Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Best Test Prep Gifts are FREE

The holidays are here. Time for giving, loving and spending time with those that are special to you. 

This is also the time that many high school juniors start to turn their attention towards college. As students enter the second half of their junior year, they should start to consider which school or schools might be a good fit. 

Inherent to the college search is research into what test scores are needed to get into the school(s) of choice. The best test prep starts with the end in mind: figure out what score you need and map out your strategy to get there

Since this a fairly involved process, most every student needs support along the way. And in the spirit of giving, here are three gifts that you can give to your student or child as they embark on this journey:

A Stress-Free Environment: As I tell my students, stress is the enemy of performance. If there is stress in your life, it will manifest itself on your test score. Stress reduces ones ability to focus which makes problem solving and logical thought more difficult. The ability to solve problems and think logically is what will determine success on a test, so the student that is stress-free will indubitably score better. Support the student through any challenges (i.e. not just test prep) and remove as much stress as possible particularly as test day approaches. 

Achievable Goals: Getting the best score you can on the SAT or ACT can be a long process. Test-taking, for many, is a new skill and learning a new skill can be overwhelming. Avoid the overwhelming feeling by setting manageable goals. For example, set a goal to complete at least three full-length practice tests before you take an official test. Or, set a goal to master graphing functions by March. Set and achieve small goals along the way and get to your end goal easier. 

Resources: Every student needs some resources for test prep. The good news is that there are two key free resources for test prep: the downloadable ACT test prep guide and SAT prep resources via the Khan Academy. You can also subscribe to this blog for study tips and hints directly to your inbox for free! These gifts cost nothing and are highly valuable. Nowadays, it is not totally necessary to hire a tutor or take a course. Many things students can do on their own. 

Yes, the holidays are here. If you know a student about to embark on the test prep journey, give them resources, goals and a stress-free environment and watch them soar.

If you have any questions about test prep and academic tutoring, contact CROSSWALK

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stop Calling Students "Bad Test Takers"

Here's a typical conversation with a parent of a student embarking on SAT or ACT prep:

Parent: Do you tutor SAT and ACT?
Me: Yes, I most certainly do. 
Parent: My child is a bad test taker. Can you help them? 

Put the brakes on right there. 

"Bad test taker" might be the worst label you could ever give a child. "Bad test taker" is baggage that will weigh down any student for years and years. 

Unfortunately, many parents and teachers alike feel that labeling a student as a "bad test taker" is a viable excuse for student performance. If a student performs poorly on a test, the adult can say, "don't worry, you are just a bad test taker but you have other skills." 

What appears to be a loving and caring statement is actually quite damaging. 

Truth be told, there is no such thing as a "bad test taker."  

Someone that feels like a "bad test taker" simply experiences anxiety over tests. Anxiety leads to fear, fear leads to survival instincts, and survival instincts supplant logical thought making test-taking more difficult. Think about how most people respond to a bee: instead of logically staying still, many panic and try to escape. 

For many students, this can be a vicious cycle: test anxiety becomes fear, fear reduces the ability to think logically, performance suffers and the student generates more test anxiety. 

Sow do you break the cycle? Two simple ways: 1) manage anxiety and 2) adopt a growth mindset. 

First, managing anxiety is a skill that will help on tests and in life. Approach a problem with a clear and calm demeanor. Don't let the "flight or fight" survival instincts take control of logical problem solving. If fear or anxiety starts to creep in, take a step back and relax. Tests are not life-threatening. Approach test day as if you were embarking on a new opportunity. Tests can be a challenge but they should not instill fear. 

Second, a growth mindset is the absolute key to learning. A growth mindset is the thinking that one's brain is capable of learning new things. Once you believe you can learn new things, you can learn new things. Conversely, if you don't think you can learn new things then you won't learn new things. 

Yes, our brains have certain strengths and weaknesses, but we shouldn't get caught in the fixed mindset that we cannot change our brains. The science behind a growth mindset shows that the more growth you think you are capable of achieving, the more growth you can actually achieve. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks, or you can learn new test-taking strategies. 

