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Link of the Week: Big Future

Looking for a great source for information about universities all over the U.S.?  Want something reliable and accurate with everything well-organized and easy to find?  How about something free?

Knowsys recommends the Big Future website created by the College Board, the makers of the SAT and the PSAT.  You can access the website at www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org (or even just www.bigfuture.org). 

On the main Big Future page, there is a section for "Make a plan" that allows you to create a step-by-step college plan that's appropriate for your grade.  That's a great place to get started!

 

Link of the Week: Purdue OWL

The Purdue OWL, or Online Writing Lab, has built up a solid reputation as a resource for writing MLA and APA citations, but it has so much more to offer than that. 

If you have never done so before, check out the academic writing section, which includes a variety of in-depth articles that can help you to craft strong essays.  Need to review argumentative structure or thesis statements?  Looking for some help with sentence variety?  It's all there. 

No matter what the writing assignment, be it a research paper for school or your SAT or ACT essay, this one-stop-shop for everything related to writing is sure to prove useful in high school, college, and beyond. 

SAT Link of the Week: The Power of the Internet

This week's link is a testament the power of crowdsourcing on the Internet.  Nearly twenty years ago, an elderly woman who had been rendered non-communicative by a fast-moving cancer scribbled out patterns of letters onto dozens of note cards.  Her granddaughters believed that their grandmother had left them a code, and though they attempted to decode the seemingly random patterns of letters for months, the girls were unable to find a solution.  One of these granddaughters recently posted images of the cards on the website Ask Metafilter, and within a few minutes, site users had partially cracked the code.  Read more here.

 

Consider the application of this fascinating story to past SAT prompts such as:

  •  Has today's abundance of information only made it more difficult to understand the world around us?
  •  Is the most important purpose of technology different from what it was in the past?
  •  Have modern advancements truly improved the quality of people's lives?

 

Good luck to those of you taking the SAT today!  Check back here next week for a new link.

Link of the Week: Released SAT Prompts

Ever wonder how we know about so many past SAT prompts?  You, too can see past SAT prompts if you check out this page on College Board's educators site.  College Board releases essay prompts after each SAT, so you can check back after the January 25th test for the prompts used in that administration. 

For practice, you could write an entire essay on one of the prompts, or you could identify one historical, one literary, and one current event example that could be useful for each prompt.  If you have taken a Knowsys course, you will remember that you should research and memorize 5 literary, 5 historical, and 5 current event examples on a variety of topics before you walk into the test.  This strategy saves you valuable time and ensures your examples are detailed, accurate, and original. 

ACT does not release its most recent essay prompts, but its site does contain a page explaining the ACT essay and how it is scored.  Check that out here.

Thanks for reading!  Check back here next week for a new link. 

Link of the Week: Top 10 Stories of 2013

Taking the SAT in the Spring of 2014?  What better way to get some current events ideas and relive some of the most climactic moments of the past year than to check out the Top 10 U.S. News Stories of 2013?  This list, compiled by Time Magazine, overviews the ten most news-worthy events that rocked the nation this past year.  If you would like to see stories about pop culture, best and worst Tweets, or international news, head over to Time's complete listing of all 2013 Top 10 lists. There, you can navigate through 54 lists on a wide range of topics, one of which is sure to spark your interest.  

Then, try a practice essay on one of these topics using your newly-generated Excellent Examples

  • Do we need other people in order to understand ourselves?
  • Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority?
  • Is the world changing for the better?
  • Is it more important to remain consistent than to change our minds when circumstances change?

Good luck, and check back here next week for a new link!

Link of the Week: Technological Progress

Why do we talk about technology so often in our links of the week?  Because technology is such a popular topic for SAT prompts. 

Consider these prompts that have appeared within the past few years:   

     Does a strong commitment to technological progress cause a society to neglect other    
     values, such as education and the protection of the environment?
     Are there benefits to be gained from avoiding the use of modern technology, even when
     using it would make life easier?
     Is the most important purpose of technology today different from what it was in the
     past?
     Have modern advancements truly improved the quality of people's lives?

