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A Guide To Winter Break For Parents and Students


Winter Break is here! Are you spending your time wisely?Winter Break has the allure late mornings and cozy afternoons spent indoors, away from the cold and the rigors of 11th and 12th grade. The reality is that even though it’s technically “break,” there are plenty of things parents and students can be doing to finish high school strong and plan ahead for college.

Below are some suggestions to help you and your family to get started on some of the aspects of testing and college prep that tend to sneak up on families until it’s almost or really too late. Take advantage of the time you have away from school to address some of the finer details in continuing your education.

For Students:

  1. Research Summer Programs: Now is the time to start planning for the summer. It may seem so far away- the warmth of the sun and the joy of finishing the spring semester still several months away; a bunch of tests, homework assignments and social events stand in the way. However, May will be here before you know it, and if you don’t make plans now to attend a summer program, you may lose a valuable opportunity to gain new experiences and connect with others that have similar interests, not to mention strengthen your college application.
  2. Prep for the ACT or SAT: If you plan on taking the SAT on Jan. 25th, you only have a couple days left to register, and only about a month to prepare. In the new year, the next ACT test date is February 8th. With the ACT being as widely accepted as the SAT nowadays, this gives you time to prepare for the four content areas with some planning ahead. There are tons of great resources out there to prep for the test, and if you learn best when you have some one on one time with an expert, give us a call. We will organize a test prep schedule around your needs, and concentrate on the areas where you need the most support. As always, taking an ACT or SAT practice test is free at Omniac, for everyone.
  3. Read Ahead: Even though you’re on break and taking it easy, reading ahead can prove to be the smartest way to be prepared. Establishing good study habits now will pay off later because there will be breaks during your college career where you find yourself very busy with schoolwork, even though you’re supposed to be relaxing. Keeping up with your schoolwork includes getting ahead as much as possible- not only will you be more prepared in class, but it can be especially helpful to compensate for time you may have to take off during the spring semester. At the beginning of break (that’s like, right now), make a list of the most important topics to focus on, and spend an hour each day reading ahead, taking some notes, and preparing for upcoming lectures by writing down your questions. Of course, complete any assigned homework early on in break. Ask your friends to meet together for a study group. By the end of break, everyone might be bored enough to review some Algebra and study for the next test.


For Parents:

  1. Discuss Financials: Generally speaking, kids become more and more aware of family finances the more they have to ask for money for prom, letterman jackets, and college applications. When it comes to test fees and college application costs, do your research and set clear expectations with your child. Review test registration deadlines and late fees, and discuss what kind of budget you have (if any) for college application fees. Be honest. Discuss how he or she can also contribute. If your child doesn’t have a bank account, obtain a Visa card from your bank that you can reload as necessary. Issued by major credit card companies through banks and credit unions, these cards are easy to replenish, and will help in situations where your high schooler is completing these transactions at school or with their Omniac counselor.
  2. Set Calendars: Calendar technology has evolved remarkably. Nowadays, people can share calendars and synchronize important dates, events, and deadlines. Soothe the chaos of an active high schooler’s daily schedule by taking some time over Winter Break to get on the same calendar page. Discuss class, activity, and school-wide events like graduation. Note test dates, and set reminders for the days prior to check in with your child and make sure they’re on track. While students these days have many resources to help them stay organized, there is nothing like a few well-timed check-ins from mom or dad that can help not only organize, but stay inspired to keep working hard.
  3. Stay Involved: Mitigating the taste for freedom that teenagers get right before they graduate is probably one of the most difficult challenges for parents and teachers. Controlling the irrepressible energy of young people moving onward and upward, and channeling their excitement (or dread), can create a lot of friction and pressure between generations. Each family manages independence differently, but staying involved remains one of the biggest ways in which we can help our kids. Follow up with them after important assignments, enforce an early bedtime on test nights. While kids are eager to take on more responsibility and explore their independence, it’s easy to become overwhelmed after taking on too much. Be ready to step in and provide perspective and advice, even when it’s not directly solicited. Even behind a sour attitude, children do listen to what they are being told, and, when no one is looking, they apply the knowledge they gleaned from you. Stay strong, parents!

