Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres waves to the crowd after winning the silver in the 50 meter freestyle in Bejing, China.

SAT Vocabulary Building with WSJ Article

Posted on 9th May 2012 in Tampa SAT Preparation

WSJ columnist Jason Gay is quite a writer. As a fellow who has passed middle age, I like his column entitled “Revenge of the Sports Geezers” in Monday’s WSJ. Here is a SAT vocabulary-building exercise based upon the article.

Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres waves to the crowd after winning the silver in the 50 meter freestyle in Bejing, China

Sports Geezer and Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres waves to the crowd after winning the silver in the 50 meter freestyle in Bejing. Photo by Bryan Allison. CC Attribution Only 2.0. See more of Bryan's photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/37996647372@N01

Pre-reading Vocabulary

Before you read the article, look up the meanings of any unfamiliar words or phrases from this list:

  • Geezers
  • mortifying
  • unabashedly
  • craggier
  • Scorsese
  • phenom
  • sprightly
  • complimentary and complementary (know the difference)
  • satchel
  • icon
  • teeming with
  • dated myself
  • skeptic
  • lofty

Checking Reading Comprehension

  1. What is the general idea of Jason Gay’s article?
  2. What is the structure of the article?
  3. What point is the writer making in the first three paragraphs?
  4. The next two?
  5. The next seven?
  6. What is his point about the motivation of older athletes made in the next paragraph?
  7. What does he mean by “these athletes have perspective”?

Understanding the writer’s tone

  1. What is the tone of the opening part of the column?
  2. What is the tone of the ending of the piece?

Eric Anderson is a private SAT critical reading and writing tutor who lives in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Contact him at 813.787.8959 or by e-mail at eanderson216  at verizon dot net.

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Student taking exam

Tampa Tutor Finally Takes College Board’s Online Practice Test

Posted on 4th May 2012 in Tampa SAT Preparation

First of all, best of luck to all of the folks who are taking their SATs tomorrow.

Student taking exam

I have been meaning to actually do the free online practice SAT that College Board offers for many moons. Although I’ve done quadrillions of practice tests with Tampa SAT students, I’ve never actually logged in to do College Board’s  free one.

Tonight I did.

Do I know how to have fun on a Friday night or what? I was hoping for a pair of 800s in Critical Reading and SAT Writing and I came close.

My math score, however, remains a secret. 😉

Test: Pretest
Date Taken: 05/04/2012

Student: Eric Anderson

Subject Score Range # Right # Wrong # Omitted


800 65 2 0


790 (MC: 75, Essay: 12*) 47 2 0
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Lower part of man's face with finger to lips as if shushing someone

SAT Critical Reading Tips: How Smart Kids Read from Tampa English Tutor

Posted on 24th July 2011 in Tampa English Tutor, Tampa SAT Preparation

English Tutor’s Guide to Improving Your Reading Skills for the SAT

Tampa English Tutor Reveals How Smart Kids Read, Part II

There are secrets that smart kids know about getting the most out of books and Tampa English Tutor filled you in on one of them in Part I: Let your imagination take over and interact with books as though they’re your own private movie productions. Smart kids, kids who do well on the SAT, know how to do this, and now you do, too.

Lower part of man's face with finger to lips as if shushing someoneSome authors dislike writing screenplays. Why? Well, if you have pretty rigid ideas on how characters should look and read their lines, imagine how an author feels. When you read a book, pretend you’re the author and argue your ideas with a director. Ask yourself what you want to see in a movie. Consider the book’s key points. Smart kids consider plot, atmosphere, dialogue and whether the story rings true. Why did the author choose a particular setting? What tone did it set? Did it match the action?

