2018 Smart Alec Scholarship Winner Announced!

2018 Smart Alec Scholarship Winner Announced!

Smart Alec is very pleased to announce the winner of the 2018 Smart Alec Scholarship is Marlon Josiah Nario. As the winner of the 2018 Smart Alec Scholarship, Josiah will receive a $2000 scholarship and $2000 of private tutoring.

The Smart Alec Scholarship asked students to tell us about who inspired them (in any medium), and for his winning entry, Josiah submitted an audio essay J Dilla’s influence on music production and how he has inspired his own pieces.

You can listen to Josiah’s audio essay here.


If you’d like to listen to more of Josiah’s original music, you can visit his SoundCloud page here.

The SAT vs The ACT: Which test is right for you?

The SAT vs The ACT: Which test is right for you?

“Should I take the SAT or the ACT?” It’s a question most college bound high schoolers will ask themselves at some point and for good reason. The tests are now equally accepted at the nation’s top universities and liberal arts colleges, so there’s no real advantage to taking one over the other (generally speaking).

In fact, the only real reason to take the SAT instead of the ACT or vice-versa, is that there’s a good chance that one or the other is a better fit for an individual student’s strengths, weaknesses and test-taking style. So how do you tell whether the SAT or ACT is a better fit for a particular student? Luckily, our test prep experts have designed a short diagnostic quiz that will do just that. 

By answering these 16 simple questions about how they perform in different conditions and their personal preferences, students can get a baseline understanding of which exam is right for them!

It takes less than 5 minutes and can save students months of prep time for the wrong exam. There are no wrong answers, so just be honest– happy quizzing! 

Results will be email to you at the address provided.
Please reach out to us at help@smartalec.com with any questions.

10 things you NEED TO KNOW about the New SAT

10 things you NEED TO KNOW about the New SAT

1. It’s a lot more organized

Instead of randomly serving up Critical Reading, Math and Writing sections, the test is  now more like the ACT, with each subject presented all at once in longer sections.

2. No more obscure vocabulary words

Instead of asking for definitions of seldom used, anachronistic words that only an erudite would know, the SAT has now replaced the vocabulary questions with ACT-style “meaning in context vocab questions.”

3. You’ll be asked to back up your answers

The new reading section includes 2-part GRE-style “evidence” questions, wherein you have to first answer a question about the passage and then pick the line of the passage that contains the evidence for your answer. Tip: make sure you are looking for the evidence for your answer and not the previous question. It’s a tricky business.

4. There’s no standalone writing section

Instead, the writing is folded into the writing-language test (part of the 800 point “evidence-based reading-writing” score).

5. The grammar and writing section is now passage-based.

The new writing-language test resembles the ACT English section to an almost embarrassing extent. This means long passages with questions about underlined portions throughout. It means more punctuation and structure questions.

6. The Math got more wordy

The math is getting more convoluted. They are trying to make the math section more grounded in “real-world problems,” but from what we can tell, this just means adding two sentences to each problem to give the pretext of a physical situation. If you’re going to ask about a function, you don’t have to first give an introduction explaining that the function models the production of fizzy widgets in the Roebuck county. But the new SAT feels differently, so many problems are longer than they need be.

7. And covers more topics

There is basic trigonometry and statistics on the math, which some students don’t learn until senior year (if at all). While the math may not have gotten harder exactly, the broader nature of the section makes it tougher for some.

8. And you can’t use your calculator on part of it…

Yep, that’s right, a no-calculator section has appeared! Mental math is making a come back, so start trying to remember long division sooner than later.

9. The essay is graduate level

The new SAT essay is now document-based and resembles the analyzing-an-argument essay of the GRE, the graduate school exam, and the AP English test. Essentially students are given a passage and have 50 minutes to write an essay that explores how the author of the passage uses literary tools to convey their point, story, intention to the reader.

10. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of the ACT, GRE, Common Core standards and old SAT.

If you need help handling this new monstrosity, check out Khan Academy’s free online resources or find yourself an amazing SAT tutor at Smartalec.com. Then again, you could always just take the ACT like most students last year…

Grammar Goodness: Apostrophes in Contractions

Grammar Goodness: Apostrophes in Contractions

Why do we study grammar?

Some would say it’s to ace the test; some would say it’s so that we can communicate clearly with other human beings!

giphy (2)


So what is a contraction? With a contraction, a phrase is contracted (shortened) into one word, and at least one letter is omitted. The apostrophe stands for the omission.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Do not = Don’t

I do not like Mondays.

do not –>  donot –>   don_t –> don’t

I don’t like Mondays. 

Would have = Would’ve

I would have called you, but I fell asleep.

would have –> wouldhave –> would__ve –> would’ve

I would’ve called you, but I fell asleep. 

They are = They’re

They are on their way over.

they are –> theyare –> they_re –> they’re

They’re on their way over.

There are = There’re

There are a lot of reasons to love ice cream.  

there are –> thereare –> there_re –> there’re

There’re a lot of reasons to love ice cream.  

You are = You’re

You are great at math.

You are –> youare –> you_re –>y ou’re

You’re great at math.

giphy (1)


It is = it’s*

It is a lovely day.

it is –> itis –> it_s –> it’s

It’s a lovely day.

It has = It’s*

it has –> ithas –> it_s –> it’s

It’s been a lovely day.

*Notice that it’s can be a contraction of either it is or it has.

You all = Y’all

You all come back soon!

You all –> youall –> y_all –> y’all

Y’all come back soon!


A Noun + is/will:

The train will be here soon.

Train will –> trainwill –> train__ll –> train’ll

The train’ll be here soon.


The train is stuck. –> The train’s stuck.

That train is so slow. –> That train’s so slow.


I will not take that train again anytime soon.

will not –> won’t

I won’t take that train again anytime soon.

About the author:

Sarah earned a bachelor’s at Harvard and a master’s at Columbia, and she completed CalState’s teacher preparation program. She has taught and tutored for 16 years. You can find and book her for private tutoring in New York City on Smart Alec.