Do not fret about this SAT thing -- I've got you covered.
But.....(big big BUT) -- You must follow this plan methodically. Veer at your own risk. I learned my lesson.
Ok, here goes -- 10 easy (haha) steps to great SAT prep:
THE Surefire $218 46-Week SAT Test Prep Plan*:
- End of 10th grade, start yourself an 18 month calendar (free, from Google). Mark on the calendar every single SAT that takes place over the course of these 18 months -- from fall of junior year, through fall of senior year. The official SAT test dates are posted on the College Board's website. And if they're not posted yet, use past test dates as place-holders until the official dates are posted. They'll be roughly the same.
- Also, mark down your school vacations, midterms, finals, AP exams, etc. onto this calendar so you can see which SAT dates fit best with your schedule.
- Buy The Official SAT Study Guide (aka "The Blue Book"). It's $13.00 on Amazon, and includes 10 practice SATs. Solutions to the Blue Book can be found on the College Board's website, and about a million other places on the internet.
- Get yourself a Ti-84 Graphing Calculator if you don't already have one for school. The price is $135 -- but, you can find them for much less on discount sites.
- Download these three (free) official College Board Practice SATs: 2007-2008 SAT, 2009-1010 SAT, and 2010-2011 SAT. Now you're up to 13 official tests for study material.
- If you can spare another $70, enroll in the College Board Online Course. It's $10 less if you purchase the Blue Book at the same time from the College Board's website. The course includes 10 more practice tests. Note: Not all practice material is created equal. It is an essential ingredient in this SAT recipe, that you use "official" College Board material. Read this post (and comments) for more details about this matter.
- Block off a 5 hour chunk of time, every other weekend. Put it down on your calendar well in advance. That's booked solid time for you. You're not available then ... because this is when you will be taking the 23 full, timed, practice SATs I just told you about. Use a timer, take your 5 minute breaks, and make every effort to mimic an authentic SAT experience (e.g. use the bubble sheets, an experimental section, etc.). The SAT is as much about endurance, stamina, focus, and performance -- as it is about knowing the core material (cold). Incidentally, I did not follow this full-timed-test advice until the bitter end. Turns out I'm stubborn. What can I say... I thought I was "different."
- Correct your SAT, and spend the next two weeks hunting down the soutions to every-single-question you got wrong. Use the College Board's Solutions, try the Khan Academy, College Confidential -- whatever. Just make sure you know why the right answer is right. In fact, know that "why" so well you can teach it to your teacher.
- If you still don't understand the answer, ask your teachers at school. And if you're still stuck, put a question in the online hopper of this 2400 scoring tutor, and he'll get back to you with alacrity, precision, and accessibility -- and maybe even a little whiff of humor -- if you play your cards right.
Ok, you're not going to like me for this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Look up every-single-word you don't know on that SAT -- even if you got the question right. (I know I know...my son gives me a very hard time over this one.) Keep a list of these words on Wordnick, make flash cards, test yourself, have others test you -- and in short, make abundant use of these words in conversation (expect looks of shock and awe), and weave them into your school papers...often. Fringe benefit: you will get better grades while studying for the SAT.
*This SAT plan is the advice of an extremely smart, well-educated and lovely --not to mention highly exclusive, SAT tutor. It also happens to be the exact same very first piece of advice that I was told by another, very smart and lovely, well-educated, MIT-SAT-score-worthy friend.
Of course, I did not follow his advice. But for those of you out there who would like to do well on a shoestring budget:
Do as I say, not as I did.
Ok, one more point to make:
This plan requires the student to be motivated and methodical, and I do realize that this could be a challenge for some people (e.g. me....surprise). The fact that I was described as "disorganized" and "not methodical" on more than one occasion over the course of this year, kills me. I spend a lot of time and effort organizing myself -- not to mention I take great pride in my organizational tools; I consider myself to be aesthetically gifted in the area of methods to madness.
If this feels like it might be "you" -- like you and I could be birds of a feather -- here's an alternative to try:
Call the best test prep company in your area and see if they offer scholarship opportunities for motivated and deserving students. For instance, the Advantage Testing Foundation is an offshoot of Advantage Testing -- and let me just say, speaking from a firsthand (though way too brief) experience -- this route can be extremely efficient (not to mention a lot of fun).
All I'm saying is that you never know unless you ask.
Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis