TJ Prep FAQ

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding TJ prep and TJ admissions.

The following questions have been often asked by parents of students interested in admission  to TJHSST over the past two decades. The answers provided are based on our experience since 1993. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. 

Q. How Do I Select the Best TJ Admission Test Prep Program?

A. Please follow the advice in A Consumer's Guide to Selecting the Best TJ Prep Program. The answer is created not only by a TJHSST Exam Prep instructor of over twenty years experience but by a father of two TJ graduates.  Your foremost objective should be to find the best program for your student. We suggest the following steps:

Conduct a survey of available programs on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Next, eliminate any program which does not offer a no-cost, no-obligation assessment and a complimentary class.

Next, eliminate a program where you are required to pay for multiple classes up front. A TJ Prep program which requires you to stay with it because you have paid a lot of money in advance may feel like a trap if your child does not like the program. 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  and who does not treat your child's education as secondary to any other objective. 

Q. Does attending a G/T center school always offer an advantage during TJ Prep and TJ admissions?

A. Not necessarily. While it is true that a strong G/T center program provides a stronger foundation, many good students have trouble maintaining all A's (sometimes due to reasons beyond their control). Often the grading scales/standards may be different. Because of the important role of an applicant's GPA in the admissions decision, it is possible that a stronger student is rejected whereas a weaker student with a higher GPA at an "easier school" gets accepted. This results in a distinct possibility that a strong student in a non-G/T center can under some circumstances get admission to TJ at the expense of a more capable G/T Center student with a (slightly) lower GPA.

Q. Relevance of the Sample Admission TJ Test available on the TJHSST website  to TJ Prep?

A.  The sample test on the TJHSST website is highly relevant when it comes to understanding the format of the TJ admissions test.  Assuming that the frequency distribution of the difficulty level of questions on the sample test is identical to the actual test your student will take is a different matter. Each year (since TJ began publishing the sample test) I meet about a dozen students who become overconfident in their ability solve all questions on the TJ test based on their performance on the sample test, only to be disheartened upon receiving actual results in April. It is Optimal TJ Prep's recommendation that a student should not aim to merely ace the sample test. Our TJ Prep Readiness Assessment can far more accurately predict your success on the actual TJ test at any given time.

Q. Should I use guessing as a TJ prep strategy  if I do not know how to answer a question? 

A. The TJ admission test does not have a penalty for wrong answers, so guessing (especially, if you can eliminate a few wrong answers) is not necessarily bad. Our view is that the TJ test is fairly easy, requiring skills which can easily be mastered by the vast majority of TJ admissions applicants. Therefore, we recommend that you master the underlying concepts instead of relying on guessing (educated or otherwise). It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to ace the TJ test by relying on guessing. Consequently, we strongly advise against a TJ Prep strategy reliant on guessing.

Q. TJ Admission Prep strategy and the steep grading curve of the TJ test?

A. TJHSST does not publish the grading information in sufficient detail to compute this independently. However, on the basis of the results of the significant number of students who have  benefited from Optimal TJ Prep, we can tell you that the grading curve is very steep. One or two incorrect responses typically translate to a percentile score in the upper 90s. Percentile scores decrease rapidly with increasing mistakes, however. We explain this in greater depth to our students.

Q. What is the minimum possible score on the TJ test for an admitted applicant?

A. We do not believe that the TJ Admissions office publishes this data. We can share with you information from the two decades of our accepted students. Among Optimal TJ Prep students, the lowest scoring student to be admitted to TJ had a 98th percentile math score but an English score below the 30th percentile. The student was not a native English speaker, however, and was accepted over twelve years ago before the new TJ admissions criteria were adopted. It is almost impossible for this kind of student to be accepted today.  

Q. Does getting only one or two questions wrong on the TJ test guarantee admission?

A. No. Before 1999, virtually all our top scorers were accepted to TJ. However, since 1999, we have observed that some of our best scoring students (typically above 93 percentile in both math and English) were rejected and students with far lower scores and GPA were accepted. These occurrences have increased since TJ implemented a "geographic quota", etc. and the trend has continued with  the current "sliding scale." In a few such cases, the student had one low grade in math or science.

