Friday, December 7, 2012

The Most Important SAT Vocabulary Word

Do you find rote memorization of vocabulary abhorrent? Does SAT vocabulary seem like an impregnable fortress of nonsensical words?

Hold on. What does "abhorrent" mean? And what about "impregnable"?

Curse those SAT vocabulary words. Sure, they are useful for reading comprehension and writing, but nobody wants to memorize lists of words all day. Reciting words and their definitions is just plain boring.

Instead, learn the most important SAT vocabulary word: equanimity.

Equanimity is not only a word found on the SAT, it is a philosophy for conquering the test. Equanimity means mental calmness and composure especially when faced with a difficult situation. As in, "it takes tremendous equanimity to succeed on the SAT." 

Sounds like a good approach on test day: keep your cool, stay focused, and maintain an even temper throughout the nerve-wracking marathon of a test.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the challenging vocabulary found on the SAT. You can circumvent the monotony of list memorization by using learning tools like flash cards. Tech-savvy folks can use and create online versions of flashcards at places like Quizlet and VerbaLearn

Just don't forget that your equanimity on test day will be the most important word and approach on test day. 

By the way, abhorrent means loathsome and impregnable means unable to defeat.

Start your test preparation with an SAT Boot Camp from CROSSWALK. Check for camp dates, information on private tutoring and more resources for academic success. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

3 Ways to Maximize SAT and ACT Study Time

Suzie is a typical high school student. She attends school all day, plays sports in the afternoon, studies about two hours a night and squeezes in meetings during the week for student council. Weekends are busy with tournaments and she even has a part time job on some evenings.

If you are like Suzie, you know the challenge of finding time to get ready for the SAT or ACT. Carving out study time for test preparation is not easy to do when your calendar is  full of activities. 

With such a busy schedule, what can Suzie do? 

Assuming she can dedicate some study time for the SAT or ACT, Suzie will need to maximize her time to the fullest, Here are a three ways to maximize your SAT or ACT study sessions

1) Avoid Stress: it is scientifically proven that stress kills brain cells. You need all the brain cells you can get for standardized tests. If you are stressed during a study session, you will not retain the information. Take a step back and find a time where you are not stressed to do your test prep.

2) Focus in the Now: your study sessions will be more productive when you remove all distractions and simply focus on the test prep materials. That means no music, no cell phone, no tv, and most importantly, no thinking about anything other than test prep. When you strip away all distractions and thoughts about other things, your brain will focus intently and you will process the material more effectively and efficiently. 

3) Practice Perfectly: the old adage "practice makes perfect" doesn't always apply for test prep unless you practice perfectly. Practicing perfectly means recreating the testing environment as much as you can. When prepping for the SAT or ACT, be sure to practice your key strategies just as you would on the test. For example, get in the habit of skipping the most difficult questions on the SAT. On the ACT, be sure you get an answer for each question as there is no punishment for wrong answers. Another key way to practice perfectly is to time yourself. After all, this is a timed test so you may as well time your practice. 

Maximizing your study time is crucial for the SAT and ACT. In a perfect world, students would have loads of time to take practice tests, review strategies and memorize common question types. 

Unfortunately, our world is not perfect so we must maximize the available time to make it as productive as possible. Whether or not you have the luxury of time on your hands, be sure to maximize it to the fullest. 

You can also maximize your SAT or ACT test prep with a Boot Camp from CROSSWALK. The Monterey Peninsula's resource for tutoring over the past ten years, CROSSWALK has prepared hundreds of students for the SAT, ACT and more. CROSSWALK can also match private tutors with individual students in a variety of academic subjects. Contact us today to learn more or check our Boot Camp Calendar for the next one-day camp. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Carelessness is a Punishable Offense

One of the worst yet most common standardized test horror stories has to do with those silly little bubbles. Invariably, in just about every Boot Camp that I do, one student shares a story like the following:

"I knew I needed to skip one question because it was just too hard. I figured I would come back to it later if I had more time. So I moved onto the next question. When I got towards the end of this test, I almost had a heart attack. As I was filling in the bubble for question #18, I realized had actually worked on question #19 in my test booklet. Turns out, I was filling in all of the wrong bubbles starting from the question I had skipped! With only minutes to go in the test, I had to erase and fill in bubbles like mad. It was a disaster!"

The good news is that the student followed a good test-taking strategy: skip questions that you can't do quickly and try to come back to them later.

The bad news is that the careless approach to filling in bubbles made this "question-skipping" strategy backfire.

I always tell my students to remember that those bubbles are not graded by a person, they are graded by a machine. If it were a person, they might give you the benefit of the doubt. A teacher might have given partial credit, for example. But a machine only recognizes correct answers, incorrect answers or blank answers. There is nothing in between. So a machine will indeed punish a student if he or she is careless.

Same goes for stray marks on an answer sheet or bubbles that are not filled in properly: for better or worse, carelessness is a punishable offense on standardized tests.

Don't let a machine tell you if you whether or not you performed well on a standardized test. Let your answers dictate your scores by checking your test booklet every so often. A half second spent double-checking your answer sheet to make sure you are filling in the corresponding bubble, completely filling in the bubble and erasing all stray marks will pay off in the long run.

Learn more test-taking tips with an SAT or ACT Boot Camp from CROSSWALK. The Monterey Peninsula's resource for tutoring over the past ten years, CROSSWALK has prepared hundreds of students for the SAT, ACT and more. We host one-day Boot Camps for SAT and ACT and we also match private tutors with individual students in a variety of academic subjects. Contact us today to learn more or check our Boot Camp Calendar for the next one-day camp. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

2 for 1 Boot Camp...No Better Deal in Town!

Save money, learn quickly and boost your score on the SAT or ACT. You can't go wrong with this deal!

CROSSWALK is now offering a 2 for 1 deal that cannot be missed: two students for the price of one for upcoming ACT and SAT Boot Camps. There is a limited number of spots available for this deal, so you must act fast if you want to get in on this.

The Monterey Peninsula's local resource for academic tutoring for the past ten years, CROSSWALK has prepared hundreds of students for the SAT and ACT. We've hosted numerous one-day Boot Camps for SAT and ACT and we have also successfully matched private tutors with individual students in a variety of academic subjects.

If you are in need of an academic boost, CROSSWALK is your path to learning success.

More importantly, if you are preparing for the ACT or SAT, you need to contact CROSSWALK today. Let us help you determine the best path to test-taking success. And now with our special 2-for-1 offer, you will no doubt save some money and still learn effectively and efficiently.

New Boot Camps are always forming. Check our calendar or contact us directly to set up your own group. at 2-for-1 pricing, you can't go wrong!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Mess of Stress

It wasn't that long ago that "pulling an all-nighter" was a badge of academic honor. Spending the whole night studying was seen as the highest form of dedication to your studies. The thinking was that, by sacrificing sleep and rest, you were a hero for cramming all night to gear up for a big test or project.

Most folks trying the all-nighters were either a) procrastinators leaving everything for the last minute or b) uber-studiers that put their lives on hold in hopes of academic achievement. Either way, it now seems that going the all-night route is actually counterproductive, particularly if it is a common practice.

You see, over time, stress on the brain actually kills brain cells. No joke. Check out John Medina's Brain Rules. His Rule #8 is that a "stressed brain does not learn the same as a non-stressed brain." Mr. Medina has scientifically proven that cognitive performance decreases as stress increases.

I've sung this tune before with my students: you can't cram for the SAT. If you think you can pick up the book the night before, or even the week before, and pack in some all night study sessions, you may actually hurt your chances to score the best.

Avoid stressing the brain when learning. Give yourself enough time to review the material at a pace that allows your brain to comprehend and retain the information. A little stress is okay, but prolonged stress may actually kill brain cells. Not a good idea when gearing up for that next SAT or ACT test.

Keep in mind that CROSSWALK has several test prep options for you: try a Boot Camp or private tutoring. A tutor will work with you to make sure learning and cognitive performance are optimized. We are the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for test prep and academic tutoring. Contact CROSSWALK today.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fall Boot Camps

Contact CROSSWALK today to sign up for the next Boot Camp. Get results in just one day!

Here are upcoming dates:

  • SAT Boot Camp: September 22
  • SAT Boot Camp: October 20
  • ACT Boot Camp: October 13
  • ACT Boot Camp: November 17
Classes are held from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Stevenson School. Other dates are available on request.

