Don’t Let Ivy League Dreams Lead to Sleepless Nights


We’re only talking about these eight East Coast schools out of over 3,000 schools nationwide.

Did you know Warren Buffett was rejected from Harvard Business School? Yes, the most successful investor of the twentieth century was once upon a time turned down by admissions officers from Harvard before his last-minute application and acceptance to Columbia University (and I’m sure Columbia U is laughing all the way to the bank). While Buffett’s isn’t exactly a rags-to-riches success story, it does illustrate one thing: getting into an Ivy League is hard for anyone (unless you share a surname with a building on campus, then maybe not so much).

In the past, College Compass Blogger Calvin wrote a smashing series on the Ivy League admissions process. A Columbia grad himself, Calvin is an excellent resource on the subject, and anyone looking at Ivy League schools would benefit from perusing the series. However, the intent of the series was certainly not to scare potential Ivy Leaguers from even applying! So, in light of the number of comments we’ve received on the series from students concerned that that ONE B in APUSH will forever shatter their dreams, I’ve decided to write a blog that addresses some common concerns in order to assuage some of the admissions-anxiety blues: Continue reading “Don’t Let Ivy League Dreams Lead to Sleepless Nights” »

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What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Writing


We can answer your questions about the 2016 SAT format!

If you’re taking the SAT before March 2016, you’ll be asked to write a two page essay that makes a completely one-dimensional argument supporting a yes or no answer to a vaguely philosophical question. In fact, one of the most difficult parts about the 25 minute section might just be finding any sort of direction given the lameness of the prompt. But once you get going, if you can come up with some specific examples to support your claim and fill up two pages in the process, you’re pretty much golden. In fact, while your examples do have to be “specific” they do not have to be factual: a student writing that D-Day ended the Cold War between Siam and Spain in the year 1066 will likely receive a higher grade than a student who accurately identifies D-Day as the day the Allies invaded Normandy but forgets to include when it happened, provided that the first student was able to support his claim with his uninformed example.

You might say, “well, that’s not really fair,” and you’d be right! This shortcoming—and a few others that make this a less-than-ideal writing sample—has prompted the College Board to rethink the essay.

Kids, I have good news and I have bad news. Continue reading “What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Writing” »

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What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Math

SineCosineAnimationThe College Board claims that the Revised SAT Math will “require a stronger command of fewer, more important topics.” Considering that I personally managed to get two liberal arts degrees without ever having to demonstrate my ability (or lack there of) to solve problems using the trigonometric functions that I forgot immediately after the Calculus AP exam, I don’t know exactly how the College Board determines what topics are “more important,” but the test does seem to be shifting away from its more logic and reasoning based math in favor of problems that involve applying what a student would learn throughout high school math (possibly, dare I say it, more like the ACT).

Specifically, the revised version of the test appearing in March of 2016 will evidently cover four content areas: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math, and Additional Topics in Math (“Heart of Algebra”? “Passport to Advanced Math”? real cute, College Board). Another big difference is that the test will now be split into a fifty-five minute calculator section, and a twenty-five minute no-calculator section. Yes, you’ll be assessed over your ability to math without that handy contraption that maths for you—how unfair! Between the two sections you’ll have a total of fifty-seven questions: forty-five multiple choice, eleven student produced responses (grid-ins), and one “extended thinking” question (two-part grid-in). Continue reading “What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Math” »

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Math II and You: What You Need to Know About the SAT Subject Test

pythagorasIn light of the volume of questions we’ve received recently regarding the SAT II Math Subject tests, I’ve decided it’s time to sit down an churn out a blog article to answer a few common questions: Continue reading “Math II and You: What You Need to Know About the SAT Subject Test” »

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What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Reading

Feel like you have to translate SAT passages? We can help!

Feel like you have to translate SAT passages? We can help!

The Revised SAT Evidence-Based Reading (that’s a mouthful) will include five(ish) passages: one Literature based passage, two History/Social Studies passages, and two Science passages. Similar to some passages on the current SAT, one of the passages in the Science and/or Social Studies fields may be replaced with a pairing of shorter, related passages, and both topics will include one or two related graphics that a few questions will refer back to. All in all, you’ll have 65 minutes to do fifty-two passage-based questions and ZERO sentence completion problems. There will still be vocabulary-based questions in the passages, but they’ll focus more on your ability to define a word in the context of the passage. Additionally, a new type of question will test your command of evidence. Continue reading “What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Reading” »

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SAT Math Example Problem – A Girl and Her Sandbox

Girl in her sandboxA girl is playing in a sandbox. She wants to decrease the volume of the sand in the sandbox by scooping sand and dumping it outside of the sandbox. The girls is a rather inquisitive mathematician and measures the dimensions of her sandbox. She finds the width and length to be 5 feet each and the height to be 4 feet. The sand in the sandbox goes all the way to the top. She wants to lower the volume of the sand to 50 cubic feet. How many feet of sand does she have to scoop out? Continue reading “SAT Math Example Problem – A Girl and Her Sandbox” »

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The SAT Shape-Shifts Again!

