SAT 1600

I received a perfect score on the SAT on March 9, 2019.

ACT 36

I received a perfect score on the ACT in December 2016.

SAT Subject Tests

I have perfect scores in SAT Chemistry, Math Level 2, and Physics.

Test Prep Tutoring

Click the picture above to read more from satisfied students and parents!

Letter from the CEO of ACT

If you get a perfect score, ACT's CEO sends you a letter!

April 2, 2019

How to Read Your SAT Score Report

The College Board makes score reports available online as soon as multiple-choice scores are available.

To view your scores, log in to your College Board account.

You'll see a Web page like the one below, which will have your most recent score at the top of the page:

In this case, my March 9 SAT score is at the top, since it's the most recent test I've taken. If you click on the yellow View Details link, you'll see a detailed score report for that test:

Scroll down to the Test Scores section:

The white boxes with the words Reading Questions, Writing and Language Questions, Math with Calculation Questions, and Math without Calculator Questions are actually links.

For example, if you click on the Reading Questions link, you'll see this:

The Reading Questions, Writing and Language Questions, Math without Calculation Questions, and Math with Calculator tabs at the top of the page provide a quick way to switch between sections of your score report.

The numbers (1, 2, 3...) in the Question column are also links. If you took the SAT during one of the months when the QAS (Question-and-Answer Service) is offered (March, May, or October), you can click the links in order to pay $18 for QAS and view the original test questions along with the College Board's answer explanations:

Be aware that data tables are currently not displayed properly on the College Board's Web site, making some questions unreadable:

If you didn't take the SAT in March, May, or October, you won't have the option to view the original test questions. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to take the SAT "just for practice." You won't get much benefit from the test if you can't review your work!

If you'd prefer to get a diagnostic score at home, take the first test in the College Board's Official SAT Study Guide and then review your work using the detailed answer explanations in Mike Barrett's SAT Black Book. You'll find links to both books at my SAT book review page.

March 31, 2019

Whiz Kid offer

Math whizzes: Receive your first tutoring session for free!

To get your free session, contact me about tutoring and mention the words "Math Whiz." Include worked-out proofs for the Polynomial Remainder Theorem, the horizontal coordinate of the vertex of a parabola (-b/2a), and one trigonometric identity of your choice.

Hint: You can derive h = -b/2a by taking the derivative of a quadratic function in standard form, by using the quadratic formula, or by completing the square.

The offer expires on March 31, 2019.

February 21, 2019

AP Chemistry Practice Tests

Update: I've added a link to the 2018 free-response questions.

As you may already know, the AP Chemistry test changed in 2014. It's now more like a college final exam than a high school test, and you can't study for it as you'd prepare for SAT Chemistry, which largely tests memorization.

The questions have become more conceptual, and there's a large focus on lab chemistry. They remind me of the SAT's Critical Reading section: if you're not extremely careful, you'll misread the something without realizing it.

These changes aren't fully reflected in the prep books, not even the 2017 Princeton Review book I recently looked at. Of the students who took the AP exam, only 12.6% received a 5 in 2018, as opposed to 18.2% in 2013.

The good news is that you can train yourself to be one of the top 9% who gets a perfect score. I recommend taking released exams and free-response questions two months before the AP test. Prepare a list of questions you'd like to review in each tutoring session.

If you need more practice material, do the hardest problems at the end of every chapter of your AP Chemistry textbook. Treat them like free-response questions: write out a paragraph-long explanation for explaining how you arrived at each answer. Since your book won't have free-response-style answers in the back, ask your tutor to check your explanations for completeness.

Practice Tests

Here are some official practice questions. Start at page 117 of the booklet, which is PDF page 126.
AP Chemistry sample multiple-choice questions and answers

The College Board has also released the free-response questions from actual AP exams:
2014 Free-response questions and answers
2015 Free-response questions and answers
2016 Free-response questions and answers
2017 Free-response questions and answers
2018 Free-response questions and answers

AP Chemistry is my favorite subject to tutor. If I didn't like the chemistry, I wouldn't have bothered to get two degrees in it! Contact me if you'd like to schedule a session.

February 16, 2019

ACT Practice Tests

Here are six official ACT practice tests.

2018-19 ACT Practice Test

2016-17 ACT Practice Test (This is the test Compass Prep usually uses as a diagnostic tool.)

