Are you taking the SAT this Saturday? If so, A) good luck, and B) check out these blog posts for advice to optimize your testing experience.
Avoid Careless Errors -- Read every word in the question and answer choice, don't get stuck on a question, use your calculator (even for the easy ones), and more. Click here to read more about how to avoid stupid mistakes.
5 SAT Tips You May Not Have Thought Of -- Write your thesis at the top of your essay paper and circle back to that thesis in every paragraph. Make sure to turn the last page of every section (especially at the end of the test, when you're tired), and, say something to the proctor if there's noise in the room that's bothering you. Click here to read more test day tips you may not have thought of.
The Best SAT Snacks -- Don't bring a 3 course meal (like I did at my first SAT). You have three (minuscule) 5-minute breaks and trust me, they go by fast. This post includes the best food for the SAT (i.e. energizing, filling, can be eaten on a run to/from the bathroom, etc.).
Test Taker Rights -- I had a really bad SAT experience ... once (out of 7). Tons of other people wrote to me about their SAT horror stories after I posted my story. Don't let that happen to you! Know your test taker rights. You are entitled to: a quiet room, 5 minute warnings, and a proctor who pays attention! Click here to learn more about your rights as a test taker.
Keep Your Own Time -- Bring a Swatch (or some other time keeper that doesn't beep and isn't a phone. No phones allowed.) And, keep your own time. See my "really bad SAT experience" if you need more convincing about this, and click here to read Stacey Howe-Lott's super-essential-I-can't-believe-I-didn't-think-of-that-myself method for keeping time during the SAT.
Good luck if you're taking the SAT this Saturday!
And don't forget: B R E A T H E
You'll find tons of SAT tips in my new book, The Perfect Score Project. Plus, the story of why I took the SAT 7 times in one year, and, everything I learned about the SAT, test prep, and how to motivate my teenage son.
The illos on this site are all hand-painted by my dear friend Jennifer Orkin Lewis, who also happens to be a character in the book.
My friend Catherine is also a character. Catherine's a warrior who's worth reading. You can usually find her blogging on Kitchen Table Math.
Actually, I'm going to call this great news:
VERDICT While the image of a mother outgunning her own child on a standardized test seems strange, the book is a fascinating read. Many insights and strategies can be learned here, from "bubbling" techniques to guessing strategies. Woven into Stier's experiment is both a mother's story and a sharp appraisal of the industry of college testing. This might just be one of the big books of 2014.
And, more great stuff from the librarians on Early Word.
the book is unsurprisingly climbing Amazon’s sales rankings
Now, the bad news:
I also discovered on bn.com that the Nook edition is missing pages. "What pages?" my daughter asked. I don't know, but I want to find out and fix it ASAP.
If you've received an edition with missing pages, please shoot me an email so I can fix the problem: email@example.com
All the illustrations on this site are hand-painted with TLC by the fabulous Jennifer Orkin Lewis.
P.S. Jennifer is a character in the book. I ran into her son, Sam, at my second SAT (i.e. the infamous "Reality TV Prompt" SAT).
(No, no -- not that SAT.)
This would be my SAT -- i.e. A very "special" SAT: The Perfect Score Project SAT
I road tested it today at R.J. Julia -- my very first bookstore event, which was a total blast. I love bookstores -- I even love the smell of bookstores.
I'm pretty sure my SAT was a bigger hit than anything the College Board's ever given. Try it and let me know what you think. (Click the image to download.)
And no, I have not posted the answers (yet), nor have I posted the solutions. I will though. Soon. For the SAT fanatics of the world -- just letting you know: there is only one right answer (though each wrong answer has a story and you get a bonus point if you find the Common Core joke).
Here are a few photos from RJ Julia today:
That's me, at the desk, attempting to right the ship I'd just set off course. I told the boy's mom that video games are "good for the SAT." They were sharing a mother/son "I told you so" moment. Eke. Whoops. Sorry. (I'm pretty sure it's true though.)
And there I am, answering those very special SAT questions (posted above). I'm telling you, this was a good time!
Just to clarify, "which page do I sign?" (I forgot!)
And, signing. First book ever (yipee!).....
Thank you for having me RJ Julia! I love you!!!!
Shoot me an email if you'd like me to visit your town.
Go BookPage -- Thank you!!
Stier’s chronicle of her obsession is full of self-deprecating humor and meaty sidebars analyzing everything from test prep books to SAT grammar and math tips. This is an invaluable resource to read and re-read during the college testing journey.
Read the entire review on BookPage.
