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Jan 28, 2013
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**Quick disclaimer. My methods are nothing ground breaking, and if you've done your homework you probably are familiar with the good majority of them. This is mostly for people who are just getting started
with their studies or struggling like I was. There might be some good info in here for the veterans, but you'll probably find it redundant or obvious at points.

I was doing terrible on the PAT practice questions, getting around a 16 on Kaplan review book, 14 on Achiever, and 17 on ADA practice. I found some strategies that helped me out astronomically. I'm taking the exam tomorrow so I'll be sure to update on how I did and what I thought, but for now here are some of the concepts I used to bring my scores up into the 20-22 range on ADA, free online Kaplan exam (with purchase of 7th edition book), and even up to a 18 on Achiever.

I got nothing for the keyholes. Just practice a bunch and get to know the different ways they try to trick you with distracting choices. There's really just a handful of different ways they can try to throw you off.

Top-Front-End was an absolute nightmare, and it was murdering my score. A big reason is that I spent way to much time on them and wasn't finishing some of the easier sections towards the end. SKIP IT AND COME BACK TO IT WITH 15 MINUTES LEFT!!! It is by far the hardest section and can eat away your time in a hurry, just come back and finish later. I don't have any revolutionary strategy for doing better on it. I tried line counting and such but couldn't systematically go through and do it for each one quickly without losing my place, and I found myself taking almost a minute just to count lines and eliminate a few choices. I found the best thing to do was to look at the more simple of the two sides (less lines), eliminate choices (actually cross them off at bottom), then look at the other side. If it doesn't all come together with-in 20-30s then mark it and MAKE A GUESS and come back to it if you have time. NEVER OUTRIGHT SKIP A QUESTION WITHOUT GUESSING WHEN YOUR IN THE MIDDLE OF WORKING ON A SECTION. If you don't make it back to it you want to make sure you have something down. If you marked the options you already know are wrong it shouldn't take too long to go through the details of the last 2 choices and figure out which is right. Just compare the two and figure out how they are different then reference the image, don't try to go through each one part by part and compare to the other 2 sides. I really think the key to this section if you can't nail down the line counting or similar technique is just limiting the time you spend trying them out when your stuck. Try one to use the line counting technique, it helps a lot of people, but if your like me and it doesn't work just get good at limiting the time you spend on the questions and make it up on easier sections.

Angle Ranking is another one that I can't say I have a great strategy for. Start by looking at the choices they give you for the smallest angle and compare those, then once you decide look at next smallest on the list. When they are really close I found it helpful to cover all but about a half inch of each with my fingers in a way that my finger was straight across forms and isosceles triangle (try to keep it as straight as you can, tilting to much can make it more confusing). This usually helps the most for acute angles below 40 degrees where the length of the lines are different creating an illusion. For obtuse angles, I imagine they are a reclining chair or a laptop and think about which is more upright/closed. Sounds simple but it tends to be very helpful. IF THE ANGLES ARE SO CLOSE THEY LOOK IDENTICAL THEN COMPARE THE OTHER ANGLES AND LOOK AT THE ANSWER CHOICES MORE CLOSELY. Sometimes they will put two very similar angles out their that are almost impossible to tell apart, but their will be one that is clearly the largest and only one choice that ranks it properly as the last angle. DON"T SPEND MORE THAN 5 MINUTES HERE, STARING AT THEM WON'T HELP. Go with your gut, make your best guess, and move on. You'll find that your usually right when you just go with your first impression. Just doing this I have been getting around a 13-14 on all the practices, just be aware how much easier Kaplan is than the other practice tests and, from what I've read, the real test.

For hole punching, use this technique and you can't do it wrong. TAKE THE OPTIONAL TUTORIAL. Use the time you need to take one of your white boards and draw 15 4x4 grids to set aside for this section.
__ __ __ __
__I__I__I__I
__I__I__I__I
__I__I__I__I
__I__I__I__I

There is further explanation if you google 'tic-tac-toe method dat', but essentially you put an X in the box where the hole is punched then mark where the new holes are after every fold. Your grid will give you the right answer 95% of the time. At first it might seem confusing with areas that only get 'half punched', but just realize that it's because it's probably folded on itself and if an area is hole punched at all it will have a complete hole in it when everything is unfolded. The only tricky part of this method is that sometimes you mark a grid where it is initially punched, then once you unfold something you realize that the part of the 'paper' you thought was there was folded elsewhere underneath the original fold. Just cross the X out and adjust quickly, it's not very hard to do. Easy 14/15.

