Author Archives: Mike Bergin

When someone mentions “tests,” the emotion that flowers in our heads, hearts, or the pits of our stomachs rarely resembles love. Anxiety typically tops the list, but feelings range along an emotional spectrum that encompasses irritation, fear, and flat-out hate. Many become irrational at the very mention of tests; at least one infamous crank has made a cottage industry out of whining about standardized tests. So why do I love tests? I love the challenge of a well-designed test, both the methodical ingenuity behind each question and the inexorable gauntlet of the test as a whole. I love the opportunity to compete against a potential pool of millions of test takers, past, present, and future. And, because I’ve always been good at most tests, I love to win… nailing a particularly tough test feels like a profound victory. However, my personal reasons for appreciating oft-maligned assessments do not, in themselves,…

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Historically, the College Board hasn’t always favored the use of calculators on the SAT. Even when graphic calculators were permitted, many questions demanded the kind of math conceptual understanding and problem solving skills that no Texas Instruments device, no matter how advanced, could provide. The last version of the SAT even had a full Math section where calculators were prohibited. But new tests reflect new philosophies, and the digital SAT appears to embrace what it once shunned. Not only are calculators permitted on every math question, but the exam also currently includes a fully-functional Desmos graphing calculator. This calculator, as of the time of this writing, is robust and effective. The design of SAT math questions seems to have changed as well. While previous iterations of the SAT appeared to be written to punish dependence on calculators, the digital test rewards it to a surprising degree. Some colleagues I respect…

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Nobody performs their best on a complex challenge like the SAT without practice. When you really want to excel, not just any practice will do. As legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” So make sure that every practice SAT you take is perfect by following these steps: BEFORE THE TEST 1. Find a full-length digital adaptive SAT practice test. The ones offered through the College Board Bluebook app are the best possible tests, as they best represent official test content on the official test platform. However, since College Board has only released 4 (as of January 2024) official tests, you may have to use third party tests. PRO TIP: If you plan to take many practice tests, save the Bluebook tests for practice closer to your official exam. 2. Make sure you have your fully charged approved device ready and loaded…

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Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT would be a whole lot easier if we were allowed to bring them home to take at our leisure. Unfortunately, these anxiety-provoking exams are defined in part by their stringent time limits. The minutes allotted per section often seem insufficient compared to the number and complexity of questions to be answered. Of course, time management is part of the test! But some students have diagnosed disabilities that allow additional time for academic tasks. With the proper documentation, these accommodations can be applied to SAT and ACT administrations. Most test takers who are approved for this time of accommodation will receive Extended Time, while Double Time or Special Testing is reserved for students with more serious needs. These are the Extended Time regulations for the tests as of January 2024: Extended Time Extended Time is the most common accommodation approved for test takers. In…

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Life in the college admissions space made so much sense before the pandemic. Everyone shared a general understanding of what schools valued and how applicants could set themselves apart and signal readiness and fit to the institutions of their choice. Once COVID hit, every bedrock truth about teaching and learning seemed to come into question as many educators and pundits alike adopted a stance that tests didn’t actually tell all that much. Things have changed since those first scary months when schools shut down. The counterargument that test scores carry validity and help rather than hinder equitable outcomes has gained credence. More and more colleges have followed internal and external research to tip towards test-preferred policies, but the public still seems uncertain about whether submitting test scores makes sense or is even necessary. With hope, David Leonhardt’s newest higher ed piece in the New York Times will add some clarity…

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Happy New Year! The fresh canvas of a new year inspires most of us to select some (possibly most) areas in our lives to improve in specific ways. We at Chariot Learning certainly do. Deliberate improvement over time is something I think a lot about. Here at the intersection of education and performance, we see lots of students looking for better grades and test scores. Obviously, we want the same for them along with greater proficiency in our ability to support our students. Our most recent and sixth consecutive Best Of Rochester award for tutoring makes for a nice picture, but best is just a moment. Better is a process. Better does not come easy. Becoming better than you were in any dimension of your life may be a worthy goal. Staying better–being able to cast aside bad habits and develop new, more adaptive ones–is another thing entirely. How do…

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