series would, however you must take into account the time you might save with an easier to use calculator. The way I tell people to decide is first by asking what version your teacher will be using – this is usually in the 83/84 series, and if you are not so great with computers/technology I’d say stick with one of those. If you are a little daring, however, and pick up things quickly when it comes to technology, I’d recommend the Ti-89. A word of caution: remember that because the Ti-89 is more complex you will want to be very familiar with it before the SAT test so that you don’t waste any time figuring out your calculator during the SAT.

A quick sum up:

Go with the Ti-89 if you

  • Are a fast learner when it comes to technology and ready to spend a little more time figuring out your calculator
  • Want a more powerful calculator that could potentially help solve more SAT problems

Go with the Ti-83/84 series calculator if you

  • Are not great with technology (not “tech savvy”)
  • Want the most common calculator on the market (easier to troubleshoot problems)
  • Don’t have the time or patience to learn how to use a new calculator

Next time I’ll examine the differences between the 83 plus, 84 plus, and 84 plus silver edition models, and remember you can find SAT programs at www.HigherSAT.com for each of these calculators which are used during the SAT to help increase your math and verbal scores.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How you should deal with the math Grid portion of the SAT

This is the only part of the SAT that is not multiple choice. You actually have to calculate the exact number (Highersat.com programs really help here) and fill in the grid.
The problems you will have on this section are that the grid can be confusing. You could very easily put the right number in the wrong column. This means that even though you got the right answer, you still got the question wrong. Another problem is that you can’t look at the answers (they do not give them to you) so you can not eliminate these choices. You also can not just plug the numbers given in order to see which ones work, like you can on the multiple choice portion of the test. Highersat.com programs are very useful for the multiple choice part also.

Some tips on how to Grid:
The first and easiest is to write your answer in the boxes above the columns before you fill in the ovals.
You should also use a whole number instead of an improper fraction. Convert fractions to decimals. Do not round up your decimals. Always drop the zero before the decimal point. Then put in as many digits as will fit.

If your answer is greater then 9999 or a negative number you know you have the wrong answer. You can not put these numbers into a grid.