CROSSWALK specializes in test prep Boot Camps and private tutoring for all academic subjects. We are the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for top tier tutoring. 

Take the next step and contact CROSSWALK today.

Monday, July 23, 2012


After so many years of preparing students for the SAT and PSAT, I finally got an opportunity to work with students on the SSAT.

As part of the Stevenson Summer Camp, I put on a five-week workshop for rising 8th Graders on the ins and outs of the SSAT. The SSAT, for those that don't know, is an assessment that independent high schools use to qualify their applicants. Think of it as the SAT for high school applicants.

There are some differences between the SSAT and the SAT. First of all, the SSAT tests your vocabulary via analogies and synonyms. The SAT, on the other hand, tests vocabulary primarily via Sentence Completion questions in which you must fill in the correct blank by using contextual clues in a sentence. The SAT also assesses writing much more than the SSAT since there is a whole section on the SAT dedicated to writing.

Despite these differences, the tests are quite similar. Both the SSAT and the SAT have similar Reading Comprehension questions, both have similar Math questions and both are scored in a similar way. And since the PSAT is just the SAT Jr., students can get a jump on their SAT preparation by preparing for both the SSAT and the PSAT.

There is no question that the students in my workshop learned a great deal about how to attack the verbal sections of any standardized test. They have also learned individual strategies to help them improve their scores. Sometimes this has meant reworking individual test-taking techniques because the SSAT, like the PSAT and the SAT, require unique strategies that may not be used on the typical school-based assessments.

Prepping for the SSAT may not be the most popular summer activity, but those that do will not only get a leg up on their high school applications, they will also gain a greater understanding of what the PSAT and SAT are all about. SSAT prep is not needed for everyone, but the sooner you start understanding this type of assessment, the more comfortable you will be on SAT  test day.

CROSSWALK, located in Pacific Grove, CA, provides private tutoring and Boot Camps for SAT, ACT as well as private tutoring in all academic subjects. Contact us here to learn more. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer S.A.T. Prep Tips

What's the best thing about summer? Wearing shorts and sandals every day? Sleeping in late? Spending the day at the beach?

While all of these are wonderful things to do in summer, the best thing about summer is the free time you have to prepare for the S.A.T.

Hear me out on this. I know that spending your summer prepping for a tough test like the S.A.T. is not your idea of a good time. You'd much rather see the new Amazing Spider-Man movie, grab an ice cream at Coldstone Creamery or hang out with some friends at the mall. However, summer represents the ideal time to get ready for the S.A.T. for a number of reasons.

First of all, there is no added stress of school. Preparing for the S.A.T. requires complete focus. This can be very hard to do during the school year when homework and extracurricular activities dominate your life. With summer free time, you should be able to schedule some blocks of time where your only concern is test prep.

Secondly, assuming you do some good test prep over the summer, you can take your S.A.T. early in the fall and be done with the test. While you relax in November and December, your friends will stress out during S.A.T. weekends. Wouldn't that be nice? And even if you don't get a great score in early fall, you will still have another chance (or two depending on the school admissions deadlines) to retake the test and improve.

Really, it goes without saying that summer is a great time to prep for the S.A.T. The question is thus, what is the best way to prepare for the S.A.T. over the summer? Here are five ways to spend your summer gearing up for test day:

1) Take a Course: depending on where you live, there are a variety of courses throughout the summer. Some are long, some are short. CROSSWALK, a tutoring company servicing the Monterey Peninsula, runs several S.A.T. and A.C.T. Boot Camps. Check here for information.

2) Self-Paced Study: grab an S.A.T. study guide, like the Official S.A.T. Study Guide. This book is produced by the College Board, which is the same organization that produces the S.A.T. This book has great strategies and tons of test questions. You can even visit Khan Academy to find video solutions for most problems.

3) Hire a Private Tutor: since not all students feel comfortably studying independently, a private tutor is an excellent option. Be sure to look for a tutor with significant experience (more than three years). More importantly, make sure the tutor's personality and style will allow for positive and productive sessions.

