2017-2018 School Year: Mock ACT/SAT Class Dates

Vint Hill Educational Services offers mock testing for the ACT and SAT. These administrations are hosted in the Northern VA area and the Richmond VA area. We supply the test booklet, essay booklet, answer sheet, testing timer, extra pencils, and a proctor. Students will need to bring: a calculator, two No. 2 pencils, snacks, and a drink. 

Each student receives a five page diagnostic report using our test scoring software. We only use official ACT and SAT practice tests. Students that take both an ACT and SAT will receive a student scores comparison chart. This will reveal which test the student is scoring higher on, ACT or SAT.
 
Northern VA area: Click here to register for a mock ACT or SAT
ACT - 09/30/17, 11/11/17, 02/03/18, 03/24/18, 05/19/18
SAT - 09/16/17, 10/21/17, 01/27/18, 02/24/18, 04/28/18

Richmond VA area: Click here to register for a mock ACT or SAT
ACT - 01/13/18, 03/03/18, 04/21/18
SAT - 10/14/17, 02/17/18, 04/07/18

View our sample ACT/SAT diagnostic reports and student scores comparison chart: 
ACT report - http://www.vinthilles.com/s/PracticeACTReport-Sample-4e9j.pdf
SAT report - http://www.vinthilles.com/s/PracticeSATReport-Sample.pdf
Student ACT vs. SAT chart - http://www.vinthilles.com/s/VHES-SAT-Scores-Versus-ACT-Scores-Julia.pdf

For those that have only taken a PSAT or SAT, a practice ACT is a must, and we can compare the results to see which test the student is scoring higher on. 

Mock ACT/SAT Registration
Online: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4aabab2fa3f49-free
Phone: 540-428-5379
Email: contact@vinthilles.com
Cost: 
$25 for 1 test (ACT or SAT) 
$40 for 2 tests (ACT and SAT)
ACT/SAT diagnostic and comparison chart will be emailed to parents. 

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding the ACT or SAT. 

The FAFSA Application

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) lets students receive aid that includes loans, work-study programs, and federal or state student grants. 

Web (Online): fafsa.ed.gov/FAFSA/app/fafsa?locale=en_US
Print (PDF): studentaid.ed.gov/PDFfafsa 
Mail (Post Office): 1-800-433-3243

Attending College From
July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017: You can submit the FAFSA from January 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 and use income tax data from 2015.
July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018: You can submit the FAFSA from October 1, 2016 – June 30, 2018 and use income tax data from 2015.
July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019: You can submit the FAFSA from October 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019 and use income tax data from 2016. 

 

Additional Information
-    You don’t have to apply to a school before listing it on your FAFSA.   
-    Choosing the renewal option allows you to carry over last year’s FAFSA information. Only the basics will carry over; thus, income and taxes will have to be re-entered.  
-    Even if your family’s income has changed, you still have to report the required year the FAFSA asks for. 
-    Some schools will make offers earlier than others. Be sure to read through all of the information. You should try and file as close to October 1st as possible. This is the first day in which you can file the FAFSA. You should also review your schools’ financial aid deadlines.  You’ll have your bases covered if you file as early as possible. 
-    The FAFSA asks for current marital status. Meaning, what is your status while you’re filling it out. Depending upon the situation, a spouse’s income may need to be updated. It may need to be removed or added. 
-    Students may complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1st every year. The FAFSA was available on January 1st in previous years. Students have been able to file since October 1, 2016. 
-    Students can use income from an earlier tax year. Starting with the 2017-2018 FAFSA, students will use income from two years ago. Students will use 2015 income information instead of 2016 income information. As long as you can find your 2015 tax year data, the information should already be saved and ready to go! 
-    All 2016-2017 FAFSA applications must be submitted by midnight, June 30, 2017 (CT).

 

After You Apply 
-    Student Aid Report (SAR) - You’ll receive a student aid report from the U.S. Department of Education. This could come via email or postal mail. This report contains all of the data that you entered on the FAFSA. Review any errors and submit necessary corrections. 

-    Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - The student aid report will encompass an expected family contribution number. The number is representative of your family’s financial strength. It’s sent to the schools listed on your FAFSA as well as the state scholarship organization. The number is used to determine your financial aid. 
 

ACT Science Overview

Format:
•    40 questions
•    Multiple-choice
•    4 answer choices
•    Passages with charts/diagrams

Content:
•    Biology
•    Chemistry
•    Physics
•    Geology
•    Astronomy
•    Meteorology

Time: 35 minutes

The ACT science section does not test specific science facts. Instead, students will need to understand how to use certain skills of scientific reasoning. Nearly every question can be answered by referring to the material in the passage. Yet, somewhere between 1 and 5 questions on every ACT test, will concentrate on science-based knowledge not given in the passages. There will be a few questions that require some arithmetic. You may have to find an average or utilize your algebra knowledge. 

 

Question types and scoring
Students receive 1 raw point for every correct answer. There’s nothing lost for answering incorrectly. The raw score is calculated by tallying up the raw points. The overall raw score is then converted to a score on a 1-36 point scale. The ACT science score is 1 of 4 scores that's factored into the ACT composite. The ACT composite is an average of 4 section scores. Meaning, a lower science score will bring down the ACT composite, and a higher score, will help to increase the ACT composite. This, of course, relies on the scores from the other ACT sections: English, reading, and mathematics.  

