Digital Gifts Your Children Can Create

Digital Gifts Your Children Can Create

110: Digital Gifts Your Children Can Create

These are the 8 ideas for digital gifts your children can create that are mentioned in this podcast.

1. Create a video game with Scratch (show host FundaFunda Academy has a Christmas contest that includes basic Scratch tutorials as well as longer Scratch classes)

2. has lots of templates that can be used to create games like Hangman and Matching games, as well as a template to make an online board game.

3. Choose your own adventure book – easy to do with Google Slides

4. Digital Breakouts

5. Movies – use Powtoon, Stop Motion Animation etc

6. Online Jigsaw Puzzles – use Jigsaw Planet

7. Activity Book – include word searches, cryptograms, sudoku, etc

8. Cards and DigitalCoupons – use Adobe Spark, Canva

Show sponsor FundaFunda Academy has a unit study to guide your children through creating digital gifts – you can find that here.

Join our Facebook Group especially for the listeners of this podcast! You can ask questions and get advice as you try integrating technology in your homeschool. We would love to hear how you are using tech in early elementary homeschooling!

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the show and give a rating and maybe even a review! Subscribing will help you make sure you never miss an episode.

Digital Gifts Your Children Can Create

How to Apply to College as a Homeschooler

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: How to Apply to College as a Homeschooler.

How to Apply to College as a Homeschooler

How to Apply to College as a Homeschooler

This is college application season for many college-bound homeschool high schoolers. It can be a stressful time for these teens (and their parents), especially if this is the first child heading off to college. How can you be sure your homeschooler is completing the forms well. What is a homeschool parent’s role in the process.

7Sisters Vicki served the local homeschool community for almost two decades as college admissions advisor. In her work with homeschool high schoolers and trainings with college admissions officers, she picked up some tips that have been helpful to her five homeschool graduates and hundreds of other local teens. In honor of college application season, Vicki is sharing some basics of the process to get you started.

Ten tips on how to apply to college as a homeschooler

Tip #1: Write your application essay early

Trust Vicki on this. If your homeschool high schooler writes his/her essay early. We would tell our local advisees to write their essay during the summer, that would give them time to have parents or teachers look it over and give advice…AND do multiple rewrites. Even if the topic changes at application time, details can easily be tweaked once the guts of an essay is created. Remember multiple rewrites take a good essay to a great essay (use grammar checkers like Grammarly to help.)

Also, if you have a college that allows your teen to skip the essay, don’t skip! That essay might give your homeschooler an edge if there is a lot of competition for entrance.

If your homeschool high schooler will be using the Common Application or other applications that publish essay prompts early or have standard prompts, it is much easier to start that essay. Even if an essay prompt is not available for their preferred college, have your teen choose an exciting or inspiring story from their life and write an essay to be tweaked later.

For help: Here’s a freebie post and a downloadable college admissions essay writing guide from your 7Sisters.

When they apply, teens are letting colleges know who they are. So they need to put their best foot forward.

Tip #2: Ask for recommendation letters letter early

PLEASE, take us seriously on this. Recommenders need a little time to write an excellent recommendation. Give them time.

Also, if your recommender will be writing a paper recommendation, give them self-addressed, stamped envelope to the college. If your recommender will be writing a digital recommendation, let them know where the link will be coming from. (And also approximately when it will come, so they can check the spam file if it seems late.)

ALSO, please train your teen to ask the recommender politely. In fact, use the word, “Please.” This is a skill that will help them the rest of their lives. AND when they are done with the recommendation, be sure to have your teen thank them.

Your teen can (and in many cases) should give the recommender a fact sheet about themselves and/or a resume to help them fill out the recommendation with good details.

Tip #3: Find out what the colleges are looking for

Make sure this is shown clearly on your homeschool high schooler’s transcript. Check the college website for “requirements for incoming freshmen” or “requirements for application”. Sometimes, you and your teen will best find this information on a college tour or online workshop with admissions officers. Check out this interview with Dr. Renae Duncan, Associate Provost of Murray State University (ret.).

Tip #4: Make sure your teen’s transcript is complete with grades through the point they apply

Colleges often want to know that teens are not goofing off their senior year, so they will ask for first quarter grades (and often, first semester updates). This means that moms need to have the transcript up to date! Here’s a post on how to do this.