Winter Break is a great time to recharge your batteries, spend time with family and friends, and eat all the treats you want. It’s also a great time, as a Junior, to start your college search, conduct summer programs research, and get inspired about what your hard work will help you achieve. As a Senior, Winter Break is the long last break you will have before college and scholarship applications are due, along with transcripts and letters of recommendation. Graduation is only a few months away, and staying organized will help you focus on maintaining strong grades.

Set time aside now to organize your calendar and check in with your parents. Share with each other what your plans and expectations are, and if you find yourself coming up against questions you don’t know the answer to, you can always give us a call.

We hope you’ve had a great holiday and are looking forward to a relaxing time with your family before the hustle and bustle of the spring semester starts.

5 Smartphone Apps to Help You Through College Admissions


Use apps to stay organized through the collge admissions process. Call Omniac to schedule a consultation.Inevitably, the smart phone has become part of our daily experience. We’ve invented a little device that allows us to connect and communicate with each other and the world at large. It may run on Android, iOS, or Windows. It takes pictures, plays music, and from time to time, allows us to chat with each other. It fits in one’s hand, and while we dreamed it up decades ago, only now are some experiencing life with a tiny computer in our pockets.

There is no consensus among parents on what’s the best age for kids to have a cell phone. Like a majority of parenting decisions, getting a smartphone depends on a family’s budget and considerations like transportation to and from after-school activities and the overall independence level of the kid (are you responsible to handle an expensive device and help pay for the bill?). As smartphone use spreads, the devices are penetrating communities where there are no other ways of accessing online content. In some places in the U.S. and many around the world, the mobile phone as it exists now is a teen’s main source of access to the internet. Learning how to use a smartphone is good practice for the tech-oriented learning and working environments of the current era.

In case you are one of the smart phone users in the U.S. and around the world, be sure to maximize it as a tool to keep you organized and timely. After all, what’s a computer good for if not to keep track of the time?

Below are 5 Android smartphone apps that will help you stay organized through the school year, especially as you manage the college application process:

Google tools: Calendar, Drive, Gmail




Okay, maybe I’m cheating a little by putting three apps in the first category, but these three work really well together, and are a great way to practice keeping a calendar and corresponding via email. While it’s true that 39% of students don’t use email, there’s no good excuse to be part of that statistic. Email is a regular part of college and work life. Respond promptly, and always follow up via email after a meeting. Enter all important dates, deadlines, meetings, and appointments into your calendar and set reminders for yourself. Keep all your documents handy on your Google Drive so you can access them from any computer. You never know when having a copy of your resume handy will land you a new connection or even a new job. Keeping your college application essays on your Google Drive means that you can work on them from anywhere, at any time.

Alarm Clock Plus

From timing a home practice ACT test to waking up on the morning of the real thing, alarms are a handy use of a smartphone. Alarm Clock Plus is a neat app that allows you to set multiple alarms, and different types of alarms. Use it to remind yourself of tasks throughout the day. You can even set up a special alarm for a nap when you’re totally exhausted.

Color Note

I love Color Note because it’s so easy to use. It keeps my to-do and grocery lists organized, and I can further categorize my notes by color. It has lots of functionality, and can come in really handy to take notes on the fly. Use Color Note to capture ideas and thoughts that might otherwise slip away when you’re inspired away from the computer. – Offline’s new offline feature means that you now have thousands of words at your fingertips, even when you’re not connected to the internet. I’ve been using the website for years. It’s the best way to search for definitions because it pulls from all major dictionaries, offering you a number of relevant definitions. There are also interesting entries on phrases, grammar, and other writing-related subjects. Stay on top of your vocabulary by checking out the Word Of The Day in the app.

Toshl Finance Budget & Expense

Last but not least we have a money management app because learning how to spend your dollars correctly is key to maximizing your funds and taking care of yourself in the best way possible. The look of the app is fun, with an interesting-looking mascot that walks you through the initial set-up. This app asks you to enter your expenses at a certain time each day. Input is very easy, and you can set up recurring bills, label each entry, and create some self-awareness on where your dollars go. Studies show that as we become more aware of how we’re spending money, we make smarter spending decisions overall.