Each ACT test contains:
•    6-8 Conflicting Viewpoints questions. These questions will present two or more scientific theories. Amongst all of the theories, not all of them can be correct. The questions may not ask you to prove which theory is correct, but instead, ask you to describe the viewpoints and how they relate to one another. 
•    12-16 Data Representation questions. These questions usually present charts and tables that display different variables. Students will find 2-4 variables and must be able to describe the relationships between the variables. 
•    18-22 Research Summary questions. These questions describe an experiment and the scientific findings. The passage will detail the results, makeup, and hypothesis. The questions will ask you about the experiment’s findings, design, and implementation. 

Every ACT test will include the same set of instructions for the science section. Master the instructions and you won’t need to read them when taking the test. This enables you to spend more time on the problems by skipping the instructions. 

ACT SCIENCE DIRECTIONS: There are seven passages in this test. Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary. You are NOT permitted to use a calculator on this test. 

 

Attractor answers
Watch out for attractor answer choices. The ACT anticipates the student making careless mistakes. The test will setup traps for students, and those most impacted, will be students who are not ready for them. The attractors mainly show up on medium to difficult questions. 


ACT science tips: 
•    Focus on one passage at a time
•    Learn which types of passages come easier for you
•    Tailor your strategies to each passage type
•    Don’t worry if the subject is unknown to you. Most of the information is in the passage. 
•    Work on timing and pacing by practicing passages
•    Know the directions, so that you can skip them
•    You have 52 ½ seconds per question
•    Adjust your pacing to the passage types
     o    Data Representation passages: spend 4 minutes
     o    Research Summary passages: spend 5 minutes
     o    Conflicting Viewpoints passages: spend 7 minutes
 

Comparing SAT Scores to ACT Scores

Students that take both the SAT and ACT can compare scores to see which test they’re scoring higher on. Some students will find that they’re actually scoring higher on one test over the other. We recommend that students take official SAT and official ACT practice tests. This means, taking a test created by the College Board or the ACT. We offer full-length mock practice tests in a group setting. Students that take both a mock SAT and ACT, with us, will receive an individualized comparison chart. This document accompanies the student’s SAT and ACT baseline reports. We determine which test is better, SAT or ACT, by comparing scores using a concordance table. We also ask the student how he or she felt about the tests: pacing, timing, comfortability, testing format, question types, ACT science versus SAT no-calculator math, essay section, etc. 

The ideal time to take full-length practice SAT and ACT tests are fall of junior year. If the family can find time during the summer months, then the summer going into junior year works well too. Juniors usually take their first official test during the winter or spring. Once a test is decided upon, SAT or ACT, a customized test prep plan is put in place, based upon the student’s strengths and weaknesses. If an action plan is put together during the fall of junior year then the student can prep for an official winter or spring test. The amount of prep needed is determined by the difference in the student’s SAT or ACT scores, compared to the interested schools’ middle 50% SAT and ACT scores. In addition, test prep programs need to be catered to the individual and his or her academic background. Is remedial work needed for math or grammar? Does the student receive standardized testing accommodations? Is the student currently enrolled in Algebra II or Trigonometry (taking a spring test might be better)?  

By using the chart below, you can decide which test is better for you. 

SAT Scores Versus ACT Scores - Concordance

Find out how we can help decide which test to prep for! 

Private School Admissions: SSAT & ISEE

Throughout the Washington DC area, parents often ask us, “When should we take a practice SSAT or ISEE?” or “When should we start SSAT or ISEE prep?” Current 7th graders should take a practice upper level SSAT or ISEE in the spring or the summer going into 8th grade. That’s for students looking to apply for 9th grade entrance to a private high school. The official tests are usually taken during the fall or winter of 8th grade. Taking a full-length official SSAT or ISEE practice test beforehand, will let the student know where to focus. The student may need more math, verbal, or reading support. Furthermore, the practice test will reveal what types of questions the student is struggling with the most. For example, on the SSAT verbal section, the student may do really well on the synonyms, yet have problems with the analogies questions. 

Here’s how the private high school admissions process works:  

1)    Create a school list during 7th grade year. Look over: 
o    Academic programs
o    Co-ed or single gender
o    Class size
o    Leadership opportunities
o    Location
o    Athletics
o    Safety procedures
o    Learning center
o    Matriculation list
o    Tips:
          Don’t have too many schools on your list
          Have reach schools, middle of the road schools, and safety schools

2)    Other factors:
•    Schools accept SSAT or ISEE
•    Financial aid and payment plans
•    Fine arts program
•    Student body diversity
•    Faculty background
•    Test scores
•    Campus facilities
•    Technology
•    STEAM

3)    Application criteria:
•    SSAT or ISEE scores
•    Student grades
•    Interview
•    Essays
•    Campus tour
•    Extracurricular activities
•    Volunteer work
•    Community involvement

4)    How to start:
•    Attend campus open houses
•    Research school websites
•    Call admissions offices
•    Look at a various schools
•    Take a baseline SSAT or ISEE
•    Plan for 2 months – 6 months of test prep
•    Review admissions deadlines for paperwork and test scores (usually, January or February due dates). 

5)    SSAT: 
•    Offered 8 times per year on predetermined national testing dates.
•    Students can also take a flex test one-to-one or in a small group setting (usually setup through an IECA member).
•    Students can take all national testing dates and a flex test (meaning they can take the SSAT more than once).

