Grammar Essentials: Comparison Errors


To master the multiple-choice writing questions on the SAT, you will have to pay attention to subtle yet important rules that are often overlooked in colloquial speech.  Number agreement is one such rule.  The essentials are simple: in short, make sure you compare singular nouns to singular nouns, and plurals to plurals.  Yet the SAT tests noun-to-noun agreement in some of its trickiest questions, and tests a few especially challenging versions of this error type.  Here are a few helpful tips for spotting, and dealing with, number agreement:

Basic Agreement: Try to figure out what is wrong with the following sentence: “The students all want to be a teacher when they grow up.” You may hear sentences like this in everyday speech and never think twice, but the grammar turns out to be incorrect.  Instead of aligning multiple “students” with a single “teacher”, you need to line up plural with plural or singular with singular.  “The students all want to be teachers when they grow up” would be an excellent re-write.

Countable/Not Countable: The SAT features another question type involving noun numbering—and here as well, everyday speech habits can lead you in the wrong direction.  Try to spot the error in the following sentence: “There are less than four pencils on Gail’s desk.” The error is the “less,” which you should only use to describe a quantity that cannot be counted.  If you are describing items, like pencils, that can be counted, always use “fewer.” Oddly enough, this countable/not countable error is even committed by big businesses; you might see the sign “Ten items or less” at a supermarket express checkout.  However the right grammar will always be “Ten items or fewer.”

For more helpful tips like these, see our SAT Grammar Workbook of the Advanced Practice Series!


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The Price of a College Education


by Austin Chou | ILEX Publications Intern | UC Berkeley Class of 2017

Education in America is slowly becoming an unsightly burden. With the ever increasing requirements that jobs require, even a college degree isn’t worth it’s weight anymore. Today, tuition averages a little under $9,000 for an in state student and as much as $22,000 for out of state students. While the economic state gradually regains its former vigor, universities have to deal with cuts that state governments have inflicted upon them. With this, tuition continues to rise making it hard on families. Even with a college education, students today still have a tough time finding jobs that want the enthusiasm of new graduates and the experience of a person whose been in the field.%20%28Surprise%2C%20surprise%2C%20an%20education%20Down%20Under%20is%20the%20most%20expensive%20for%20wannabe%20Indian%20grads.%20Don%27t%20blame%20it%20all%20on%20the%20shredded%20rupee%29

This difficulty in finding jobs places quite a strain on students with student loans that need to be repaid. In comparison with education in say Europe, US tuition fees are ridiculous. European education averages maybe $1,000 a year for many high quality universities while, as previously mentioned, the US averages $9,000 for an instate student. This radical difference in price is a warning for the US to step back and ask whether it wants to place a greater importance on the education of our youth or per se, the already well-funded military.

On the topic of higher education, Obama has recently sought to invoke a new rating system for universities to determine which colleges “give more bank for the buck”. Those rated higher will subsequently receive more federal aid. With the possible implementation of such a system, schools will have to react accordingly, but will this reaction involve additional tuition increases or will schools lower prices to increase their potential payback rating?

To really consider the efficiency of these colleges, student investments in high school need to be taken into consideration. In the application system for almost all schools, the numbers speak for themselves: GPA, SAT, ACT, etc. Schools look at your scores as an indicator of your future potential. Investing in review schools to help improve your scores is one of the few tangible things a student can do to increase their scores and open up opportunities to choose from; with a high-achieving score, students open up opportunities to view high-tier colleges and scholarships.

Overall, competition in the US gradually increases as more students apply every year. Students are gaining more responsibility in determining their future with the need to consider present and future costs along with maintaining an impressive balance of both activities and grades. With so much on the line, only the best can rise to the top.