Omniac Tip: Set Up Your 529 Plan for College Now!


college consulting tip 529 plan students resized 600As every family knows, the cost of a college education is rising. (Photo credit: pixculture via Flickr)

In case you missed it, yesterday (May 29, 2013) was National 529 College Savings Day, with events taking place across the country. But what is a 529...? Read on to find out.

Families are well aware of the increasing costs of college tuition. With each passing year, there seems to be a hike in the overall cost of higher education. For this reason, it's imperative that familes use wise financial planning. This can entail putting aside funds in a specific educational account, such as a 529 Plan, which offers tax benefits. However, not only are most American families not doing this; most American families don't even know about the 529 Plan! This fact was highlighted in a recent survey from Edward Jones.

The 529 Plan takes its name from Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which instituted this form of savings plan in 1996. Educational institutions or the state operate these plans, as a way to assist American families in putting aside money for college. Specific tax benefits  have been set in place by federal law in order to encourage families to allocate funds into the accounts.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, people just are aware that these accounts exist. The Edward Jones survey that was done earlier in 2013 indicates a 6% drop in families' awareness of 529 Plans. This follows a similar dip last year, where awareness had fallen by 11%. The biggest drop was among young people ages 18 - 34. Awareness also varied by geographical area, with people in the Northeast being more aware of 529 Plans than people in the South and the West of the US. Income was also a factor, with awareness higher among the wealthy, and faltering in low-income populations.

According to research from the Government Accountability Office in 2012, only a scant 3% of families in the U.S. make use of 529 Plans or other savings accounts for college, e.g. the Coverdell Education Savings Account. What's more, another recent survey, from Sallie Mae, showed that far fewer people are putting any money aside for college at all, with a huge drop in just the past two years. In 2010, 60% of parents set aside some college funds for their children under age 18, whereas this number had dropped to 50% in 2012.

The College Savings Plans Network is a non-profit organization that is committed to raising awareness of 529 Plans on a national level, along with the National Association of State Treasurers. For National 529 College Savings Day, various events were hosted across the U.S. to help families discover the options available to them. 

Almost all 50 states have instituted a 529 Plan; however, families may also choose to invest in a different state; this is true even if their child does not plan to go to college in that particular state. For instance, if a family lives in Arizona, but wishes to make use of New Mexico's sponsored 529 Plan, they are free to do so. The child does not need to attend college in New Mexico to take advantage of the 529 Plan there.

Why would parents want to use a plan that is out-of-state? The reason is that plans differ slightly  from state to state. Families can view states by ranking at to see how their home state compares. As of March 2013, the top college savings plans can be found in South Dakota, California and Michigan. The College Savings Plan Network also offers a very useful breakdown of plans for parents and students. To find out more about New Mexico's 529 Plan, click here

Why wait any longer? With 529 Plans that offer increasingly better features and the cost of higher education on the rise, families with children under the age of 18 are advised to start investing in a college savings plan today. 

For more information on college consulting questions, please contact Omniac Education's consulting team. You can reach us at (505) 750 4813 or by emailing

College Consultant Tip: Make the Summer Count


tutor college consultant albuquerque summer school resized 600Don't mess around this summer...use your time productively to build college skills! (Photo credit: Univers beeldbank via Flickr)

Summer is just around the are you spending yours? If you are a junior or sophomore in high school, this summer is a crucial opportunity for you. As tempting as it may be to kick back, relax, and soak up the sun, the summer months actually play a vital role in setting you up for the coming school year. Engaging in meaningful activities during this time can help you create a fabulous college application, write a stunning college application essay, and gain valuable skills that will carry you through your college career and a lifetime!

So, what should you do?  There is a multitude of options. These include:

Volunteer work at a local non-profit organization

Why not spend time making the world a better place? You might consider doing volunteer work at the following types of organizations:

-- animal shelter

-- community center

-- program for at-risk youth

-- programs for the homeless

Volunteer work gives you the opportunity to experience life outside of your comfort zone. You'll learn a tremendous amount, build new skills, and come away with some amazing memories that can lend an extra layer to your college essay and application.

