Tips to make the grade on standardized tests

Of the many tests high school students will take this year, the SAT arguably carries the most weight—and the most inherent pressure. With colleges setting their entrance standards higher than ever, the SAT often becomes a make-or-break benchmark for prospective students.

It’s a reality that Andrea Catsicas understands well. The founder and president of MindWorks (4613 N. University Drive, Suite 620, Coral Springs) has created a business built around preparing students for standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. She does this by equipping students with strategies and techniques that not only give them the chance to succeed on test day but also will stay with them throughout college. Catsicas shared some of what she’s learned with Coconut Creek Lifestyle.

Don’t forget to read: “We usually find that students are most concerned about math, but we find that students are actually weak in their reading and verbal section. … We can bring the math score up pretty easily with our strategies and techniques, but [with] the grammar and writing sections, the students have to spend more time because we actually teach them critical-thinking strategies.”

Know what you want: “The most important thing [for students] is to identify the top schools they want to go to. This way, they know what they’re prepping for, because not everyone needs a perfect score.”

Choose your test: Students and parents should keep in mind that the ACT requires more advanced math studies. “[Students] can try both tests; some do better on one than the other. But [it’s important] to see which test the school prefers. In the Southeast, they typically prefer the SAT. If you’re [looking at colleges on the] West Coast, they’re more ACT-driven.”

Refresher course: Catsicas says test preparation is a refresher course for most students. For example, the SAT asks about grammar rules when high school students are usually focused on literature. “A lot of the concepts are stuff they have learned before ninth grade, so they’ve forgotten a lot of the concepts. That’s why a test prep program is so beneficial. The math that is required, a lot of it is algebra and geometry. A lot of students in their junior year are in more advanced math by then, so they’ve forgotten basic algebra and geometry from ninth and 10th grade—or even before ninth grade.”

Start early: “I’ve had students as early as seventh grade start test prep. … Junior year is a very stressful year. They’re incorporating SAT tutoring or courses with their AP classes that they’re trying to get college credit for. Starting early on your SAT work helps to take the stress off.”

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  • Monarch High School was featured on NBC 6’s “Brag About Your School” segment, which highlighted the marching band, the Latinos in Action group, and the Advanced Placement computer science principles class. To watch it, visit
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  • North Broward Preparatory School will celebrate the opening of its 15,000-square-foot Global Wellness Center on Feb. 14 at 9 a.m. The school also will host a variety of events to celebrate the opening during the week of Feb. 13, including a health fair open to the community. For more information, visit
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