4) Set a Routine: no matter what you do, you will need a structured routine. Even if you just do one thing, like the College Board's S.A.T. Question of the Day, make sure you do it routinely. I once had a student that blocked out four Saturdays leading up to the S.A.T. One each Saturday, this student took a full length practice test at home. Four weeks of this routine had the student primed and prepared for test day. His brain and body was ready for test day and he walked out with a 2200 overall score and never took it again. The five week routine was difficult, but it was a short term pain for a long term gain.

5) Read: remember that the S.A.T. is a reading test. Almost 30% of all of the questions on the test are passage-based reading questions. As for the rest of the test, even if you think it is a math or writing assessment, you are tasked with reading the information presented before uncovering the right answer. So read, read and read some more. Read actively, meaning you annotate what you read and ask yourself lots of questions while you read like "what is the purpose?" or "what action does the author want me to take now?" The more you read, the more prepared you will be.

So summer can still have trips to the beach, visits with friends and ice cream parties. You don't have to give up your summer to get ready for the S.A.T. Nevertheless, be sure to find ways to be productive during your free time. Carve out some predictable and routine blocks of time to get yourself ready for test day. Don't let summer pass you by without a little S.A.T. prep. If your future is important to you, then the Amazing Spider-Man and Coldstone can wait for another day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring & Summer Boot Camps

CROSSWALK has recently added some new SAT and ACT Boot Camp dates for the spring and summer:

  • April 21: SAT Boot Camp (9:00am-3:00pm)
  • May 19: SAT Boot Camp (9:00am-3:00pm)
  • June 2: ACT Boot Camp (9:00am-3:00pm)
  • June 5 and 7: afternoon SAT Boot Camp (3-6:00pm both days)
  • June 12 and 14: afternoon ACT Boot Camp (3-6:00pm both days)
  • July 10 and 12: afternoon SAT Boot Camp (3-6:00pm both days
  • July 17 and 19: afternoon ACT Boot Camp (3-6:00pm both days)
If you are interested in signing up for an upcoming Boot Camp, contact CROSSWALK at 831-70-TUTOR (88867) or email us at

For future dates and information, be sure to check the calendar.

If you are interested in forming a group for your own Boot Camp, CROSSWALK offers some great money-saving ways to get you and your friends ready for test day. Contact CROSSWALK to learn more.

Also, for the latest events at CROSSWALK as well as educational insights delivered directly to your inbox, please subscribe to the CROSSWALK blog by inputting your email into the box on the right. Check out past blog posts right here.

For questions and more information, or to set up your FREE meet and greet with one of our tutors, contact CROSSWALK directly.

CROSSWALK is Monterey Peninsula's local resource for SAT & ACT Boot Camps, Test Prep and Private Tutoring.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are Bilinguals More Prepared for College?

A recent article in the New York Times touts the benefits of bilingualism. According to the article, children that grow up speaking two languages demonstrate improved cognitive skills as compared to children that grow up with just one language.

There are several studies cited in this article that illustrate the connection between bilingualism and increased cognitive function. One such study suggests that bilingualism can even slow the onset of dementia in the elderly .

All told, the case is pretty strong that bilinguals indeed can be smarter than monolinguals.

However, the bilingual advantage appears to be a disadvantage when it comes to standardized testing. Just last year, the College Board reported that SAT reading scores dropped to their lowest levels in decades. The reason? The College Board would have you believe that bilinguals, or more precisely English language learners (ELLs), are part of the reason why reading scores have dropped. The College Board reported that the 2011 SAT had the largest and most diverse group of test takers in history. In fact, 27% of all test takers in 2011 did "not speak exclusively English."

So on one hand, if you speak more than one language, your brain will be more efficient and more effective than someone that speaks only one language. However, if you do not exclusively speak English, you may find that you are not as prepared for standardized tests as those that do.

The irony of all of this lies with those colleges that place significant weight on SAT scores in the admission process. These colleges may be missing out on lots of bilingual students that are cognitively more adept than their monolingual counterparts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

SAT Test Optional?

Ah, the debate continues. Is the SAT a viable predictor of college performance?

One one hand, it is perhaps the only standardized measurement on a prospective student's application. GPAs? Hardly standardized. A 4.0 at one school does not equate to a 4.0 at another school. So what can a college do? With so many college applicants, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

So goes the argument for the SAT: without anything else in place, it can serve as a predictor.