Summer internships

A summer internship at a local business will allow you to get a taste of the job world. You'll have a chance to see how a business runs, and practice an applicable skills set. This is also an excellent way to try out a career field, with little pressure. If you're thinking of going into law, try to get an internship in a law firm. If you're considering business school, find a successful small business. Choose a business that you like, and call them up to offer your services! Most business owners and managers will jump on the chance to get a little bit of free labor. Everyone wins! Check out these internship opportunities at UNM, or these paid intern positions at Smarter Schooling.

Work at a summer camp

Remember how much you enjoyed summer camp as a kid? Remember how much influence your camp counselor had on you? Well, now YOU can be the role model to younger kids. Being a camp counselor provides opportunities to use leadership and managerial skills, as well as foster good relationships. If you are enjoy the atmosphere of summer camp, this is a good way to spend a few weeks of the summer. Counseling isn't the only option, could land a job as a trail guide, sports coordinator, or cook! Check out My Summer Camps to find camps around New Mexico. 

Omniac Summer Academy

Looking for a way to really challenge yourself acacemically, and build skills in the career field of your choice? Omniac's "Taste of College: Summer Academy" may be the ideal way to spend part of your summer vacation.

Omniac Education's innovative summer school programs are one-of-a-kind, and focus on building essential academic skills in preparation for college.

What are the summer programs?

Students can select one or more of the following tracks:

  • Pre-Law
  • Pre-Business
  • Pre-Medicine
  • Pre-Engineering
Who should take the programs?
The programs are designed for high school students, including freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. These programs will benefit students who are focused, driven, and want to achieve success in college.
How long are the programs?
Each program will be 32 hours, over a two-week period. (Monday through Thursday, 4 hours a day, for two weeks.)

What will the programs include?
Each program will include the following:
  • Curriculum manual and materials
  • Classroom instruction
  • A hands-on project related to your chosen field
  • Instruction in essential college-level skills, e.g. conducting research, writing papers,  using resources, creating MLA bibliographies, etc. 
  • One-on-one interaction with Omniac tutors and college consultants

 Whether your volunteer at your local Humane Society, work as an intern or camp counselor, or build your set of college skills at Omniac's summer academy, make sure that you make the summer truly count! With only a short time left in your high school career, each decision that you make from here on out can have an effect on your future. Make the right choice for you!

For more information on summera activities for high school students or for Omniac's summer academy, call our expert team of tutors and college consultants at (505) 750 4813 or email


ACT Tutor's Tip: How To Manage Test Anxiety



ACT tips Albuquerque tutor resized 600 By targeting easier problems on the ACT, students can slow down and buy some time. (Photo credit: Wong Tong via Flickr)

Many students will be taking the April ACT this Saturday, April 13. For some teenagers, this is a nerve-wracking experience. In fact, at Omniac Education, our team of test-prep tutors often gets asked about test anxiety.

So, how can students overcome their nerves in order to be successful? 

A large number of students have the academic ability to perform very well on the ACT, but their performance is sabotaged by crippling anxiety and "blank-out" syndrome.

With that in mind, we've compiled some tips for test-taking day that can help students to relax and boost performance. 

1. Slow down, and take your time.

As anyone who has taken our test-prep class knows, our ACT tutors encourage students to use a personalized timing schedule for the ACT. Depending on what ACT score you aim to achieve, it may be in your best interest to focus solely on certain problems (the easy to medium difficulty questions) and simply guess on the harder questions. This will allow you to take more time on those easy questions, resulting in less stress, and a better score. Guessing on the more difficult questions is unlikely to affect your score negatively, providing that you take your time and answer a majority of the easier questions correctly. Omniac Education has developed a great timing schedule for the ACT; call us to find out more! Also, don't forget to bring a watch on test day; there may not have a clock in the testing room, and keeping track of the time is essential!

2. Don't be tired, hungry or uncomfortable.

It may seem obvious, but it's amazing how often students forget some of the basics on test day. If you are combating test anxiety, make doubly sure that your basic needs are met. Make sure that you get a good night's sleep on the night before the test; in fact, make sure that you are rested for the entire week before the test.  Bring a snack (piece of fruit, granola bar, sandwich) to eat during the break. Dress in layers, so that if the test environment is too hot or too cold, you can adjust accordingly. Paying attention to the small things can make a big difference to your comfort level while taking the test.

