Preparing for the SAT

Reading: The Perfect Score Project: One Woman’s Journey to Uncover the Secrets of the SAT

Hardly done with the second chapter yet, I still have a decent collection of ideas I want to think about and tips I want to pass on to my son.

There’s the usual sort of thing- take as many practice tests as possible. Take the test more than once if you can. If you have a choice of locations, choose the one with tables and chairs that fit you and are not attached together, in the room with a clock you can see.

When you take the SAT, on the essay portion, pick a thesis and then write it down at the top of your exercise book, and circle back to it in some fashion in every paragraph.

Leave yourself enough time at the end of your essay to go back and check for errors. Check pronouns, verb agreement, punctuation, capitalization.
Did you actually answer the question?
Were you strong? No waffling here, no tempering your words with perhaps, maybe, could, and other weasel words we use to deflect disagreement, hurt feelings, knee jerk objections in the real world. Make a strong case for the argument you are making.

BEFORE you take the test, you want to have a sort of mental drawer of ingredients you could use in an essay:
Vocabulary: collect together a few ten dollar words, use them, own them, and see if you can seamlessly use them in your essay.
Metaphors: Likewise, put together a few decent, not hackneyed metaphors you can comfortably wield in several circumstances, because metaphors look good in an SAT essay.
Literary Examples: Also collect a couple useful literary allusions you can use, as examples or to quote from, in your essay. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what the essay is going to be about. Stier of course doesn’t say this, but if you have been working with that favourite narration question of mine, ‘what else does this remind you of?’ you’re in familiar territory here. Before you take the SAT you want to be well read, you want to be able to remember what you’ve read, and you want to be able to pull examples from stuff you’ve previously read to be able to make a good point in whatever you write in response to a writing prompt on the SAT. Essentially, you really are preparing for the SAT the day you start listening to and reading well written literature.

Well, no, you’re preparing for the SAT, and life as well, from any point we could name. And you’re preparing either very ill, or very well, based on the types of reading and the kind of thinking you’ve been doing.

You may also find this helpful if you are looking for information on writing an essay: Basic information of a general nature on writing an essay.
However, you really need to find a book on the SAT that has been published for the same year you are taking the test, because the rules and material changes. For instance, there are no analogies or vocabulary portions on the SAT, so there’s not much point in spending time on workbooks which take you through those things.

Khan Academy works with the College Board to put together the most effective SAT testing and study material they can- for free!

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3 Comments

  1. Kirsten
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Ah, I used to be an SAT tutor for the Princeton Review! It’s an interesting test, and especially for the math portion, it’s really not so much about your math skills (basic Alg II is all you need) as it is tips and tricks. Unfortunately for fairness’ sake, it makes a big difference to study with a big company that has put in the work to analyze years of tests and help you with the shortcuts and strategy you need.

    • Headmistress
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      As it happens, we have somebody here who is a former teacher for Kaplan, and he doesn’t entirely agree. The tricks and tips, he says, are what is needed most by those who just don’t know the stuff inside out and upside down.

      • Kirsten
        Posted October 11, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

        No, he definitely has a point. Someone who knows it backwards and forwards will likely do very very well. I should have stated, the tricks will make a huge difference, not for the lowest 10% or the top 10%, but for the bulk in the middle.

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