Lots of amazing stuff happening over the next week: The Today Show, Atlantic, New Yorker, Parade, Journal News, ABC Radio Satellite, etc.
Big hugs and thank you's to Ellen Folan and Carisa Hays.
Fabulous illos are all hand painted by the amazing Jennifer Orkin Lewis.
When I tell people I took the SAT 7 times the year before my son took the test, they usually ask some variation of, "How did he feel about that?"
"How he felt" (and more) are posted in a Q & A I did with my son, which is posted on Amazon.
Q. Do you think the project had value or do you think your mom was completely insane to take the SATs 7 times?
A. Looking back, I can see that the project was a great idea because I wouldn’t have done nearly as well as I did if you hadn’t taken the test all those times before me. I learned so much more from you than if I’d gone through the Blue Book on my own.
Q. How do you think the project affected our relationship?
A. I think it made our relationship stronger because we spent so much time together. Studying for the SAT is very time consuming!
Q. Do you think that you are a better student because of the project?
A. Definitely. I learned how to set goals and work hard. The test taught me the value of hard work and what it takes to achieve a goal.
He also asked me a few questions, including:
Q. Complete this sentence:
The SAT is to parenting as ________ is to _________.
Click here to read the rest of the Q & A.
And, you can find downloadable press materials on the Press Kit page.
According to the College Board, the SAT measures "college readiness."
I got a mediocre score on the SAT in high school and somehow managed to succeed in college. My recollection is that I started working hard, for the first time -- probably harder than I would have, had I been more prepared when I arrived.
Erica left a clarifying comment about what the SAT tests:
...it measures a student's mastery of a particular -- but not arbitrary -- set of reading, writing, and math skills at a particular point in time. I would also argue that the skills the SAT measures, at least from the verbal side, correspond quite close to the those necessary to do very well in a demanding liberal arts program (admittedly not the goal for the vast majority of students taking the SAT): the ability to understand how sophisticated texts are organized; to distinguish between what an author thinks and what "other people" think; to use contextual clues to make reasonable inferences about the meanings of unfamiliar words; and to move beyond understanding *what* arguments say and recognize *how* they are constructed -- an essential precursor to judging an argument's validity and eventually responding to it in a meaningful way.
The SAT measures something important, and malleable.
My adult SAT scores prove the point. I spent my adult life working in book publishing. I read lots and lots of books -- and, I was able to improve my reading and writing scores by hundreds of points.
The SAT is not testing aptitude (as the A” in SAT originally stood for), nor is it testing a student’s innate ability.
And yet, the SAT has so much authority that some of us are still justifying our high school scores years later, long after everyone else has forgotten.
Trust me, I am not the only with "SAT issues."
This review on Goodreads reminded me of the low-score baggage issue.
My own experience with the SAT was scarring and traumatic. I definitely had reservations about reading a book that would take me back to that disappointing experience.
I hadn’t realized how many unresloved bad feelings I still had for the standardized testing process until I rediscovered them witnessing Debbie take test after test after test.
The fact that I was feeling inspired to try the damnable SAT again was shocking and a testament to the book’s valuable information.
I actually wanted to try again, so as to reclaim my experience and do away with having felt S-T-U-P-I-D.
You can read Melissa's full review on Goodreads.
I am not advocating for low SAT scores, but, if you happen to be a low scorer with "issues," be sure to listen to this interview with bestselling/low scoring authors: Laura Zigman, Julie Klam, and Ann Leary.
The early Vine reviews on Amazon are nothing short of heartwarming. I actually choked up while reading the review by Z. Hayes, a high school English teacher. Her review is not only beautifully written, but captures the essence of everything I was trying to convey.
Early on in the book, Ms. Stier touches upon the critical role that parents and caregivers play in determining the success of their child/ren. It is not the pressure we apply on children or the constant monitoring, but HOW we engage our children that counts. As an educator, I can't stress how important this is in helping students realize their academic potential.
You can read her full review on Amazon.
I was interviewed by Theodore Delwiche (SAT class of 2011) for the Harvard Crimson:
There are not many people who love the SAT...
...her book contains all the information one would ever need to know about the SAT, from tutors to preparation materials to testing strategies.
...When asked about the clear connection some may make between her and infamous ‘tiger mom’ Amy Chua, Stier laughs.
Here's the rest of Harvard Crimson interview.
OMG ... 21 days til publication (GULP)!!!
Having been on the other side of this equation (many, many times), I'm surprised to find myself -- TERRIFIED!
