January 28 SAT Scores :-)

16 Feb

This year I coached  only one senior who wanted to further improve his scores and his chances of getting into his top-choice schools, so he took the exam again last month.

I would say 110 points is a HUGE improvement–particularly since he did not begin preparing for the SAT until this past Christmas vacation after the release of the December 2011 ACT scores!

Five Weeks – 110 points!  I am sooooooo proud of him!!!!

Way to go, Mike!

JS 🙂


When Less is More

15 Feb

As you know, my daily experiences prompt the majority of my posts.  Tonight, I attended a tw0-hour informative event at my local library.  I attended because I wanted to know more about the subject and had looked forward to learning valuable strategies I could apply to my practice.

The speaker came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation. Both professional and knowledgeable, he held my attention–that is–for the first forty-five minutes.  Then he became repetitive, redundant, and went off on tangents.  I began to get bored.

Just before a brief break, he proceeded to define terminology he assured the audience we needed to know.  As the PowerPoint pages grew longer and more complicated, he lost me.  Had I enrolled in a college course, no doubt I would have needed to know and understand the field-specific vocabulary.  However, as a lay person hoping to gather practical advice, as he went on, and on, and on, all I wanted was out!  Less information would have been much more effective. 

So, when you speak or write, remember to assess your audience.  Determine how much detail they need to know.  Decide which facts stand out as most important; then highlight them. Stick to your topic. Strive for clarity, and re-emphasize only the most salient facts. As you conclude, perhaps your audience will think of new questions they want answered; perhaps they will leave your presentation or writing with a sense of closure and appreciation of a job well done.  But for heaven’s sake, whatever you do, do not let them leave glad their experience has finally ended.

I hope you all had a Happy Valentine’s Day!

JS 🙂


Mind your manners!

9 Feb

Remember your parents’ warnings?  You paid attention, didn’t you?

Here’s my advice for today: Mind your fingers! With texting and e-mails  flying in cyberspace,  it’s far  too easy to slip into text-spelling mode when sending important messages.

AND, check your message one last time before you hit Send.  The auto-correct feature may do just the opposite.  It JUST happened to me!!!!!!  For real!  I typed “feature” earlier in this paragraph and it auto-corrected to “feather tire,” which makes absolutely NO sense unless, of course, you’re a bird flying a bi-plane!

Ciao for now–

JS 🙂


Time and Distance

2 Feb

Time and distance. These variables make such a difference when recovering from traumatic life events! Today, however, I rediscovered how much they apply to revisiting our writing. 

When we are in the midst of composing, surrounded by swirling thoughts, all we want to do is get them down on paper.  Then, as I have advised so often, we revise, and revise, and revise yet again.   Positive we have a good draft, we share it with respected peers and anxiously await their response.  Often they have suggestions, so we refine our work once more.

After we submit that work to a teacher, professor, or editor, we may have to wait several weeks before its return.  “Why didn’t I see that?” we often wonder as we make the recommended changes.  Whether that reader suggests a conference, or we request one, further clarification will lead to even more revision.

For me, who teaches writing, today I learned that when we get back our paper, story, book, or article,  time and distance can make a reread seem as if we are reading someone else’s work. Now, when our wording gives us pause that is when we get down to the level of one word and to the realization that changing it will make a huge difference.

So, my advice for today (just in case you haven’t taken it in before) is, don’t leave your school assignments for the last minute.  Time and distance will bring you closer to that A.  To aspiring authors, time and distance may bring you a better chance of publication. Just as a painter will return to his masterpiece to add a brushstroke here and there, revisiting our writing weeks later  will allow us to  paint our words to perfection.

JS 🙂



Tips for Today!

31 Jan

Today, I edited the work of a brilliant, highly accomplished female executive.  Here’s the tip I shared with her:  The point of your sentence should come last for emphasis.  In  following this advice and reworking her sentences, the revisions resulted in an astounding difference in her writing!

Also, once again I am reminded of the importance of knowing one’s purpose, understanding the audience, and searching for precise words to drive home a message.

JS 🙂

“I’m a junior. When should I take the SAT and ACT?”

30 Jan

So many juniors ask me this question!  It’s a good idea to get baseline scores on each exam, so I recommend juniors take “practice” SAT exams in January or March. Then, take a “practice” ACT in December or February.

Not only will you get a “feel” for each exam, but when you have both scores back, you will see where you performed best.  THEN, target THAT exam.

So here’s the scoop—

  • Some people prefer to study leisurely and will take the targeted exam in June.
  • Others will use the summer to study more leisurely and will retake the targeted exam in October.
  • Students taking multiple AP exams in May tend to retake the targeted exam in June.
  • Occasionally, AP students will retake the March SAT or the April ACT.
  • Students not taking AP exams usually retake the SAT in May.

What to do?

Determine your style, timeframe, and preference.

WAIT until you get those practice scores before you begin working with a private tutor or taking classes.

KNOW scores typically increase from year to year merely because you’re that much older.

RELAX! Your scores are only one piece of your application package.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

JS 🙂


The Monday After SAT Saturday!

30 Jan

Three seniors who worked with me to improve their scores reported on the Jan. 28 exam.

One said, “That was easy!”  I told him he sounded like a Staples button (but he made me really happy)!

Another said, “The grammar was much easier.  I think I did all right.”  (Considering how he did on recent practice tests, I know he’s now in the high 600-720 range.)

And the third said, “I answered ALL the questions. I feel like it’s gonna be okay.” (We worked on narrowing down choices, and she blossomed.  I agree!)

Well, I know I can’t wait until Feb. 16 when scores are released online.  What about YOU?

JS 🙂


Getting Unstuck on Stuck Days!

25 Jan

Today, I reorganized sentences, deleted words, added words, dog-eared my thesaurus, changed words, and agonized over ONE paragraph for more than an hour!

Still not completely sure I “had it” just right (I know you know what I mean!), I put it aside, called a friend, played on the computer, had a bite to eat, went for a walk, watered the plants, made a recording for a student, and thought about dinner.

It’s still waiting for me!  Perhaps I’ll get back to it soon.  I hate these days!

JS 🙂

SAT Section 10

21 Jan

Just sharing some hints for Jan. 28 test-takers–

The test writers LOVE to trick you, especially in Section 10, so remember:

  •  two, and probably three, questions will be correct;
  • pay attention to the meaning of the sentence in addition to its logic, and
  • note they like to focus on the same grammar or usage “issue”  multiple times.

While a student and I worked on some practice tests today, we discovered one Section 10 had three questions testing comparison, and the other had three questions about parallel structure.  

JS 🙂


Tune in when you’d rather tune out!

19 Jan

“Oh, no,” some students think as their eyes begin to glaze.  “Not another grammar lesson! My paper didn’t have any errors.  Why should I care?”

Here’s my latest flash– Sit up and pay attention!  When will doing so really matter?  Those standardized tests are closer than you think!

SAT and ACT writers groove on testing students’ knowledge of grammar and usage.  You need to know how to recognize errors and how to correct them, not only for those tricky questions, but in your own work as well.  So, tune in! You will score higher on the writing sections of these exams and also will become a more efficient proofreader–for yourself–and for your classmates during writing workshops.

Soon, you’ll be whipping through those dangling participle and gerund questions like a pro!  The tests won’t fool you; you’ll impress your teachers, and your friends will admire your smarts.   Now, won’t you feel good about yourself?

JS 🙂