Q. Do all accepted students choose to attend TJ?

A. Among Optimal TJ Prep students accepted to TJ each year, a couple of students prefer to attend private schools or other public schools such as the Loudon AOS. One of our students chose to do so after obtaining a perfect score on the TJ test and a perfect (4.0) GPA.

Q. Are students taking honors math in 7th grade and Algebra I in 8th grade at a disadvantage in comparison to those who take Algebra I in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th grade?

A. The short answer is no. TJ prefers that an applicant complete Algebra I by 8th grade. The TJ test does contain  simple geometry questions, but the concepts tested are relatively simple. Virtually any student can learn sufficient geometry so that he or she can do well on the test regardless of which year Algebra I is taken.

Q. Strategies for overcoming test anxiety during the TJ dmission test?

A. In general test anxiety, in most cases, is a result of a lack of proficiency and weak problem solving skills. In this regard, the TJ test is no different from any other test. When we notice test anxiety in our TJ prep or SAT prep students, we make specific recommendations depending on the specific situation and personality of the student. Please realize that most people do not exhibit anxiety white eating a sandwich or a slice of pizza. The absence of anxiety reflects confidence resulting from engaging in the activity (eating) over a long time (many years). The most important steps you can take to reduce test anxiety are to improve your problem solving skill, speed and proficiency. The most important advice we offer our students are 1) learn what you don't know, and 2) do what you know, correctly! A good teacher is the catalyst for achieving 1 and relentless practice is the best way to achieve 2.

Q. I am really good in math but not that strong in English and writing skills. What should be my TJ Prep Strategy?

A. As is well known, in recent years, the rules of admission to TJ (TJHSST) have permitted many mathematically brilliant students to be turned down (see: Is America's best high school soft in math?) . In our view this need not be the case! My 9th grade math teacher, Mr. J.N. Singh, used to tell his class (circa 1966), "If you are good in math, you can be good in any other subject in which you want to be good!" Initially I listened to him with disbelief -- math and physics were my best subjects but biology was not... Relentlessly, Mr. Singh kept hammering his point. By year-end, I not only became a believer, I became one of the best in my biology class. Any student who is good in math has no intrinsic reason to be "bad" in English, writing or logic. Clearly if you make adequate effort and are guided by a good teacher, you can excel at all components of the TJ entrance test. Of course, you should not have a cavalier attitude like, "I am so good in math that I don't need to care about anything else!" You see, in real life, top scientists and mathematicians need to communicate with their colleagues in various disciplines and with their leaders as well as with national leaders. So the ability to effectively communicate your ideas and research findings will be vital to your success in life. Yes in an ideal world you could just study and invent math all your life much like Isaac Newton did. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and our schools and people who run them are far from perfect. So it behooves you to take a little bit of time to improve your writing skills and pay attention to your grades, and of course, be nice to your teachers. Most students spend at least a few hours a week if not each day on sports; they can certainly afford adequate time to make sure they get a balanced education in all core subjects. The bottom line: don't wait till it is too late to improve your grades in all subjects and to acquire skills so that you can do well in all areas of the TJ admission test. If you need specific advice and guidance, please contact us for our TJ Prep Readiness Assessment.