If you’re reading a horror novel and atmosphere is established with the opening sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night.” I hope you take a moment to laugh. One secret that smart kids know is that the more you engage, the more a book stays with you. What would you have used as an opening line instead? Someone else wrote the book but your ideas are valid. Keep asking questions throughout the book. Allow your mind to meander. Take an alternate path in your imagination. Hopefully, the author had a good reason to point the action in a certain direction. If you ask yourself, “Why?” you’ll notice when the answer is given later on. When you notice these things, you’re catching on to the author’s plot devices and character-development tools. You’re a smart kid!

Problem Solve, Make Predictions and Guess Solutions. Identify Key Concepts,

When you think about what you’re reading, you might catch key points early on and guess where the book is going. Some books are more obvious than others, but you can catch the more subtle points, too. I’m currently reading a cozy murder mystery. Spider Web is the 15th book by Earlene Fowler about a California folk art museum curator and rancher. Benni Harper is a hospitable and friendly character. In the second or third chapter, however, Benni takes an instant and irrational dislike to a new acquaintance. Fowler explains that this is because Benni is tired and overworked. Right. I’m guessing the only surprise I’m in for is if this woman is not the bad guy. Now that I’ve made this prediction, I’m tempted to look ahead to make sure – but that’s cheating. Thankfully, since I finished the book last night, I don’t have to cheat to tell you I was wrong. That can happen when making predictions, but the important thing is that you’re thinking!

If I had been right, that would have been okay, too. It’s part of the cozy’s charm. No blood, no gore and often predictable endings. Cozies are brain candy. Not very nutritious, but a yummy dessert after Stieg Larrson’s riveting-yet-lengthy Millenium trilogy. Larrson was a newspaper reporter who handed in his masterpiece, suffered a massive heart attack and promptly passed away. If you want to read the first installment before the movie taints your imagination, move fast. I find it hard to believe anyone could improve on the Swedish-subtitled version, but Hollywood is trying. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has not yet been released, but it’s ready to go.

Yellow stickman with lightbulb head on blue bankgroundImage created by fostersartofchilling. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 only. See more of fostersartofchilling’s photos on Flickr.

Another secret smart kids know about reading is to apply personal background to gain insight. While it may seem there’s little in my background that shines a light on Sweden – and probably less in yours to comprehend 17th-century morality – reading other books provides background, too.

Publishing companies appear convinced that Sweden is currently chock full of best sellers and I’ve read five or six translations in the last year or so. I understand a little about Swedish politics and journalism, recognize some of the larger cities and have a fair picture of its citizens – they’re a lot like us. I understand the impact of vanishing fisheries since I witnessed the same on the Oregon and Florida coasts. I grew up in Michigan and know more than I’d like about snow, ice and frigid temperatures.

Image created by stevendepolo. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 only. See more of stevendepolo’s photos on Flickr.

Narrow a Plot’s Twists and Turns into a Few Key Points. Decide What’s Important and What Isn’t.

Smart kids get lost in page-turners just like everyone else. You don’t need to scrutinize every word. Not everything has an impact on a book’s major and minor themes. With practice, you ;earn which language sets atmosphere and which dialogue is used to develop a key theme. Recognizing the important and discarding the unimportant becomes habit.

Smart kids, kids who excel on the SAT test, know a few strategies to avoid dictionaries. There’s no excuse not to zip over to dictionary.com to look up a word if a computer is handy. But if you read in bed and the laptop is shut down – does anyone use hard copies of dictionaries anymore? – smart kids have a few tricks that can help. If they’re really smart, they know they could be wrong, too, and refrain from using their new vocabulary before consulting a dictionary. If you read Shakespeare, my heartfelt advice is to use a copy that includes lots and lots of footnotes. But if you’re reading a book that is written in English, and you just can’t get a handle on what you’re reading – whether it’s a word, a phrase or a couple of pages, Tampa English Tutor can help.

Reread the bit you don’t understand a couple of times. Try reading it out loud. You might be tired and that may be all it takes to power the overhead lightbulb. Skip ahead until you understand what’s going on and see if that helps you decipher the mystery part. Ask an older sibling or parent. Ask your SAT tutor. It’s a good idea to pick the brains of someone who is already awake. Maybe a picture or graphic can clue you in. Good readers know they’re not expected to know every single word. Give yourself a break, but don’t neglect learning new vocabulary, either.

Guest blogger Kate Rowland, a multiple-award winning journalist on state and national levels, enjoys writing for I-Tutor-English.com, a private tutoring company serving Florida students in New Tampa, Lutz, Wesley Chapel and Odessa.


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Apple pins by Rudolf Schuba

Best 5 iPhone Apps for Building SAT Vocabulary

Posted on 18th June 2011 in Tampa SAT Preparation

Recommended iPhone Apps for SAT Vocabulary Building

For its portability and for the wealth of available study apps, the iPhone is a great study tool for standardized tests.  Here are some recommended apps for studying SAT vocabulary:

1)      IntelliVocab for SAT by Faqden Labs (Free): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/intellivocab-for-sat/id436685357?mt=8#

Built by students at MIT, IntelliVocab uses algorithms to create a user-specific learning plan.  Sound complicated?  Far from it.  Simply enter your test date and skill level after opening the app for the first time, and you can begin practicing immediately.  The interface is incredibly easy-to-use.  The practice quizzes use multiple methods for learning vocabulary, and after each study session, you are provided with useful statistics to track your progress.  IntelliVocab also has a larger vocab list—over 600 of the most common SAT words—than many of its competitors.  What’s more?  IntelliVocab is free.  I highly recommend this app.

Apple pins by Rudolf Schuba

This image take by German photographer Rudolf Schuba and licensed under CC by 2.0. See Rudolf's photos on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rudolf_schuba/

2)      Kaplan SAT Flashcubes by Jirbo, Inc. (Free): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kaplan-sat-flashcubes/id300615175?mt=8#

Another freebie that is worth downloading.  The app uses “3D flashcards” that allow you to see the synonyms of a word and a sentence using the word.  There are two modes: Self Study and Multiple Choice.  The Multiple Choice mode is not as rich as IntelliVocab’s, but since you can get this app for no extra cost, it is worth getting Flashcubes for more practice.

3)      SAT Connect by Watermelon Express ($9.99): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sat-connect/id320273459?mt=8#

This is probably the most comprehensive SAT app available today.  SAT Connect boasts over 800 practice questions, 7 mini-tests, 4000 vocab flashcards, and plenty of review material.  The app also has great feedback tools to track your progress.  SAT Connect is for those who want all of their SAT study materials available on their mobile device.  In addition, the app can sync with the desktop version of SAT Connect, which is available for purchase here: http://beta.watermelonexpress.com/pages/sat-desktop.  $10 may seem a steep price to pay for an iPhone app, but it is well worth the investment if you are considering an all-in-one alternative to SAT study books.

4)      SAT Vocab Challenge by The Princeton Review ($4.99): Vol. 1 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sat-vocab-challenge-vol-1/id315264996?mt=8; Vol. 2 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sat-vocab-challenge-vol-2/id330209840?mt=8

This app by reputable test prep company The Princeton Review takes the award for the most well-designed interface.  There are 4 game modes: definition, synonym, antonym, or connotation.    Users can choose their answer by swiping away incorrect answers, thus training students to practice process-of-elimination.  Learning with the different challenge types ensures that students devote words to long-term memory.  SAT Vocab Challenge is available in two volumes with 250 words in each.  Each volume sells for $5.

5)      Flashcards Deluxe by OrangeOrApple.com ($3.99)

For those who learn best using flashcards, Flashcards Deluxe is the most intuitive flashcard app available in the app store.  The ability to create custom flashcards allows for maximum versatility while studying.  One advantage over other apps is that you can add new words to your flashcard sets as you encounter them in your other study materials or while reading.   The most useful feature is integration with Quizlet, a popular flashcard-making website where students can find user-made flashcard sets in any subject imaginable, including SAT Vocab and SAT Math.  Quizlet also provides a great platform for creating your own flashcard sets which can then be synced into Flashcards Deluxe.  Keep in mind that Flashcards Deluxe is not just for studying the SAT; it is a great study tool for just about any class or standardized test.