3. Get physical!

It has been shown that by being physically active, you can improve brain function. So how can you do that? You don't necessarily have to get up at 6am on the day of the test and go for a jog (although if you want it!). Just taking 15-20 minutes to briskly walk around the building or do some stretches will help get your brain and body moving. 

4. Get mental!

It may sound cliche, but positive thinking is probably the most vital part of overcoming test anxiety. If you believe that you will do badly on the test, then you probably will! Getting around this problem is easier said than done, though. One thing that our tutors tell our students is that it is helpful to remember that you can take the ACT multiple times, in order to get the score you want. In other words: try to think of this test as just another practice test. While you might have the impulse to think of this test as being the key to your entire future, let us clarify: IT ISN'T. You will have another chance..and another...and another. 

5. Practice makes perfect.

Another part of getting "mental" is practice. Practice, practice, practice! In our ACT classes, we provide all of our students with the "Real" ACT guide. In that book alone, there are five complete practice tests, and we highly encourage students to do all of them, prior to the actual test. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll be. If you are short on time and there are some sections with which you struggle (e.g. math or science), then spend more there. Also, don't forget to practice the timing! Use a stopwatch and time yourself in the same way you would on the actual test day.

At Omniac education, we realize that test-taking can be tough and produce a lot of anxiety. However, we encourage all students to use some of the techniques outlined above, take a deep breath, and do their best. Good luck!


Questions about the ACT? Need more ACT tutor tips? Call us at (505) 203 4908 or email 

College Applications: 3 Things Low-income Families Need to Know


college application tips college consulting resized 600Many students are unaware of how many college options are available to them. (Photo credit: Mer Chau via Flickr)

A recent article on commented on the way in which low-income students often miss the chance to attend America's most selective schools.

As the article suggests (and we recommend that you check it out) the answer is surprising for many people. Contrary to popular belief, it's not that low-income students can't afford to go to top-tier schools; actually, there is a wealth of scholarships available that make these institutions extremely affordable to struggling families, providing that the grades and test-scores are high. 

In fact, as demonstrated in this research paper, which outlines the average cost of college for low-income students, tuition at an extremely selective school, such as Harvard or Yale, is often lower than tuition at a state university, providing that a student has good scholarship support. The main reason that poorer students don't attend top schools more frequently is that they are simply unaware of the process. Students and parents don't know the significance of ACT scores, or the framework of the college application process, where the college essay fits in, "reach" schoools vs. "target" schools, etc. 

Perhaps, as an Albuquerque parent or student, you find yourself in this situation. The information out there certainly can be overwhelming: a Google search for "college application advice" turns up no fewer than 97 million results! Some families rely on college and careers counselors to guide them through, but sadly, this reliance is not always justified. 

So, in a nutshell, what is it that "low-income" parents and students need to know that they're not being told?

1. Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships!

The American education system is ridiculously expensive. However, a huge and expansive network of scholarships exists that can make college much more affordable. Unfortunately, families rarely take the time to investigate and discover the financial aid that is available to them.

The most common types of scholarships include:

  • Academic and academic merit
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Community service
  • Disability
  • Sports
However, there are hundreds and thousands of less common scholarships out there, including some that are pretty unusual. Here are just a few of the weird ones:
Obviously, these unusual scholarships will not necessarily be suitable for everyone, and Omniac Education does not endorse any particular scholarship. The point is that there really is something out there for each and every family; we hope that students will do a little bit of investigative research and find the right fit for them. Check out Scholarship Experts, or Zen College Life for more information on scholarships available. 

2. Your ACT score is a golden ticket.

Working here in Albuquerque, our tutors and college consultants often see smart low-income kids who have great ACT scores. Yet many of these same students opt to attend state or community college, without taking a closer look at the many options that are available to them. 
Understanding ACT scores can be an important part of knowing which colleges you can attend, and what scholarship help might be available to you.
So what is the breakdown, in terms of scoring?
  • ACT score of 24: Academic scholarships start here.
  • ACT score of 27: A large number of scholarships become available, including some full-ride scholarships.
  • ACT score of 30+: Scholarships, including many full-ride packages, at a huge number of institutions, including top-tier colleges. 
  • ACT score of 32+: Full ride scholarships at almost any institution of your choice. 
IMPORTANT: The ACT scores listed above need to correspond with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and 4.0 in many cases. As we've written before, GPA does matter. It matters a lot. However, if your grades are high but your ACT score is low, for whatever reason, you'll have a much more limited range of colleges that you can attend. 