I'll post the media and events soon ... very, very soon!
All illustrations on this website are lovingly hand-painted by the fabulous Jennifer Orkin Lewis.
I received an email this morning (below) from a mom who'd read the excerpt booklet.
Incidentally, when you're drowning and a helicopter shows up, you're thanking your lucky stars (right?).
I just read the excerpt and I’d swear that your son and my son are the same kid. My son also diagnosed with ADHD, but high on impulse control, and we medicated him through 5thgrade but then stopped because he really didn’t like the way it made him feel and he had sleep issues. So for middle school he has been trying to “control” it himself but he still gets a few detentions for stupid stuff like throwing a snowball during a fire drill. He knows it is wrong but just doesn’t have that impulse filter right before he acts (yes, sort of like just being a boy). Anyway, he is one who is fine getting C’s + D’s because during one of our many conferences with his teachers while they were telling me to stop being a helicopter parent and I should let him suffer the consequences of his own behavior and take responsibility for his work, yadda, yadda, yadda, they also decide to tell him that Middle School doesn’t really matter and he doesn’t have to worry about it until High School. Arrrggghhh! I could kill them! Anyway, my daughter, who is a grade behind him (but 22 months younger) is the complete opposite and freaks out if there is a slight chance she might not make honor roll and is bummed because she has one B and that means she is just “regular” honor roll, not “high” honor roll. She also asked me if she could stay home when we go to Mexico because she doesn’t want to miss 4 days of school!
I've received more than a few "that's my son" emails, just like this one.
For middle-school parents of boys out there, Ethan did grow up and mature, and he is flourishing in college. So rest assured -- things get better. Ethan is a different person today. (See book for my recipe.)
Just heard from another mom/same story:
Congrats on your book. I can't wait to read it. I just read the blurb about the helicopter parent. C., an 11 yr old, has ADHD. I have been fighting all year for the teacher do some small things for him to stay on track. She keeps telling me that i should let him suffer the consequences...UGH. I am really worried about middle school next year. He is a smart kid who struggles so much in school.
Catherine sent me a post that explains the reason she co-founded the Parents Forum several years ago. She and her friend both had the experience of being told: "Your child is the only one having a problem."
And: "You are the only parent complaining."
Apparently this makes the circuit every year:
How parents with issues are viewed by schools
1 parent with an issue = A nutjob, thinks the school
2 parents with the same issue = A nutjob and a friend
3 parents with the same issue = A trio of troublemakers
5 parents with the same issue = “Let’s have a meeting”
10 parents with the same issue = “We’d better listen”
25 parents with the same issue = “Our dear friends”
50 parents with the same issue = A powerful organization
Here's the rest of the story.
And you'll find downloadable press materials on the Press Kit page.
Click the links below to download PDFs of the press kit.
- Press Release: The Perfect Score Project
- Q& A with Ethan & Debbie: The Perfect Score Project
- Letter to Reviewers: The Perfect Score Project
- Advance Praise: The Perfect Score Project
For press inquiries, contact: Ellen Folan 212-782-8944 firstname.lastname@example.org
To view video clips, go to YouTube.
For more press materials, click on the Press Kit page.
Very exciting day.
I received my first review on Amazon. (Note: only Amazon Vine reviewers can post reviews before the book goes on sale date -- 2/25/14).
Unfortunately, there was a snafu and the Amazon Vine reviewers who requested my book received an excerpt pamphlet -- not the book.
If you're an Amazon Vine Reviewer who requested the book and haven't received it yet, please contact me directly and I will ship one to you overnight: email@example.com
Incidentally, there's a comment on the Amazon review (9th comment down) that's a keeper too:
With my daughter about to start High School and wanting to prepare for the ACT and SAT's I knew this was going to be the perfect book to read. There is so much material out there for kids to sort through when preparing to take these tests I have wished on several occasions if I only I knew someone that could simply the process and let me know what does and does not work in the real world of taking these tests-now I have that person. I was blown away that Debbie took so many tests (7) just to help her own child succeed. This book is packed full of useful advise that I never even would have thought of. There are tips of taking every style of SAT they can through at you including how to study and take the math sections, English, writing prompt and even tips on what days to take your test! I loved that she shared her failures and not just her successes. That she shared her thought process,fears and insecurities made this book very relatable. This book reads like a how to guide that is informative,helpful and inspiring. Full of wisdom, and laughter that both student and parent can enjoy.
Catherine's my north star. She also happens to be the person who introduced me to the idea of standardized testing as an activity of leisure. And, she plays a big role in my book.
