Tips

Beginners Guide to Acing the SAT

A beginners guide to acing the SAT ... 13 tips in one little (5-minute) video.

How to pick the best SAT tutor or class ...

How to choose a test location ...

What is the SAT testing? ...

How to write the SAT essay ...

How long should you do test prep ...

How much can an SAT score improve? ...

The 1 thing you should know about the SAT ...

What can parents do to help kids prepare for the SAT? ...

4 best SAT snacks that won't leave you depleted ... and more

Good luck!

 
Reading

How to Improve Your Critical Reading SAT Score

SAT mysteries

Is it possible to improve a critical reading score on the SAT?

I often hear the misconception that a critical reading SAT score cannot be improved, and while it is true that empirical evidence shows average score gains to be minimal (5-10 points), I managed to improve my reading score by 80 points.

So how did I improve my reading score?

I read -- a lot! And, I started the project with a rock-solid foundation in reading. Without that base, no amount of test prep could have saved me.

The best way to improve a critical reading score is ... to read. Reading improvement requires time devoted to practicing the skill to the point of automaticity. The summer is a great time to make headway and to build a routine.

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Tip: There is no shortcut to learning vocabulary.

The Matthew effect in reading (i.e. the rich get richer) is inevitable with vocabulary. According to research, you need to know 90-95% of a text’s words to understand what you are reading.

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Tip: More general knowledge can vastly help a critical reading score.

Research shows that background knowledge helps with comprehension. For example, a student who already knows about Descartes and dualism* will process a passage much faster and more accurately than a student who is unfamiliar with the topic – even if their decoding and strategy skills are identical.

*Click to read these Descartes and dualism reading passages from the 2010 PSAT my son took, as well as the College Board's explanations of the answers.

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Here is a related post, if you would like more information about improving on the critical reading section.

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Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis.

 
Solutions

Solutions for the Blue Book

Solutions

 

Good test prep centers on official College Board material.  You can read this blog post for other signs of Good vs Bad test prep

It's also critical to understand the solutions to the questions you missed -- understand them so well, you can explain them to your teacher's teacher. The Blue Book (i.e. official College Board material), only contains the answers to the questions -- not the solutions.

The good news is that there are almost as many sources for Blue Book “solutions” as there are methods for test prep. Here are the ones I found most helpful:

1) College Board’s Book Owner’s Area!

2) Tutor Ted’s SAT Solutions Manual – Math solutions only, and easy to understand; became a trusted source.

3) The Ultimate SAT Supplement from Klass Tutoring -- Solutions for every problem in Blue Book (i.e., all three sections). Klass’s reading and writing solutions are better than the math.

4) Khan Academy – Video math solutions. Videos feature Sal Khan narrating SAT math solutions as he writes problem in steps on a digital blackboard. Can be frustrating to navigate, though the explanations are great and free.  www.khanacademy.org

 

Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis.

 

 
Parenting

How to Cultivate Teenage Drive

teenage motivation

How to cultivate teenage drive is the $64,000 question, and while I am not a parenting expert, I do believe that the secret to motivating a teenager is the relationship. A shared experience can be a powerful agent of connection, and it is that connection that allows an adult to motivate an adolescent.

1) Collecting Dance. Developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld explains the “collecting ritual” in his book Hold On To Your Kids. The collecting dance is akin to making a baby smile before picking it up. The same holds true for a teenager: you must catch the eye and establish a connection in order to be a source of motivation.

2) Enthusiasm. Most teenagers are more interested in their friends than in their parents and the SATs. In fact, the more into the friends they are, the harder it will be to get their attention. A peer-oriented teenager will need more enthusiasm and initiative from the parent to become motivated than one who is oriented toward adults. Given Ethan’s level of peer orientation at the time, I needed to deploy radical enthusiasm.

3) Parental Involvement. Remain interested and involved, even if your teenager is resistant. I saw with my own eyes that adolescents do better academically when parents are involved beyond monitoring homework, and I believe Neufeld’s work with adolescents confirms my experience.

4) Invite the Connection. The most potent source of motivation for a teenager is attention and interest in what they are doing. A shared project says that the child matters and is special. The relationship that results from this sustained proximity allows for the parent to act as a compass in the child’s life and to activate motivation.

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Read a related post: Motivating a Teenager to Study for the SAT

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What is the Perfect Score Project? Find out more here.

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Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis.

 
Reading

The Best Way to Prepare for the Critical Reading Section

Summer Test Prep

A lot of parents ask me what they can do over the summer to help their children prepare for the critical reading section of the SAT.

From a parent of a rising junior:

Most tutors say that in order to improve critical reading (say 700+), you need to be a voracious reader. Well, that takes years. Forget about the sentence completion of the CR for the moment, wouldn't it be more efficient to just do a bunch of critical reading passages, even if it they're from non-CB material?  

This is, if you are in a crunch and only have the summer to improve (i.e. 3 months).

Assume it takes 10 hours to read a book. I could do 20 CR test sections in that amount of time. 5 books = 100 CR test sections.

I would be wary of all unofficial SAT reading passages and use official, College Board material when it comes to "test prep."

That said, there is a lot you can do this summer to bolster the foundation before you start official "test prep."

To strengthen the foundation, it would be more effective to read articles from the New Yorker, The Economist, The New Republic or Smithsonian magazine. To be a strong reader, you need to have background knowledge and a strong vocabulary, which articles from these publications would provide.

Be sure to read the print editions as the online versions aren’t necessarily the same caliber.

Tip: Discussing the articles is essential. Conversations are the bedrock of memory.

Research shows that "joint conversation," where the child takes part in the conversation, helps with memory, vocabulary, and awareness of grammar.

When children can make sense of what they are experiencing through conversation, they are able to understand key features better and encode more completely.

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What is the Perfect Score Project? Find out more here.

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If you're interested in having me attend your book group, I'd love to!  Here's the link: Book the Writer.

To find out more about Book the Writer and its founder, Jean Hanff Korelitz, check out this story in the New York Times.

If you don't belong to a book group, but would like to, Jean can create a "pop up" group.

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Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis.