3 Things to Know About the Redesigned SAT

SAT Math Prep

From Kathryn Gomes, AIM Academy math teacher

  1. 1. The new test launches March 2016.
    The PSAT aligned with the new SAT this fall. Students can take the current version of the SAT until March (and if you are a senior, it might be wise to take your last SAT exam before then). Beginning with the March test dates, the SAT returns to the 1600 point scale and the essay becomes optional. The change is major—the content and the format will change so educate yourself now and start making a plan.
  2. You have to complete one math test without a calculator.
    The test is short with only two math sections; however, one of them prohibits the use of a calculator. This section is no joke. . . I was shocked when I took the practice test. The test makers didn’t shy away from fractions, decimals, and really large numbers on this section. Don’t sit for this exam without brushing up on your basic arithmetic skills.
  3. It is an exam you can prepare for.
    The College Board hasn’t just revamped the test; they’re reshaping the way we think about test preparation and college-ready assessment. With their twitter campaign #skilledit, they repeatedly emphasize that anyone can succeed on the test if they put in the time and the hard work. There are practice problems, full length tests, and details on the College Board’s website. If you sign up through Khan Academy, you will be given videos to watch and practice problems to work through that are tailored to your needs. And all of this is now free.

My redesigned SAT math prep course, which incorporates all the changes, begins January 4, 2016. Registration is open now. After a pretest, students receive a customized study plan for the course. In addition to the helpful tools at Khan Academy, my students have access to more than twenty of my own videos that address all math topics in depth and review foundational skills students may be lacking. Additionally, the weekly live sessions provide students with immediate feedback and help them pinpoint their weaknesses. With 7 weeks of accountability and guided study my students are confident when they sit for the test. For more information and student reviews visit my site:




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Aim Academy: Still Accepting Late Registering Students


researchHi all,

Aim Academy classes start this week, but you can still register for many of our classes.

For more information, check out the Aim schedule of classes here. Click on the course title to see a course description.

You can find the staff directory here, if you have questions you want to ask of the course instructor.

We even have a helpful payment plan, if that is desired. Find it here.

This will be our fifth year offering classes online that are specifically designed to get students ready for later CLEP and AP exams. All of our classes are lead by experienced teachers who love their subject matter. We’ve continued to grow each year, and this year is no exception. We are especially pleased by the number of returning students and families! We hope you will take the time to find out more about Aim Academy.

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Aim Academy 2015-2016 Registration OPEN

megaphone manRegistration is open for 2015–2016 Aim Academy classes. This is our 5th year offering classes aligned with AP®, CLEP®, and SAT®subject area tests. In years two and three, our enrollment grew 40%. Last year, we doubled in enrollment. We expect to do so once again. Our teachers are highly committed and responsive. We use the latest technology to support student learning, and we seriously enjoy working with kids.

We are pleased to have two new highly experienced English teachers joining us this year: Susan Spivey, and Beverly Graybill.  Beverly Graybill and Susan Spivey are veteran homeschool parents and longtime teachers at the local homeschool co-op where I (Debra) taught for 16 years. Both are beloved by their students and parents highly recommend their classes. Mrs. Graybill will head up our English classes for middle school students. And Mrs. Spivey is offering British Literature.

As always, AIM does not charge a registration fee. Tuition does not include texts, but teachers choose (whenever possible) materials that are widely available used. We are up-to-date with changes coming to the SAT in 2016. And we are deeply familiar with the latest versions of equivalency exams (AP or CLEP) so that our students are well prepared to sit for these exams by the end of high school. College credit for high school work—that’s our unique focus here at AIM. We want to help your students maximize their high school efforts, be more than college-ready by the end of 12th grade, and position themselves for academic success and scholarship consideration once they hit campus.

Find out more about Aim classes here.


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Want to Know More About Aim Academy? Check Out This Video.

We recorded the recent Aim Academy informational. Here it is:

Aim Academy Informational


Thanks to our science teacher, Mrs. Dincher for editing this. Both Mrs. Dincher and Mrs. Adkins (our French teacher) show attendees around their class websites–which is a good overview of how all teachers use Canvas, our learning management system. And Debra Bell gives an overview of the webinar tool all teachers use for live classes.

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Algebra 1: Not just how but why

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

“Just show us the steps!”


This is a common plea in my high school math class.  Many of my students don’t want me to explain why or how…and they definitely don’t want to have to deal with a word problem!  Instead they want me to just show them what to do.


But is this the best way to learn math?  Is it better to just learn one skill at a time then move on to something new?  Or should students focus on conceptual understanding and spend time on projects and multi-step word problems?  I did a mix of both when I was in school and I benefitted from both approaches.