So if you consider yourself a bad test taker, stop that thinking right now. Change that fixed mindset and view tests as a new opportunity to learn. Adopt a growth mindset and manage test anxiety with a calm and relaxed approach. Break the cycle of fear and poor performance, learn some new approaches to test-taking and watch your test scores improve.

For more tips and hints, contact CROSSWALK. CROSSWALK is the Monterey Peninsula's resource for ACT prep, SAT prep and academic tutoring. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

New 2016 Boot Camp Dates Added

Attention all Monterey Peninsula locals: CROSSWALK added two new Boot Camps for 2016. 

Mark your calendars because CROSSWALK's Boot Camps are a quick and easy way to get up to speed on the content and strategies around the SAT and ACT. Even more, the SAT session will dive into the changes coming for the new SAT launching in March. 

Here are the new dates:

SAT Boot Camp: January 10, 9am-3pm

ACT Boot Camp: March 13, 9am-3pm

Both of these Boot Camps take place at the Stevenson School.

To sign up for the Boot Camps, contact CROSSWALK here

Can't make these dates? Don't worry because CROSSWALK can create a Boot Camp just for you! If you have a group of at least five students, contact CROSSWALK here and we can set up your own personalized Boot Camp. 

Boot Camps are not the only answer CROSSWALK offers. We also do private test preparation as well as academic tutoring for just about every subject. Our tutors can meet in person or via Skype. 

CROSSWALK offers test prep, academic tutoring and SAT/ACT Boot Camps for the Monterey Peninsula and beyond. Contact us today! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

6 Ways to Support Your Child's Test Prep

As a test prep tutor, most of my work deals directly with preparing students.

Nevertheless, I find that parents often need some preparation in order to gain a better understanding of how best to support their child during ACT or SAT preparation.

With this in mind, here are six things a parent can do to provide a supportive, encouraging, and ultimately successful test prep experience for their children:

1) Set a Plan and Follow It: Like most things in life, test prep requires a plan. Though this recommendation is quite obvious, I am surprised at the number of families that do not plan ahead for test prep. Parents do great at scheduling sports practice, musical performances, social events and other things more but they rarely set up a thorough plan for test prep. Ideally the plan should start junior year by taking the ACT and the SAT without prep. The plan should then include a review of scores, a schedule of follow up practice and a retest. Hiring a tutor is a great way to help build the plan but not totally necessary

2) Nudge But Don't Nag: The worst kind of student I could have is the one that says "My mom is forcing me see a tutor." This is a recipe for disaster. The student is reluctant to study because mom or dad is obligating them. Parents (myself included) are famous for telling kids, "well, you better go study or else!" This nagging does not yield positive results. The reluctant student starts to dread test prep which in turn leads to dreading the test itself which in turn leads to poor scores. Instead of nagging, simply nudge your child. "Can you show me your latest essay practice?" or "How is your test prep plan coming?" are great questions and won't lead parents into a potential conflict.

3) Recreate the Testing Environment: Vince Lombardi is credited with the saying "Practice doesn't make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." This applies to test preparation because the student that prepares for the test exactly like the test is administered will be more prepared. This means that when a student is studying, s/he should study in a test-like atmosphere. For example, no cell phones are allowed while testing. So students that are practicing test prep should not use their cell phone. Same goes for the television, radio, computer, etc. Since these items are not allowed during the test, one should not have these items accessible during test prep. Same goes for timing: the test is timed, so practice should be timed. Ultimately, a parent can ensure a student gets the best test prep by practicing in an environment that perfectly matches the testing experience.

4) Be Realistic: Testing is hard. And some students do not respond well to standardized tests. As such, a parent should be very realistic about the potential for their son or daughter to achieve a high score. Any student, with time and practice, can improve. But not all students will get a perfect score. The best parent is one that celebrates improvement and looks for ways to encourage the student to do better. Parents should not add stress to an already stressful situation (see #5). 

5) Remove Stress: The key goal in test prep: remove stress. Stress is the enemy of test performance. Cramming the week before the test is the worst way to prepare for the SAT or ACT. Remember, the test is a marathon. Prepare your student for the marathon with ample time, lots of love and encouragement.

