The Reading Comprehension Conundrum

Why is it that the SAT and ACTs feature boring content? Why is it that students can’t be tested on passages they would read with enthusiasm – passages about science fiction, fantasy worlds, sports, or other stimulating topics?

If you answered, “because students don’t require any skill to understand subjects that interest them,” then you’ve grasped the core of the reading comprehension conundrum.

There’s no denying that it takes more skill to fathom material you have no interest in, versus material you’re familiar with and fascinated by.

3 Ways Students Can Learn To Concentrate On Material That Doesn’t Necessarily Interest Them

The material students are required to read for their SAT and ACT exams may be boring. But sometimes, it is necessary for students to endure said passages to get to where they want to go.

So, how can students learn to focus on this material?

1. Identify When Your Enthusiasm For The Material Drops Off

    Prepare a variety of texts you’ve never read before. As you’re reading these passages, note when you begin to lose interest or focus. Do certain words trip you up? Are you having trouble understanding the context of the content? What is it about the piece that caused you to lose focus?

    If you can identify what you’re having trouble with, you can begin to address the issue. You can have a dictionary at the ready if you don’t understand certain words. You can gain a better understanding of the context of the material by doing a bit of background research. There are always ways of overcoming comprehension challenges.

    2. Expand Your Vocabulary

      Learning new words can be difficult, but it can also be a lot of fun. There are many great resources out there, beyond the standard dictionary. You could install a screensaver on your computer that flashes new words and their definition onscreen. You could explore the Word Power section on the Reader’s Digest website. There are so many interactive and entertaining ways to learn these days, and these methods should be taken advantage of.

      3. Read More

        According to a study conducted by the Jenkins Group in 2003 (Mental Floss):

        • One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

        • 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.

        • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

        It’s surprising how little reading is encouraged today. But books contain a lot of useful information and may even hold the keys to personal growth and career advancement. Plus, the simple act of reading helps with comprehension. As you read more articles and books, you become a better reader. Students should be encouraged to read more broadly, choosing to study topics that interest them in their spare time.


        In summary, students should be encouraged to identify when they’re having trouble with a passage, expand their vocabulary, and read more. These simple steps can make a significant difference in test scores too.


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        Parents Guide On Preparing Their Child For SAT

        Your child is preparing to take the SAT.

        You might be just as nervous or perhaps more nervous than they are about the test.

        What can you do to support your child? Is there anything you should be aware of as they get themselves ready for their college entrance exam?

        Here’s what you should be aware of as your child prepares for the SAT.

        Don’t Overextend Your Child

        Some parents – and even students – believe it is best to take both the SAT and the ACT exams since colleges and universities accept both scores.

        What is often missed is that preparing for one test is stressful and time-intensive enough, never mind two.

        If you want your child to do well on their SAT, then it would be best to get them to focus on that alone. Overextending your child can lead to burnout and illness, which isn’t going to help them do their best on the SAT.

        Don’t Micromanage

        You want your child to do well on their SAT. That’s natural.

        But if you end up micromanaging their study time and continuously insert yourself into their preparation time, you could end up stressing them out more and even cause unnecessary distraction.

        The best thing for you to do as a parent is to remain calm and offer emotional support to your child. Try to keep a positive attitude, and if it seems like they are discouraged or worried, see if you can cheer them up.

        Make Yourself Available

        The flip side of being too involved is too hands off. A lackadaisical attitude might cause your child to think you don’t care or aren’t interested in their success.

        If your child needs to discuss anything with you, let them know you’re available. Share with them any techniques or strategies you learned that helped you through challenging or stressful situations.

        Also, take a moment to reassure your child – getting into college isn’t everything. It’s possible to get a great career and even succeed without a degree. You want them to do well, especially if the field they’re looking into requires a college education. But you also want them to know this test need not be life-defining.

        Keep Them Healthy

        When preparing for an important test, it’s altogether too easy to lose sleep and rely on caffeine, sodas, fast foods, sugars, and other quick sources of energy. Unfortunately, these can wreak havoc on one’s health and encourage brain fog.