In elementary school I worked on problems in a book called Figure Out which was a collection of word problems written by other home educated students.  The word problems were all mixed together so I had to learn to apply different skills at different times.  In middle school I joined a math club where we read biographies of famous mathematicians and traced the development of mathematics throughout history.  Additionally, we formed a MathCounts team and competed regionally against other schools.  We learned to solve word problems quickly using any method we preferred as long as we could find the answer.  Guess and check quickly became my favorite strategy. Afterwards we would all compare answers and I’d learn from my teammates.  In high school I used textbooks published by University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) that incorporated projects and challenge problems that encouraged me to continue using creative thinking as I mastered new skills.


However, math wasn’t solely devoted to projects and clubs.  There is always a set of skills that have to be mastered and there is no replacement for textbooks, clear examples, and lots and lots of practice problems.  In elementary school I worked on “mad math minute” worksheets until I had memorized my basic math facts.  In high school there was no alternative to memorizing trig identities with flashcards—there isn’t really a way to make that more exciting.  And the vast majority of time I spent doing math was devoted to completing a long list of exercises in a textbook. Without this foundation I never could have studied calculus or succeeded on the SATs– procedural errors would have bogged me down.


When I designed the AIM Algebra 1 course that I will be teaching this fall, I took all of these experiences into account.  We will be completing lots of practice problems, memorizing certain properties, and even taking time to review basic skills if necessary.  But students will also complete projects, discuss different methods for solving the same problem, and connect the content to their lives.  This combination of procedural and conceptual learning establishes long-term retention. And success in math is the first step to a love for math! That’s my ultimate goal for all my students.

Mrs. Gomes looks forward to welcome her first group of Algebra 1 students this coming fall. You can find out more about her class and approach here. She has been teaching SAT Math Prep online for AIM for the past year. She has been a high school math teacher for seven years.

Algebra 1  (7th-up) Kayte Gomes Mon 12-1 PM EST Register
SAT MATH TEST PREP(Fall 8/25-10/3) Kayte Gomes Mon 5-6 PM EST Register
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Aim Academy 2014-2015 Is Now Open

Aim Academy online classes will open March 10th. Full course descriptions, tuition rates, and final schedule for 2014-2015 will be published then.

In the meantime, you can find out more information by contacting our teachers directly here. Our classes are unique in that they are aligned with the SAT subject area tests and CLEP and AP exams. This means that starting in middle school, our classes cover the content and develop the skills necessary to pass these exams by the end of high school.

Students who pass CLEP and AP exams can earn college credit or be exempt from required courses at most universities in the U.S. at no extra cost. Aim Academy teachers are qualified and experienced in their subject area, and also knowledgeable about these exams. Considering the cost of college credit today, our courses can potentially save you thousands of dollars in future tuition fees. Teachers offer regularly scheduled live classes several times a month (2-4 times depending upon the course). These are also recorded. Student attendance at the live webinars is optional.

For more information, visit the Aim Academy section of our website.

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5 Ways Advanced Placement (AP) Exams Can Cut College Costs


I-Love-APThe Advanced Placement (AP) program, offered by the College Board, allows ambitious high school students to take college-level exams each May that potentially qualify them for college credit at the college of their choice. Each college lists the AP exams and credit they will award for a passing score on their website. Just search for “AP credit” or “equivalency exam credit” on the college’s site.

Our daughter, Kayte, took 5 AP exams during high school and earned high marks on each. The University of Pittsburgh awarded her 24 credits for her efforts at no cost. Here is the break down of what she did:

Exam Grade Score* Credits   Awarded by Pitt No. of   classes eliminated
AP U.S.   History  10th




AP   European History 11th




AP   Psychology 12th




AP   French 12th




AP   English Literature 12th




*5 is the highest score possible.

Here are five ways the time she invested in preparing for those exams during high school reduced her college costs:

1. The value of those 24 credits at the University of Pittsburgh saved her at least 2/3rd of a year in tuition costs (approx. $12,000 at the time) and all the costs of the required texts for those courses.

2. The 24 credits eliminated almost a full year of the time necessary to complete her degree — time she could then use to earn an income.

3. The credits awarded gave her “sophomore” standing in mathematics (one of her majors) and “junior” standing in French (her other major). This meant she got to register for her classes much earlier than other freshman. This meant she ALWAYS got the required courses she needed the very first semester she was eligible to register for them. (A big reason most students today need 5 years to complete a 4-year degree is they cannot get into required courses when they need them.)

4. Kayte’s high performance on these AP exams qualified her for the honors college at the University of Pittsburgh. This then included many free perks, including preferential housing close to campus. (Safe, affordable housing is in short supply at Pitt.)

5. Finally, Kayte’s high performance and evidence of a willingness to academically challenge herself with the most rigorous coursework available in high school earned her a full tuition, 5-year scholarship worth approximately $75,000 at the time. (She double majored and finished in 4 years anyway.) High AP scores are often the most decisive factor in a college’s decision to offer merit scholarships to homeschooled students. AP scores are viewed as an objective measure of a student’s achievement, ambition and readiness for college-level rigor.

