TJ Prep Blog

Dr. Tripathi shares his experience from 24 years of TJ Prep training to over 1400 students. Important aspects of TJ test Prep and admissions to TJHSST (TJ) are discussed.

Is The New TJ Test More Difficult?: All You Want to Know About the New TJ Admission Test

The short answer is yes and no. Since 1986, I have been telling friends and family that if a test is designed by a human, with proper guidance and appropriate due diligence (read “hard work”), anyone can achieve a top score on that test. Depending on a student's knowledge and preparedness, the effort level required may seem excessive, however, the point still remains that any one willing to put in required effort can achieve top scores on any specific test.

For the past 25 years, I have not taught to a specific test. Instead, I have used an overkill approach and aimed to imbibe and strengthen multiple skills and traits in each student who joins my program. For obvious reasons, I will not describe or specify the skills or capabilities, however, I will note that the emphasis on various skills and tasks varies with each student. So in a nutshell, I personally identify what is a student's weak link on multiple parameters and traits, and then guide and encourage the student to rectify the weakest areas using techniques recommended by me.

The success of my approach on the TJ test of 1994-2016 has been demonstrated for over two decades. The 2017 TJ Winter round's results (over 15 students scored above 90th percentile in all three areas of reading, math and science) demonstrated the success my approach on the new test.

An important point to consider is that changing fundamental problem solving skills is at the core pf my approach an techniques. This approach takes time and 5th or 6th grade is the ideal time to start preparing for the new TJ test. Students who start in 8th grade will need to put n greater effort than those starting in 7th grade or earlier.

In summary, for students who joined Optimal TJ Prep program in a timely manner, the new TJ test was not difficult! However, for many students who had joined other TJ test prep programs, the test may have been difficult. Here is the best anecdotal evidence. In the years past (since 1994) each summer/fall, 2-3 parents have contacted me, to seek guidance on transferring their child to TJ in 10th grade. However, this year, over half a dozen parents contacted me for TJ transfer as a sophomore. In at least two of these six cases, the student scored at high 90th percentile in reading and science yet well below 40th percentile in math! One of the two students had attended three different TJ test prep programs.

In short, the new TJ test is easy for those who prepared well, however, it , especially the math section, proved very difficult for those students who were ill-prepared and ill-equipped or had weak problem solving skills!

Can Good Writing Skills or Advice Alone Produce the Best Possible TJ SIS Responses?

2015 Winter Round Admission Exam for TJ is history. My students and a few thousand other students who took the test are now scrambling to get ready for the 2nd phase of the TJ Admissions Process. The 2nd phase requires a student to highlight his/her academic achievements and convey his/her passion for attending TJHSST primarily through his writing. The writing involves writing a couple of short essays and answers to specific questions. In speaking to my students and their parents over the years, I have commonly noticed that there is considerable confusion about what a students should and could do prepare for this. Since the SIS comprises entirely of written words, many parents incorrectly assume that a good writing teacher (or writing advice) is the most effective help for a student. Unfortunately this approach is not only lop-sided, it, often, is a dis-service to a student and can diminish his/her chance of admission to TJ. The real problem is that, to the student and to his/her parents, the fallacy of the approach is not obvious until it is too late; of course at that point, the only remaining option is to prepare and try for transfer to TJ in 10th grade.

So what can a prospective student do? Every prospective student must realize that it is impossible to determine the best way to prepare for the TJ SIS until your record of achievement has been carefully and objectively analyzed. You must realize that whether you perceive your record to be strong or weak, there are good and bad ways to present yourself to the admissions committee. SIS is important for all students, however, it is especially critical for students whose track record of achievements in math and science is less than optimal. Many students contact me every year after the test and say, “I don't have any math and science activities” and ask, “Do I still have a chance of getting accepted to TJ?” My answer always has been, “Yes.” While I cannot provide exact or specific advice I offer my students, because, prior to providing specific advice, I will need to understand your exact situation as defined not only by your grades, your activities, your passion for attending TJHSST, and your commitment to math and science, etc., I want you to understand that other than your school grades, your teacher recommendations and your TJ test performance, everything else can be polished and projected in a desirable light by you, provided you seek and heed appropriate expert advice. The most important thing you must realize is that good writing skills/advice is only one component of a god SIS response; even more important is the content of an SIS response. Failing to realize the value of significant and persuasive  content in SIS is the most significant mistake, students, especially those who need it the most, make in “preparing” for the SIS responses.


