Pencil on multiple choice paper

Took the June 2018 SAT and Not Happy with Your Score? Find out your next steps here…

Posted by Izanna Levintova on July 31st 2018

As the June 1018 SAT scores rolled in on July 11th, countless students sat there staring at the computer screen, frantically scrolling through the details of their score reports and wondering what went wrong. It is well known that this standardized exam is graded on, what the college board refers to as, an “equating” scale or more universally known as a “curve.” For those unfamiliar with what a “curve” or “equating scale” is, let’s take a look at a particular scenario.

Picture yourself inside a classroom with the teacher in the front of the class slowly and methodically walking around the room, handing back the exam grades from a test you took last week. When she finally comes around to you, she says with a smile on her face, “Good job!” and hands you an exam grade of a 45! At first you think that this is somehow a cruel and manipulative joke by this unseemly instructor and you have a piece of mind to tell her exactly what you think of her class! But, before common sense strikes, you begin to look around the room, and like our instincts dictate, begin to compare. It seems as though everyone did significantly worse than even you did. After the remainder of the exams have been handed out, the teacher stands in front of the room, and admits to the class that there were numerous questions on the exam that she deemed as unfair and were too difficult. Thus, she has established a curve to help with the adjustment. Anything above a 40 become an A, a 30-39 is a B, and 20-29 is a C, and anything below that is failing.

While the situation mentioned above, may seem “unfair,” it is a grading system that is used throughout the country in many universities and is a good and consistent measure of the effectiveness of any exam.
The incredible decline in most students’ scores has people questioning the purpose of the exam altogether; how can there be such a drastic shift in a grading scale that is known to be a standardized measurement of one’s testing ability? Students spend months, even years, preparing for the exam that will determine which college or university they will attend. Although, the grading scale may seem out of control, students need to remember that the only control that really matters is the one that they have over their knowledge and education.

At JM Learning Prep in Brooklyn, NY, we understand that the grading scale might be fair or unfair, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t want our students, and outside students to take this to heart. Your hard-work is not overlooked. We do not want you to feel discouraged or feel as if you failed; we want you all to keep your heads held high. We’ve received questions such as, “How can this exam compare students who have taken the exam in May to those who took it in June with such an increased shift in the grading scale?” We understand that it might seem as though the exam is losing its validity, but the best way to overcome this obstacle is with a calm state of mind and realize that many colleges will be looking at the percentiles more than the score itself.

A student tutored for SAT prep at JM Learning Prep, Son**, (the entire first name and last name will not be mentioned to maintain some anonymity) was one of the people affected by this downward curve. Taking a look back at her past SAT scores, the numbers just don’t add up for her June 2018 SAT. When she first started with JM Learning Prep, she scored an 1110 on her first exam and sky rocketed quickly past the 1400 on almost every practice exam she took. Even scoring a few 1500’s along the way. In April 2018, Sonia scored a 1430/1600 with 6 incorrect questions in Math, 4 incorrect in Grammar and 8 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 94th/95th Percentile, fairly indicative of her practice exams. Now in June, her score was a 1460/1600, with 3 incorrect questions in Math, 2 incorrect in Grammar and 2 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 99th Percentile - not indicative of her practice exams, but on par with how many questions she gets wrong per section. The problem becomes her percentile: to be placed in the 99th Percentile of the SAT Exam, a student would have had to have scored at least a 1560...so why do the numbers not add up? Sonia has always been a dedicated student, striving for success every chance she got. After asking Son** about her tutoring preparation, she described how she would attend SAT lessons three times a week and take practice tests at JM Learning’s testing center. She also mentioned that on her free time she would read books above her grade level to familiarize herself with the complex vocabulary used in the grammar section of the SAT exam and how JM and its tutors helped throughout the entire process to create an effective study plan.

Another student tutored for SAT prep at our educational facility, Mel****, went through a similar shock as Son**. Similarly, to Son*** Mel*** started with a 1070 and quickly rose past a 1300, completing our level 1 program and transitioning into a semi-private. In March 2018, Mel*** scored a 1370/1600 with 9 incorrect questions in Math, 4 incorrect in Grammar, 13 incorrect in Reading: placing her in the 96th Percentile. In May, however, she scored a 1400/1600 with 5 incorrect in Math, 8 incorrect in Grammar, 12 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 97th Percentile. Lastly, in June 2018, Melanie received a 1340/1600 with 4 incorrect in Math, 6 incorrect in Grammar, 9 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 94th Percentile. Again, do these calculations make sense? Mel*** described the private lessons she had with one of our SAT tutors/CEO, Jonathan Milman, and how even when she couldn’t make it to the tutoring facility, Jon would send her work to do at home, checking up on her regularly and even answering questions outside of her lesson plan (our tutors are very dedicated because we believe that the students results are indicative of the tutors’ results). Mel*** would practice every single night, spending 45 minutes on Reading, 45 minutes on Grammar and 1 hour on Math. She explained how after attending her first crash course at JM Learning Prep, she went over all the types of Math questions that could possibly be seen on the SAT until she knew each and every question.