We can help with your questions about the SAT's new mutations!

We can help with your questions about the SAT’s new mutations!

OK, since the revision of the SAT is a pretty major topic in college admissions right now, I probably didn’t have to use a crazy title to get you to read about the New SAT, but how else was I going to fit Mystique into a blog post?

YES! If you hadn’t heard, the SAT is changing March of 2016. We know what you’re thinking, Class of ’17: “Why me? WHY NOW?!” But don’t get too stressed out! You might even like some of the changes they’re making. For instance, you’ll no longer be penalized for wrong answers, and they’re doing away with that pesky sentence completion. And never fear! We here at Test Masters are here to help guide you through the transition! In this post, we’ll get our feet wet with some of the overall format changes. Continue reading “The SAT Shape-Shifts Again!” »

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SAT Vocabulary – Inchoate

lvl1This Week’s Word: Inchoate [In-KOH-it] adjective

Inchoate is a word used to describe something that’s just begun, and in an incomplete way.

Synonyms: Incipient; Embryonic

Etymology: It might help to talk about the root of the word first, starting with “choate”. This root is also a word all on its own, and is primarily used in the world of law to describe something that is “completed or perfected in and of itself”; at least, it was thought of as a word. In 2009, a lawyer representing a cigarette company charged with selling untaxed cigarettes before the Supreme Court used “choate” in the language that made up his defense. He immediately was corrected by one of the justices, who claimed “There is no such adjective.” Now, although the Webster’s New World Law Dictionary states there is such an adjective usable in the context the attorney used, the judge makes a very good case for the usage being incorrect in a court of law (or anywhere for that matter). He argues that the prefix in- of “inchoate”, does not indicate a negative context, seeing as how the original Latin term it derives from, “incohare,” specifically meaning “to begin”. So, nowhere in that definition do you see the description “Not (complete)” or “Not (finished)”, and therefore inchoate cannot be used in a directly opposing context to “choate”. It seems as though if you wanted to use inchoate appropriately, you’d need to describe something rudimentary or embryonic, rather than simply incomplete or inadequate.

Sample 1: The Lawyer’s inchoate defense proved a novice mistake, as the Supreme Court Justice proceeded to berate his ineptitude by patronizing his career choice.

Sample 2: The election of Adolf Hitler was inchoate; a kindle of the fire that was to become World War II.

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SAT Vocabulary – Palliative

pain-relief-stopThis Week’s Word: Palliative \ˈpa-lē-ˌā-tiv, ˈpal-yə-\ [PAL-ee-uh-tiv] adjective & noun.

Palliative is used to describe something that relieves an ailment. Adjective form: something soothing. Noun form: painkiller.

Synonyms: Sedative, anodyne, opiate, and calmative.

Etymology: Palliative derives from the word “Palliate”, a verb meaning to relieve a pain or ailment. It derives from the Latin Medieval term “Palliare”, meaning “to cloak.” It was then interpreted by the French into “Palliatif” and the English into “Palliate,” until it settled into what is used now by the late Middle English.

This word has been widely used in recent years in hospitals and other medical field entities. Specifically, the term is “Palliative Care,” described as an alternate means of caring for patients to hospice. Rather than using abrasive measures to keep deteriorating patients alive, as often is the case in hospice, Palliative Care provides safer relief to ailments that patients are experiencing painful symptoms to diseases, injuries, or any other type of condition. In other words, it directly focuses on subduing the suffering of patients.

Sample 1: The Reynolds family decided to submit their grandfather to Palliative Care after his treatments in hospice proceeded to deteriorate his body.

Sample 2: After a long day at work, Ralph went to the pharmacy to look for palliatives for his sore back.


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SAT Multiple Choice Writing Tips—Pronouns

Learn valuable tips and tricks to up your SAT Multiple Choice Writing game!

Learn valuable tips and tricks to up your SAT Multiple Choice Writing game!

Don’t stop reading! Yes, you use pronouns every day and you know how to use them—for the most part—but if you want to make an 800 on that writing section, you’ll want to be able to spot all of the SAT’s tricks, those concerning pronouns included.

Some pronoun errors are easy to spot; your’ll see they and say, “Wait, us don’t talk like that.” But, if that’s your only argument, chances are you’re missing more pronoun questions than you think. Many SAT problems cleverly mimic mistakes we make when we’re speaking every day English. Many of these errors are so pervasive that they have passed into accepted spoken English; when we understand what someone means without much effort, we can say they were correct as far as “descriptive grammar” is concerned. The SAT however is testing us over our knowledge of “prescriptive grammar” (the kind your English teacher attempted to tell you about once), so even though there were no descriptive mistakes in the previous sentence, there was one prescriptive mistake. Continue reading “SAT Multiple Choice Writing Tips—Pronouns” »

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