6)    ISEE: 
•    All students will have the option to test once in each of three four-month long testing windows; meaning, students can test up to three times in a 12-month admission cycle.
•    There are no national testing dates. Tests are setup through approved testing site member schools.
•    Students may take the ISEE at approved ERB member school test sites, Prometric locations worldwide, or at ERB’s main New York City office.

We can help you get prepared for the SSAT and ISEE. Get started with your customized test prep program today! 
 

SAT Math Overview

Format
58 total questions
25-minute no-calculator section (20 questions)
55-minute calculator section (38 questions)
Contains multiple-choice and grid-in questions

Content
Problem Solving and Data Analysis (19 questions) sample topics: percents, proportions, and statistics
Heart of Algebra (17 questions) sample topics: algebraic equations, systems of equations, graphs of linear equations, and linear models
Passport to Advanced Math (16 questions) sample topics: functions, quadratic equations, and polynomials
Additional Topics in Math (6 questions) sample topics: angles, triangles, circles, trigonometry, and complex numbers

Tips

  • Put time and energy into questions within your capabilities.
  • Don’t waste time on a hard question when there are still easier questions left to answer.
  • Be sure to check your answers on harder questions. Suspect an answer that comes a little too easily.
  • In each math section, consider doing the first few grid-ins prior to doing the last few multiple-choice questions.
  • The questions on the calculator section are usually more complex than the ones on the no-calculator section.

Scoring
You’ll receive a math section score on a 200-800 point scale. Also, you'll receive a second math section score, but weighted on a 10-40 scale. There are three math subscores: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. The three math subscores will be reported to you on a 1-15 scale for each. Additionally, some math questions will count towards a cross-test score. There are two reported cross-test scores, one for Analysis in Science and one for Analysis in History/Social Studies.

Your score is calculated using the following: 1 raw point for a correct answer. There is no penalty for answering incorrectly, so you should answer every question on the SAT. Your raw score is calculated by adding up your raw points. Your raw score is converted to a scale math test score from 10-40. The score you receive on the 10-40 scale is converted to a math section score from 200-800.
 
Tackling SAT Grid-In Questions
13 of the 58 math questions are grid-ins. There are 5 at the end of the no-calculator section and 8 at the end of the calculator allowed section.

  • Grid-in questions are like multiple-choice questions, but they do not contain multiple-choice answers to choose from.
  • Grid-in questions progress in level of difficulty. The first grid-in question will be much easier than the last grid-in question. For some students, it is best to answer the grid-in questions first before attempting the most difficult multiple-choice questions.
  • You should always write your answers in the boxes even though you only receive credit for bubbling in the ovals.
  • Start gridding in the far-left column first.
  • Grid-in questions will never have negative numbers as answers.
  • You should grid-in mixed numbers as improper fractions or decimals.
  • If you grid-in an answer as a decimal, you should do so with the highest degree of accuracy possible. For example, an answer of 0.6666 should be gridded as .666 or .667 or 2/3. If you gridded .66 or .67 your answer will be marked incorrect.
  • You may find that some grid-in questions have more than one answer. You need to grid-in just one of the correct answers.
  • Always check your work. With the grid-in questions, there are no answer choices provided to check against your answer. Be sure to check your work before filling in your answer.

Contact us to learn more about our SAT prep program! 

FREE College Planning & SAT Prep Workshops

For Parents and Students

Your College Planning Coach and Vint Hill Educational Services will hold workshops on Saturday, April 1st (Richmond VA) and Saturday, April 29th (Manassas Park VA), from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Both parents and students are welcome to attend. The parent workshop will go over college planning information. The student workshop will focus on SAT prep for the math and reading/writing sections. 

FREE Parent Workshop
- Help with scholarships and financial aid
- When to start planning for college
- How school selection can save you money
- Proven tools to guide career and school choice
- How to navigate through the application process
- And much more!

FREE Student Workshop
- Learn SAT tips, tricks, and strategies
- Understand the SAT format, timing, and structure
- Introduction to the SAT math, SAT reading, and SAT writing sections
- Work through sample problems with the teacher
- Comparison to ACT

Registration
Online: Manassas VA - http://tinyurl.com/znnv47d  Richmond VA -  https://tinyurl.com/hs44xhh
Phone: 703-928-9036 / 540-428-5379
Email: luanne@yourcollegeplanningcoach.com / michael@vinthilles.com 

Getting Prepared for a Test

Essay questions are based on themes and overall ideas. Teachers like to use essay questions because they give students the opportunity to express everything they’ve learned over the last few weeks. Essay test answers reveal more than the bare facts. When submitting essay answers, students are expected to cover lots of information in an organized manner. 

But what if you prepare for an essay question and the test doesn’t include one? No worries! If you use these tips and understand the themes and ideas of the test then other questions will come easily. 

1. Look for teacher “special” words. If you hear your teacher use “again we see” or “a similar event occurred,” be sure to take note of it. A pattern or chain of events is key. 
2. Every day themes. As you review your class notes after school, make sure to look for themes. Brainstorm your own essay questions based on your themes. 
3. Glance over chapter titles. Textbook chapters often refer to themes. Look at each title and think of ideas, events, and terms that fit within that theme. 
4. Practice the questions. Be sure to use vocabulary words found in your notes and course books. Highlight or underline and go back to review their relevance. 

If you take good notes and think in terms of themes, as you study, you’ll be prepared for every type of test question. You’ll soon find that, in understanding the theme of each lesson or chapter, you’ll begin to think more like your teacher.

