Author Archives: Hilarie Lloyd

Once Chariot Learning has already helped a student achieve her best SAT and ACT scores, she often comes back for help with another challenge: the college application essay. Writing the college application essay is a daunting task–in 650 words, a student must share something striking about herself that will convince an admissions committee that she will be a worthy addition to the college’s incoming class. With so many applicants to choose from, many of whom have strong numbers, the essay becomes a crucial part of a student’s college application that can make the difference between admission and rejection. What can a student do to make her essay succeed at this highly unique genre of high-stakes writing? First and foremost, I tell my essay students, “Write an essay that nobody could write except you.” What does that mean? Someone who knows you well should be able to read a pile of…

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Students often come to us with expressed fear of the math and English sections, and we usually start with one of those sections first because there is so much content we can cover that will quickly lead to higher scores. The Reading section of the tests, however, remains elusive, and is often the hardest section to make progress in. The best thing a student can do to improve their reading comprehension for the tests is read more–read widely, read often, read actively–and seek to understand what the text is saying, ideally by looking up vocabulary that is unfamiliar. Sustained reading increases the skills tested in the Reading section over time, but many students are scrambling to prepare for the SAT and ACT only a month or two before the exam date. So, when faced with a time crunch, what can we do to increase a student’s score in Reading? One…

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We often associate math with logical, straightforward thinking and linear problem-solving. Reading, on the other hand, we associate with more creative thinking that lingers between words and dwells in the possibility of suggestions, connotations, and multiple interpretations. Students taking the SAT or ACT, however, would be wise to reverse those assumptions when taking the Reading and Math sections. Built into our math and reading strategies is advice that many students may find surprising: we recommend that students “stay boring” on the Reading sections and save their creative energies instead for the Math sections. What? Isn’t math a more mechanical subject that involves logical steps leading to a discrete answer, while English and Reading are all about creative interpretation, inventive language, reading-between-the-lines, and conjuring fresh approaches to what we read? Not necessarily… The most challenging question type in the Reading section is usually the “implicit” type questions, where a student is…

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As high schoolers become immersed in the harrowing process of improving their SAT and ACT scores, parents often are full of questions and concerns.  One specific question many parents have is simply this: how can I, as a parent, help my child achieve success on the SAT and ACT? As a parent, you might sometimes feel helpless.  Ultimately, your child has to be the one to work hard and put many hours of concentration into the test prep process.  You can, however, have a significant impact on how successful your child is.  One important way parents can help our students succeed is to stay positive and offer supportive commentary about your child’s progress. BE PATIENT During Chariot Learning’s test prep process, we work on many things simultaneously: teaching your child math, grammar, or vocabulary information he or she might not know or remember, training your child to put specific strategies into action on the test sections, spot-treating areas…

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At first glance, both the SAT and the ACT seem to have eradicated all of their vocabulary questions. Gone are the SAT questions where you had to choose the most fitting word for the blank in the sentence, and long gone are the old “analogy” questions of my SAT days. (ANALOGIES : SAT :: DODO BIRD : WORLD.) Do students need to bother with vocabulary at all, anymore? YES. Just because the obvious vocabulary questions are gone doesn’t mean that a strong college-bound vocabulary isn’t still helpful. There are still many challenging vocabulary words throughout the tests; the difference is that now the tests are more likely testing your ability to know how a word is being used in context. For example, more and more passages on the Reading section of the tests are coming from older texts from the 1800’s or 1700’s. These older texts often involve a lot…

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Now that another school year has ended and both students and teachers are looking forward to a much-needed summertime break, the time has come to praise the productive side of “downtime.” Do you ever look at your scribbled-over calendar days, resting your eyes with relief on an upcoming “blank” day when nothing is planned? You are not alone. Our busy world tends to valorize constant activity, but the truth is that taking breaks and having strategic downtime is crucial to doing your best work. Even the Harvard Business Review acknowledges The Upside of Downtime. What is downtime? For most students, the grinding schedule of weekday school hours suddenly melts away in the summer, and the student gains control of his or her time. Jobs, camps, trips, and summer sports begin to provide some structure to the upcoming days, but overall most students have more power to design their own days…

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