This post by Tampa SAT tutor Eric Anderson. If your son or daughter would like to work toward a better SAT score this summer, call Eric at 813.787.8959 or email him at TampaTutor@tampabay.rr.com.


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Hyanas resting at Busch Gardens in Tampa FL

Tampa SAT Writing Tutor: Dangling Participles

Posted on 27th May 2011 in Tampa SAT Preparation, Tampa Writing Tutor

Tampa SAT Writing Tutor Hints: Dangling Participles

To do well on the writing section of the SAT, you need to understand dangling participles.
Dangling participle sounds like a painful medical condition, but it’s really an easily corrected writing error.
A participle is a word made from a verb and used as an adjective.
Because participles are made from verbs, they look like verbs and have verb endings (–ed,-en,-t,-ing).  However, participles modify nouns and pronouns because they’re really adjectives.
If that explanation is clear as mud, maybe a few examples will help make it clearer.
I watched the laughing hyenas. (What kind of hyenas? Laughing is a participle that functions as an adjective.)
Hyenas resting at Busch Gardens in Tampa FL

This image of hyenas at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL, created by Dr. Neil Turner and licensed under (CC BY-ND 2.0). See more of Dr. T's photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/neillturner/

The collapsed mineshaft was dangerous. (What kind of mineshaft? Collapsed is a participle that functions as an adjective describing bridge.)
The stolen motorcycle was recovered by detectives. (What kind of motorcycle? Stolen is a participle that functions as an adjective describing the motorcycle.)
He ate the burnt hash browns covered in ketchup. (What kind of hash browns? Burnt is a participle that describes the noun hash browns.)
Like adjectives, participles are usually found in front of the nouns they modify. Sometimes, though, a participle can be found after the noun it modifies.
The children smelled the cookies baking. (Which cookies? The cookies baking. In this sentence, baking is a participle that functions as an adjective modifying cookies.)


A participle dangles if it can’t logically modify the noun closest to it.
I saw the house peeking through the trees.
The participle phrase peaking through the trees attaches itself to the nearest noun, house. Because the house can’t possibly peek through the trees, the participle dangles.
This dangling participle can be corrected easily.
Peeking through the trees, I saw the house.
Let’s try another.
Rushing to catch the train, Bo’s wallet fell out of his shirt.
What does the participle Rushing to catch the train modify? Not Bo’s wallet, right? It modifies Bo.
Rushing to catch the train, Bo lost his wallet when it fell from his shirt pocket.
Now Bo, not his wallet, is rushing to catch the train.
Notice that when the sentence starts with a participle phrase, the participle phrase is followed by a comma. After the comma comes the noun or pronoun that does the action described in the participle phrase.

Dangling Participle SAT Writing Question

On the writing part of the SAT, you might see a sentence correction question like this one:
Racing to the airport, Jane’s desire was not to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
a) Racing for the airport, Jane’s desire was not to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
b) The airport being raced for, Jane was not desiring to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
c) Racing to the airport, so Jane would not miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
d) Racing to the airport, Jane had no intention of missing her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
e) Being that she raced to the airport, Jane’s desire did not intend to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
The original sentence has a dangling participle because Jane’s desire can’t race to the airport. Only Jane can race to the airport. So the only possible correct answers to this question will have Jane immediately after the comma that follows the participle Racing to the airport.
Only choices b and d correct the dangler, and d is the better of the two.
I help students improve their scores on the reading and writing portions of the SAT. If you or a student in your family needs help, please call me.  I’m Tampa SAT tutor Eric Anderson and can be reached at 813.787.8959.
This post was written by freelance blogger Darnell McCray. If you need help creating posts for your blog, you can reach Darnell by e-mail at dmccray59@yahoo.com.
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