6) Read: Simple enough, right? Just read! Seriously, read books. And lots of them. If you model that reading is a normal activity, your kids will follow suit. Even better, read with them. Pick out a book together, read and and have your own personal book club. Reading is the number one skill tested on the SAT and ACT. Even the math section is more reading than math (remember word problems?). So model good reading habits and watch your son or daughter improve his or her test score. 

All in all, the best way a parent can support a son or daughter with ACT or SAT prep is with love and time. Take the time to prepare a plan, encourage lovingly, recreate the testing environment at home, be realistic, remove stress and read! 

If you need help, contact CROSSWALK. We know how to prepare students, and parents, for the ACT, SAT, SSAT, PSAT and academic subjects.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Have a Laugh with SAT Prep for Halloween

In honor of Halloween and this day of tricks or treats, click here for a funny trick and treat about test prep courtesy of The Onion

Just be sure you DON'T do what The Onion suggests. The Onion is great about getting a good laugh but not so great about recommending test prep tips.

For some real test prep tips with no tricks, contact CROSSWALK today. 

CROSSWALK specializes in one-on-one tutoring, SAT/ACT Boot Camps and academic tutoring for the Monterey Peninsula and beyond. 

Happy Halloween! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Old SAT or New SAT?

If you are currently a high school junior, you are faced with a decision between taking the old SAT or the new SAT. 

The old SAT has a brief shelf life remaining since the new SAT format will roll out permanently in March. This gives you three opportunities (November, December and January) to book your score with the old test. 

I generally recommend that current juniors focus their prep on the new format since, in all likelihood, you would want to take the test again your senior year to try and improve upon the score from junior year. Thus, if you intend on taking the test again senior year, don't worry about the old format. Instead, focus on the new format. In fact, you might be familiar with the new format since the PSAT you likely took this past week uses the new format.

Nevertheless, if you have already started to prep for the old format or you feel more comfortable with the old format, there is nothing stopping you from trying to get a good score in the next couple of months. The only risk with this is having to learn a new format should you want to take the test again your senior year. 

In all, the decision is a personal one and it depends on where a student is in their preparation. The following is a very useful resource that can help you figure out which test format is better for you. Check out this link to take a brief test that can help you decide between the old format and the new format. 

If you need further guidance on the old SAT vs the new SAT, please contact CROSSWALK. We are the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for SAT prep, ACT prep and academic tutoring. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

PSAT Prep for FREE

The PSAT is approaching quickly. In fact, there is likely less than a month to prepare for the PSAT since schools that administer the test will do so on October 14 or 28.  

That the test is on the horizon should not create any stress for test takers. As my students and readers of this blog can attest, stress should not be part of any test preparation

First and foremost, the PSAT is an opportunity to understand how a student performs on standardized tests. Scores can be used to qualify students for scholarships or national recognition, but are generally used as just a pulse check for the SAT. 

With this in mind, students should approach test day free of worry, concern or stress. 

Should a student want to get a sense of what is on the test, the College Board provides a couple of free resources. And since the PSAT has a new format, it may behoove students to take a gander at either of the following links before test day: 

  • Practice Test: click here for full-length practice test. Download the test and get a feel for the directions, timing, question types, format, etc. 
  • Practice Sets: click here for some practice sets and practice quizzes. You will have to sign in via Google or Khan Academy but that should stop you since the practice sets are very helpful. 

Above all, be sure to get plenty of rest leading up to the test. Cramming a bunch of test prep the night before, or even the weekend before, will actually hurt your score. 

Best of luck, PSAT test-takers. Should you need some support, don't be afraid to contact CROSSWALK, Monterey Peninsula's local resource for test prep and private tutoring. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Another ACT Success Story!

Success stories never get old so let's tell another one from CROSSWALK. The following was emailed to me:

"We were very pleased with Dan's tutoring. He worked very well with Nicole and Nicole has improved in her practice tests consistently over the weeks. Her overall score has improved by six points and we are very impressed. Overall he was a wonderful tutor."

Go Dan! Go Nicole! A six-point increase on the ACT is exceptional. 

While there is no doubt that Dan helped create this success story, the biggest impact on score improvement comes from Nicole's willingness to put in the practice time and improve. 