3. You have a wealth of options.

We have found that many lower-income students simply don't realize how many incredible choices are out there for them. Many choose to stay in-state and attend a low-tier college because they don't full grasp the amazing benefits of many other universities around the country. They may also feel uneasy branching out of their comfort zone. Our team of college consultants advises that students reach out to those around them who can steer them in the right direction. College counselors are a good first stop, but sadly, many counselors are overworked, underpaid, and aren't able to give students the one-on-one attention that they need. Students and parents should take it on themslves to do some online research, and also to reach out to others in their lives who can give support: family members, teachers, clergy, or other mentors.
At Omniac Education, we are always willing to chat to students and give some starting tips of where to look in the college search. We can also clarify questions that families might have regarding GPA, ACT, in-state vs. out-of-state, etc. For more information on the college application process, call us at (505) 750 4813 or email

College Consulting: 5 Reasons Why You Need It


college consultant why you need one resized 600A college consultant can guide students safely through the college application process. (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)

It's officially spring, everyone! With the warm weather come thoughts of summer...and before you know it, fall will be here, along with the college application process. Whether you are the parent of a college-age student or a college-bound student yourself, spring is the perfect time to start thinking and talking in depth about those college options.

Many families opt to pursue the college application process on their own. However, not everyone is aware of the importance of following a particular timeline and procedure in terms of selecting the right college for an individual student. Believe it or not, there IS a correct way to approach this often-daunting task. 

So what should you do? At Omniac Education, we are strong proponents of using college consultants. A college consultant is a person who is professionally trained to guide students through the college process, from the initial school list to the final all-important college essay.

Hiring a consultant can definitely be an investment. So why should you do it? Here are five good reasons:

Reason #1: Find the perfect fit

Every student is different, and has unique needs and preferences in terms of higher education. Although choosing schools from a list of thousands can be overwhelming, some schools will simply be a better fit than others. A college consultant's job is to sift through the many options and narrow them down to a list that fits YOU. 

Reason #2: Get it right the first time

Imagine trying to navigate through all the confusion of the college application process, only to realize that you've botched the essay, missed a deadline, or simply chose the wrong school for your tastes and needs. Unfortunately, many students and families find themselves in this situation. Making a major error in the process may mean that you have to redo applications unnecessarily, costing you precious time and money! College consultants are able to guide you through the process step-by-step, ensuring that nothing is missed along the way.

Reason #3: Keep a competitive edge

With students in constant competition for coveted spots at top-tier universities, families may struggle to find the edge needed to secure a place. Students need to have a truly outstanding application, with a superb essay, and not a line out of place. This need for near-perfection is a source of anxiety for many families, but with their level of expertise, college consultants are a great way to ensure that you or your child really has that extra bit of "oomph". 

Reason #4: Lower your stress levels

Let's face it: the whole college application process is just plain stressful. But it doesn't need to be! What could be better than turning the whole thing over to someone who truly understands the ins and outs and can instruct you throughout each step? Using the skills of a college consultant takes the pressure off and allows students and parents to really enjoy the last year or so of high school. Let your consultant do the heavy lifting!

Reason #5: Save big bucks!

Although hiring a college consultant may seem like a big expense in the short-term, it can actually save you a massive amount of money in the long term. Why? Because consultants know exactly how to save you money through scholarships, grants, and identifying the best schools in terms of financial options. Omniac college consultants are well-versed in finding the ideal financial fit for each student, making the intial investment well worth it. 

