My obsession with the SATs began last summer as my son was finishing up 9th grade. I hadn’t made any summer plans for him, and mostly out of fear that he could end up at home playing video games, I told him he would spend his summer break studying for the SATs. He likes to remind me the he was still two and a half years away from taking the test. That was irrelevant as far as I was concerned.
After a healthy dose of teenage resistance, he agreed to a half-hour a day, just for the summer, and I agreed to find the best way for him to spend that time. The first thing I did was sign us both up for the College Board “Question of the Day”before he reneged, and then I started the hunt.
The College Board “Question of the Day” arrives every day via email at about 5:30 in the morning. I got them all wrong on Days 1, 2 and 3, which felt particularly embarrassing given that I’d spent two-decades working in book publishing, and one would think this shouldn’t be so hard for me.
And then I had my first SAT flashback:
Oooffff.....Somehow I'd managed to block that I’d done so poorly on the SATs in high school that I was forced to apply to colleges that didn’t require them. On Day 4 I stopped everything I was doing to see if I could answer the question right, if I stopped multi-tasking for a minute. Thankfully it was a vocabulary question that morning, because otherwise I may have given up.
For the next few days I managed to get the questions right (though it would be weeks before I answered a math problem correctly), and before I knew exactly what I was doing, in a fit of unbridled enthusiasm, I declared to the world on my blog: I Have A New Goal - - To Get the Perfect Score on the SATs!
My point at the time was that if I could do it, having scored so abysmally in high school, that anyone could (i.e., my kids).
And so began this crazy quest to see what it would take for a run-of- the-mill, single working mother of two non type-A teenagers, to score a 2400 on the SATs. I devised a plan to fully immerse myself in twelve different SAT prep methods in 2011 -- one per month – and to take the SAT in an official setting (i.e. registered with the College Board, high school gyms with proctors) each of the seven times it’s offered this year. I took the first test on January 22, 2011 at a private school in Westchester, New York, and was able to memorialize my mid-life SAT experience on YouTube as soon as I got home (see the video above).
On February 1, 2011, I began my first month of SAT prep using the Official College Board “Blue Book” and their online course. I switched methods on March 1 (all math, all the time), then again on April 1 (Kaplan), and will switch again on May 1, etc.
My goal is to get a perfect SAT score, but more than that, it’s really to see if it’s possible to transform this universally loathed experience into a little bit of fun. If I’m lucky, I’ll learn a lot by walking a mile in my teenage son’s shoes. I promise to share all the details – from prices to the time invested, etc. And yes, I will share my scores.
A few other items of note:
1) The beautiful blog post illustrations on this site were painted by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. You can learn more about Jennifer's work on her website, August Wren.
2) Almost everything I know about the SATs comes from Catherine Johnson. She's way further down the SAT rabbit hole than me. Her blog, Kitchen Table Math, is a treasure trove of useful information.