For tips on how to create transcripts and what to include, along with an editable transcript template, check 7Sisters.

Tips #5: PDF your homeschooler’s transcript for online applications

Sometimes an un-pdf version transcript gets scrozzled.

NOTE: If you are sending in a paper application, you might have to have the transcript sealed and/or stamped. Check with admissions officers at the college for this information.

Tip #6: Have your homeschooler take his/her time in completing the application

College applications take a long time to complete. If your teen puts off the application process until the last moment, they will not be able to put their best foot forward.

Keep in mind, when your teen is filling out their application, they are talking to a real person. Have them write in complete sentences where applicable using a professional version of their own voice. (Do not fill out applications for your teen.)

Tip #7: Have your teen think about which schools to apply to ahead of time

For many teens three to five colleges is a good number. (If they are applying to twenty schools, they have not done their research. This will waste their time.)

  • Choose one college as a reach college but might be too expensive or competitive. (This would be an act of God if they get in.)
  • Aim for a college that your teen would truly like to attend and are a solid fit. NOTE: If you can find a college’s average SAT or ACT scores of admitted students. Aim for colleges where your teen’s scores are similar.
  • Aim for an easy, guaranteed acceptance college. This school would be fine but not a dream college, per se.
  • Aim for a financially-reasonable college. College debt is such a problem. (And why many homeschooler are doing their first two years at community college these days.)
  • For more tips check this post and another Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode.

Tip #8: Decide when to apply

Some colleges give dorm preference, better financial aid opportunities and/or other benefits to students who apply early.

If your teen is applying to a reach school, regular admissions might be better, since it is easier to get bumped to a waitlist with early applications. (Of course, each college handles this differently.)

Some teens need extra time deciding. So give them space to pray and research. They may need to skip early admissions.

Tip #9: Teens need to remember they are selling themselves with their essays and applications. This is not bragging!

Many homeschoolers are concerned that they will be prideful if they tell their outstanding points and stories. Just have them remember it is God who makes them successful, so writing about it is not bragging!

Tip #10: Pray

Teens can have a lovely growth process through their college application process if they know that as they roll their works on the Lord, he will direct their path.

Also, check out this useful Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode for first generation college students.

Hey, join our 7SistersHomeschool Facebook group so you can ask college application and other homeschool questions to all your 7th Sisters!


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How to Apply to College as a Homeschooler


Special Replay – Best Ever DIY Christmas Gifts

Do it yourself or DIY is all the craze, but only when it is simple and the gifts are truly worth giving.The Best Ever DIY Christmas Gifts Episode 311

I know, we’ve heard it before the best ever DIY Christmas gifts often are more expensive than buying something on sale at the store. But, when you have a large family or many additional family and friends to consider these gifts are a life saver.

Thanks to our sponsors – The Truth Seekers Mystery Series – brought to you by Media Angels, Inc.

Do it yourself or DIY is all the craze, but only when it is simple and the gifts are truly worth giving. One year I received bath salts that smelled great and were different colors. When I looked at them closer I noticed the coloring was actually food coloring and could turn my skin the bright yellow, green and purple of the bath salts! Needless to say, this item was not used for baths at all.

Here are my go-to rules for DIY Christmas Gifts:

  1. Must be tried and true. This is not the time to experiment.
  2. Nice presentation. No one wants to open a box to see a hot-glued mess.
  3. Something someone would actually want. Think cheesecake vs. fruitcake.
  4. Take into account dietary needs. These days there are gluten, dairy and nut allergies. Stay away from these offenders if at all possible.
  5. Gift certificates do not need to be impersonal. Stay tuned to learn more!

The best every DIY Christmas Gifts can be every bit as charming as a high priced item that more than likely will break, wear out or possibly be something that is returned or regifted. Think about the person you want to gift an item. What are their likes? Dislikes? Take these into account.

