MTG Video Tip

How to set up an effective standard test prep program
Dr Steven Greene of mAke the grAde details the steps involved in setting up a standard test prep program for ACT, SAT, PSAT, ISEE, SSAT and other like exams.


MTG Tip – Study Actively

Study actively.
Do  problems.
Make flashcards.
Be engaged.

As end of the year finals and quarterly tests  approach, it’s as important as ever for students of all levels  to have good, effective study skills.  Active studying vs passive studying is a much more effective way to learn and to reinforce information.

For example, rather then reread a chapter in a History book, outline the chapter…. but how to outline… well there are many ways to make an effective outline (addressed in another blog post or at

Also, rather than scan Chemistry or Math concepts, catagorize problems into sets and do a series of practice problems.

Make flash cards for vocabulary rather then simply scanning word lists.

Active study takes about the same, or less, time than passive study and is much more effective.

Evaluating and Improving SAT / ACT results

Evaluating Your Test Results and Improving

The scores for the May SAT will be sent out soon. Regardless of your performance on this exam, most students will take the exam a second time with the goal of improving their scores. It is prudent to use the initial results to evaluate strengths and weaknesses and then proceed to revise your study plans accordingly. For example, if your writing score was subpar, you will need to put more effort into improving that aspect of the test in the future. The SAT is best learned slowly and steadily over a long period of time. Be sure to give yourself adequate time. It is far better to have a study plan than to try to work on these exams ad hoc. The plan should include consistent development of test taking strategies, as well as time to do practice testing.

Here are some questions that surround the new scoring system. At this time, some of these questions remain unknowns. These will be addressed in future articles:

  • How will colleges choose to interpret these scores?
  • Will the math and reading sections of the new test be weighted more strongly than the-writing section?
  • How do I know what a “good” score is?
  • Will an 1800 on the new system be the equivalent of a 1200 in the old system?
  • Should I take the test again?
  • Is it bad to take the SAT more than 2 times? 3 times?
  • How does the SAT compare to the ACT?

For more information on test preparation, or general academic tutoring, or a free educational personal evaluation of your child’s need, contact Steven Greene Ed.D. at mAke the grAde Academic Services at 215 540 TEST (8378) or www

The 4I Rule for Standard Tests

Process of Elimination and the “4I” Rule

The major advantage that test-taking students have on standardized tests like the PSAT, SAT, ACT as well as PSSAs, is that the tests are multiple choice style. In fact over 90% of the test questions are multiple choice.  (For the SAT there are 67 critical reading and sentence completion questions, 54 math questions and 49 writing questions that are multiple choice, with 10 free response math questions and a written essay).

Last post I introduced the concept of the “5 MlSes,” where most students miss questions because they do not fully understand or utilize the information in the question. Process of elimination takes advantage of utilizing the answers given to arrive at the correct answer.

Here is another very useful strategy that anyone can easily use.

The “4I” rule states: If you can eliminate four incorrect answers from the list of answers, then you are left with the correct answer.

This seems obvious, but it is not how most people think. Most of us are conditioned, by years of school, to create an answer and then check to see if it is on the answer list. This is how we are taught to learn and produce answers. This method works fine in the classroom, but not on standardized tests. Always remember, the SAT and these tests are not like school.

Here is a simplified example:

Fill in the blank: The capital of Oregon is ________________

Unless you are up on state geography, this is hit or miss. All or nothing. Now try the “4I” rule.

The capital of Oregon is:

a) Washington
b) Paris
c) Tokyo
d) Atlanta
e) Salem

You may not have known that Salem was the capital, but you likely knew that the other four were wrong. Four incorrect = one correct.

For more information on test preparation, or general academic tutoring, or a free educational personal evaluation of your child’s need, contact Steven Greene Ed.D. at mAke the grAde Academic Services at 215 540 TEST (8378) or www

the 5 MISes you want to avoid…


Taking standard tests is a rite of passage for college bound high school students.  Today, the major test available are the PSAT, SAT and ACT exams.  While the tests differ in various ways, fundamentally they test similar problem solving skills, foundational academic skills and abilities and the tests primarily require reasoning and logic as much as basic skills and calculation techniques.

To succeed on these exams it is as important to avoid common errors as it is to have ‘positive’ skills.   The questions are often presenting in confusing or convoluted way and the first step for success is to be sure to understand what the question is asking and avoiding the ‘5 MISes”.

They  are:

  • MISread
  • MISunderstand
  • MISinterpret
  • MISrepresent
  • MIScaluclate

The first three MISs focus on the understanding and interpreting the questions and correctly reading, understanding and interpreting what the question asks for.  This would apply to all aspects of the tests, Writing, Reading and Math areas.

MISrepresent addreses information needed that is included in the problem (e.g. length of the side of a rectangle) and insuring that the test taker obtains and uses it properly, and MIScalculate is concerned with properly executing any calculations needed.

Avoiding the 5 MISes is a fundamental way to become a stronger test taker on both standardized tests and academic school based tests.

For a FREE consultation concering SAT / PSAT /ACT prep (or other academic subjects particularly Math and Sciences) contact Dr Steven Greene at mAke the grAde AcAdemic services at

The ESSAY on standard tests

THE SAT: The Essay

When the SAT was changed in 2005, the most significant change was the inclusion of a handwritten essay based on a prompt.   Every student is given 25 minutes to plan and compose a complete essay on an assigned topic.  The single best piece of advice that I think you need to know for the essay is that it is much more important how you technically write your essay than the content of the essay.

The rubric used to score the essay has six parameters, of which five are primarily concerned with the essential mechanics of the essay including:

  • presentation of a clear purpose of the essay and a thesis statement
  • proper use of sentences
  • proper use of grammar and spelling appropriate
  • use of vocabulary and word choice
  • organization and development of the essay

Only a more subjective “overall impression” is left to the opinion of the reader.  It should be clear that the overall presentation is what score points on the essay.  Each of the parameters is scored by the reader on a 1-6 scale and the scores are summed and averaged and rounded to the nearest integer.

To complete the essay, the student should take a short time, to plan and organize his thoughts prior to beginning writing.  Further, these plans should he used as an outline for the essay. Remember, you have only 25 minutes to produce a finished product including Proofreading and minor editing.

For more information on test preparation, or general academic tutoring, or a free educational personal evaluation of your child’s need, contact Steven Greene Ed.D. at mAke the grAde Academic Services at 215 540 TEST (8378) or www