Time on task is crucial to improving a score. The more dedicated and diligent practice time you commit to the SAT or ACT, the higher your score will go. Couple this with the guidance of one of our outstanding tutors--like Dan--and you have a guaranteed recipe for score improvement. 

To learn how to boost your ACT, SAT or GPA, contact CROSSWALK today. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Most Important Math Subscore

The newly redesigned SAT rolls out in March 2016. With it comes a whole new scoring system and various levels of scoring. 

For example, instead of just one math score, a student will also get several math subscores that indicate how the student performed in certain content areas like algebra or data analysis.

While these subscores could prove very valuable, there is a simpler math subscore that is more important: total content errors vs total careless errors

You see, when I work with a student in math, we complete a math section and then analyze it. In our analysis, we categorize incorrect answers into two groups: content errors or careless errors.

Content errors are those errors a student would make because he or she has not seen the content yet. A trigonometry problem on the ACT, for example, might be a difficult problem for someone not yet exposed to trigonometry. Charting out content errors shows the student what content they need to learn to tackle this type of question in the future.

Careless errors represent those errors made when a student misreads the question, miscalculates something, fills in a bubble incorrectly or otherwise commits some error that was totally controllable if not for carelessness.

Careless errors are the best kind of errors because these can easily be fixed! 

In my experiences, careless errors make up about 80% of all errors while content errors are only 20% of total errors. These figures are based on my anecdotal experiences but the 80/20 grouping seems to hold true of most of my students.

The solution? Ignore the various levels of subscores you might receive on a future test and instead drill down into the most important subscore: how many of your incorrect errors are due to carelessness and how many are due to unfamiliar content? 

Content errors just take a bit of learning. Careless errors are easily fixed. 

Avoid careless errors by recognizing them. Learn from your mistakes so you don't misread questions, fall into avoidable traps or miscalculate something. 

Learn more study tips for ACT, SAT and all academic subjects by contacting CROSSWALK today. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Alphabet Soup of Testing and Academics with a Side of Humor

As July turns to August, the number of calls I receive from parents increases. With school starting back up, seniors realize that they may only have one more chance to get a good test score. 

At this time of year, anxiety for parents and students alike ramps up dramatically. Summer doldrums become fall stress cases faster than the leaves change color. 

For those facing this stressful time of year, it may help to step back and let a little humor into your lives. While it is important to do what it takes to increase a score or improve one's chance to get into one's college of choice, let's not forget that a student is more than a test score

To help ease the stress of the upcoming school year and testing calendar, please have a gander at the following article posted by author Darcy McMurtery for the San Francisco-based publishing company McSweeny's

I hope this article brings you a smile during these anxious times. 

Contact CROSSWALK to learn more about our private tutoring and SAT/ACT Boot Camps. Happy studying! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What NOT to Tell Your ACT or SAT Tutor

At CROSSWALK, we pride ourselves in our ability to work with just about any student. For this reason, we remain flexible in our approach: we can tailor a test prep plan for just about any situation.

However, there are a number of situations that create challenges for us. While there is no doubt that all of our tutors can handle almost any challenge, there are some situations we hope to avoid.

As you prepare for the PSAT, ACT, SAT and/or the SSAT, try and ensure that you don't approach your tutor by saying any of the following:

1) "I'm too stressed to do this." My students and followers of this blog know that I consider stress as the number one enemy of successful test performance. A little positive stress to keep a student motivated and on task is good. However, the moment negative stress enters into test prep is the moment scores drop. Approaching test prep in a stressed manner will only hurt your score. I recently chatted with a parent whose daughter performed poorly on the June SAT test. When I probed for more details, it turned out that her daughter spent the last two weeks of May studying for APs and final exams while balancing a loaded social schedule. Her daughter was overwhelmed with stress by the time June rolled around and her scores showed the same.

2) "I am taking the test next week." It still baffles me that new clients will call with a week before the test to schedule tutoring. There is very little we can do in a week. We can get started on a couple of things, but test preparation takes time. The more time we have, the more we can improve. Cramming test prep into the last week before the test only creates stress. And stress--as detailed above--is the number one enemy of successful test performance.