Contact us for Academic Coaching and we'll help get you prepared! 

Determine Your Match Schools

Match schools make great choices because you'll be among peers who have academic abilities that are similar to your own. A match school is a college or university that is more than likely to admit the applicant as a student. The reason for this is because grades, along with ACT or SAT test scores, are similar to average students at the school. When applying to undergraduate institutions, it's important to choose schools wisely.  

Is the school a match for you? 
If you know your high school GPA, and you've taken either the ACT or SAT, it's simple to figure out if your GPA and ACT or SAT test scores are average for a specific school. There’s two ways for finding out this information:
Find schools that interest you and go to the admissions department page on their website. ACT and SAT data for matriculated students is usually posted. For most schools, the posted information represents the 25th and 75th percentile of students who enrolled. If your ACT or SAT scores are above the 25th percentile number, you're a possible match for the school. Though, the ultimate goal is to be at the middle 50th percentile. If you cannot find the data on the school’s website then give the admissions office a phone call. It doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone and ask! 

View a sample student body profile (Princeton University).

Your match school choices
You must understand that there is no guarantee of admission. Perhaps, many students with grades and ACT or SAT test scores similar to yours were offered a spot to attend next year. It’s very likely that students with comparable portfolios to yours were not admitted. This is a good reason to apply to safety schools. Try to have a few of these because it can be a shock to find out the spring of senior year that you've received nothing.

Top reasons for why you may not have been admitted to a match school:
•    The application was incomplete or had careless errors. 
•    You failed to show your interest in the school. 
•    The college has a holistic admissions process. Meaning, your essay or extracurricular activities weren't as impressive as other students.
•    You may have been knocked out by applicants who applied early action or early decision. 
•    Your letters of recommendation contradicted or drew suspicion compared to the rest of your application. 
•    The school wasn't able to meet family financial needs.
•    Many schools believe that a diverse student body benefits the campus environment.

Contact us if you need help determining your match schools.

Conquer SAT Reading Passages

The SAT reading test measures the student’s skills in reading, comprehension, and analysis. The passages are 500-750 words and the questions are divided into three areas: synthesis, rhetoric, and information/ideas. The SAT reading test contains 5 total passages and each passage has 10-11 questions. The student has an average of 13 minutes to spend on each passage. It’s best for the student to spend about 5 minutes reading the passage and 45 seconds to answer each question. The passages range from high school to college level content. 

Important tips to consider while reading SAT passages:
-    Ask yourself questions while you read.
-    Understand the question first then look at the answer choices. 
-    Review to make sure you’ve found the best answer. Usually, SAT reading passages will contain a few answer choices that seem right, but they’re not the correct answer. Most of the difficult questions will try and throw you off. 

As you read the passage, be sure to stay engaged. Don’t read the passage passively and wait for information to come to you. Try to think about what the author is saying. Ask questions about the passage. Also, be sure to map out the passage by finding a main idea for each paragraph. Ask yourself: Why did the writer choose to write about this topic? If you come across a paired passage, read the first passage and then answer the questions pertaining to it. Next, read the second passage and answer the questions that follow. Lastly, answer the questions that go over both passages. 

SAT reading passage strategies:
-    Don’t skim over the passage.
-    Focus on one question at a time.
-    Use the two-pass approach.
-    Don’t read the questions before reading the passage.

Each SAT reading test includes the following:
-    1 U.S and World Literature passage (from classic and contemporary)
-    2 History/Social Studies passages (from founding documents and political life)
-    2 Science passages (from historical discoveries in Earth science, chemistry, biology, and physics)

Attacking the SAT reading test:
-    Read the passage first. Resist the urge to rush ahead. Taking time to read the passages thoroughly will pay off in the end. Students must actively read the passage first.
-    Don’t skim the passages. The reading questions require a strong understanding of the passage. Students must understand the author’s role and perspectives. A brief look is not enough to answer the questions with accuracy.
-    Only read one passage at a time. Answer all questions pertaining to a specific passage before moving forward. In order to maximize your score, spend your time focusing on the easier questions first. Each question is worth 1 raw point, regardless of the level of difficulty. 
-    Focus on a single question at a time. Don’t feel the pressure to rush through the test. Relax and don’t think about the next passage. Be patient and you will find yourself working more accurately. 

Vint Hill Educational Services offers one-to-one SAT prep focused on the individual. Our program is customized and designed for each unique student. Unlike a group SAT prep class, we concentrate on individual student needs. 

Learn more about our SAT prep program.

How to Organize Your Homework Assignments

Organizing your homework is a great way to improve your grades. One successful way to do this is to incorporate a color coding system into your homework routine.

Here are the steps: 

1. Get a set of inexpensive supplies arranged by color. 
You may want to start with a pack of colored highlighters, then find folders, notes, and various stickers to match them. 
•    Folders
•    Sticky notes
•    Highlighters
•    Round stickers
•    Labels
•    Flags

2. Select a different color for each class. For example, you may want to use the following system: 
•    Orange=US History
•    Green=Algebra
•    Red=Chemistry
•    Yellow=English
•    Blue=Health
•    Pink=Marketing

3. Create a connection between the color and the class. Here's a good starting suggestion, you might relate the color green to money or plant life. This may make you think about math subjects or biology class. Try to relate a few colors to some of your classes. The connection will be clear in your mind after a few days. 

