Chariot Learning Blog

As we’ve said time and time again, reading is fundamental. Well, we didn’t make that phrase up, but we love to spread it around. After all, reading enriching books at least a little bit every day delivers the kinds of benefits we all want for ourselves and our children: improved comprehension (which means more knowledge as well as better grades and scores) increased speed (which mean less time doing homework, more test questions answered, and greater productivity) advanced vocabulary (which means more sophisticated, persuasive communication) decreased frustration (which means reading becomes more enjoyable, which inspires even more reading) Plus, regular readers exhibit greater levels of happiness, community engagement, and mental health. What more could you want for your high schooler? We launched our Strategic Reading Club to provide the structure, direction, and discussion many teens need to engage in real reading on a regular basis. We’ve also revised the structure…

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The first step in writing a strong college essay is to brainstorm some potential ideas to write about. Once that’s done, it’s time to start to sculpt your ideas into possible essays. Essays? Plural? Yes! Often, it’s hard to know which ideas that emerged from free-writing and brainstorming exercises are going to lead to the essay you want; you have to try writing an essay based on one idea, and see how it emerges, and then maybe drop that idea for a while to tinker with another possible essay topic. Writing is a maddening process of trial and error. Sometimes we just need to sit down and force ourselves to write, and sometimes it is better to take a break for a day or two, so that we can come back to our writing with fresh eyes. Sometimes it takes time for an idea to marinate and grow in our…

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When one considers the many reasons why students fail to earn their test scores, each factor seems susceptible to a chemical solution. Depressants might take the edge off anxiety, whereas stimulants and study drugs could provide the boost needed to power through tough questions. Considering how complex and challenging some test questions can be, couldn’t the mind-expanding properties of psychedelics be a potent secret weapon. In a word, NO. Sure, you may say, some people sit for high stakes tests while drunk or high. Chelsea Handler famously admits to taking her SATs on acid, and things turned out very well for her. Then again, she didn’t even go to college. In fact, I couldn’t find any evidence of beneficial outcomes of controlled substance use during standardized testing. Even vaunted study drugs and cognitive enhancers hurt rather than help test performance. Non-prescription use of prescription drugs like Modafinil or Adderall impairs…

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The College Board administers the SAT in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. ACT, Inc. follows suit by offering the ACT in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July (everywhere but New York). So if students can only take the SAT or ACT during the school year, why should they prep during the 2.5-month summer span when they can’t? The answer is obvious: because there’s no school! Today’s college-bound high school students are busier than ever before. No, that’s not a cliché. As admissions standards spiral ever higher (along with tuition), students strive to differentiate themselves through advanced classes, sports, clubs, jobs, and every other activity they can fit into each overscheduled week. This frenzy of activity reaches its peak in junior year, from the beginning of fall sports until the end of finals. Considering how many important commitments students are asked to juggle, why not try…

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Is there any aspect of the college admissions process that is both simple to understand and easy to execute? If so, I haven’t found it after decades in education. Not only does even basic questions about the college process require detailed explanations, but the answers seem to be changing much faster than ever before. Over the last two years, I’ve been having in-depth conversations on the Tests and the Rest podcast with national experts on every aspect of college admissions, and we all agree that this may be the most dynamic time ever in higher education. So, now that we’ve established that everyone needs more and better information about college admissions, the next step is finding it. Facebook can be an excellent place to find information, but you cannot always be sure about how accurate or trustworthy your sources are. Plus, even the more credible college Facebook groups bring together…

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In most of the United States, the ACT is administered seven times. In New York, however, the ACT is only administered six times. Historically, this has meant that no test centers have been scheduled in New York for the July national test date, July of 2020 proved an exception to that otherwise ironclad rule, but, then again, a summer test date when most schools were still shut down by the pandemic was hardly the biggest surprise of the year. Why does the Empire State stand alone without a July ACT? Blame the Truth-in-Testing Law: The “truth in testing” law, known formally as the Admissions Testing Law, was adopted by the State Legislature in 1979 after lobbying by consumer, civil-rights and other groups. The law, which took effect in January 1980, requires sponsors and manufacturers of college admissions examinations to offer test takers the right, at the time scores are reported,…

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