SAT/ACT Online

The College Board’s Online Companion offers explanations for every
question in their Official SAT Study Guide (aka “The Blue Book”). This site
does require logging in to a College Board account:

For Math Phobics and Math Lovers —
Khan Academy
offers video tutorials for every single question in the first edition of The Blue Book. Although the second edition contains additional tests, it’s rather easy to sync up the tests.  Practice Tests 4 to 10 in the second edition correspond to Tests 2 to 8 in the first.

This is a tremendous resource:

The Forest for the Trees

The Critical Reader is the most comprehensive reading and grammar source available.It offers an exceptional blend of content and presentation, thanks to Erica Meltzer, an expert tutor and test writer.

ACT Online Prep
is the only site to offer “official” ACT prep materials as it
is run by the testing company itself. While it does cost twenty dollars for a year of online access, it may be worth it if a student is looking for more practice after using The Real ACT study guide.

I recommend that you start with one of these expert sites in the summer, BEFORE you decide to sign up for a small class or hire a tutor. When Sept. arrives, you’ll be ready with questions in hand for your teacher and classmates. Students who pre-prepare in this way make much faster progress on SAT/ACT review.


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Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees ( Critical Reading Strategies)

SAT Reading Strategy: Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees



The multi-talented Erica Meltzer, who writes the Ultimate SAT Verbal blog, has written a great post about keeping your eye on the big picture.

She says:

“…[The College Board] will always deliberately choose passages containing bits that aren’t completely clear — that’s part of the test. The goal is to see whether you can figure out their meaning from the general context of the passage….The trick is to train yourself to ignore things that are initially confusing and move on to parts that you do understand.

If you get a question about something you’re not sure of, you can always skip over it, but you should never get hung up on something you don’t know at the expense of something you can understand easily. If you really get the gist, you can figure a lot of other things out, whereas if you focus on one little detail, you’ll get . . . one little detail.”
Running into a tree

My students routinely stumble in this passage from Test 8 in the The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd edition.

“This passage, about animal perception, was adapted from an essay by a writer who trains animals.

Anyone who trains animals recognizes that human and animal perceptual capacities are different. For most humans, seeing is believing, although we do occasionally brood about whether we can believe our eyes. The other senses are largely ancillary; most of us do not know how we might go about either doubting or believing our noses. But for dogs, scenting is believing..

..So if Fido and I are sitting on the terrace, admiring the view, we inhabit worlds with radically different principles of phenomenology. Say that the wind is to our backs. Our world lies all before us, within a 180 degree angle. The dog’s – well, we don’t know, do we?

He sees roughly the same things that I see but he believes the scents of the garden behind us…”

Here’s the question that stumps them:

11. The example in the last paragraph suggests that “principles of phenomenology” can best be defined as

A) memorable things that happen
B) behaviors caused by certain kinds of perception
C) ways and means of knowing about something
D) rules one uses to determine the philosophical truth about a certain thing
E) effects of a single individual’s perception on what others believe

They get stuck because they don’t know what “phenomenology” means.

Step back and observe the forest

Hmm..let’s see if we can solve it by stepping back and observing this particular forest. What is the main point of this passage? Humans see the world but dogs smell the world.

Now let’s look at the answer choices.

Which trees don’t belong here?

Chop down the wrong answers.

A) The main idea and the last two paragraphs talk about Fido “believing” the garden and the world by smelling. The passage isn’t talking about “memorable things” that happen. Cross out.

B) This talks about perception – let’s leave it in for now

C) “Different ways of knowing about something” – could be – let’s leave it in for now

D) The passage isn’t talking about “philosophical truths.” Cross out.

E) Perception again – let’s leave it in
Which tree absolutely belongs here?

Now take a closer look at what is left.

B) It definitely talks about different kinds of perceptions, but not in terms of them causing different behaviors. “Fido and I are sitting on the terrace inhabiting worlds with different principles of phenomenology.” Our behavior is the same – sitting on the porch. Cross out.

C) “Different ways of knowing about something” – humans see, dogs smell. Could be. Keep

E) “Effect of an individual’s perception on what others believe.” Close but not right. Fido’s nose leads him to “believe the scents of the garden.” His individual perception determines what he believes, not someone else. Cross out.

Therefore C must be right. And we didn’t even need to know what phenomenology means.
Take only pictures, leave only footprints

 If you run into a tree, back up and look around you.