        Help your child remain in a healthy routine by:

        • Preparing healthy meals that won’t cause them to feel sick or bloated.

        • Encouraging them to exercise; even a simple 20- to 30-minute walk can be helpful and refreshing.

        • Encouraging them to meditate. The many health benefits of meditation are well worth the effort.

        • Getting them to go to bed early. Sleep plays a critical role in one’s overall health, emotional state, and mental sharpness.

          Enlist The Help Of A Qualified Tutor

          A tutor can help identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses in their studies. This makes preparation a more orderly process.

          If your child ends up studying alone, while they may improve their chances of scoring higher on the SAT, they may not be able to reach their full potential. People tend to shy away from improving their weaknesses and instead focus on their strengths.

          A qualified tutor will put together a workable plan that will yield better results for the same amount of effort or less.

          Final Thoughts

          Don’t try to do too much, and don’t do too little. Finding that balance can be a challenge, but since you are not the one taking the test, the best thing for you to do as a parent is to play a supporting role. Take care of the little details while your child prepares for the test and set them up for success.

          Calming Your Mind Before The Exam Boosts Your Score

          It’s normal for a student to experience some test anxiety, especially for a college entrance examination.

          In some situations, a little bit of anxiety can sharpen one’s focus and help them rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, there are other instances where fear can be outright debilitating and make it impossible to focus.

          The good news is there are steps you can take to calm your mind before your SAT or ACT exam, and this will ultimately boost your score.

          What is text anxiety and why does it occur? Let’s explore.

          Understanding Test Anxiety

          It’s normal to be at least somewhat nervous before a test.

          But the symptoms of anxiety can be far-reaching, extending into physical, emotional, behavioral, and even cognitive symptoms.

          In a stressed-out state, you’ll find it harder to focus, and you might even feel agitated, frustrated, or irritated at the slightest sign of difficulty.

          Test anxiety often stems from one of the following factors:

          • Fear of failure.

          • Lack of preparation.

          • Poor history of testing experiences.

          • According to PrepScholar, test anxiety can also be linked to genetic dispositions. In some extreme situations, it may need to be treated.

            Test anxiety, however, is not impossible to reduce and even overcome. It’s all about being proactive.

            How To Calm Your Mind Before The Exam

            There are several steps you can take to reduce test anxiety. This isn’t to suggest these steps will eliminate it but being prepared can make a significant difference.

            Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re in the best condition possible for your exam.

            Rest & Sleep

            Students sometimes end up cramming at the last minute, sacrificing sleep and not getting enough rest in the process.

            Losing a couple of hours of sleep may not seem like a big deal. But compounded over time, the effects will be noticeable.

            Get plenty of rest before an exam to perform at your very best.


            Meditation has a calming effect and has been linked to many health benefits.

            According to Live and Dare, the scientific benefits of meditation include (but aren’t limited to):

            • Immunity – 50% less disease.

            • Less depression.

            • Less anxiety.

            • More well-being.

              Meditating for just 10 to 15 minutes per day can make a significant difference in preparation for an exam.

              Eat Healthy & Exercise

              Food is supposed to give you energy. Unfortunately, the wrong kinds of foods can make you feel tired, bloated, and even irritate your bowels.

              Eat well, and exercise regularly before the exam. A 20 to 30-minute walk is good for your health and can be energizing. Choose an activity that’s right for you.

              Stay Organized

              One of the reasons students end up feeling frazzled at the last minute is due to a lack of organization.

              Stay organized by:

              • Following a defined study plan.

              • Clearing away clutter.

              • Being aware of when and where you’ll be taking the test.

              • Visiting the test site beforehand.


                Not feeling prepared for a test is not a great feeling.

                Before the exam, it’s altogether too easy to lose track of time, not utilize and budget your time well, or not know what to study.

                Hiring a tutor can make a big difference in this process. They can help you come up with a strategic study plan and track your progress. They will help you manage your time and be in the best mind space for the test.