4. Pocket folders: Use each folder to keep track of homework for each class. The type of folder isn't important; just use the type that is best for you. Sometimes your teacher will recommend a specific folder. 

5. Notes work well when it comes to researching articles. You can note down book and article titles, phrases, passages, comments, and such, to use in your paper, including bibliographical citations. Keep standard manila notes if you can't carry multiple packages of colored sticky notes. Use different colored pens in order to keep track of each class. 

6. Flags are for marking pages or reading assignments. Place a colored flag at the beginning and ending pages for each assignment. You can also use flags for marking dates in your organizer. Place a flag on a date when an assignment is due. You can use different colors for your various classes. You'll have an everyday reminder that a due date is approaching. 

7. Highlighters should be used when reviewing your notes. During a lecture, take notes like you usually do and be sure to include the date in your notebook. Once you get home, look over and highlight using different colors. You can breakdown the colors by subject, information type, or relevance. If your papers get jumbled up (or never get put into your classroom folder) you can recognize them by the highlights. 

8. Round stickers are great for your wall calendar. Be sure to keep a calendar in your room or in the kitchen, and place a color-coded sticker on the day that an assignment is due. For instance, on the day you receive a research paper assignment in history class, you should place an orange sticker on the due date. This way, everyone can see an important day approaching, even at a glance.

Contact us to learn more about Academic Coaching. Our tutors will make sure you stay on track and on top of your assignments! We have coaches in Northern VARichmond VAFredericksburg VABethesda MD, and Washington DC

Make Your College Application Essay Stand out in 5 Easy Steps!

Colleges and universities receive thousands of applications each year.  Your college application needs to impress them and sell yourself.  What is unique about you and your experiences? It is important to put across what will make YOU an excellent fit within that college’s community.

1. Select the Best Topic for You

Many colleges provide suggested topics that you can choose from. Typically, they’re broad and designed to offer some direction and guidance.  They should only be considered as a starting point and not where your application essay begins.  A top mistake students make when it comes to college application essays is not really giving careful consideration when thinking about their prompt choice.

It happens quite frequently; students jump straight to the prompt that appears the easiest. However, just because an essay seems easy to write doesn’t mean it’s the essay you should choose to write. Students should ask the following question, “Which of these essays allows for me to talk about myself in a way that the admission counselor hasn’t already heard before?” Also ask yourself, “Which one of these prompts would all of my friends choose to write on?” You may not want to write on the same prompt that every one of your friends would write on.

2. Bring on the Brainstorming  

Set aside enough time for brainstorming. Application essays that are well written and thought out take time. You cannot sit down at your computer and in three hours type up your best work. That may have worked fine in your History class, but this is a college application essay.

Once you’ve chosen a prompt, don’t just write an essay on the first idea that pops into your head. Set aside enough time and brainstorm everything. Just because you write an idea down, doesn’t mean it will end up being the topic you select. Brainstorming is an important step to writing a really engaging story. All your ideas are now down on paper and you can now spend the time reviewing each of them.

You should now have a long list of ideas. The question to ask is: Which of these ideas helps demonstrate my personality traits? Usually, the more specific you are, the more engaging your story will be.  If you are having a really hard time choosing a topic, pick your top two or three ideas and write outlines for each.

3. Develop a Clear Outline  

An outline is an important step in the essay writing process. Architects use blue prints and computer programmers use code; a good outline is like having a roadmap for your essay. Writing a successful essay is much easier once you have a clear outline.

Your essay is like telling a story. You should write your outline with a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. When writing your outline, it is also a great time to begin thinking about some of the important parts of the essay. A hook is the most important part of the college admission essay. By the time the admissions officer gets to the end of the second line, he or she has likely decided if they are invested or if they will passively read the essay. You want something that will make the admissions department employee choose the first option.

An essay that takes a circle format is a good choice. Meaning, that where you start is where you end. This can be achieved by opening with a quote that comes in later, or by telling the ending before you get to it and backing up.

4. Writing Your Essay

Once you’ve invested in the time necessary for the first three steps, then writing the actual essay should be the easiest part of the process. Your outline will guide you through the writing part. The most important thing you can do during the writing process is to engage the reader’s imagination. Writing specific descriptions that allow the reader to visualize your story will help keep the reader’s interest.

While writing your essay, try to avoid grammatical and spelling mistakes.  But don’t worry too much, you’ve still got one final step.

5. Proof-Read Your Essay, and Then Proof-Read It Again

Students tend to want to just finish their essay and be done with it. However, proof-reading and reviewing plays a crucial role. We all know the nightmare stories that can play out due to not reviewing one’s essay before that final submission. One of the most common mistakes: sending an essay to a school with another school’s name on it. That’s what can happen when you don’t proof-read. So learn from mistakes of others and proof-read your essay. After all, you’ve put so much work into it.

If you find proof-reading to be a difficult task, try reading the essay out loud. A lot of times you’ll catch common mistakes that you may have missed by reading it silently. Then, give it to people whose opinion you trust. This may be a parent (but it doesn’t have to be), a friend, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a tutor. It never hurts to give it to someone who is really familiar with college admissions, but the most important thing is that the reader will give you honest feedback. Important questions to ask include: Does this interest you? Did you think it accurately reflected my personality? Was there anything you would change? Do you think the essay answers the original question? Did the introduction interest you?

Once you get this feedback, go back to your essay and make any changes necessary. Repeat this step until you are completely satisfied.