Summarize the main idea.
Examine each answer choice to see if it belongs in this particular forest

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How to Cut Your SAT Math Prep in Half

I. How do the math questions break down in the SAT? The chart above shows you four main areas:

• Algebra + functions, 33%
• Geometry/coordinate geometry, 29%
• Data, statistics, 14%
• Number theory + percents, 24%

II. Play to your weakest area. If your weakest areas are algebra (33%) or geometry (29%), start by reviewing the Collegeboard blue book, Official Sat Study Guide, 2nd edition, for that topic. You can slash your study time by focusing on algebra and geometry because they total about 62% of the questions!

III. Learn to eliminate the wrong answers first. If you can eliminate 2 answers, then guess.

Practice and use the following critical solution strategies. Eight that you can employ on SAT math questions are:

1. ANALYZE the Answer Choices (eliminate poor answers first).
2. BACKsolve the Answer Choices (Use the answers given.)
3. PIN Numbers (Plug in a number that you have chosen.)
4. SPLIT the Question into Parts
5. DIAGRAM the Question
6. Eliminate two answers, then guess
7. Eliminate answers that are too large, off the scale, too ridiculous.
8. Read carefully. Underline/circle key words in word problems.

Want some online math? I recommend:‎
On this popular site, Sal is your personal teacher. Use it to go over only problems that you have missed on actual SAT tests. Try solving one or two problems at a sitting, but learn the solutions well. In just no time at all, you will be scoring higher in math.

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“Seniors, December 1st College Essays are due! ”

Check out this article that Patch published about what you need to do to finalize your college essays!


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I got interviewed by Genesee Valley Parent Magazine

Thanks, Susan Henninger, for writing such a compelling and timely article!

Click here

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“SAT v. ACT: Debunking Old Myths, pt. 1”

See my latest article in Greenwich Patch.  August 20, 2012.

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Speaking at the Larchmont Library on College Essays

Got writer’s block over your college essay?  Catch Theresa Michna speaking at the Larchmont Public Library Sept. 13th and Oct. 1st., discussing “If it’s Fall, it must be college essays!”

She will share some down to earth tips for writing a winning college essay. Learn through an expert how successful students are creating essays that rise above the rest.

Sept. 13, Oct. 1st

7 p.m.

Michael Coords Activity Room
Larchmont Public Library
121 Larchmont Avenue, 10538

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I want to thank you so much for all you did for Matt. His score went from 30 to 34 on the ACT!!! He is so happy and proud.  We can’t thank you enough for teaching him the needed skills! ” — parent of MHS student.

She really helped me hone in on my weak points and improve my strengths for the SAT! Most definitely a great teacher.”  — GS., Comp. Sci. major,  Clarkson University ’15.

Congratulations!  Acceptances for Class of ’16 and ’17

93% of Seniors were admitted by their top three universities.

Many students were offered large scholarships of $5,000. or more, based on their SAT scores and grades!

SUNY Albany

Univ. of Delaware

Univ. of Vermont

Cornell University

University of Miami (Miami, Fla.)

Franklin and Marshall College

Univ. of Chicago School of Art

Savannah College of Art and Design

Ithaca College

University of Rochester

University of Maryland (College Park)

Brandeis University

Tulane University

Mount Holyoke College

NYU (Abu Dhabi)

George Washington

U. of Michigan

Dickinson College

Fairfield University


Hartford University

University of Pittsburgh

Bryant university

University of Connecticut

Boston College

Wake Forest

Ohio Wesleyan


Rollins college

Miami University (Ohio),


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Looking Ahead to Summer

Maximize your summer. Colleges look for kids who are active learners, those who spend their free time pursuing fresh intellectual ideas in their academic area. For summer, students should think about how to build on their academic/scholarly interests and display initiative. For a student who loves research and has a specific science interest that might mean five weeks doing research in a lab. For someone who loves theater or musical arts, try to join a music camp program, or participate in local theater.  There are many ways to excel at your passions. Don’t forget that college admissions people also value students who go out and take a local job.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy internship; working in a local business at an entry level can show initiative and win you extra points, too.

Upcoming SAT test dates:

March 10th – SAT

May 5th – SAT and subject tests

June 2nd – SAT and subject tests


ACT test dates:

April 14th

June 9th


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Tip for New Year

Tip of the Week

Do you have a vision for the day? It can be as simple as bringing yourself fully to the moment rather than doing ten things at once. Chill a little today and envision what you want to accomplish.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

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