                Final Thoughts

                Don’t forget – you may feel some pressure before the exam, regardless of how well prepared you are. So long as you can focus on the material and put your best effort forward, that’s all anyone can expect of you.

                Take proactive steps towards calming your mind before the exam. You will score much higher on the test if you’re able to stay calm and not let your anxiety get the best of you.

                5 Things You Learn By Taking The PSAT

                The PSAT or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test can teach your child a great deal.

                While it is sometimes seen as a practice exam for SAT, it would be in your child’s best interest to prepare well and move forward with the experience they gain from the PSAT.

                Here are five things you learn by taking the PSAT.

                1. Your PSAT Score Does Matter

                  While college admissions do not factor this test into your child’s application, it doesn’t mean that it’s inconsequential or irrelevant.

                  Per US News, there are three reasons your PSAT score matters:

                  National Merit Scholarships. This is a monetary award that can help you access more scholarships.

                  Your score on your PSAT can affect your score on your SAT. You can get a pretty good sense of what the SAT is like by taking the PSAT, which gives you valuable experience. It will also give you a good idea of how well you’ll do on your SAT.

                  If you do well, it can boost your confidence. The PSAT is not the last test you will ever take as you advance in your education. If you score well on the PSAT, it could be an indicator of future performance on other exams.

                    2. It’s Important To Prepare For Every Exam

                    The importance of preparing for exams cannot be denied, especially when it comes to college admission tests like the ACT and SAT.

                    But there can be benefits beyond good grades that come with scoring high on various tests like the PSAT, such as scholarships.

                    Getting into the habit of preparing for tests can help you develop a plan of attack for future tests and help you do well on any tests you take in the future.

                    3. You Can Save Money On Test Prep

                      If you’re planning to hire a tutor to work with your child, you can get them to help your child prepare for the PSAT and SAT at the same time.

                      The two tests share a great deal in common, and as you’ve already learned, scoring well on one can be a confidence booster and indicator of future success.

                      If you’re going to be hiring a tutor anyway, it might be worth asking them to prepare your child for both tests at the same time.

                      4. Weaknesses You Should Focus On

                        It’s common for students to be stronger in some subject areas compared to others.

                        According to AcademicApproach: “The most important function of the PSAT is to help students learn.”

                        There are mainly four areas that can shed light on one’s strengths and weaknesses:

                        Composite scores. This score offers a high-level view of one’s performance.

                        Subscores. Subscores will help you identify specific areas you can improve in.

                        Question & answer analysis. You can look at how you answered each question and evaluate where you went wrong.

                        The test booklet. You can see your work and precisely the process you took to solve problems.

                          5. The Right Mentality

                          Per College Raptor: “Ultimately, the reason it is so important to take the PSAT has little to do with the academic importance of the test. Rather, the PSAT prepares students for the physical act of taking the test, something which can stress out even the most-prepared student.”

                          The PSAT is excellent preparation for SAT and can help you develop the mental skills necessary to focus on future exams.

                          Final Thoughts

                          The PSAT and SAT are almost identical in structure. As such, it can prove to be a valuable learning opportunity – one that could help you identify any weaknesses you may have, and create a study plan that will allow you to perform at your best for your SAT.

                          Nailing Your ACT Essay Comes down to Facts, Not Generalizations

                          There are plenty of theories around how to score high on your ACT essay.

                          Some say you need to summarize the prompt.

                          Others say you should focus on making your points.

                          But it will prove challenging to nail it unless you understand what the ACT is looking for.

                          Here are some tips on how to score high on the ACT essay.

                          Understand The Prompt

                          The test booklet contains a prompt for your essay. It will present to you a controversial issue as well as some background about it. You will also be introduced to three perspectives on the issue.

                          Understand How You’ll Be Graded

                          There are essentially three criteria your essay will be graded on.

                          The first is how thoroughly you evaluate and analyze the perspectives that were introduced to you.

                          Your second task is to state and develop your perspective on the issue.

                          Finally, you’ll need to explain the connection between your perspective and the ones provided.