If these five reasons haven't got you fully convinced, then give us a call to discuss more of what an Omniac college consultant can do for you. You can reach us at (505) 203 4908 or email

Albuquerque Tutor's Tip: NMSBA -- Cracking the Questions


albuquerque tutor tip NMSBA question advantages resized 600

The NMSBA is a challenge for some students. Don't hesitate to ask for help! (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)

Our intrepid blog readers will remember that last week, we looked at the different question types that can be found in the NMSBA (New Mexico Standard Based Assessment). 

As mentioned previously, the three NMSBA question types are:

1. Multiple Choice (85 questions per test)

2. Short Answer (13 questions per test)

3. Open-Ended (8 questions per test)

So let's take a closer look at each of the question types and the benefits/drawbacks of each.

Multiple Choice

There are four primary advantages to the multiple choice questions. 

Advantage One: Group Key Words and Phrases

Because these question offer only four answer choices, students are able to hone in on key words or phrases that give clues as to how to answer the question. This allows a greater degree of focus; students know that one of the four choices much be correct!

Advantage Two: Process of Elimination (POE)

Our team of tutors cannot stress the importance of POE enough. Process of elimination increases the chance of selecting the correct answer dramatically! By getting rid of one or more bad answer choices, a student is far more likely to guess the right answer, if guessing becomes necessary. Which leads us to our next advantage...

Advantage Three: You Can Guess!

Unlike other standardized tests, such as the SAT,  students are not penalized for guessing incorrectly on the NMSBA. This is great news for test-takers! By using POE, as outlined above, students can vastly improve their chances of scoring one point per MC question.

Advantage Four: Just Relax!

One thing that separates the NMSBA from other tests is the amount of time that is allotted to students to complete the test. This is a very, very, very long test! As mentioned in a previous post, the complete test is over six hours long. This means that students do NOT have to rush it. Omniac tutors recommend that stuents relax, focus, and spend more time on difficult questions. 

Short Answer Questions

Short answer questions ask that students generate their own answers, rather than choosing from a list. It is very important to note that students should NEVER LEAVE A SHORT ANSWER BLANK! Even if a student's answer is incomplete or imperfect, it may be possible to earn one out of the two possible points.

For math short answer questions, students should always show work, draw, and label where possible. 

For reading short answer questions, students should be very careful with grammar and spelling. Making careless errors here can cost you a point. Also, write in full sentences. No sentence fragments!

Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions require the most amount of focus from students; they also have the most time allotted (10 minutes per open-ended question). Just as with the short answer questions, students must:

  • Be careful with spelling and grammar.
  • NEVER leave the question completely blank.
  • Write in complete sentences.
  • Use details from the question/passage to support their written answer.
In addition, students should remember that it is not necessary to get all four available points for open-ended questions. Even one or two points will help students achieve proficiency, which is the primary purpose of the NMSBA.
At Omniac Education, our tutors and college consultants strive to help students achieve their academic goals. We have helped many students be successful with the NMSBA, as well as other standardized tests. If you, or your child, is struggling with the skills needed for the NMSBA, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling (505) 203 4908 or emailing


Albuquerque Tutor's Tip: NMSBA -- Question Types


albuquerque tutor tip NMSBA question types resized 600With a little practice and guidance, students can ace the NMSBA. (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)

In last week's post, we looked at some basic facts about the NMSBA (New Mexico Standards Based Assessment). This week, it's time to dig a little deeper and examine some more details of the test structure. This post outlines the different question types on the NMSBA, the timing of these questions, and how each question type is scored. 

NMSBA Question Types

In all three sections of the NMSBA, students will find three distinct styles of question. They are as follows:

1. Multiple Choice

As with all standardized tests, the NMSBA has a massive number of multiple choice questions. In fact, there are 85 multiple choice questions in total. All MC questions have four answer choices: A, B, C, and D. In terms of test timing, students have approximately one minute in which to answer each multiple choice question. This may seem like a short time, but compared to other tests (such as the ACT), this is actually a very generous amount of time. In terms of how they contribute to the overall score, each MC question is worth exactly one point. 