The last thing you need to do is have someone check your essay for grammar and spelling. The person you choose should not read your essay for content, but solely to provide feedback on the basics. Once you get any changes, make them and review one last time. 

Do you need help writing an essay? Let us know you're looking for a writing tutor! 

ACT/SAT Prep: Richmond VA – 2016-2017 Practice Dates

For the 2016-2017 school year, we will be offering free mock ACT and SAT tests in the Richmond VA area. Right after our parent presentation, on the redesigned SAT at Deep Run High School in Glen Allen, we received a significant amount of inquiries about our ACT/SAT mock testing service.

In response to the successful workshop, we have ten ACT/SAT practice test dates booked for the 2016-2017 school year. There are five dates offered for each test. These will take place in a group setting at the American Legion in Mechanicsville. Local high school students from the following areas are encouraged to attend: Glen Allen, Midlothian, Short Pump, Lorraine, Bon Air, Ashland, Mechanicsville, Highland Springs, Varina, Tuckahoe, Dumbarton, Chamberlayne, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Richmond City, and others

These practice tests are taken in a group setting to simulate the testing environment. We use official ACT and SAT practice tests. Parents receive a free student diagnostic score report that reveals strengths and weaknesses. You can view our ACT and SAT reports to see what they look like. The group practice events give students a chance to try the test out. It’s a great way to prepare for the real thing!

ACT Prep - Practice Dates:

• July 30, 2016 (Sat. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• August 27, 2016 (Sat. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• October 10, 2016 (Mon. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• January 16, 2017 (Mon. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• April 10, 2017 (Mon. 9:00am - 1:00pm)   

Sign up for an ACT practice test.

SAT Prep - Practice Dates:

• August 13, 2016 (Sat. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• September 5, 2016 (Mon. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• November 8, 2016 (Tues. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• February 20, 2017 (Mon. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

• May 20, 2017 (Sat. 9:00am - 1:00pm)

Sign up for a SAT practice test.

Location:

ACT/SAT Prep – Practice
American Legion Post 175
8700 Bell Creek Rd
Mechanicsville, VA 23116

 

Some students will move forward and enroll in one of our customized ACT/SAT prep programs. All of our ACT/SAT tutoring services are one-to-one. Therefore, strengths and weaknesses are addressed consistently and without the competition of other students. It consists of more individual attention, less distraction, improved communication, and increased flexibility. Each one of our tutors has a bachelor's degree. In addition, over 75% of our tutors have master's level degrees and over 25% have doctoral degrees.

Can’t make a practice test date? Contact us and we will send you an in-home ACT/SAT testing packet! 

ACT Announces Changes to Score Reports

Writing Test

Starting with the September 10th ACT test, the writing test score will be on a 2–12 score range. This will have changed from the previous 1-36 scale. The remaining sections, English, math, reading, and science will continue to use the 1-36 scale. The newly created scale for the writing test has been designed to be less confusing for both students and parents. The format of the writing test remains unchanged and the section is still optional. The student essays will still be scored by two independent readers, using the same rubric to grade on four domains: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. 

Enhanced Reporting

The ACT score reports are being redesigned to look more attractive and be easier to navigate. Click here to view a sample new ACT score report. The new reports will be used for the September 10th test. These updates include:

  • An in-depth set of reporting criteria that will replace subject test subscores 
  • ACT readiness will help students understand what they need to work on 
  • Utilizing more graphics to help understand visual elements and indicators in order to clearly see the student's performance 
  • ACT STEM college readiness benchmark, which highlights the potential for success in STEM related college classes
  • The interest-major fit level score, will depict whether students’ interests coincide with their college major 
  • Career connector, which highlights students’ work-related interests and reveals career paths

Interested in taking an ACT practice test? Contact us to learn more. 

6 Tips for College Visits

College visits are extremely important. The summer is a great time to schedule college visits. Finding the right fit can't be found by browsing school websites. You can't get the "feel" of a school without visiting the campus. You'll be spending a few years of your life there and thousands of dollars as well. Here are 6 tips to ensure your college visit is successful:

1. Dine in the food hall - Is the food good? Are there healthy choices? Most admissions representatives will give prospective students tickets for free meals in the dining halls.

2. Read campus bulletin boards - Please spend a few minutes reading the bulletin boards. These boards provide an easy way to see what the campus events are. 

3. Check things out on your own - The tour guide will show you the school's top highlights. Do yourself a favor and walk around for a bit. Try to get the complete picture of campus life and how it all comes together.

4. Schedule a meeting with a professor - You can see if the department's interests match your own. Be sure to ask about graduation requirements, research and internship opportunities, and average class size.

5. Spend the night - Many schools offer overnights, and nothing will give you a better sense of dorm life than spending the night. Your host can share all sorts of information. You'll also get a chance to ask questions to other students.

6. Chat with current students - Look for other students on campus and try to ask a few questions. These random conversations can provide insight about campus life that isn't included on the official tour. 

Make sure you're prepared for college by taking a college readiness class!

New SAT Math Strategies

1.    Focus on a single question – Take it easy and relax. Don’t worry about the next 20 questions. You may feel the need to rush and that’s normal. If you’re patient, you will work faster and produce better results. 