                          Outline & Plan Your Essay

                          The test booklet contains two pages for planning your essay.

                          Planning the structure of your essay is critically important to your success. It’s important to think about how you can add additional insights to the perspectives offered, the merits and flaws of each argument, what your view on the issues is, the strengths and weaknesses of your argument, as well as how you’ll build a case for your perspective.

                          Use Facts In Your Arguments, Not Generalizations

                          The above are general tips designed to help you score higher on your ACT essay.

                          But there is one critical truth that is perhaps more important than any other factor: facts come before generalizations. In other words, you need to prove your arguments.

                          Taking a stance on the controversial issue being presented is important. But your thoughts and opinions should also be well-supported.

                          The most important aspect of building a home is the foundation. If the house is built on a strong foundation, the rest almost takes care of itself. This is an analogy that can also apply to writing essays.

                          What To Do & What Not To Do

                          Generalizations tend not to help your arguments. Making broad, sweeping statements, such as “the wealthy are greedy,” are unfounded, at least without further evidence to build your case around.

                          The best way to provide proof is by offering compelling examples that align with your perspective.

                          Examples are harder to criticize than general statements. They demonstrate how someone thought and acted in a specific situation. The right or wrong of their decisions becomes irrelevant considering your citation of a case study. Someone acted the way you described, and in the mind of the reader, that leaves less room to poke holes in your argument.

                          There are few constraints and limitations as to what examples you can use. You can pull relevant historical examples, instances from literature, current events, science, and even examples from your own life.

                          You can recount a historical event to the best of your ability, but you can’t relate a story more vividly than the one you experienced, in some instances giving it more credibility.

                          Final Thoughts

                          There is so much more that could be said about nailing your ACT essay.

                          But in summary, the critical thing to remember is to plan well and to think carefully about how you’re going to support your arguments. The more detail you can offer, and the more supporting evidence and proof you can provide, the better.

                          This proof comes from examples. Examples can take many forms, and there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong. The goal is to offer convincing facts and not just broad, sweeping generalizations.

                          Should You Retake the SAT or Not?

                          You’ve taken the SAT.

                          Perhaps you’re not sure whether the score reflects your best performance.

                          Or, maybe you’re hoping to gain access to more opportunities with a better score.

                          There can be many reasons for retaking the SAT.

                          But is it something you should be considering? Here are several questions you can ask yourself to determine whether this is a step you need to take.

                          Did You Take The Test On A Less-Than Ideal Occasion?

                          It’s possible you prepared well for the test.

                          But last-minute issues can prevent you from performing at your best when test day arrives.

                          You could have been sick, you may have lost a lot of sleep the week prior, or things at home could have been a little troublesome.

                          College entrance exams can be stressful enough. Adding to the student’s stress load can cause them to score worse than expected.

                          Per The New York Times, distractions can cause mistakes or time lost, and studies show that even a 20- to 30-point score difference can affect admissions decisions and merit-based financial aid.

                          Though you can make a formal complaint, especially if the proctor was responsible for causing the distractions, either way retaking the test is a good idea.

                          Were You Well-Prepared For The Test?

                          Some students can go into a test feeling confident they know the material well enough to excel.

                          Then, when test day arrives, and they scan the questions, they may quickly realize they should have prepared better.

                          Or, they may come to realize they were more comfortable with specific subjects over others.

                          Once you have access to the test results from the first test, it’s easy to identify areas where your child could use some help.

                          Retaking the test allows the student to learn from their mistakes. They can even take a class or work with a tutor to improve on their weaknesses.

                          Preparation can make all the difference.

                          Was Your Test Score Not What You Expected It To Be?

                          You may have gone into the SAT with the best of intentions.

                          But your test score may not reflect the work and effort you set forth.

                          As a parent, it’s easy to become concerned for a child who you know is smart and capable but fails to score at a level that matches their intellect and work ethic.

                          The College Board notes that more than 50% of the students who take the SAT a second time improve their score.

                          Many factors can affect a student’s score (such as those noted above), so the second time around could be the difference maker.