Here are a few of the favorite gifts I have given and received:

  1. Recipe book: Tried and true family recipes. Think about making these into a book online that can be duplicated.
  2. Coupons: The kids have gifted me with coupons for the following and all were much appreciated! Car wash, make beds, wash dishes, babysit, neck rub, vacuuming, organizing.
  3. DIY personal: Bath Salts, Homemade Sanitizer, Rag rug,
  4. Food: Applesauce + recipe for muffins; Tomatoes + recipe for sauce; Pumpkin + recipe for pie; Fat Bombs + recipe; Baked goods + recipe; Mixes + recipe and decorative containers
  5. Gift Certificate to a: nature center, zoo, museums, amusement parks, Amazon, bookstore, coffee store, etc. Make it personal by going with the person whenever possible to enjoy their gift.
  6. Slide presentation with pictures
  7. Prayer audio
  8. Painting or other art projects
  9. Decopauge – a favorite saying or special memento on a wood plaque.
  10. Experience: Rooftop star gazing, impromptu road trip, see hot air balloons, country visit or city visit, camping

Holly Symbolism and Benefits

Learn more about holly symbolism, its roots in pagan traditions and beliefs, and its beneficial uses on this episode.Ever wondered why holly is associated with Christmas? What even is holly, really? Learn more about holly symbolism, its roots in pagan traditions and beliefs, and its beneficial uses on this episode.

Holly Symbolism and Historic Roots

Ilex aquifolium, or the Holly tree, is a small evergreen tree with deeply lobed, waxy, prickled leaves native to Europe. Its leaves somewhat resemble oak leaves. It has light colored bark and deep red, toxic berries. It has long been considered sacred in Celtic mythology and ancient druidic beliefs. They believe holly symbolizes peace, goodwill, and good luck. Therefore, they also believed that holly protected them from evil spirits and bad luck. Chieftains wore a wreath of holly as a sort of good luck charm.  And, because it resists lightning, they would plant it near their homes to protect themselves from lightning strikes.

The ancient Romans believed holly was the sacred plant of Saturn, the Roman god of the harvest. They gave sprigs of holly as gifts during the Saturnalia festival, which led up to the winter solstice of December 25, the birth of the “Sun.” As Christianity spread, December 25 became a celebration of the Son of God instead, but the holly tradition remained. In addition, Christians adopted holly symbolism into their beliefs. They claimed that the thorny leaves of holly symbolize the crown of thorns of Christ’s crucifixion, the berries representing his blood. In addition, the evergreen nature of holly symbolizes eternal life.

Hear a few other stories about holly on the podcast. On a more practical note, the wood of this tree makes beautiful, artistic designs and people sometimes use it to make chess sets and tool handles. Carriage drivers also used horse whips made from holly, as holly seemed to have an interesting controlling effect on the horses.

Holly Benefits

Holly is not really used in modern herbalism. Historically, people used the leaves as a diaphoretic, febrifuge, and expectorant for things like fever, rheumatism, and bronchitis. One famous herbalist, Nicolas Culpepper said that the bark and leaves are good for broken bones and other members that are out of joint. The fresh juice has been recommended for jaundice. The ancients also used it for fevers and such, but the berries cause violent vomiting and should not be used, especially with children. Julie talks about some of the active constituents of holly on the podcast, so be sure to listen!

Discover weird facts about Christmas herbs and check out her Secret Spice book.

Replay: Online Tools For Photography

Online Tools for Photography

With the holiday season coming up, this seemed like a good time to rerun episode 42 which covers Online Tools for Photography. Our guest is Piers van der Merwe.

I hope these tools come in useful!

You can find the show notes on the original episode here.

Online Tools for Photography #photographywebsites #photographyapps #photography

Motivation Myths That Hinder Your Homeschool

Hey, homeschoolers! After 21 years of homeschooling, I know that motivation runs high at the beginning of the year. But it doesn’t take many weeks before that initial enthusiasm starts to cool. You begin looking forward to Christmas break sooner than you thought you would. We realize that we need to use some motivational tricks for ourselves and our kids in order to finish the things that we’ve planned. The problem with our motivating efforts is we often buy into several motivation myths that I’m going to describe in this episode. If we do, we will likely continue to struggle.
If you are interested in motivating your homeschooler, I’ve created a video class that you can you use with your spouse or other caregiver that will help you create an effective motivational plan. It includes a handbook for taking action and not just taking in information.

Motivation Myths Resources

Read the blog post Discipline Myths More Discipline Myths Join me next time as I share my thoughts on teen screen time. Have a happy homeschool week!

Homeschooling and Holidays during COVID

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Homeschooling and Holidays during COVID.

