New Year

Hi Debbie,

Your blog is really useful, while entertaining at the same time. I live in England and my 14-year-old daughter, whom I homeschool, is interested in elite universities and  needs to score well on the SAT, which is a whole new phenomena to us.

I am taking notes and keeping a good resources link together. Because we are in a different system, would you say it’s too early for her to start test prep at age 15? Do you think it’s a good idea to go straight to taking practice tests before becoming familiar with the test? Or will this be discouraging for her?  I am wondering if it’s better to spend a while familiarising her with the content and then take a test and work on the areas that need improvement.


A Mom from Zimbabwe


Here’s what I would do: I’d work on shoring up her fundamentals now, and save the practice tests and “test prep” (as most people think of test prep) for the year before she will take the SAT.

There is legitimate potential for burnout if you “test prep” for longer than a year (not to mention, a shortage of official material — and you must use official College Board material for test prep). Plus, there are plenty of exercises she can do to “prepare,” without using the practice tests.

For example, she could read one story from a New York Times-equivalent publication every day, then go over the vocabulary from each article and discuss the main idea (usually in the first or last paragraph).

Also, carefully correct all of her grammar on papers.  The SAT tests very specific and limited grammar rules (e.g. subject/verb agreement, parallelism, etc.), and she can learn those by having her papers corrected.  When it comes time for “test prep,” you want her to be polishing, rather than learning the fundamentals.

Erica Meltzer’s SAT books for both the reading and writing sections are excellent; you may want to weave some of her exercises into your routine now too.

If your daughter has solid math skills (i.e. has done lots of practice and can work fast and accurately), SAT “test prep” should be a breeze.  I’d recommend PWN the SAT’s Math Guide to learn the shortcuts for the test, when the time comes.

Good luck and please keep in touch!!



I had a really exciting discovery the other day:  There are total strangers on Goodreads talking about my book!  You can read an excerpt from the book here, and if you’re inclined to buy the book, you can pre-order it now.

The book will be in stores on February 25.

Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis.

  • Sharon

    Hi Debbie – I will surely be in touch. Hopefully your book will be available on Kindle UK so I can get a copy too.

    • Debbie Stier

      I’m pretty sure you can…but I’ll confirm!