                          Are You Looking To Improve Your Chances Of Getting Into The College Of Your Dreams?

                          You may be able to improve your chances of getting into a school you have been wait-listed for if you retake the SAT and score higher.

                          This is not a guarantee by any means and improving your score does not assure you a safe passage to the college of your dreams. But in most cases, it can improve your odds.

                          With school selection being an important consideration on the path ahead, retaking the SAT may be a wise choice, especially if you want to move up on the waiting list.

                          Final Thoughts

                          If you’ve already scored high enough to get into the school of your choice, then retaking the SAT may be a waste of time and energy.

                          But in most other cases – especially situations where you didn’t do as well as expected – you can benefit a great deal from retaking the test.

                          An improved score can even lead to scholarships and other benefits.

                          Second chances do exist, and it when it comes to college entrance exams, it might be your ticket to a brighter future.

                          9 Common Mistakes That Lead to Careless Errors on the ACT and SAT

                          ACT and SAT examinations can be nerve-wracking.
                          Tests like these are often a measure of how well an individual performs under pressure.

                          But even when you’ve studied, and you’re well-prepared for your college entrance exam, careless errors can leave you with less than desirable results.

                          Here are 9 common mistakes that can lead to careless errors:

                          1. Bringing Your Mobile Device Into The Test Centre

                          Even if you have no intention of using your device to cheat, if you are caught with your smartphone, you will be asked to leave, and your score will not count.
                          Mobile devices are sometimes used by students to look up answers or formulas, share questions and answers with friends, and even take pictures of the test questions. It’s not hard to see why a proctor might take an issue with a mobile device at the testing site.

                          2. Not Making A Few Calculated Guesses

                          Sometimes students will leave questions blank. In instances where you can eliminate at least one of the answers, it’s better to take a guess than to pass up on questions.

                          3. Not Studying

                          It’s careless as it is silly – and yet it happens all the time. Some students will not spend any time preparing for their ACT or SAT examination. You’ll be stuck with whatever score you get, so it’s best to put your best effort forward on your test.

                          4. Overthinking & Second Guessing Your Answers

                          This is a common occurrence with Passage-Based Reading questions. You’ve narrowed down your selection to one of two answers, but end up overthinking and picking the wrong one.

                          Or you have a related issue and lack confidence in your answers. You answer a question and move on to the next, but you never really move on. You keep thinking back to previous questions and second-guessing yourself. You lose focus on the question you should be answering.

                          Each time you answer a question assume you’ve gotten it right. This allows you to move on. And most of the time you do get the answers right. Trust your preparation.

                          5. Not Reading The Question

                          Many students will skim questions instead of taking the time to read them over carefully. This can quickly lead to incorrect answers. Don’t be too hasty – take your time and ensure you comprehend the question before answering.

                          6. Panicking & Losing Your Cool

                          Indeed, you are under a bit of a time crunch with the ACT and SAT examinations. But if you panic and lose your cool, you could end up mismanaging your time and misreading questions.

                          7. Not Preparing Your Materials Beforehand

                          Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your tools. You’re going to require your photo ID, admission ticket, pencils, calculator, and spare batteries. Prepare the right materials, and do it in advance of your test, preferably the night before.

                          8. Failing To Understand Directions
                          Familiarize yourself with the nuances of directions and rules beforehand. This can help you avoid costly and careless mistakes that may lead to undesirable results.

                          9. Not Budgeting Your Time Well

                          You only have so much time to answer each question. With the SAT Writing and Language section, for instance, you have 35 minutes to read multiple passages and graphs. There are 44 questions to answer, meaning you have less than a minute to answer each question.

                          Final Thoughts

                          The better prepared you are, the less likely you are to make careless mistakes on the day of your exam.

                          The best strategy for avoiding unnecessary and costly errors is to focus on the right material and prepare well. Students feel more at ease on examination day if they think everything is in order. But if they end up having to scramble at the last minute to ready themselves, even simple tasks can sometimes feel complex, leading to careless mistakes. Don’t wait until the last minute.