3) "My parents made me do this." When a student blames a parent for signing him or her up for test preparation, it shows me that the student is not engaged and involved in the process. Even if your parents force you to do test prep, consider the opportunity to learn a new skill. Instead of assigning blame of the drudgery of extra academic work, take ownership of your chance to improve yourself. The more ownership a student takes in his or her preparation, the greater the potential for a score increase.

When considering test prep options, be sure to reduce stress, give yourself time and view the chance to learn a new skill in a positive light. Staying motivated, dedicated and engaged will make a major difference in the final score. 

Avoid approaching your tutor with too much stress, too little time and not enough ownership of your opportunity. 

To learn more about how CROSSWALK prepares its students for the SSAT, PSAT, ACT, SAT, academic subjects and lifelong learning, contact CROSSWALK today. CROSSWALK is the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for test prep and academic tutoring. 

Contact CROSSWALK today and schedule your private tutor at the location you choose or via Skype.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New SAT = Same Ol' ACT?

The rubber is starting to meet the road for the newly designed PSAT and SAT, i.e. the "SAT Suite of Assessments." The new PSAT will be launched in the fall and the new SAT rolls out in March 2016.

The College Board does a wonderful job of communicating the changes to the tests in its Counselor Resource Guide to the Redesigned Assessments. This guide is available for free here.

As I review the changes to the new SAT Suite of Assessments, I can't help but think that the new tests are not that different from the ACT. Consider the following:
  • Gone is the 0.25 point deduction for wrong answers. In its place is the same raw score calculation used for the ACT: one point for a correct answer, no points for a wrong or omitted answer.
  • No more Sentence Completion questions, which were vocabulary-based questions not found on the ACT. 
  • Reading passages including scientific articles, graphs and charts like those found on the ACT. 
  • The new SAT essay score will not factor into the overall score, like the ACT. 
  • The SAT is providing free study resources which the ACT has done all along. 
These are just a few of the changes, but based on these, doesn't it seem that the SAT is trying to be more like the ACT

Additionally, the College Board states that the "ACT test measures skills across a large domain while the redesigned SAT will measure fewer things much more deeply." 

More specifically, the ACT provides one score based on the composite of four scores (Reading, English, Math, Science) while the new SAT will give one score based on the total of two scores (Reading/Writing and Math). The difference with the new SAT lies in the additional scores the new SAT will provide called cross-test scores, test scores and subscores. For example, a student will receive an overall score and, additionally, a subscore in specific areas, like Problem Solving and Data Analysis.  

As an educator, I see great value in this additional level of data from the new SAT. However, I am skeptical that colleges and universities will look beyond the overall score. If schools focus only on the total score, scoring the new test offers little difference from scoring the old test much less the ACT. 

I applaud the College Board's effort in making their tests more applicable and productive. Time will tell if the new SAT does a better job at predicting college performance than the old SAT. 

If you need help navigating the waters of the ACT, PSAT and SAT, contact CROSSWALK today. CROSSWALK continues to prepare students for success in academics, standardized test prep and life. Visit to learn more. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Art of Test Prep War: Strategy

I am certainly no expert in ancient Chinese literature and much less an expert on military strategy. 

Nevertheless, I was fortunate to meet John Hunter last year. Upon meeting him, I learned about his World Peace Game and his corresponding book World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements

Mr. Hunter  uses excerpts of the ancient Chinese military strategy book, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, to teach his students about competition, conflict and world peace

Inspired, I decided to read The Art of War

Reading the book through my lens as a test prep tutor, I found a number of military strategies suggested by Sun Tzu that could very well apply to SAT and ACT preparation

Okay, I admit that equating test prep with military operations is a bit of a stretch. 

Even so, I couldn't stop myself from thinking that much of what Sun Tzu offers in terms of military preparation can be analogous to test preparation

Take his famous line about strategy as an example:

"The individualist without strategy who takes opponents lightly will inevitably become the captive of others."

If we liken "opponents" to "tests" then Sun Tzu was not only a master military strategist, he may also inadvertently be the first test prep tutor to underscore the importance of strategy. 

My students all understand the importance of a game plan and a strategy for each question type. Past blog posts, like this one, suggest that a game plan is key to test success. 