This downward curve affected some students more deeply than others. A dedicated JM Learning student, Dan***, started attending tutoring lessons in February of 2016. His first ever diagnostic exam score was a 1040, however his most recent one was a 1500. Amazing right? Dan*** explained how he would study an SAT packet a day, even spend around 8 hours practicing and reviewing in our tutoring facility. He attended SAT private lessons twice a week for 4 months. Looking back at his actual exam scores, in April 2018 Dan*** scored a 1290/1600 with 12 incorrect questions in Math, 12 incorrect in Grammar, 7 incorrect in Reading: placing him in the 90th Percentile. Now in June 2018, he only scored a 1370/1600 with 3 incorrect questions in Math, 8 incorrect in Grammar, 3 incorrect in Reading: placing him in the 96th Percentile. After all the time and effort that he put into preparing for this exam, he felt as though he was scored unfairly. This bump in the road did not slow him down though; Dan*** is back at JM Learning Prep, preparing for the next SAT exam.
The number one suggestion that we urge our students to follow is to not be hard on yourself. Moving forward, there are a few steps that can be taken to recover from the blow that was the June SAT: pay $50 to hand score your exam or retake the exam in August, October, November or December (most schools accept scores until December). As stated earlier, a lot of Universities and Colleges are looking at percentiles instead of scores from such downward curves. Hold on to this positivity.

Unfortunately, the dedication that Son**, Mel*** and Dan*** express toward their education is not something that the SAT exam measure, but it is also something that cannot be taken away from them. These three students, alongside even more JM Learning students know that they did not deserve the scores that they received in June, however they are still planning on taking the exam again. We encourage all students to maintain this type of forthrightness. Regardless of the circumstances, no student should feel as a failure. A bit of tenacity mixed with the right SAT preparation will prevail and despite the circumstance, overcoming difficulties is always the best lesson learned.

WHow to determine if your child needs tutoring

“How to Determine if Your Child Needs Tutoring”

How to determine if your child needs tutoring

Posted By: Jonathan Milman on July 18th, 2018


Most parents are conflicted with the decision of whether they should send their child to receive some extra academic help. If you’re a parent, here are some questions that you should be asking yourself…


  1. Does your child struggle in school?
    1. While some parents believe that a struggle in a particular class or school in general is an automatic indicator of the necessity of a tutor, a private instructor or “extra help” can make the child feel inadequate. Therefore, it’s important to understand why the child is struggling. We will point out some specific factors that go into a child’s struggle with academics
  1. Too challenging – Often times because the teacher is forced to cover a large amount of material throughout the year, there is not enough time to focus on enough practice for a subject or for the teacher to explain at the speed that some students need. In this case we highly recommend obtaining a professional that can break down the material well enough for the student to have a thorough understanding of the material and enough practice to truly perfect the topics covered.
  2. Not challenging enough – Some students feel disinterested in the material, feeling as though the material is not stimulating thus causing poor results on exams and homework assignments. In this case, we recommend going to the child’s school and asking if the school can provide more intensive classes to stimulate the child. If switching classes/programs is not a viable option, we provide a variety of workshops to motivate the student and teach them well beyond their current grade level. It will allow them not only to obtain interest and obtain great confidence in the subject, but hone in on his/her strengths.
  • Lack of motivation or “Laziness” – While many parents believe that brute force and punishment is the immediate answer to Laziness, often there is a more specific underlying issue. Often times it has to do with friends. Thus, Environment is so crucial to the learning process and an integral part of academic success. If the child is surrounded by highly motivated individuals, then the child will adapt and thus become someone who is highly motivated and push themselves forward to achieving any goal necessary. Laziness or a lack of motivation is not something that can be fixed by hiring a tutor because those same habits will simply apply toward the tutoring session, thus wasting time and money. We suggest sitting down with the student and understanding where the lack of motivation comes from and how it can be fixed.
  1. Organization and Time Management – With so many different classes and assignments, one of the most crucial concepts for a student to master is how not to procrastinate. Students need a highly regimented schedule and a thorough understanding of time management in order to succeed. Students can complain about their excessive homework, but teachers are very good at assigning just enough homework to make the class effective while not forcing the student to spend all of his/her time on one subject. Thus, it is important to complete homework in an efficient manner, spending 2-3 hours maximum per night. All of our programs and tutors spend time organizing a study plan for the student to succeed and manage with all of his/her studies.


  1. Are there specific exams that need to be prepared for?
    1. There are a variety of exams at various ages that students need to do well on. These are called “Benchmarks” and indicate the student’s overall progress throughout the year. The best way to determine whether or not your child needs tutoring for these specific exams is to evaluate the child by doing a mock exam. If the child scored well enough, then there is nothing to worry about. If not, then we would recommend signing up for one of our programs. It’s important to be pre-emptive here and not wait until the last minute.