Technology is integrated into most aspects of our lives, so you probably have ample personal experience to draw upon in discussing the role of technology in society.  Then again, so does pretty much every other student, and if you merely write about tablets, smartphones, apps, etc., your essay probably will not stand out from the crowd.  What will make your essay shine is if you find ways to apply scholarly examples to the issue of modern technology.  

Isaac Asimov, one of the best known science fiction writers of all time, considered both the promise and the potential dangers of technological advancement in his works.  This week, his article “Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014,” published in The New York Times in 1964, has appeared in the news as journalists consider whether his predictions from 50 years ago ring true today.  Check out this article, which links to Asimov’s original work and discusses some of the eerily accurate forecasts he makes therein.  Judge for yourself whether life in 2014 is comparable to Asimov’s vision, and consider adding this article to your current event examples.  

Check back here next week for a new link!

Link of the Week: U.S. News Best Colleges

Will you be beefing up your college search over your holiday break?  Check out college rankings and reviews from U.S. News.  On this site you can find colleges by best overall ranking, by best value, by discipline, and much more.  The site also offers advice on financial aid, test preparation, and the college application process.  

Good luck with your search!  Check back here next week for a new link.

Link of the Week: My College Quickstart

If you took the PSAT/NMSQT® in October of this year, you have most likely received your results (or will very soon).  Once you get your score report, you can use the access code thereupon to log in to My College Quickstart, a service provided for free by the College Board.  This site has a wealth of useful features including:

1.  Explanations of questions you answered incorrectly or omitted on the PSAT
2.  An individualized study plan for the SAT based on your PSAT results
3.  Practice SAT questions and a full-length practice SAT
4.  Express SAT sign up
5.  Additional information about your PSAT score, including your projected SAT score
6.  A personality test that can help you choose a college and/or a major

…and much more!

Happy exploring, and check back for a new link next week!

Link of the Week: Successful People

Over the years, numerous SAT prompts have focused on the path to success.  Here are a few examples:

1.  Does being ethical make it hard to be successful?
2.  Is persistence more important than ability in determining a person's success?
3.  Do success and happiness depend on the choices people make rather than on factors beyond their control?
4.  Do highly accomplished people achieve more than others mainly because they expect more of themselves?
5.  Can people achieve success only if they aim to be perfect?

Because success comes up so frequently in SAT prompts, it is a good idea to find an example that addresses the topic.  This list from the Huffington Post is a great place to start: it includes the stories of fifteen individuals who overcame obstacles and tragedies to become highly successful.  

Check back next week for a new link, and thanks for reading!

Link of the Week: TED Talks

Are you having trouble thinking up unique historical topics or current events?  Do you want your essay to truly stand out?  Try watching some TED talks.  

TED, or Technology, Education, Design, is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading innovative ideas through yearly conferences and web videos.  On the TED talks website, you can search for videos by topic (business, science, global issues, etc.), you can see lists of videos tagged with terms like “jaw-dropping,” “courageous” or “funny,” or you can simply view the most recent talks.  While a single TED talk may not give you enough details to constitute a full SAT example, these videos can point you in the direction of topics you might want to research.  

At the very least, you are sure to find videos that will pique your curiosity, inspire you, and inform you.  Happy searching!  Check back here next week for a new link. 

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Link of the Week: Tiny Houses

The current events you choose for your examples do not have to be "events" at all; they can be societal movements or trends that take place over a period of time. 

One recent trend you could choose is the Tiny House Movement, in which people are choosing to simplify their lives by significantly scaling down their the dimensions of their homes.  Read more about the movement in this article, or check out some amazing pictures and videos of tiny houses here

The Tiny House Movement can be applied to a variety of past SAT prompts.  For instance:

Do material possessions make us truly happy?  People who live in tiny homes voluntarily give up many of their material possessions because they believe a simpler life will make them happier. 