Her blog, Kitchen Table Math, is where I discovered an entire community of parents who didn’t find the idea of studying for the SAT with one’s child to be anything out of the ordinary.
She and son Chris studied for the SAT the year before he took the exam, though they never referred to what they were doing as “a project," as I did. They studied together at the kitchen table, just like they always had since he was age 10.
They also took the SAT the same day I took my 5th test in 2011 -- then the three of us wasted hours discussing the minutia of a test gone by.
Catherine got a perfect reading score that day. She would have gotten a perfect writing score too, had she not forgotten to fill in the last few bubbles on the last section of the test. (Beware of bubbling errors! )
A little bit of "Catherine," from: The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT
Catherine and the essay:
The prompt that morning asked if an idealistic approach was less valuable than a practical one. I wrote what I thought they wanted: an essay about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. I’d never written a timed essay on a standardized test before, but Catherine’s son Chris had been espousing some ridiculous rule about using Martin Luther King, Jr. in every essay, no matter what the topic was. The one time he actually did this (on his third outing), he scored an 11. The theory took on new meaning after his mother, Catherine, scored a 10 (prompt: Rules versus Freedom) when she took the SAT. Catherine has a Ph.D. and teaches college freshman composition; she grades five-paragraph essays for a living. Plus the College Board has used passages from her books in the Critical Reading section. She told me she’d written her essay on law and economics (in South America, no less), citing Hernando De Sotot’s book The Mystery of Capitalism. And she scored a 10.
The funny part was that when she told a friend about her 10, he said “You must have had a bad day.” That’s how much authority the SAT has. People just assume the test is right. Catherine told him, “The scorers had a bad day, not me.”
My feeling is: if a composition instructor and author with a Ph.D. can’t score an 11, then listen to the experts who tell you to shoot for a ‘10’ and spend the bulk of your time studying for the multiple-choice section, where the scoring isn’t arbitrary.
After taking her first SAT since high school:
Catherine felt dazed and overwhelmed coming out of the test, too, and she’s not usually the type to get overwhelmed. She told me she was actively afraid, backing out of her space in the school parking lot, she would hit someone, and she drove home in a state of “hypervigilance” because she was in no shape to be driving at all. She said it was like being drunk—only in reverse.
Catherine and the calculator:
Catherine had a similar calculator calamity, which I hate to admit was partly my fault. Four days before she took the SAT, I told her about the math frac function on the TI-84. I said Mike, the math tutor we both trusted with our children’s SAT lives, said you have to have math frac.
The trouble was, she’d been practicing for years with the much lower-tech TI-36 and could pretty much touch-type the thing. But the math-frac button seemed like such a must-have once I learned about it that I convinced her she needed one too, so she asked her husband to pick one up on his way home from work, which he did--a day or two later.
Not a great idea.
On test day she used it on her first math section and tripped over every problem because she couldn’t remember where the Enter key was, or how to do square roots, or exponents, etc. She squandered so much precious working memory trying to remember where the calculator buttons were instead of solving the math problems that she switched back to her old (trusty) calculator for the rest of the test. Things went smoothly after that, but she still refers to the incident as, “death by calculator.”
Given that two grown women who should have known better than to use a new calculator on test day both used a new calculator on test day, the lesson bears repeating: use the calculator with which you are most practiced and comfortable. Automaticity--knowing your calculator so well you don’t have to think about how to use it--trumps fancy tricks.
I'm currently taking SAT classes, which are very helpful. I wanted to ask if you could tell me all the best free resources out there for the math, writing and critical reading sections? I don't want to spend more money on more books.
Dear Looking to Supplement,
Try these free SAT resources:
1- Erik the Red's SAT website.
3 - Everything in the College Board's SAT website.
5- Visit your library and take out SAT books. Here is my list of "Best SAT books" to start with.
6- Read the New York Times every day and look up all vocabulary you don't know. Also, say the main idea of each article and discuss them with someone smart.
7- Ask your guidance councilor for practice SATs and PSATs from the College Board. Here is a link to 3, free official SATs.
Want to know more about how to prepare for the SAT? The Crown Publishing Group will be hosting a pre-publication live online chat on Wednesday, February 12. My friend Catherine Johnson and I will be discussing the SAT, test prep, how to motivate a teenager, and more.
Details and sign up information are on the Crown Publishing Group's Facebook Page.
If you'd know more more about The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT, you can read an excerpt or listen to a clip from the audio edition (read by yours truly).
And if you like what you read (and/or hear), the book is available to order.