I received this text message from one of my students:


Have You Reached Your Score Goal?

This student was extremely motivated and methodical. We spent about 1 – 1.5 hours per week together, going over her tests. She did most of the heavy lifting on her own.

7-Steps to a 350 Point SAT Score Increase:

1 – Establish a Starting Point: She began the process with a lot of test anxiety, which makes her score gain all the more remarkable. She not only had the standard challenges everyone else has, but she also had to address the anxiety issue. Anxiety is terrible for an SAT score.

The goal for the December SAT was to survive!

2 – Study Aids: She took a brief hiatus after the December SAT, then started the Critical Reading Intensive by late December.

In January, she studied math, using The New Math SAT Game Plan, and took a few sections out of the College Board’s Blue Book.

3 – Practice SATsBy early February, she was ready to start taking full, timed practice SATs. We made a schedule — one full SAT every weekend.

4 – Test Analysis: After she took each practice test, she’d spend 1 day looking up every single vocabulary word she didn’t know, including those from the reading passages. She studied those words every day, until test day.

5 – Charting Errors: After looking up the vocab, she would chart each of her errors, giving careful consideration to why she made the error, and coming up with new strategies for the next practice test.  During the week, between practice tests, she’d spend about one hour per day, studying her errors. For example, if she made an “idiomatic expression” error on the writing section, she would spend an hour studying all idiomatic expressions.

6 – Different Methods: Each week, she tried out different “methods” of answering questions on her practice SATs. For example, one week she tried the passage based reading questions without reading the passage first (it didn’t work), another week she tried not guessing/leaving the question blank if she wasn’t sure of the answer (it worked), and another week she tried not leaving any questions blank.

Different methods work for different people. One student scored an 800 on the reading section by not reading the passages before answering the questions. That didn’t work for this student. Some students are good guessers and some are not.

Part of the test prep process is to rapidly figure out which strategy works best for which student.

7 – Practice Scores vs. Real ScoresHer practice scores fluctuated by about 50 points per section, from week to week. In the end, her May SAT math and reading scores were in the lower end of her range, and her writing score came in right in the middle.