Multiple choice breakdown:

  • 85 questions
  • 4 answer choices
  • 1 minute per question
  • Worth 1 point per question


2. Short Answer Questions

Unlike many other tests, the NMSBA actually requires some production-based responses from students. In other words, it's not enough for students to just pencil in a blank circle on an answer sheet; they are actually expected to use their writing skills and reasoning skills on this test.
This occurs in two question types; the first of which is the short answer question. There are thirteen of these on the test, and they are worth up to two points each. Students are required to write 1-4 sentences as a response, and are given three minutes in which to do this. 
Short Answer Breakdown:
  • 13 questions
  • 1 - 4 sentences required
  • 3 minutes per question
  • Worth 0-2 points

3. Open-Ended Questions

The writing doesn't stop there, though. In addition to multiple choice questions and short answer questions, the NMSBA also features Open-Ended questions, which require a longer, more essay-like response (approximately 4-10 sentences, or more). Fortunately for beleaguered students, there are only eight of these questions on the test, they are worth 0-4 points each, and students have roughly 10 minutes in which to complete them.
It is very important to note that these open-ended questions occur on all sections; they are not contained solely within the English section. They pop up in the math section just as frequently. For example, an open-ended question in the math section might ask students to show their work, or to explain their reasoning in answering a particular problem. 
Open-Ended Breakdown:
  • 8 questions
  • 4-10 sentences required
  • 10 minutes per question
  • Worth 0-4 points

Practice, Practice, Practice!

We've now described the three different types of question that can be found on the NMSBA. For students who are used to strictly multiple choice tests, the NMSBA may take some adjustment. Therefore, it's extremely important for students to know what to expect, and to practice the various types of problems in advance. 
Our expert team of tutors at Omniac Education has put together a complete curriculum to help students be successful with the NMSBA. Our blog series will continue to look at various aspects of this important test; however, don't hesitate to contact us if you or your child is struggling and needs some extra help and advice regarding the NMSBA. 
Our next post will cover some more specific tips for tackling and mastering each of the three question types. Don't miss it!
Our dedicated team of experienced tutors is standing by to help New Mexican students succeed academically. Contact us at (505) 750 4813, or email for more information about our tutoring, test-prep and college consulting services. 

Albuquerque Tutor's Tip: NMSBA --The Basics


albuquerque best tutor NMSBA basics resized 600For many students, the NMSBA is the final step before achieving that high school diploma! (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)

NMSBA Basics

As promised, our next series of blog posts will be about the NMSBA, how it works, and how New Mexican students can be successful with this important test. 

First things first!

How is it used?

The NMSBA is used for two purposes. 

1. For graduating seniors to demonstrate that their knowledge is at an appropriate level.

2. To hold schools across the state accountable, in terms of how they deliver the standard core curriculum.

How is it structured?

The NMSBA has three different sections: Reading, Math, and Science. However, it's important to note that the Science section is only taken in a student's junior year. Seniors only take the Math and Reading sections of the test. 

Math and Reading

In addition, only the Reading and Math sections actually count towards a student's overall mark on the NMSBA. The Science section is used more as a gauge of a particular school's overall success; they reflect on the school, but not the student. At Omniac, our test-prep tutors do recommend that students do their best on all threesections; however, it's important to know that the most time and energy should be put into the Math and Reading sections. We will be focusing on these two sections in this post and subsequent posts.

The Breakdown

The breakdown of Math and Reading is as follows:


  • 41 items
  • 160 minutes (just over two and a half hours)


  • 65 items
  • 210 minutes (three and a half hours)

In other words, the Math and Reading sections combined are five and a half hours long! The NMSBA is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. This is why some schools divide the test up over several days or an entire week. Students should be prepared both mentally and physically for the duration of the test. 

How is it scored?

The NMSBA is scored according to level of proficiency. Proficiency is broken down into four different levels:

1. Beginning Step
2. Near Proficiency
3. Proficiency
4. Advanced

In order for students to "pass" the NMSBA and graduate high school, they must demonstrate proficiency. In order to demonstrate proficiency, they must accrue two thirds of the total number of points possible on the NMSBA. Less than two thirds of the points is considered to be below proficiency.

In our next post, we'll dig a little deeper into the scoring system to unpack the way that the scores are calculated, and also talk about how the individual question types are scored.

As always, if you are in need of academic tutoring, test-prep guidance or advice on any other school-related issue, please don't hesitate to contact us at (505) 203 4908 or email for more information. 

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