2014-15 ACT Practice Test

2011-12 ACT Practice Test

2008-09 ACT Practice Test

2005-06 ACT Practice Test

Since the ACT has slowly changed over time, start with the most recent version and work your way down the list.

I strongly suggest printing the tests out onto real paper. It's almost impossible to take notes, cross off answer choices, or double-check your bubbling unless you're working on paper!

If you need more practice tests, you can buy the Official ACT Prep Guide.

Have fun!

January 23, 2019

Free Web Site Help AND a Free Tutoring Session

On January 28, the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center is offering a free three-hour seminar about building a Web site through Wordpress.

In the interest of helping students build an online presence, I'm offering a free tutoring session to any current or new student who attends. The link below has the seminar's location and time.

Web Site Building Basics: Building and Publishing Your Own Web Site

After the seminar, please contact me about tutoring and include the words "Web site building seminar." I'd be happy to help you with test prep, math, or chemistry. Alternatively, you can use the free session to learn how to use your new Web site to market yourself to colleges and potential employers.

December 8, 2018

On Big Companies and Free Practice Tests

Big test prep companies offer free practice tests because it's a great way for them to make money.

They pay marketers, proctors, graders, administrative staff, bondholders, and shareholders - not to mention real estate costs - so you can get a score for free.

In exchange, you've become what salesmen call a warm lead: someone who's demonstrated interest in their product.

There's nothing wrong with this as long as you understand how the process works. Test prep companies offer practice tests, which are valuable to you, so they can get your attention, which is valuable to them.

They pay for this by charging $125-250 an hour for tutoring, ten sessions at a time, paid up front. Their tutors typically make $25-40 an hour, and the difference ($100/hour or more) is used to pay administrative costs and provide investors with a profit.

The breakeven point between teaching at a public school and working as an independent tutor is around $90/hour. Tutors who accept less than half of that amount typically have SAT scores of around 1400-1500. Those are good scores, but if you're paying $150/hour, your score target is probably already at or higher than 1500.

This is not going to change, as these tutors aren't being exploited. Test prep companies have large expenses every month that aren't going to go away if there's a recession. Most workers, including tutors, accept lower pay in order to have their employers shoulder that burden.

If you have time, it's best to take responsibility for your own education. Practice taking the SAT and ACT yourself, then compare the two scores. You can then choose SAT or ACT prep books and study on your own.

If you need a tutor, you have lots of options, including highly qualified independent tutors like myself. Go in with your eyes open, and you'll make a great choice.

November 17, 2018

UC Schools Have Become More Selective

It's gotten harder to get into University of California schools: not just for your friends who were seniors last year, but for everyone.

I've included data below for the high school graduating classes of 2017 and 2018 with the information for UC Berkeley and UCLA highlighted.

While GPA ranges across the board have increased only slightly, test scores are consistently higher, and the percentage of applicants admitted has consistently moved lower from 2017 to 2018.

UC Data: Class of 2017

UC Data: Class of 2018

Audrey Slaughter was kind enough to share a Compass Prep article with me that breaks down ACT and SAT test score data from the past few years.

Compass finds that median scores haven't changed much, but more students are have been scoring at the high end of the range (1400-1600):
At the most competitive colleges, high test scores can be viewed as “necessary but not sufficient.” It is extremely difficult to gain admission to Stanford with a low SAT score, but getting a great score is far from a guarantee of admission. The net effect of the growth at the top ranges is to make a high score more essential but less sufficient.

After the dust settles each April, we often hear that “this was the worst year ever.” For 2018, that assessment feels fair. ACT and SAT scores at colleges have trended up over time, but it’s not simply higher scores that create anxiety — it’s also the added unpredictability. The combination of increased applicant numbers at competitive colleges and a higher percentage of top scores magnify the uncertainty that students experience.

So How Do I Get In?

In the end, grades, test scores, and a college degree itself are only imperfect measures of what really matters: your dedication, creativity, and life goals. Schools like Stanford know that, and they're looking for much more than just great numbers on your application.

Does your life thus far show that you have the potential to win a Nobel Prize or found your own company? That's what schools are looking for. Those are the things that get an alma mater noticed.

As a nation, we're obsessing more and more about the scoring well on the things that measure success without necessarily getting better at achieving success itself.

Test scores and grades matter because those are the things we've chosen to measure - but don't forget to live a life of dedication and meaning. It's that life that will get you involved in amazing extracurriculars and help you write essays that will get noticed.

Yes, UC schools have become more selective. Become the kind of person they would like to select.