Homeschooling and Holidays during COVID

Homeschooling and Holidays during COVID

Well, we’ve never been HERE before. Handling homeschooling and the holiday season during a pandemic. Covid has changed things for everyone, even your big sisters Sabrina, Vicki and Kym. So we got together to talk about it and to share some tips and encouragement.

  1. We are all in this together.
  2. We all need the Lord. Prayer will help!
  3. If you love the holidays, you can look for God’s grace to help you and yours adjust.
  4. If you don’t like the holiday season, take even better care of yourself.
  5. We need to have an attitude of gentleness and compassion toward each other.
  6. Avoid the words “must” or “should”… this year, we can’t must or should much of anything. We will have to hold our expectations lightly!
  7. Prepare to be flexible.
  8. Be compassionate and gentle towards others about changes or cancellations of favorite community or family events.

  1. Create for your kids and teens some other special (albeit, smaller) events (Zoom events, acappella app sing alongs, outdoor events, Christmas Caroling with social distancing for senior citizens in the community and church)
  2. Hold honest and loving conversations with the family about financial restraints due to the pandemic.
    1. Create healthy, wholesome reframes: We can’t have lots of “store-bought” stuff but perhaps a family event: drawing and creating Christmas cards and gift wrap, check Pinterest for homemade gift ideas, learn stenciling, calligraphy or other fancy handwriting styles (check YouTube). Watch Ezra’s YouTube for ideas.
    2. Maybe for this year, follow Sabrina’s family tradition: Christmas gifts are only silly or sentimental (and inexpensive)
      1. Silly family inside-joke sayings on a home-printed tshirt
      2. An acrostic made from everyone’s name
      3. Include a family game to play as they open the gifts, if possible (silliness is good!):
        1. Scavenger hunts
        2. Sing alongs
        3. Dramatic readings of favorite childhood books
  3. So many people will not be able to travel this year. If you are holding a family stay-at-home Christmas holiday.
    1. So, remember to do something new instead:
      1. Have a special but different breakfast
      2. Zoom with the extended family
      3. Drop off food to quarantined family members
      4. Hold a Christmas movie marathon
      5. Go on a Christmas hike
      6. Perhaps have each kid plan something special each day of the holiday break
      7. Make sure everyone can have a little while to grieve the losses of the traditional Christmas events, but then role model “bounce back” (resiliency) for the kids.
        1. You can tell them: It’s okay to be sad, but don’t stay sad. We will make good memories this Christmas season.
        2. Validate the loss, then CHOOSE to create good things in the face of the losses.
  4. Dealing with the uncertainty of church events.
    1. Uncertainty can be tough (and irritating). So self-monitor. Try to keep yourself in a grace-filled, fruit-of-the-spirit attitude.
    2. Your family can choose the meaning of a special event at church that we might not be able to experience this year. Choose a way for your family to honor the meaning of that event at home. This takes prayer and creativity, but that is what God’s love is all about!
  5. Remember: It is okay that this Christmas doesn’t look like other Christmases.
  6. Remember again: Gentleness and compassion!

And check out 7Sisters freebie unit study posts on:

AND download our popular Twas the Week Before Christmas Curriculum and Activity Bundle (Literature, Writing, Science, Social Studies, Languages, and fun… with something for all ages).

AND keep yourself encouraged with our suite of Homeschool Highschool Podcast episodes on handling the holidays:

And encouraging holiday episodes from our fellow podcasters:

This holiday season, remember what we learned from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: God bless us everyone!


  1. Follow this link to our Apple Podcasts page.
  2. OR take this IMPORTANT STEP: Under our Homeschool Highschool Podcast logo, click on View in “…your favorite podcast source”
  3. This will take you to Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast source and our own podcast page.
  4. Click SUBSCRIBE.
  5. Click RATINGS AND REVIEW. (Please take a minute and do this. It helps others find us. Thanks!)
  6. Thanks!


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Homeschooling and Holidays during COVID

Thanksgiving Memory Book

Thanksgiving Memory Book | What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Another episode just for kids! Join Felice as she shares her encouragement to notice those little things that are important to appreciate. | #podcast #homeschoolpodcast #thanksgivingmemory #memorybook #thanksgivingmemoriesThanksgiving Memory Book ~ Episode 416

What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Another episode just for kids! Join Felice as she shares her encouragement to notice those little things that are important to appreciate.