The Summer Learning Gap


by Sravani Meka | ILEX Publications Intern | Woodbridge Academy Class of 2015

“Five! Four! Three! Two! One! SCHOOL’S OUT!” Every student knows the feeling of counting down the clock on the last day  of school. Time slows down as you begin the countdown. The hallways become crowded but despite getting your personal space invaded, you don’t mind at all as you make your way through all the chaos to your locker, with yearbook in hand, one last time to get your things and bid your friends adieu. Summers finally here and the possibilities seem endless. The beach beckons you with her soothing cold water and the comfort of relaxing under the hot sun, your schedule is practically free, and the last thing on your mind is school. Students see summer as the friend that bails them out of school, A.K.A: JAIL. Many students don’t want to hear it but the two to three months of freedom that we get are too long and damaging.

During the summer, students experience the learning gap, a summer learning loss as a result of the traditional summer break from school. Two main causes for this problem are idle students; students who are at home by themselves  without supervision. Despite what their parents would like to think, their child, is not going to spend summer days absorbed in science experiments, history books and reading “War and Peace.” With a plethora of media at their fingertips — literally– students of the 21st century have plenty of non-educational ways in which to entertain themselves. Parents would be lucky if their child even picked up a book!

According to an article on the National Association for Year Round Education website,, the average student loses roughly 2.6 months worth of knowledge during the typical three-month summer vacation. This leads to teachers having to spend an six weeks reviewing the material that has been lost to prepare students for the new curriculum. If teachers decide to skip the review, the learning loss will accumulate and the nation’s students will fall even further behind other industrialized  countries when it comes to math and science knowledge.

Even though summer vacation is one of the most significant causes of why our country continues to fall behind in education, it is hardly discussed and looked at. As a student, it breaks my heart to say this as much as I love the summer holidays, I think the school year should be extended and summer shortened or longer breaks in between with year round schooling to prevent the summer learning gap and improve our country’s education system. What do you think?

IES Bridge Program


Just finished your IES camp and feel ready to tackle the SAT? There is still time before the dreaded test. Do not miss a chance to reinforce and truly master everything you’ve already learned in our courses. The perfect solution is the IES Bridge Program!

The IES Bridge Program is designed to focus on maintaining the same degree of proficiency through the use of timed full SAT practice tests, private “1 on 1s” that review the test as well as additional homework, and access to workshops for even more practice. With all this extra practice, students have been known to further increase their scores to a total increase of up to 600 points! This program serves to bridge the gap from the end of the SAT summer camp to the student’s projected SAT date and reinforces the technique, methods, and strategies that students have learned from our courses. This opportunity is a perfect investment; space is limited so sign up soon!

Our bridge program is tailored to meet your specific individual needs.  Hectic school schedules and AP classes beginning in September can be very daunting. However, IES is happy to arrange and accommodate your private lessons with whatever academic commitments you may have. For more information, contact the IES main office.


Essential SAT Grammar: Parallelism


by Patrick Kennedy | SAT Tutor | IES

On the SAT, you will often encounter words or phrases that need to be changed to the same form. You will need to change word endings to make individual words the same part of speech; at other times, you will need to alter entire phrases to follow a single, repeated structure. This kind of grammatical consistency is called “parallelism.” Here are a few common instances, and a few rules for how to spot and address phrases that are out of parallel:

Lists: SAT writing section questions will occasionally present items, ideas, or actions in groups of three or more. In such cases, your task will be to make sure that each word in the list is the same part of grammar. A typical list would be “walks, runs, talking.” Pay attention to the word endings and change to “walks, runs, talks” to create parallelism.

Pronouns: When the SAT introduces a pronoun that refers to an individual, that pronoun needs to stay consistent. Very often, you will see sentences such as the following: “If you want to succeed, one must study.” The “you” and the “one” are out of parallel: though different pronouns, they both refer to the same person. There are two correct versions of this sentence: “If you want to succeed, you must study” and “If one wants to succeed, one must study.” Neither of these mixes, or confuses, “one” and “you.”