Thomas Jefferson High School Admission Test Preparation – The Single Most Important Step: Selection of a Test Prep Program

There are all kinds of standardized entrance exams from the SSAT/ISEE, SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT to LSAT. The THJHSST admission exam has a key difference – It is a one shot deal. Many students and their parents realize this but do not act early enough only to feel disheartened when the test scores are not high enough and the admission is denied due to low scores. I hear from a dozen or so parents every year only after their chosen test preparation program failed them...

What should a student interested in admission to TJHSST do? The first step should be to not jump to sign up for the nearest or the lowest-cost test prep program. Selection of the TJHSST or the AOS Exam Prep course should be based on the value it brings to your child's preparedness, competitiveness and to his or her overall education. Evaluating value to your child's education is a difficult and, admittedly, a highly subjective proposition and should not be taken in haste. Yet every year I hear the following as the most common reasons as to why a parent chose a certain TJ /AOS/Blair Exam preparation course:

  • It was near our home

  • All his friends were going there

  • He was doing well on their tests so we thought he was in good hands and was well prepared

  • He was doing well on the sample test on the TJHSST website

Unfortunately all of the above reasons are poor grounds for selection of the best TJ Exam Prep program for your child. We recommend that you choose a TJHSST/AOS/Montgomery Blair Test Preparation program which can deliver the following on a ongoing basis (until the test date):

  1. Clearly identify your child's strengths and weaknesses in all key areas including math, reading, scramble paragraphs, essay writing.

  2. Evaluate your child's test performance efficiency. This is a predictor of the likelihood that your child will complete the TJ/AOS/Blair Admission Exam with high degree of accuracy and within allowed time.

  3. Provide ongoing estimate of your child's performance on the TJHSST Admission Exam.

Finally please read our blog post Top Three Reasons Smart Students Don't Do Well in the TJHSST Admission Exam. Next read our blog post How to Select the Best TJ Admission Exam Prep Program? We'd love to hear your experience.

Top Three Reasons Smart Students Don't Do Well on the TJHSST Admission Test

A careful analysis of students' performance data – over the past twenty years – who have gone through our training or gone to another TJ Prep program but contacted us after finding out that they did not do well on the test, has revealed the most important reasons why many smart students do not do well on the TJHSST admission examination. The most important reasons are slow speed of computation, slow speed in solving word problems and generally slow reaction to unfamiliar problems. The next important reason is the poor ability to reason critically in reading and logic problems. Both these weaknesses can be corrected with expert individualized guidance by Dr. Tripathi and due diligence by the a student. One typical example of such improvement is a rising sophomore at TJ who at the outset found word problems, logic problems and scrambled paragraphs very difficult. Within a period of several months she went from one or two correct out of five scrambled paragraph questions to a point where she got one or none wrong. Similar improvements were observed on math – she ended up with 47/50.

What is the lesson from this for future TJ aspirants? The main message is do not overestimate your abilities and do not underestimate your competition (other applicants). At the same time do not get lulled by a false sense of security rendered by your high GPA. The knowledge base of students having the same GPA varies from school to school! I meet dozens of 7th through 12th grade students each year who have a GPA of 3.8 or above yet who can't solve simple word problems.

You are welcome to share your own experience or ask a question by commenting on this post.


Best Strategy for Preparing to Transfer to TJHSST (TJ) as a Sophomore.

For a variety of reasons, every year, a a few dozen very capable and high achieving students "fall through the cracks" and do not get a seat in the freshman class at TJ. Such students have only two options left if they wish to attend TJ. Transfer to TJ in the 10th or the 11th grade. We strongly advise that any student who desires to transfer to TJ should aim to transfer as a sophomore! It is critical that the student spend at least three years at TJ to benefit from TJHSST's resources and learning environments.

So, how do you go about doing the right preparations to maximize your chance of transfer to TJ in 10th grade.

Since 1993, we have helped about 20 students transfer to TJ as sophomores. While we cannot provide specific advice until you take our SAT assessment, you must begin by reading the advice (and requirements) stipulated by TJHSST for sophomore transfer. After reading this, you can schedule an appointment for our SAT assessment. We will provide you complete plan and guidance necessary for doing well on the SAT and for distinguishing your application from your competition.