Q. How Can I Prepare for the TJ admission test on my own? 

A. If you wish to prepare for the TJ test on your own, begin by first learning important facts and misconceptions about the TJ test preparation. You should realize that most motivated students can prepare (with or without a teacher's help)  sufficiently to do well on the TJ test (Who can Aspire to Attend TJHSST (TJ)?). The answer to whether you can prepare on your own depends on what is your current TJ test readiness? How far your performance is from that of  someone who will score in the  90th percentile or higher on the TJ test? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How disciplined you are? If you are motivated to prepare for the TJ test on your own, here is what you should consider (Is a TJ test prep class really necessary?). Next you need to properly define your expectations and set goals for  your specific TJ (TJHSST) test prep situation (Shaping your TJ Prep Expectations). You need to analyze various strategies for TJ test preparations (see Which TJ Prep strategy delivers the best competitive edge on the TJ test?). If you are very strong in math but not as capable in verbal skills, be sure to read the tips here. You can read the information on the TJHSST website (the best source for understanding the format of the test) but do not rely excessively on the sample TJ test when it comes to the level of difficulty of questions. To get additional practice problems you can look at the books available on amazon.com for the SHSAT test. Additional math practice TJ test prep questions are available free of charge at (TJ Prep Practice Math Problems ). Finally make sure you understand the key reasons many smart students don't do well on the TJHSST admission test. If at any point you feel that you may benefit by joining a TJ test prep program, please read our consumer's guide to selecting the best TJ prep program. Good luck. If you have any questions or comments, drop us a line.

Q. How Can I Get Faster and Better in Solving Problems for TJ Test Prep, and Can Anyone Improve?

A. I get this question a lot both from my students and from others. For the vast majority of students, two steps are required to become good at problem solving. The first step is to is to find a patient, knowledgeable and a gifted teacher who can explain what you need to know efficiently. Efficient teaching technique varies with the student. In other words, the same problem must be taught differently to different students in order for each student to learn effectively.  Many teachers who are good at teaching "bright" kids (many of whom may have already been exposed to the material) don't do well when teaching "ordinary" students. A truly gifted teacher is one who brings out the best in every child who wants to learn regardless of how weak or strong the child may be at the outset. A truly gifted never tells his pupil, "You don't get it!"

The second step required for efficient learning is practice. Pretty much everything you learn in life-- from basic life skills to math, logic, critical reading, scramble paragraphs and essay writing--  requires practice.

In a nutshell, given a gifted teacher and willingness to invest "sweat capital" virtually anyone can learn and exhibit superb performance on problems such as TJ Prep Problem. With a suitable teacher and sufficient practice, you can certainly learn to solve the problems described on these pages within or below the target time specified.

Q. What is the Lowest Grade (Age), a Child Can Join the Optimal TJ Prep Program?

A. While the vast majority of our TJ (and other Magnet Public High School) Admission Test Prep students start in 4th through 7th grades, every year a few kids in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades start for acceptance into the GT/AAP program or G/T programs in Montgomery and other neighboring counties. All these students go on to do exceedingly well academically. Most get accepted to schools such as TJHSST, AOS, Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, Poolesville or Eleanor Roosevelt High School, A few choose to attend private high schools even though they get accepted to Magnet Public High Schools mentioned here.

Q. On Nov 28, 2014, Kim Dong "Jason Kim" U asked if I Can Publish My Approach and Solutions to Various TJHSST And Montgomery Blair Admission  Test Prep Problems I Post here?

Jason- An excellent question. I teach my students how to solve a problem in multiple ways. When a student is starting out, I use methods that are easier to understand. As a student gets more advanced, I teach much faster methods- these methods are abstruse but they are computationally very efficient thus they provide a competitive edge to my students.

So, publishing all different approaches to solving various problems on the internet will eliminate competitive advantage enjoyed by my TJHSST (TJ) entrance (admission) exam students. My students come to me precisely because I make it easy for them to understand concepts that are difficult for the majority of 5th through 8th grade students. Obviously, I will not do anything to take the competitive advantage enjoyed by my students.

One more thing, knowing which method (easy to understand or computationally efficient to implement) to use with a student at a certain time – which in turn depends on a student's TJ Prep Readiness Index – is what distinguishes a great teacher from a good teacher. Over 3000 students compete for a few hundreds openings each year so that they can improve their chances of acceptance to TJHSST by performing exceptionally well on the TJ admission exam. If you are the parent of a 4th through 8th grade student who aspires to attend a school like TJHSST, Montgomery Blair or a top tier private high school, it is your responsibility to find a great teacher and mentor who will bring out the best in your child.