Conjunctions: Consider the following sentence, which uses a conjunction to link two fairly long phrases: “Wallace likes to go to the seashore and riding his surfboard.” You may notice that the two phrases connected by “and” are out of parallel: “to go” cannot line up with “riding.” Again, word endings are key. However, a version of the sentence that changes “riding” to “to ride” would be acceptable: “Wallace likes to go to the seashore and to ride his surfboard” is effectively in parallel.

These are just a few examples of VISUAL CLUES that you can use to master SAT Writing: Grammar. We will be releasing a comprehensive Grammar Workbook for Fall 2014! Check our publications site for more information.

SAT Math: Targeting Your Weak Spots


by Patrick Kennedy | SAT Tutor | IES

On the math sections of the SAT, you will be facing a tremendous number of different question types: at least fifty unique topics, by our estimate.  Naturally, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy.  Yet you can make your studying and test practice much more efficient by figuring out your weak points, and by adjusting your schedule and strategies accordingly.  Here are a few common weak spots that SAT math students should identify and target early on:

Early, Difficulties with the Subject Matter: Has math never been your strong suit in school or on other standardized tests?  Many SAT students required additional work in the fundamentals of geometry and algebra: two areas that the test asks you to know in considerable detail.  If you need to firm up your background in these areas, book a high school math tutor or find a group course that begins with fundamental math knowledge.

Middle, Lack of Test Familiarity: Are you comfortable with the main ideas in algebra, geometry, and statistics, but uncomfortable with the format of the SAT?  For some SAT students, the main challenge is adapting to the format and constraints of the test. Sorting information, recognizing patterns, and aiming for the answers of complicated words problem are all necessary skills. If you need work in these areas, hire a private tutor or find an intensive group course that involves plenty of practice material.

Advanced, Imprecise Problem Solving: Are you fully in command of the ideas and strategies behind SAT math, but not quite sure how to avoid random errors and careless mistakes?  Even the strongest test takers can require extra help strengthening their attention to detail and their awareness of the logical tricks and traps that the test employs.  If you want to approach the test with greater precision and discipline, both hire a private tutor and practice regularly on your own.

Mastering the SAT Essay: How to Handle Pop Culture


by Patrick Kennedy | SAT Tutor | IES

It is often tempting to talk about pop culture on the SAT essay. As a student, you may be far more passionate about a certain music group or TV show than you are about Charles Dickens or the Russian Revolution. But as an SAT essay writer, you will only get a top score if you write an essay that strikes your reader as insightful; alas, those readers will probably be more impressed by Charles Dickens than by Daft Punk or How I Met Your Mother. Here are some tips for dealing with pop culture if it ever arises:

– Know that pop culture is never necessary: There have been SAT essay questions that seem to lead students in the direction of pop culture: the most famous of these was the “reality-based entertainment” prompt. However, the test never forces you to use a single kind of source. The directions for every essay prompt state that you can “support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.” That could mean pop culture, or that could mean no pop culture at all. The latter is a better bet.

-Switch a pop culture example with a standard example: Many pop culture examples have a lot in common with standard academic examples: it’s oddly easy to find the same themes in two examples that can seem very far apart at first. For instance, many students have used the Harry Potter novels on recent tests. As enjoyable as they are, these books don’t garner the respect that classic novels like Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha do. But these two coming-of-age novels are about unlikely companions, constant setbacks, and the rewards of self-discovery. Just like Harry Potter.

-Turn a pop culture example into a history example: When all else fails, you can try turning a pop culture example into a statement about culture or society as a whole. The trick is to quiet your inner fan-boy or -girl and insightfully place the example in a larger context. For instance, no SAT reader wants to hear you describe every character on Breaking Bad. But if you want to explain how Breaking Bad—and other respected TV shows like it, and related novels and classic movies—brilliantly criticize 21st-century America’s obsession with wealth and power, you’re welcome to try. Note well: this is an extremely high-risk strategy, recommended only if you need a last resort or have truly incredible control of your material and message.