On the other hand, as more and more data is showing, the level of predictability is minimal. According to the latest from Joseph Soares, GPAs are indeed the best predictor of performance. Even if schools have varying standards, it seems that your GPA will determine how well you do in college. Not a standardized test.

Read more about Dr. Soares and his book, SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional Admissions (Teachers College Press) and see for yourself.

So where will the SAT go? Nowhere for now. But the long term future of standardized tests may be a question.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Free Resource: The Khan Academy

It's hard to argue with the premise that you get what you pay for.

However, sometimes a very valuable resource comes along that doesn't cost a thing. The Khan Academy is just one of those valuable resources that won't cost you a penny.

What started as an uncle creating math tutorials via YouTube for his family has turned into a major hub of educational content. Check out the videos and create an account to track your progress. (Note: you must be at least 13 years old to create an account.)

Free education at your own pace? Sounds like a lot of value for no money. Kudos Khan Academy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

De-Standardize Education?

Sir Ken Robinson suggests a new paradigm for education.

Very thought-provoking and, dare say, revolutionary?

Have a look for yourself:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Irony and the S.A.T.

Peter Drucker is credited with the saying, "What gets measured, gets managed." Drucker was one of the most influential business thinkers of all time. He developed one of the first MBA programs for executives at Claremont Graduate University and in 1987 that same institution named its school of management after him.

Ironically, Claremont McKenna College (CMC), which is a member of the consortium of Claremont Colleges, has managed its measurements unethically. As the New York Times recently reported, CMC stated that for the past six years it has submitted false SAT scores to major publications. These publications, like the U.S. News and World Report, use the scores to prepare rankings for colleges across the country.

It appears that one lone administrator at CMC has taken the blame for this egregious falsification. Richard C. Vos, the vice president and dean of admissions at CMC, has been blamed for falsely inflating the school's rankings and perceptions via erroneous test scores. The university president, Pamela Gann, claims that Mr. Vos acted alone and on his own accord.

Regardless of blame, it seems that Drucker's manifesto has come back to haunt the same academic institution that partly bears his name. This irony should not be lost in this ordeal.

What's more, it makes a mockery of the entire S.A.T. process. With this incident, how should students that have to take the S.A.T. respond? Is the lesson here that students should do whatever possible--even if that means cheating--to boost their S.A.T. scores?

Maybe schools should have their own rankings for ethics? Instead of a Scholastic Aptitude Test (S.A.T.) perhaps schools should submit to a Scholastic Ethics Test (S.E.T.).

I can see it now: school administrators will need to prepare for months for the S.E.T. They would hire private tutors, take prep courses and give up Saturday after Saturday to learn how to "critically" think and verbally "reason."

Then again, those schools will probably just figure out a way to fudge their own scores. Because after all, if it is being measured, it will be managed, even if it is unethical.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Assess the Assessment

Assessments may be the most challenging job of any teacher. The purpose of any assessment is to measure learning in order to determine if a student successfully grasps the content. There are generally three assessments: formative, summative and standardized testing.

Consider formative assessments as an ongoing pulse check: a teacher may review the progress of an assignment, check in on the level of understanding with general questions or otherwise evaluate if the student is progressing during the course of study. Feedback from formative assessments is generally qualitative.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, happen at the conclusion of a particular unit or group of lessons. Students will recognize a summative assessment as a final exam, unit test or term paper. These assessments provide teachers and students with more quantitative feedback.

The other type of assessment is a standardized test, like the ACT or the SAT. The purpose of a standardized test is to compare student performance across a diverse population of test takers. Questions and answers are "standardized" so that one test can be used to compare and contrast many students. The feedback for these tests, for obvious reasons, is strictly quantitative.

Each assessment requires a unique method of preparation. As many SAT students learn, preparation for a standardized test is vastly different than preparation for a summative assessment. While most students, particularly at the secondary level, learn how to prepare for a summative assessment, few learn how to prepare for a standardized test.

Given the current trend of using standardized test scores more frequently to evaluate student and/or teacher performance, students and teachers alike may need to shift their assessment focus from summative to standardized. You may disagree that standardized tests are the best measure of student performance, but that doesn't mean you should ignore standardized test preparation.