Sun Tzu may have originally intended to prepare Chinese warriors in the art of war. However, he reminds us that any preparation requires a plan and that we should not underestimate the task at hand

If you don't want to be held captive by the SAT or ACT, prepare your strategy today. Contact CROSSWALK as we can help you through the preparation process, strategy and all.   

CROSSWALK is the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for SAT and ACT prep as well as tutoring for all academic subjects. Visit to learn more. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

How Much SAT or ACT Tutoring Is Needed?

The old mantra of "you get what you pay for" does not always apply to SAT or ACT prep. There are plenty of free resources available. Check previous blog posts about why you don't need to hire an SAT tutor or other posts for free ACT resources or free SAT resources

However, it is worth noting that a private tutor from CROSSWALK will help any student navigate the troubled test prep waters.

CROSSWALK specializes in individualized plans. Unlike some competitors that offer set programs of strict schedules, CROSSWALK feels that there is no one model that meets the needs of every student. 

CROSSWALK knows that students have busy schedules, tight budgets and other constraints that make test prep difficult. For this reason, we tailor programs based on a student's needs and time frame

So what does a typical student need? While not every student needs the same program, consider the following parameters when scheduling a private CROSSWALK tutor:

  • 3-6 Hours: this amount of time allows for minimal preparation, but a CROSSWALK tutor can present the major strategies of one test, like the ACT or SAT over this amount of time. 
  • 6-12 Hours: CROSSWALK recommends at least six hours to properly prepare for either the SAT or ACT (i.e. six hours for one test, not both). More is ideal, but with at least six hours, a tutor can present the major strategies and also start some guided practice. 
  • 12+ Hours: historically, the CROSSWALK students that have achieved the most point increase are the ones that put in the most time. See recent success stories both here and here for examples. With more than twelve hours to work with a student, a tutor can really dig into individual needs and move the needle. 
In all of the above scenarios, the key is to put in study time in addition to tutoring sessions. Just like homework reinforces classwork, SAT and ACT practice reinforces the lessons and strategies learned with a tutor. 

So instead of seeing private tutoring as "you get what you pay for," perhaps the more accurate statement would be "you get out what you put in." If your budget and schedule can allow for more hours, your score can increase. 

But not everyone has the luxury of an unlimited budget or endless free time. For this reason, CROSSWALK can help design a plan to fit your needs. Contact CROSSWALK today to learn more.

CROSSWALK specializes in individualized ACT and SAT preparation plans as well as private tutoring for a variety of academic subjects. Learn more at

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The 4 R's of Successful Test Takers

What are the most important R's for successful test takers?

If you said "reading, writing and arithmetic" then I am afraid you missed the mark.

While good test takers excel at reading, writing and arithmetic, the following R's represent the qualities of the best test takers:


Good test takers are realistic. They understand that test taking is a skill. Skills, like playing an instrument or mastering a new sport, require time and dedicated practice. Happy outcomes only come to those realistic enough to put in the time and effort.


As stress is the primary cause of poor test scores, good test takers know that readiness is the cure for stress. Prior to test day, good test takers develop and practice a game plan for each question. Subsequently, they face test day focused, stress-free and ready for a challenge. 


Successful test takers are resolute, steadfast, dedicated and motivated. By diligently pursuing a purpose, like a specific score or entry into a particular college, resolute test takers understand that motivation and dedication yield positive results. 


Taking the SAT and/or the ACT is a humbling experience. Learning and improving upon a weakness requires resilience and the ability to recover from a setback. The best test takers learn from a mistake, adjust quickly and move forward with their eyes on the prize.

If you are preparing for the SAT or ACT, make sure you are realistic about the work, ready to take on the challenge, resolute in your pursuit of a good score and resilient enough to learn quickly from any missteps.

Should you need some support in your test prep, contact CROSSWALK, the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for test prep and private tutoring. Also, learn how to demystify the SAT by reading 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score

Monday, April 13, 2015

For Test Prep, Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Ahh, spring. Warmer temperatures and longer days get us all ready for summer. With spring in the air, the heat is also rising in the classroom. 

As spring days get longer and warmer outside so does the stress level for students. Sports commitments, performing arts, part time jobs, exams, social activities and more limit the free time for the average student.

So in the middle of all the spring activities, and with the ACT and SAT looming, how can one find any time for test  prep? 