Check out the Media Angels books on Media 

Be sure to go to – episode 416 and you will find a copy of the Thanksgiving Memory Book – Thanksgiving Memory Book

Thanksgiving is a time to make memories and share joy with others. A fun craft is to take branches and make a Thankful tree. You add leaves to the tree and on each, you can put a word that reminds you of something you are thankful for.

Think About This:

What are you thankful for? People may ask you that question and you may say, “I don’t know!” I get it, sometimes it seems that the questions you get asked don’t really have good answers. Here is a challenge for you. Do you think you can do this? Start looking around. What do you see?

Here are some possibilities. You see people in your family, you see the things that you own, you see the things that are part of your world. Maybe a pet, or something you think is important. It may not be valuable meaning it costs lots of money, but it is valuable to you.

So what are those things? Maybe you are thankful for:

  1. Your family.
  2. Your home.
  3. You brothers or sisters.
  4. Your friends.
  5. Your toys.
  6. The food that you eat.
  7. Your pets.
  8. A favorite vacation.
  9. A favorite sport you play.
  10. A hobby you have.

These are just a few of the things you may be thankful for. We did this quickly, but you can take more time to do this on your own. So, the next time someone asks you what you are thankful for you will be able to answer it quickly.

Have you ever had a super fun time doing something and wish you had pictures or written down exactly what you did? How about keeping a memory book? Have you ever kept a journal? A memory book is something like that.  I have a free one you can download here: – Thanksgiving Memory Book

You can add things like what you are grateful for but you can also list who was at your celebration, what you did, and what you ate. Maybe your family plays games. What is it that made the day special. What are some traditions that your family does every year? Think about this.

  1. Do you have your celebration at your house?
  2. Do you go somewhere special for Thanksgiving?
  3. Do you eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy?
  4. What is your favorite dessert?

One time, friends of mine lived far away from their family and friends, in fact, they had just moved to a new town. So they decided they wanted to have a different type of Thanksgiving and had a picnic. They had turkey sandwiches, and fun sides, and they played games at the park. The kids all said it was one of their favorite Thanksgiving memories. Have you ever heard that what makes something special is what you put into it? You might not think the food at Thanksgiving is very good, maybe you don’t like turkey and gravy. But, either way what you are celebrating makes it special to you. (Remember – what are you putting into the celebration?)

I had another friend who used Thanksgiving as a day to help out at a soup kitchen, a place that cooks meals for the poor. She said she felt so thankful for all that God had given her that she wanted to give of her time for others. That is truly being unselfish, isn’t it? Each person can give from what they have and share it with someone else. You can do this in your family as well.

Whatever you do to celebrate this happy day, I pray that you make memories that you will always remember. I hope you have a very special thanksgiving with your family and your friends. Even if you have a turkey sandwich at the park this year, make it the best Thanksgiving memory ever!


Mistletoe Secrets

Mistletoe SecretEver wonder about mistletoe and why it’s part of Christmas lore and tradition? Join Julie on this week’s episode to learn about mistletoe secret history and uses. It’s been around a long time!

Mistletoe Secret History

Some of the mistletoe secret history starts with the ancient Norse, Greek, and Roman legends. In Norse mythology, the god Baldur the Beautiful—son of the goddess, Frigg—was killed by an arrow made from mistletoe. As Frigg wept over her son, her tears became the pearlescent berries. Afterward, she declared that mistletoe would be a symbol of peace and friendship. It is said that she gave the mistletoe to the goddess of love and that everyone who passed under it should receive a kiss in token of its new symbolic meaning.

In Greek and Roman legend, Aeneas of Aeneid fame needs a “golden bough” in order to see his dead father who gives him the vision to found Rome. This golden bough is traditionally thought to be European mistletoe. The ancient Druids thought that mistletoe held some special powers and revered it as a sacred plant. They thought that it warded off evil and they would send messengers around with branches of it to announce the new year.

The origin of the whole kissing tradition is unclear, but probably started among servants in a local village and spread from there. Because mistletoe is green and blooming even in winter, it has long been associated with fertility and life. The mistletoe secret to its winter growth is that it draws all the life from its deciduous host tree!