2014 Winter Round TJHSST Semifinalists Prepare to Complete their SIS.

The semifinalists were announced on Friday, January 16, 2015. Now the semifinalists will complete Student Information Sheet on January 24th, a crucial input to the finalist selection process. Ifyou have any doubt about the significance of the SIS in the admissions process please read my thoughts on the importance of SIS. At this point, your test scores, grades and recommendations are beyond your control, however, what you input on the SIS is still totally within your control. This is your only somewhat open-ended opportunity, within space and other constraints, to articulate why you deserve to be a TJHSST student. While it is incumbent upon you to put your best foot forward, it is also your responsibility to be honest, accurate and effective in articulating why your academic and extracurricular achievements, to date, have uniquely preparedyo to not only enrich your own life and academics at TJ but those of others. May each deserving and well-qualified semifinalist become a finalist. Good luck.

How Does the SIS Affect Your Chance of Admission to TJHSST ?

For Winter round 2016 SIS/Essay Preparations- Classes are available to help you put your best foot forward for the SIS and essay preparations including Math/Logic-based essays. Our highly-effective advice is based on over two decades of experience with several hundred students who have been accepted to TJHSST. Contact us now while there is time.

On the Surface the SIS seems like a benign exercise, simply requiring the semifinalist to answer some questions, write an essay, etc. The advice given on the TJ website even says that a student should say what the student believes in and not to attempt to write “what TJ may wish to see...” Having helped students prepare for the TJHSST Admission Test for over two decades, I believe that every TJHSST semifinalist should note the following observations and their implications:

Unlike the test scores, which are quantifiable, essays and personal statements, by their nature, are evaluated subjectively. To be sure, the SIS is used subjectively; perhaps, that was the main purpose of the SIS – to enable the admissions committee to favor certain characteristics over others. For example, the admissions committee can say that a student's essay is not persuasive enough. The committee can say that a student's personal statement does not reflect a passion for science and technology. While these statements may sound outlandish, based on my own experience, I can tell you, that, since 2002, a few of the my top test scorers have been rejected precisely with such arguments. For example, parents of a very bright student, with top grades, who scored 97th percentile on verbal and 93rd or better on math were told that her essay did not reflect a commitment to science and technology. For an incoherent or a poorly written essay, it is difficult to argue otherwise, however, even for a well written essay, that does not persuasively argue or otherwise put the best case in favor of a prompt may provide a reason (read “justification”) for rejection! Before, you get perturbed, I must point out that historically, the TJ admissions committee has been extremely careful to accept virtually all students with the following attributes [please note that these score cutoff are used as an example; I have no way of reading the admissions committee's mind or agenda. I can only interpret my own observations over two decades and share them with my readers]:

  • 97th percentile on math and verbal portion of the test
  • Top grades (e.g., all A's)
  • Excellent (strong) recommendations
  • Strong personal statement and essays
  • Clear commitment to math and science as demonstrated by activities.

In view of what I have stated above, what is a TJHSST semifinalist to do? My advice is summarized below:

Recognize that the admissions process' subjective “filtration system” may reject a student if the student gives the admissions committee a reason to do so!

It is your responsibility to identify your best achievements, especially those that highlight your “connection” to science or your passion for science and technology. No one else can or will speak for you! Only what you put in words on the online SIS form will represent you. How you accomplish a strong and effective SIS is entirely up to you!

What advice do we offer to our own students? We do not violate the spirit or the letter of TJHSST Admission's committee's requirement that the SIS responses be created by the applicant. An Olympic swimming coach trains (his/her swimmers) how to become better swimmers and how to manage energy and time. I train my students how to write well, how to project the best in them and how to put their best foot forward. Good Luck to all semifinalists. May the best (most qualified) semifinalists get accepted!

If you have any questions, please submit your comments below or contact us.

Is It Alright to Guess Answers to Questions on TJHSST (TJ) Admission Exam?

The TJHSST (TJ) Admission Test grading system does not penalize for incorrect answers. Thus if you are pressed for time or can't solve a question, please circle the answer you feel is best. However, in my view, your best bet for achieving top performance on the TJ test is by mastering the underlying concepts and by improving your problem solving skills and speed. Your comments are always welcome you can express your views by clicking on comment below. You can also ask your questions in the comment section.

A Consumer's Guide to Selecting the Best TJ Prep Program

An online search for TJ Prep shows dozens of programs. How is a parent to decide where to go for help?  This answer is created not only by a TJ Prep instructor of over twenty years experience but by a father of two TJ (TJHSST) graduates.  Your foremost objective should be to find the best program for your student. We suggest the following steps to make your final selection and your decision.