One answer lies with the birds. Quite literally.

When birds feel spring and summer approach, they flock together to migrate north. So too can students. 

With the April/May/June ACTs and SATs fast approaching, students can flock and work together. By forming a study group, students can learn together and learn from each other. 

Here are three reasons why you might consider forming your own flock, or your own study group. 

1) Shared Resources: among the flock, students can share books, online resources or other materials. While many resources are free or reasonably priced, some resources are not cheap. Share the cost of test prep resources with your flock and gain access to resources that you might not normally have. 

2) Stay Motivated: by forming a study group and meeting regularly, your flock can stay motivated. Weekly meetings are a great way to keep everyone on task and moving towards a similar goal. 

3) Learn from Each Other: many times, the best way to learn is from a peer. If you are skilled in math but falter in reading, find someone that excels in reading and learn from them. You can also teach them some math skills and thus everyone learns. 

A flock, or a study group, might be the answer to test prep at this time of year. Birds use each other to help navigate a migratory journey and you can too. Form your own flock and you can make your test prep journey a bit easier. 

Contact CROSSWALK to find resources for your flock. CROSSWALK offers private tutoring, small group tutoring, ACT/SAT Boot Camps and academic tutoring in a variety of subjects. Contact CROSSWALK today to learn more. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Get a Head Start on Prep for the New SAT

While the changes planned for the new PSAT and SAT were announced some time ago (and posted on this blog last year), there are now more resources available to understand and practice this new format. 

First and foremost, the changes will take place on the PSAT starting in the fall of 2015. As of Spring 2016, the SAT will incorporate the new changes.

What are the new changes? Visit our blog post from last year for an overview. Kaplan also has an outstanding overview of the changes right here.

So how should you prepare for the change? Well, if you are a current sophomore about to head into your junior year, you should get started right away. It is never too early to get practicing. The College Board posted practice questions and practice tests on their website. Download a practice test right here. They have also posted a way to compare the exam formats right here

The changes are around the corner and will be here before you know it. Better to get a head start now while you can!

For questions about the PSAT, SAT or ACT, contact CROSSWALK. CROSSWALK is the Monterey County's local resource for test prep and private tutoring. Skype sessions are also available for those out of town. Find out more by visiting CROSSWALK

Monday, March 16, 2015

Test Prep, Golf & First Tee of Monterey County

On yesterday's glorious Sunday afternoon, I had the honor and privilege to work with the youth of First Tee of Monterey County. While I was somewhat familiar with the organization, I had no idea how much they offered area youth in terms of both golf and life skills.

My work yesterday was on the life skills side. I spent an hour yesterday with a group of about 20 high school students and we went through my presentation, 10 Things to Do to Prepare for the SAT and ACT

The students were no doubt itching to get on the golf course, but they were kind enough to sit through and digest valuable test prep tips from me. 

We developed a couple of golf analogies with respect to test prep. For example, we talked about how getting better at both golf and standardized test preparation requires a dedicated plan. We also addressed how important it is to practice perfectly for both golf and test prep. In other words, when you practice, you should practice the exact skills needed for a match or on test day. 

In all, it was an enjoyable afternoon. I hope the kids felt that our session was as valuable and beneficial as it was for me. Many thanks to Golf and Life Skills Coach Scott Qualle of First Tee of Monterey County for setting this up. 

To learn more about CROSSWALK and test prep options, contact us here. For concrete ways to approach both SAT and life, download and read 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score

Friday, February 6, 2015

How Stress Can Help SAT & ACT Performance

All my students know that my first message with respect to test prep is to avoid stress. Stress can lead to negativity. Negativity can deflate confidence. Deflated confidence can reduce performance. 

In fact, I claim that stress is the number one enemy of test performance

While I stand by my claim, there may actually be a benefit to stress as long as you know how to use it effectively.

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman first wrote about pressure and stress on standardized tests for the New York Times in 2013 and expanded upon their original article in the book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing

In both pieces, they argue that stress may not necessarily be a bad thing if you know how to harness it. 

Bronson and Merryman cite a study in which students were split into two groups and given a practice GRE. The control group was given the test normally while the test group was given a test with instructions that included a line that "people that feel anxious may actually perform better." 

