Chariot Learning Blog

Anyone who has ever been tested knows that nobody succeeds in bringing their best performance to every single challenge, particularly the ones that matter most. Yet, despite how utterly commonplace underperformance is, most people seem surprised when it happens and ill-prepared to learn from the experience. Like most educators, Professor Richard M. Felder was all too familiar with this phenomenon among his Chemical Engineering students. Unlike the rest, he took solid, productive action by formulating what has become a legendary Test Preparation Checklist that students can use to audit their preparation after a disappointing score. I often recommend this resource, but recently realized that the checklist applies more accurately to the kinds of classroom tests Felder administered than the standardized tests we help students prepare for. Consider this the first version of a Standardized Test Preparation Checklist that should ideal for any student or educator assessing the primary causes–and obvious…

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We at Chariot Learning administer a lot of practice tests throughout the greater Rochester area. A LOT of tests. During our busiest weekends, we’ve run three or more at different schools, libraries, and other locations. I actually proctor many of these tests myself as a way of meeting students and observing trends. One trend that doesn’t seem to be going away is that of the “repeat offender”–the student who comes to take the same test over and over. Why would someone sit for the same exam multiple times? Usually, the reason can be traced to poor planning or failure to recognize that we administer the same SAT or ACT at every location. But some students commit to grinding out a better score, no matter how inefficient their efforts may be. This leads to a mindset that suggests taking the same test over and over is better than not testing at…

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Clothes, it is often said, make the man. But can the right clothes make the man test better? If we accept that our best scores come from managing every aspect of the testing experience we can, then even something as prosaic as wardrobe choice can impact performance. Dressing for success of test day involves more than remembering your lucky socks–though you can wear them too if that will help! When laying out your wardrobe (along with all those other test day necessities) the night before a big test, your main concern should be COMFORT. Consideration of comfort should include a few important factors: Freedom from distractions You don’t proctor as many practice tests a year as we do without seeing lots and lots of hoodies and sweatpants. Why are sweats so popular? When sitting in place for hours on end, teens intuitively favor apparel that is non-binding and free flowing.…

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The PSAT that high school juniors take every October offers more than just a glimpse at the actual SAT. This test may not directly impact college admissions, but top scorers can earn special recognition and even scholarship. That is why that 11th grade test (not the PSAT 10 or PSAT 8/9) is known as the PSAT/NMSQT. Students who take the PSAT/NMSQT are automatically screened for the National Merit® Scholarship Program, an academic competition for recognition and scholarships. All kinds of opportunity is on the table for students who score high enough. Thus, the obvious question is, “How high do I have to score for National Merit Scholarship recognition?” If only the answer was that easy. National Merit Scholarship recognition is based on a student’s Selection Index, which is based on a student’s PSAT score, which is similar but not the same as an SAT score. Simple, right? The SAT is…

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For high schoolers, the academic year roars in with early opportunities to take the SAT & ACT. October no longer serves as the first chance to take either test–those honors accrue to the August SAT and September ACT. However, the month of fall foliage and Halloween treats is still one of the best times to take either test. What’s so great about October, besides pumpkin spice lattes? Classes haven’t really ramped up yet so early in the school year, which affords busy students a bit of breathing room to prep for the big tests. Most extracurricular activities, with the notable exception of fall sports, are equally slow to start. Thus, students can actually focus on the tests in October. However, other important benefits sweeten the deal for October: SENIORS, even those late to the college admissions party, enter October feeling the pressure to finalize applications. The October SAT dates is…

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Optimal performance in sports depends on a carefully-calibrated regimen of skills training, conditioning, nutrition, rest, and coaching. Why should optimal performance in academics and tests be any different? Protein is a powerful driver of peak cognitive function, in large part because neurotransmitter activity in the brain runs on amino acids, which come from protein. The better the fuel, the more efficient our brains operate. In addition, good protein boosts energy, mental clarity, and mood, while helping to manage both pain and stress. Of course, these benefits accrue from good sources of protein. So rather than packing Big Macs and Buffalo wings on test day, be more strategic in your selections. For example, nuts are chock full of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Researchers seem to uncover new benefits to eating nuts every year, from low blood pressure to weight control to longevity. Experts agree that walnuts are particular…

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