You should begin by conducting a survey of available programs on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Print a list then look at the quality of the teacher (not the business owner); if possible, see the teacher in action. Next, you should narrow your list by eliminating any TJ prep program which does not offer a no-cost, no-obligation assessment and a complimentary class. Finally, you should narrow your list further by eliminating programs which require you to pay for multiple classes in advance. A TJ prep program which, once enrolled, requires you to stay with it because you have paid a lot of money in advance may become a trap if your child does not like the program after some time, or if she does not make excellent progress. Your child should enjoy the learning and the motivating atmosphere created by a caring and dedicated instructor who loves to teach, who loves to bring out the best in your child by motivating her to try her best and excel, and who does not treat your child's education as secondary to any other objective. Let us know what you think.


TJ Prep: Must TJ Admissions be a crapshoot for Math Wiz Students?

As is well known, in recent years, the rules of admission to (TJHSST) TJ and their implementation have permitted many mathematically gifted students to be turned down (see: Is America's best high school soft in math?) . In our own experience of two decades of TJ Prep training, we have found that each year one or two students, despite doing impeccably well on both sections of the TJ test, were turned down. Unfortunately, in each case the TJ Admissions office rationalized the rejections by saying "the personal statement did not show a commitment to math and science", or "the student had a B+ in one math course."  Rationalizing the rejections of top students, who would have almost certainly excelled at TJ had they been accepted, in this manner, conveniently ignores the fact that dozens of students were accepted who performed  at a lower level on measures ostensibly used by TJ. The issue cannot be objectively analyzed until all application data are released in the public domain. The likelihood of such information release is remote.

So what should a "math wiz" interested in applying to TJ do or not do? In our view the most important thing you should do early on (6th and 7th grade) is to make sure that your grades in other subjects are respectable, your writing skills are well above average and you don't "give" any reason to admissions officials to reject you. Your love for math and science should radiate through any essays or personal statements you create. If you are a math wiz or the parent of one, we would love to hear your concerns and views on this matter.


Which TJ Prep strategy delivers the best competitive edge on the TJ test?

If you plan to take the TJ test, the most important question you must answer is "How do I stack up against my competition?" The first step is to find out the performance level which results in 95th percentile or higher on the TJ test year after year; the next step is to learn how to solve challenging problems fast enough so as to achieve similar or better performance. It is of utmost importance to have access to the longest possible historical performance data to practice against. Remember, while it is true that your goal should be to learn and improve everyday, it also helps to know about the competition (whether it is a race or the TJ test preparation). If you have questions for us or if you feel differently, please share your thoughts below for the benefit of all concerned.  

Is a TJ Prep Class Really Necessary?

The answer depends on:  1) how academically strong you are 2)  how badly you wish to get accepted to TJ?, and 3) how much discipline you have to do it by yourself?  The biggest challenge in doing it yourself will be in determining, how well-prepared you are at any given point in time?  To answer this question you will need historical and current information as to where you stand vis a vis your competition. There is only one chance for admission to the TJHSST as a freshman, so if you are seriously interested in attending the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHST), you should explore all your options and then make a final decision. If you have any questions, concerns or apprehensions about your own TJ test preparations, you can write your comments below and we will get back to you with our best advice or suggestions.

Shaping Your TJ Prep Expectations

Before you can reach your true potential on the TJ test, you must have a clear understanding of the test. Specifically, you cannot be guided by TJ prep lore or hearsay.  You must realize that the TJ test cannot contain questions which are substantially beyond the junior high school curriculum. If you can do well in school, with adequate preparation, you can certainly do well on the TJ test as well. To find out about specific facts and myths about the the TJ test and the TJ prep read here. If you have questions about TJ prep or if you wish to discuss certain facts or myths in detail please comment below.

Who Can Aspire to Attend TJHSST (TJ)?

Who can aspire to attend TJ? As stated in TJ Prep Facts, as long as the minimum GPA requirements are met, anyone with appropriate training and sufficient diligence (review and practice), can improve his/her performance to do well on the TJ test. The general effort requirements for successful TJ Prep can be modeled by an inverse variation model, to a point. An exceptionally gifted teacher with a gift for imparting knowledge in a suitable form can undoubtedly impart sufficient knowledge in top 50 percentile of the junior high school population so that a child in this group can score in the 90th percentile on the TJ test. Based on our own experience, I can say, without a doubt, that this kind of teaching knows no barriers (e.g., social, economic, racial, minority, etc.); all that is needed is a commitment to learning and a reciprocating teacher with an equal passion for teaching and a desire to uplift a willing child's intellectual acumen to a superior level and concomitantly raising her/his performance on the TJ test. Undoubtedly, effort is needed on the part of the student in order for his acquired knowledge to become pliable and be readily available for on demand problem solving.

This is our view based on the experience of hundreds of our successful TJ students. Please let us know what you think.