Mistletoe Secret Habits

Mistletoe, or Viscum album, is an evergreen parasitic shrub. They spread their seeds primarily through birds so when a bird drops one of the sticky berries on a tree branch, the berry sticks. Very soon, a little thread-like root comes from a seed in the berry and pierces the bark of the tree branch. It burrows through until it reaches the sap and then derives all of its sustenance from this host tree. The little root, of course, thickens and grows. Sometimes, the mistletoe bush ends up killing the host tree. Like many other evergreens, the yellow-green lobe shaped leaves are waxy and smooth, the flowers tiny. Mistletoe produces pearly white berries in December, which may be the reason why it has long been associated with the winter solstice and later, Christmas. They are considered toxic and some people have been poisoned by them, although birds don’t seem to be affected.

Historic and Modern Uses

Historically, mistletoe was used mostly for complaints associated with the nervous system. It was used to quiet epileptic convulsions in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even considered a specific for the condition. Herbalists at that time also used it for delirium, hysterical disorders, and urinary and heart complaints arising from a disordered nervous system. They also used it to open up circulation to areas constrained or damaged by nervous tension. However, it seemed to work best in smaller, rather than larger, amounts as higher doses tended to aggravate nervous conditions.

In more modern times, research confirms the mistletoe secret weapon for epilepsy and other central nervous system disorders, such as hysteria and headaches. It also shows promise against Alzheimer’s disease. In German speaking countries, mistletoe is often prescribed as part of a complementary approach to cancer and there have been several studies on this with mixed results. The chemical constituents of mistletoe do show anti-tumor and immune system regulating effects, but other factors come into play. And, herbal medicine often requires synergistic and wholistic interactions for the body to heal.


Mistletoe is not safe for children and the American variety is not the same as the European species, so don’t interchange them. Also, it is easy to overdose on Mistletoe and accidentally poison yourself. Do not eat the berries!

Test Prep Mistake 1 Test Books

Test Prep Mistakes 1 | Have your kids been told not to write in their SAT test books? Well, that is test prep mistake 1 test books and misinformation! | #podcast #homeschoolpodcast #homeschool #testprep #ACT #SAT #CollegePrepTest Prep Mistake 1 Test Books Episode 85

Have your kids been told not to write in their SAT test books? Well, that is test prep mistake 1 test books and misinformation! This is a series of mistakes parents and students believe and Jean shows you the facts and even where to find them on the college board website and how to nicely let your test proctor know, without being rude.

Did you know writing in your test book (which gets destroyed after the test and belongs to you anyway) is one of the best ways to raise your scores? In this episode, Jean shares insider information with you. Often mistakes are made and this podcast sets the record straight.

Free stuff from Jean!

Let me set the record straight: Not only are you allowed to write in your booklet, I encourage it and it’s not just me. The test-makers encourage it too. (links below)

Think with your pencil

Crystallize your thoughts on paper than solely working out problems in your head. Rather than sift through all the ideas that constantly come and go, you can clear your mind, clear the fog, gain some clarity, and simply write your ideas, or working, down. This strategy is also referred to as brain-dumping. 

Silly mistakes happen when your mind skips over something that could be instrumental in your understanding. In stressful exam conditions, you need to stack all the odds in your favor. Just note it down in your test booklet. 

There are several main learning systems and you will generally show a preference for one over the others: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Reading/Writing (which is a subset of Kinesthetic). The more systems you can engage in, the better the learning retention. In an exam situation, you can use this to your advantage by engaging Visual and Kinesthetic (and to a minor extent the Auditory system if you subvocalize when you read).

In all sections of your paper, use your pencil to markup, circle or underline the important parts in the question itself. Where you have multiple choice questions, cross out the wrong responses as you encounter them, to reduce your options. There is only ever one correct answer. If there are two that are very similar (or ostensibly the same answer where you cannot tell the difference), then that usually means they are likely both wrong.

When you read purposefully with your pencil at-the-ready, you will avoid the need for multiple re-readings of the same material.

The process of elimination is key

An incredibly useful strategy in every part of your test (except maybe for the essay) is to physically cross off those answers that are definitely wrong, first, and as you encounter them.  That’s a heck of a lot of potential clutter. Not only that, to have to read and reread wrong answers wastes precious time. If you ever go back to check answers and if wrong answers are marked, you can quickly revisit your process and not have to rework everything from the beginning. 

What this mark-up strategy is invaluable for is avoiding something called “decision fatigue”. Once an answer is excluded, it can be dumped—and out of your awareness—for good. Otherwise, your mind could be plagued by indecision and way too many options. “Resolve to resolve,” is what I like to say. Your mind will stay fresh, sharp, and alert.