2.    Utilize a two-pass approach – Answer all questions that you can on your first pass through. Each question is weighted the same point. Don’t let one question eat up your time. Circle the question and move on to the next. Tip: The first set of grid-in questions is easier than the last handful of multiple-choice questions. If you’re having trouble, go ahead and skip to the grid-in questions. On your second pass, go back to the first question you circled. Use everything in your math toolbox. Answer the ones that you’re most comfortable with first. Within the last 30 seconds, answer the remaining multiple-choice questions and write down an answer for the grid-in questions. Remember, there is no point deduction for incorrect answers! 

3.    Use the process of elimination – Look to eliminate answer choices and you’ll have a better chance in getting the question correct. Consider values in the problem and use logic to your advantage. 

4.    Draw in your test book – Test booklets include extra white space. Use the space around the problem and to the sides. Write down steps, draw a chart, label the sides of shapes, and strike out incorrect answers. You can even rewrite important numbers or phrases. This helps reduce careless mistakes and justifies answers. 

5.    Don’t erase computations in your test book – This is a waste of time. Just cross out calculations that you no longer want to consider. This is faster than trying to erase with your pencil, especially if you’ve written out a lengthy formula.

6.    Information that is irrelevant – On occasion, you’ll find that a certain SAT math question contains information that is not required. This piece of information doesn’t have anything to do with solving the problem. This can make students second guess themselves. If you’ve solved the problem without using the piece of information in question; chances are that you’ve solved the problem correctly. Put a star or X next to information that may not be required.  

7.    Re-check your work, but do it efficiently – Perform a quick spot check after each section. It’s better to do this at the end of each problem then at the end of the entire section. The SAT contains “attractor answers” that lure students into picking a false answer. They seem correct to the student because the student doesn’t fully understand the problem. Tip: Use your calculator to verify the answer. Plug in the answer to see if it fits into the equation. Make sure you answered the question completely and not just a step in finding the correct answer. 

8.    Turn algebraic expressions into solid numbers – Most of the SAT math problems can be solved by picking select numbers for certain variables. It’s useful to know what types of questions can be solved this way. This approach works well with problems where the answers are variables. When you pick your own numbers, you’ll be able to turn algebraic expressions into solid numbers. For example, a problem that involves minutes or seconds, try utilizing the number 60.  

9.    Plug in answer choices – Plugging in numbers is a useful SAT math strategy. Try solving a problem in the reverse direction, by plugging in the provided answer choices. Doing so, will help tackle the more difficult questions. Plugging in is also beneficial on word problems. 

10.    Don’t forget about your calculator – Your calculator is only allowed on one of the two SAT math sections. About half of the questions on the calculator allowed section really require one. The calculator will find graphing points for you and take care of fractions. The best calculators approved by the College Board will let you compute trigonometric functions and setup graphing plots. Check the College Board website calculator policy section for more details. 

11.    Grid-in questions – There are 13 total grid-in questions on the redesigned SAT. Grid-in questions progress from easy to difficult. Students should always answer the easier grid-ins before attempting the more difficult grid-ins. Make sure the "ovals" are filled in correctly. Grid-in answers will never be a negative number. Some grid-in questions have more than one correct answer. The student must enter in mixed numbers as improper fractions or decimals. Always start with the far left grid-in column! 

Contact us to start your customized prep program today! 

All About Learning Styles

What are learning styles?

Learning styles can differ from student to student. Learning styles are the approach an individual takes in learning, or acquiring and assimilating new information. If the student can discover how he or she learns best; the individual will know what strategies and study techniques to employ, in order to accommodate one’s learning style. 

Primary types of learning styles:
1.   Visual
2.   Auditory
3.   Kinesthetic or experiential 

Who are visual learners?
•    Don’t like long speeches
•    Responds to viewing charts, pictures, and graphs
•    Enjoys observation
•    Enjoys visual stimulation
•    Develops images in their mind
•    Thinks in terms of images and pictures
Visual recommendations:  
•    Watch your teacher’s body language and pick up on certain cues
•    Keep a notebook and pencil readily available
•    Write material over and over again
•    Draw pictures to help associate what your notes mean
•    Utilize technology: computer, tablets, laptops, apps, and other media
•    Ask questions in class and stay involved
•    Visualize information as a story 

Who are auditory learners?
•    Prefers oral instruction
•    Not a fan of lengthy notes
•    Diagnoses meanings through tone and voice
•    Responds well to speech and lecture format
•    Talks ideas through in their head
•    Picks up quickly on words, pitch, and voice nuances
Auditory recommendations: 
•    Talk things out to yourself
•    Try to use word analogies
•    Say information out loud, over and over for memorization
•    Practice classroom presentations
•    Get involved in debates
•    Use songs and melodies to aid in memorization
•    Converse with friends about your ideas
•    Read words out loud when proofreading 

Who are kinesthetic or experiential learners?
•    Likes to touch and handle objects
•    Uses their hands when communicating
•    Design oriented
•    Enjoys using tools and equipment
•    Responds well to activities: painting, drawing, or physical activities
•    Sitting for long periods of time is not easy
•    Willing to take more chances
•    Attracted to exploring
Kinesthetic or experiential recommendations:
•    Take breaks when studying
•    Switch up topics frequently
•    Do more physical things when studying: walk around, ride an exercise bike, play with a squishy ball, read notes while doing chores, chew on taffy
•    Make your work desk colorful and intriguing
•    Visualize your work from beginning to end
•    Play soft music in the background
•    Have parents and friends proofread your work
•    Use bright colors for highlighting reading passages
•    Glance over a passage first to get a feel for it 

Learn more about how our tutoring services can help your child! 