  1. Do you simply want to your child to get ahead?
    1. Although the obvious answer for most parents is yes, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your child first before signing up for various courses and programs. Some children need a nudge, some are very willing, and others will just be resentful toward forceful enrollment. We suggest having a conversation with the child and explain the benefits so that he/she could arrive to a reasonable conclusion, thus eliminating any sense of strife. The child has to want to be in the class or there will simply not be a benefit to the process.


“The SHSAT Exam and the Proposed Changes to the Application Process for NYC Specialized High Schools”

The SHSAT Exam and the Proposed Changes to the Application Process for NYC Specialized High Schools

Posted by JM Learning Prep on July 9th, 2018

If you're confused about all the discussion around the SHSAT Exam and the proposed changes to the application process, please read the following article below. Comments are welcome.

Controversy surrounding the potential changes to the SHSAT has NY Public Schools and parents of middle-schoolers consumed with anxiety and worry. The SHSAT exam has been consistent for the past decade, until Mayor De Blasio proposed to change the way students are accepted into New York City’s elite Specialized High Schools. De Blasio explained how these Specialized High Schools need to be more diverse with their student population, so students of different ethnicities have an equal chance of acceptance. This change would eliminate the SHSAT exam and implement the acceptance of only the top students from every public middle school. For those of you unfamiliar with Specialized High Schools and the intensity of the SHSAT exam, an article written in the NY Times explains, “New York City has nine specialized high schools, which offer a more rigorous curriculum than most other public high schools in the city. The schools are intended to serve the needs of students who excel academically and artistically, according to the Department of Education. The schools are:

  • Bronx High School of Science
    • The Brooklyn Latin School
    • Brooklyn Technical High School
    • High School of American Studies at Lehman College, in the Bronx
    • High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, in Manhattan
    • Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
    • Staten Island Technical High School
    • Stuyvesant High School, in Manhattan

The ninth school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, on the Upper West Side, uses student auditions and academic records, not SHSAT scores, to determine admissions.” In order, to get offered a seat to one of eight elite Specialized High Schools, the student needs to receive a minimum score out of 800 on the SHSAT exam, which is known as the cutoff score. Such scores vary each year for every school and are never officially released to the public. However, based on information from past students and parents, the cutoff scores for the last 5 years for Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and State Island Tech were...

Stuyvesant: 562(2013), 559(2014), 556(2015), 552(2016), 555(2017)
Brooklyn Tech: 483(2013), 486(2014), 483(2015), 482(2016), 486(2017)
Staten Island Tech: 503(2013), 506(2014), 508(2015), 508(2016), 515(2017)

To give a further background on the SHSAT Exam, there is an ELA (English Language Arts) section and a Mathematics section. Each section is made up of 57 questions. Changes to the ELA portion of the exam have been implemented this year to test students more on what they learn in school. The Revising/Editing section of the ELA portion will have 9 to 11 questions instead of 20 and the Reading Comprehension section will have 46 to 48 questions instead of 37. According to an update released by the NYC Department of Education, “...in past years, all reading comprehension texts were informational texts. The Fall 2018 test will include the following: 3 to 4 informational texts that may include any of the subgenres students should have experience with in middle school; some of these texts may contain supporting visual and/or quantitative graphics, 1 to 2 literary prose texts, which may include any of the subgenres students should have experience with in middle school, and 1 poem. Each text will have 6 to 10 questions associated with it.” One of de Blasio’s proposed changes is to eliminate the SHSAT exam entirely from the admissions process for Fall 2019. If this change is approved by the Legislature, then students will be accepted strictly from their middle school class rank and their statewide standardized test scores.
The second proposed change would have the city, “set aside 20 percent of seats for low-income students who score just below the lowest cutoff score. Those students would need to complete a summer session called the Discovery program, created in 1972 to give disadvantaged students who were not offered a seat at a specialized high school a chance to earn a spot.” In theory, these changes do not sound too catastrophic. The intention behind this proposal is not meant to be malicious, it is to simply stress that every child deserves a fair chance to succeed in the academic world.
As described earlier, this exam tests the student’s ability to think comprehensively, both linguistically and mathematically. JM Learning Prep offers an SHSAT course that can be taught in a one-on-one “private” setting, a small group setting with two to four people, or a class setting, depending on your preference. Our learning center consistently follows the news for updates related to NYC Education, which allows us to customize our programs accordingly. When there is a change or a proposed change, we make sure to inform our clients about it and then implement it into our courses. At JM Learning Prep, we believe that you can only make the right decision when you have the right information, and we are here to help.


Work Cited


  1. “How Would Mayor De Blasio's SHSAT Plan Affect Your Middle School?” NY Daily News, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 25 June 2018, interactive.nydailynews.com/…/nyc-middle-school-shsat-data…/
  2. Blint-welsh, Tyler. “What Is the SHSAT Exam? And Why Does It Matter?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/…/what-is-the-shsat-exam-and-why-does-it-ma….
  3. Lee, Christopher. “The Battle Over Elite High Schools.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/…/op…/specialized-high-schools-new-york.html.