Mark-up is helpful to locate the “low-hanging fruit”—or the easy marks, through a process of elimination. Give questions a ten-second once over. If you don’t know how to answer it quickly and correctly, mark it and move on. Come back to it later. If you have the opportunity to take a few passes through the test, you’ll continually knock off the easiest questions first.

A very important strategy is to have a specific way for you to denote the difficult questions, the ones you need to go back and review if you have time. Make it unique. Maybe an asterisk. What I like to do is to draw an open circle. When I go back for review and I am satisfied I have the answer—and so I know not to revisit that question yet again—I fill in the circle to make it solid.

Your annotation system means you can always be gainfully busy checking and improving your score.

Tips summarized:

  1. Identify the low-hanging fruit, the easy questions you can knock off.
  2. Use a process of elimination to identify fewer options as your final answer. Then work only on those.
  3. Mark those questions you cannot initially do quickly. Most people use an asterisk. I use an open circle that I fill in once I answer that question to my satisfaction.
  4. Go back and review questions unsure of or answered, until there is nothing more you can do, or you run out of time.

Seems crazy but don’t read the passages first. Read the questions. Underline the key words—especially comparative terms—in the questions before reading the passages. The questions will prime your brain to look for the right information on the first scan and detailed read of your passage. When answering your questions, you’ll be able to skip up to 75% of the passage. 


Math problems and pencils seem destined for each other. Remember however, that many of the questions don’t need full working out to find the right answers. Sometimes it will be as simple as eliminating the obviously wrong choices.

  • There will be times when you are not allowed to use your calculator and use of mental arithmetic is your only option. Don’t work out answers on a calculator if you don’t need to. 
  • You may be given ‘scratch paper’ but the booklet can always act as one.
  • Note down formulas and acronyms at the top of your paper.
  • Keep focus and avoid mistakes by writing down even the simplest of things. Just as with the Reading section, if you have to go back to review a difficult question, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off. If you encounter a difficult problem, then some amount of work will help you review it later.
  • When you’re given a diagram, mark it up with all the data that you’re given within the question. Many drawings are often not to scale so proportions derived by your intuition won’t necessarily be correct. If a drawing is not scaled correctly, redraw it.

There are a limited number of question-types you can and will be asked. At College Prep Genius you will learn how to approach each and every one of these. There are specific strategies that will see you power through by being quickly able to identify the type. Use your pencil to note what strategy you need to solve it. 


In this section, you also have very limited time per question. Without factoring in reading time, you have 36 seconds on the ACT and 47 seconds on the SAT. There simply is no way to finish on time. You need a system.

Here’s another hint: By marking one of the 13 recurring grammar problems, it is easier and quicker to find the correct answer. For example, if the underlined part of the passage contains the words, “not only” then circle it and find the answer choice that contains, “but also”. As you can see, there are rules you can learn to set you right.


You will handwrite your essay using the provided four-lined, blank pages. Print your work or use cursive, but either way, just make it legible. 

It’s worth remembering that the SAT essay is optional, but you will learn a reliable essay template at College Prep Genius to make it a shoe-in. You should always write the optional essay for many reasons (which is not the subject of this article).

What if someone at the test says you can’t mark your test booklet?

If you are in any doubt as to the permitted use of the test booklet, or you think others (such as the proctor) at the exam might be unsure, then be prepared. Download and print the official information found in the College Board tweet, and have it ready to present. The official College Board Student Guide notates several times: “Use the test booklet for scratch work.” You will also find information that states, “you will not receive credit for anything that you write in your test book.” 

Remember, mark-up your paper, cross out what you deem to be the wrong answers, and transfer your chosen answers to the answer sheet.

Something is awry if you’ve been asked to write your name on the cover of your booklet but told not to write inside. If for some reason, you are told not to or were prevented from writing in your booklet and it affected your score, then call SAT or ACT immediately. At the very least, you could be offered a refund or a future free test. You can also contact

International testing

If you happen to be taking the test in an international center, then know there may be an exception to the booklet writing rule. This is quite normal and has more to do with booklet availability. You can request to write in the booklet if you do so before you sit the test. Make sure you do. Not being able to write in the booklet puts you at a great disadvantage.

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