For cube counting, you should also MAKE A TABLE DURING THE TUTORIAL. Make 5 columns and label them 1 2 3 4 and 5. For each new figure they show you, go through the figure in a systematic way and mark the appropriate column on the chart for each cube with that number of sides. I find it easiest to start at the very back and left side of the image and count 2-3 at a time, tally them, them keep going in the spot you know you left off. When you think your finished COUNT YOUR TALLIES AND MAKE SURE THEY ADD UP TO THE NUMBER OF CUBES IN THE FIGURE. If they don't, take a minute and recount. Miscounting the cubes will cost you at least 1-2 questions and this section is to easy to give away points, your time is better served here than staring at a TFE problem later. Do this for a figure, answer the questions pertaining to it, then repeat for the next figure. It sounds time consuming, but I think it's faster and more accurate than going through the figure for each problem and recounting. If you take a good 6-8 minutes or so on this section and double check your chart before answering the questions it's an easy 14-15 points.

Nothing special for the folding shapes. For problems where the options are all different figures just look for the major shapes in the image that form the structure and match them to the options, which should get you down to 2, then figure out how those differ and which should be correct. The shaded/colored/marked ones are trickier. If there is a unique shading/shape or one that shows up in a few answers figure out what it touches and how (what parts contact what) and reference to the choices to see if any match up. If not mentally cross them off and pick a different choice to analyze. If you can quickly gather an idea of what specific shadings with be next to or touching you will be in great shape.

Hope this helps. I don't really have any great info for the rest of the exam. I used text books, kaplan, and class notes for the sciences, made a detailed review guide, and then just took a bunch of practice tests and added to areas I lacked info. Using text to review was probably not a very time efficient way to go about things, but it is definitely pretty thorough. Even so, I still regularly encounter bio questions on Achiever that are at best mentioned in passing in the text.Your not going to know everything for the BIO, just way to much information. I would say nail down the basics and have a concrete understanding of all the important topics then decide how much time you want to/can afford to invest in getting really detailed after that. For OCHEM, don't try to memorize 300 reactions. Know the basic concepts concretely and group similar reactions (i.e addn to alkenes, electrophilic aromatic substitution, 5 classes of rxns of carboxylic acid derivatives, etc.) together and understand how they work and you pretty much work out 80-90% of equations they would throw at you. For general chem the best advice I have is do practice problems. Don't just look at the formulas and so 'oh I know how to do that' and skim over it. You'll work much faster and more comfortably on the real thing if you've actually been working through similar problems on your own. As far as practice tests go, I wouldn't recommend achiever unless you've burned through the more realistic tests early in the process or want to try to really nail down the specific details. I honestly just think it's unnecessarily hard and throws off your timing while trying to work through really tough questions. If you do go with it, make sure you save a more realistic exam to do a few days before your test and see where your really at. Doing achiever and pulling 16's across the board isn't great for your confidence or stress level leading up to the real thing.

For RC I found it most helpful to read two questions, skim for keywords, answer if you can or cross off wrong answers and mark if you can't find it quickly, then keep going. By the time you get about 6 questions in you'll have a pretty concrete idea of how the article is organized. Only way to find what works best for you is to try it different ways though. I'm sure more organized people will prefer a more systematic strategy, but I have legit ADD and just end up deviating from any specific techniques I try. This works fine for me though, I'm getting around a 20-22 which is could for me considering intensely focusing and reading a boring passage thoroughly is far from a strong point of mine. QR is pretty straight forward, only thing I will say definitely helps is if you can get really efficient with scientific notation and manipulating the numbers to make the math easier. The calculator is a pain and I usually have trouble with time on that section, so being able to do that math quickly in your head is a huge help. Also, if you can't look at the problem and know exactly how to solve it, just mark and move on. I swear they put 2-3 problems on there that are meant to trap people into spending 3 minutes trying to work through for the answer. You have less than a minute per question, that 3 minutes is far more valuable than [maybe] getting one question right.

GOOD LUCK! I'll update after the test tomorrow.
 
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