Should modern society be criticized for being materialistic?  According to the aforementioned articles and videos about tiny houses, the average house size in America has doubled since the 1970s.  This could suggest that Americans are more focused on their material possessions now than they were in the past. 

Do people need to "unlearn" or reject many of their assumptions and ideas?  The Tiny House Movement teaches people to reject consumerism and the mantra that "bigger is better." 

Check back next week for a new link.  Thanks for reading!

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Link of the Week: Batkid

An analysis of SAT essay prompts over the past several years indicates that certain themes reoccur over and over again.  For instance, all of the following prompts feature questions about heroism:

  • Should heroes be defined as people who say what they think when we ourselves lack the courage to say it?
  • Should we admire heroes but not celebrities?
  • Should we limit our use of the term "courage" to acts in which people risk their own well-being for the sake of others or to uphold a value?
  • Is there a value in celebrating certain individuals as heroes?

One recent current event would be a great illustration to use with any of these prompts. 

Chances are, you have heard about Batkid, aka Miles Scott, a five-year-old in remission from Leukemia who was granted the opportunity to be a superhero for a day by the Make-a-Wish foundation.  San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City as Miles, accompanied by a full-sized batman, saved a damsel in distress, foiled the Penguin, and even helped to put the Riddler behind bars.  News of the story spread via Twitter and Facebook in the weeks leading up to the event , inspiring celebrities and even the president himself to post in support of Miles.  When the big day arrived, thousands lined the streets of San Francisco wearing Batkid T shirts, waving encouraging posters, and cheering on Miles as he fought crime alongside his hero.  Check out the full story here or here and consider having some tissues on hand. 

 

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SAT Link of the Week: Historical Examples

You should walk into the SAT with fifteen excellent examples already prepared for your essay.  This strategy will save you valuable time and ensure that you have strong, detailed examples to support your argument.  Five of your examples should come from history, five should come from literature, and five should be related to current events.  

For each of your fifteen examples, you need to know the 5 W’s: who, what, when where, and why.  The question is, where can you find all of this information?  This week’s link is History.com, a useful resource for historical research.  You can use the site’s search feature to find articles, videos, and interactive resources related to the event of your choice.  

Other great features of this site include “This Day In History,” which will tell you what important historical events took place on any day of the year,  “Ask History,” which answers questions and debunks common myths, and “History Lists,” which brings together lists of related events or concepts.  If you are having a hard time thinking up unique historical examples for the SAT, try browsing through any of these three pages for ideas.

For every historical example you find, be sure to consider all of the contexts in which the example might be used.  Happy hunting!

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SAT Link of the Week: Education and Technology

 This week's link is an article that discusses the right (and wrong) ways to use a popular new tool in education: online classrooms. 

At first glance, it might seem like this article has a very narrow application.  You could easily use the facts in this article to discuss how technology is changing our lives or how we must be careful when we put our faith in technology over traditional methods.  However, there are broader and more abstract ways to apply this current event as well.  You could use this article to talk about the differences between doing something for a profit and working for the good of humanity,  or you could cite this article to prove that ideas that are failures at first can become successful with some tweaking.  The possibilities go on and on. 

When you gather your SAT examples, be sure to consider more than just the obvious applications.  Practicing this skill will ensure that you can think of relevant examples no matter what essay topic you encounter on the test.  Hone your ability to apply examples to a variety of prompts by writing body paragraphs for the three the prompts listed below.   Use information from the Link of the Week article to write each paragraph. 

1.  Do changes that make our lives easier not necessarily make them better?  

2.  Is there always another explanation or point of view?  

3.  Should people change their decisions when circumstances change, or is it best for them to stick with their original decisions?

Be sure that you not only give pertinent details from the article but also clearly state the link between the example and the point of view that you have taken on the prompt.  

 

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