Kayte used the AP classes offered by Pennsylvania Homeschoolers  to prepare for these exams. The cost of those classes was money well spent when you think about how much time and money Kayte saved.

Taking AP classes is not required. Anyone can sit for the AP exams in May — students just have to sign up with a local test center (usually a local private or public high school) and pay the fees. But research shows that taking classes aligned with the AP exams substantially improves a student’s success on these exams.

Based on my daughter’s experience, I started Aim Academy. We offer coursework beginning in 7th grade that is aligned with AP exams. My rationale is students who have been gradually preparing for these rigorous exams over their entire middle school and high school years will be much better prepared to earn the highest scores possible when they take an AP exam. So far, that rationale appears to be working for the many parents and students who report better than expected success on the exams they have taken. And Kayte — now Kathryn Gomes — is offering her own college-prep coursework in mathematics through AIM to help the next generation of homeschooled students realize the time and savings she did.

P.S. I should mention the #1 advantage to all the hard work Kayte put in during high school, according to Kayte: She was able to study abroad for three semesters and one summer at a reasonable cost, and still graduate on time. (Pitt allows students to apply their scholarship monies to these ventures.) Kayte studied in Provence, France; Cairo, Egypt; and sailed around the world with Semester-At-Sea, docking in 10 different countries along the way.

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Heidi St. John: The Busy Mom


tbm-logo-tallI have a guest post up at Heidi’s newly designed site. Check it out, and while you are there take a look around. Heidi is one of my favorite speakers (and one of my favorite people to hang out with). Thanks, Heidi, for letting me help you decorate your revamped site!


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How to Help Your Teen Succeed on the SAT Math Exam

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes
Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes


By Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

As a senior in high school I was guaranteed a full-tuition scholarship to Eastern University before I even officially applied.  It wasn’t because of my rigorous course load, well-written application essay, or volunteer service.  The scholarship was based solely on my SAT scores.

You might disagree with this snapshot approach to accepting and awarding students, but it should convince your high schooler to study.

The SATs are challenging, but it is realistic to think students can dramatically improve their scores.  Here are the three main reasons a student doesn’t score well and all of these can be addressed:

1)     They forget. The math on the SAT is not that broad, it only includes the most essential concepts of Algebra I, geometry, and Algebra II.  But most students have moved well beyond these courses and need to brush up on the basics before the test.

2)     They don’t prioritize preparing for the test.  Both the SATs and PSATs are normally taken in the fall.  Classes have just started and there are always countless assignments to be completed.  How do you balance AP courses, volleyball tournaments, and that hefty Gruber’s SAT Guide?  It’s difficult but in the long run earning a better math score might be more important than an “A” on that next English exam. (My mom found a way to count my SAT prep work towards my math or English credits for the year.)

3)     They don’t learn time-saving strategies.  Many of the most difficult SAT problems can be answered quickly if students know certain tricks.  The questions are designed to be solved in a minute or less. Students who use an elaborate formula or work through 15 different steps have missed an easier method.  However, many popular math programs homeschoolers use do not take time to teach these strategies.

I treated test prep as a part time job in high school. I took the SATs/PSATs a total of 5 times. (A bit obsessive?  Perhaps.) But considering the scholarship money my SAT scores earned me it was definitely a “well-paying” part time job.

Kathryn Gomes teaches SAT math prep online for Aim Academy. She is in her seventh year as a high school math teacher outside of Philadelphia. She was a presidential scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was awarded 36 credits for her AP and SAT exam scores earned during high school.



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College Prep Science @ Home? Here’s What We Did.


Vicki-Dincher-300x160My kids love to needle me by telling me the best teacher they had in high school was Vicki Dincher. She was also the coolest (she played bass guitar). Her science classes at our high school co-op were always the most popular — and they still are.

Well, I know how to capitalize on a good thing when I see it: I convinced Vicki to join me in teaching online after we both finished homeschooling. And didn’t she just go and beat me at that game, too! I’ve never seen anyone master technology faster than Vick. Her lectures are punctuated with illustrations, video clips, live demonstrations, PowerPoint presentations with animation and, starting this year, a state-of-the-art microscope that she and all her students can look through simultaneously — no matter where they are in the world! Wow, I never thought teaching online could compete with a live classroom, but technology allows a teacher to do some things you just can’t do in person — and in some ways online instruction can be a better context for learning. For one thing, Vicki records all her classes and stores them in the cloud where her students can watch them repeatedly as they prepare for SAT, AP or CLEP exams.

Vicki has been hard at work building a website to better explain her classes — I took a look around this morning and decided it was time to invite my readers to take a peek, too: Vicki’s website.

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