Best ACT Prep & SAT Prep Northern VA: Vienna, VA - Falls Church, VA - Arlington, VA - Oakton, VA - Reston, VA - Great Falls, VA - Chantilly, VA - Centreville, VA - Fairfax, VA - Herndon, VA

Why does our program work so well? 

We often get asked this question. It’s because we focus on the individual student and not a classroom of students. The largest ACT/SAT score increases are seen when ACT/SAT prep is customized for the individual student. This is also why a baseline test is so effective. Our ACT/SAT practice test score reports are used as a student diagnostic. 

The ACT/SAT tutor will hone in on the specific needs for the individual. The diagnostic report reveals trends such as pacing and themes among certain question types. On the SAT reading section, the student may have the most trouble with command of evidence. For the ACT math section, it might be quadratic equations that need the most attention. It is important to retest the student periodically, in order to reassess strengths and weaknesses. The ACT/SAT prep program should revolve around the student, as he or she grows throughout the prep program. When we see scores suddenly spike in the main area of focus, it means attention must be switched back to the new lowest scoring section.

Our ACT/SAT tutors will come to your home on weekdays or weekends. ACT/SAT prep is available throughout Northern VA. Vint Hill Educational Services ACT/SAT tutors reside in: Vienna, VA - Oakton, VA - Fairfax, VA - Falls Church, VA - Arlington, VA - McLean, VA - Great Falls, VA - Reston, VA - Herndon, VA - Chantilly, VA - Sterling, VA - Centreville, VA - Alexandria, VA, and many more!   

Here’s one of our ACT prep students that went up 3 ACT composite points, after only 6 sessions of one-to-one prep. English went up 2 points, math shot up 4 points, reading increased by 3 points, and science jumped up 3 points. 

Northern VA: ACT Prep, SAT Prep, ACT Tutor, SAT Tutor. Vienna, VA - Oakton, VA - Fairfax, VA - Falls Church, VA - Reston, VA - Great Falls, VA - McLean, VA - Arlington, VA - Sterling, VA - Herndon, VA - Centreville, VA - Chantilly, VA - Alexandria, VA 

Contact us to start your customized prep program today!

Best ACT Prep & SAT Prep: Henrico, VA - Short Pump, VA - Glen Allen, VA - Tuckahoe, VA - Midlothian, VA - Lorraine, VA - Bon Air, VA

Why does our program work so well? 

We often get asked this question. It’s because we focus on the individual student and not a classroom of students. The largest ACT/SAT score increases are seen when ACT/SAT prep is customized for the individual student. This is also why a baseline test is so effective. Our ACT/SAT practice test score reports are used as a student diagnostic. 

The ACT/SAT tutor will hone in on the specific needs for the individual. The diagnostic report reveals trends such as pacing and themes among certain question types. On the SAT reading section, the student may have the most trouble with command of evidence. For the ACT math section, it might be quadratic equations that need the most attention. It is important to retest the student periodically, in order to reassess strengths and weaknesses. The ACT/SAT prep program should revolve around the student, as he or she grows throughout the prep program. When we see scores suddenly spike in the main area of focus, it means attention must be switched back to the new lowest scoring section.    

Our ACT/SAT tutors will come to your home on weekdays or weekends. ACT/SAT prep is available throughout Richmond VA. Vint Hill Educational Services ACT/SAT tutors reside in: Henrico, VA - Glen Allen, VA - Richmond, VA - Midlothian, VA - Tuckahoe, VA - Short Pump, VA - Mechanicsville, VA - Lorraine, VA - Ashland, VA, and many more!  

Here’s one of our ACT prep students that went up 3 ACT composite points, after only 6 sessions of one-to-one prep. English went up 2 points, math shot up 4 points, reading increased by 3 points, and science jumped up 3 points. 

ACT Prep, SAT Prep, ACT Tutor, SAT Tutor - Richmond, VA - Henrico, VA - Short Pump, VA - Glen Allen, VA - Tuckahoe, VA - Midlothian, VA - Lorraine, VA - Bon Air, VA

Contact us to start your customized prep program today! 

Average SAT Scores for 2014-2015 School Year

Here are the 2014-2015 average SAT scores for the United States. These are for the official SAT administrations held October through June.

2015 average scores: 
Average overall score: 1490 (down 7 points from 2014) 
Reading: 495 (down 2 points from 2014)
Math: 511 (down 2 points from 2014) 
Writing: 484 (down 3 points from 2014) 

2015 average scores by gender:
Reading:
Males – 497
Females – 493
Math:
Males – 527
Females – 496
Writing:
Males – 478
Females – 490

2015 average scores by ethnicity: 
American Indian or Alaska Native: 1423
Asian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander: 1654
African-American: 1277
Mexican or Mexican-American: 1343
Puerto Rican: 1357
Latin-American, Central-American, South-American, or Other Latino: 1345
White: 1576
Other: 1496

In the fall of 2014, 3.8 million students took the PSAT/NMSQT, up from 3.7 million in 2013. A record 1.7 million students from the class of 2015 took the SAT, compared to 1.67 million students from the graduating class of 2014. A little over 712,000 students, which is 42% of SAT takers in the class of 2015, reached the SAT college and career readiness benchmark.

With the upcoming redesigned SAT, these numbers will look significantly different next year. Reading and writing will be combined into one section. The overall scale score will be going back to the 400-1600 point scale. 

Let us know how we can help you get ready!