Turns out the test group that was given the encouragement about anxiety helping performance actually performed better. Results were replicated months later when students turned in their real GRE scores: those that felt stress would help them had scores 65 points higher than those that did not. 

There is a lot more science to this study, including things like biomarkers that indicate the level of one's anxiety. For example, students with hunched shoulders may appear "threatened" by the test while those with open shoulders may seem "challenged" by the test. Both threatened and challenged students feel anxious and stressed, but those that feel challenged perform better. 

Overall, the message is clear. As long as you have to face a stressful situation, embrace the stress of it. Use the stress of the experience to challenge you. Approach test day with a positive attitude of "I look forward to this challenge" and not "I am threatened by this and I hate this." 

After all, as this study shows, if your attitude is in the right mindset, your aptitude will shine

Learn more useful test day tips by reading 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score. Contact Brooke Higgins today to schedule your ACT or SAT prep or visit CROSSWALK to learn more about tutoring options. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Incredible SAT Prep Success Story

It wasn't long ago that I posted a recent success story at CROSSWALK. While that was certainly fun to tell, a better story unfolded this past month. 

This latest story starts with a student who performed below her expectations on the PSAT. A smart student with a good GPA, she scored in the 39th percentile on the PSAT meaning that she scored better than just 39% of the population while 61% of test takers scored better than her. 

Based on this score, the student felt really low in the water. From a GPA perspective, she was not an average student. However, her test scores indicated she was below average

This result can mentally derail any student. But not this one. 

Fast forward six months later, and this is what the mother emailed CROSSWALK: 

"She increased her score by 720 points including an 800 in Math!!! 700 in Writing and a 620 in Critical Reading. Thank you for setting us up with tutor Dan. He has changed her life by making her competitive for Ivy, the academies, and other highly ranked schools."

What was the secret? How did she turn it around? 

While I would like to believe this success was solely due to Dan's work as a tutor, the real success started with the student's desire to improve. Put bluntly, this student put in the time to get better. When you put in quality time to learn a new skill, the results speak for themselves. 

The student took it upon herself to maximize her time with the tutor. She spent many hours working on problem sets. She made test preparation a major priority in her life. She learned and practiced the strategies frequently. And now she relishes the results. 

Congratulations to the student. A 720-point increase is truly remarkable!

Do you want to increase your SAT or ACT score? Contact CROSSWALK today. We offer private tutoring for SAT and ACT preparation in person or via Skype. CROSSWALK is Monterey Peninsula's resource for tutoring and test prep. 

Prefer to learn on your own? Start your SAT prep by reading 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How to Really Read Your PSAT Score

Now that PSAT scores have been received by students around the country, it is worth a moment to really understand what these numbers mean.

First and foremost, unless you are pursuing a National Merit Scholarship, PSAT scores should be taken with a grain of salt. Since most students do not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, there should be little stress or anxiety over PSAT scores. 

Unfortunately, many students and parents view PSAT scores negatively. They place great emphasis on student performance and subsequently find areas of concern. This pessimistic view is the wrong lens to use for PSAT scores. 

Instead of a pessimistic lens, parents and students should view the scores with a lens of opportunity. Much like a doctor would use a diagnostic test to identify a health plan, parents and students should use PSAT scores to determine a plan of attack for the SAT. 

For example, consider Dylan's recent score of 54 on the PSAT Critical Reading. This would translate to a 540 on SAT Critical Reading which is a score just above average. Instead of being concerned with an average score, Dylan can look under the hood of this score and get to the details. Specifically, Dylan's score report shows that he was strong on the Sentence Completion questions but weak on the Passage-Based Reading questions. 

Instead of doom and gloom for Dylan, there is great opportunity. Dylan now knows that he needs to work on his Passage-Based Reading. Instead of being negative about his performance, Dylan has a specific area that requires dedicated focus. Armed with a plan to improve his reading, Dylan has months to work on it. 

PSAT scores represent evidence of what you can do to get a better SAT score. They are not an indication of concern for a student, but rather an indication of opportunity. 

Learn more about PSAT, SAT and ACT prep from CROSSWALK. Read 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score by Brooke Higgins.