The SAT Preparation Program
Preparation usually begins with a free diagnostic test taken in my office to insure that the SAT is the right test for each student and to establish a baseline score.
I meet with students weekly. The length of preparation and number of weekly sessions depend on each student’s learning needs and score goal.
Test Content and Preparation System
WRITING AND LANGUAGE
The “Writing and Language” section of the SAT requires students to answer 44 questions in 35 minutes. The section tests a wide array of grammatical rules as well as rhetorical material such as transitions, relevant information, paragraph improvement, etc. In addition, two graphs/charts per writing section must be analyzed for their evidence in relation to the passage.
In order to consistently finish the section within the time limit and with high accuracy, students must learn the material tested as well as effective test-taking strategies and time-saving tactics.
Students learn rules, strategies, and time-saving tactics all at once. Each rule/strategy/tactic item is followed by an immediate drill practice in order to reinforce learning. Flashcards are then created for the item for further memorization.
The “Reading” section of the test requires students to answer 52 questions in 65 minutes, including reading time. The section consists of 5 college-level passages from literature, science, history and social studies, including US Founding Documents (19th century writings by prominent figures); each passage is followed by 10 to 11 multiple choice questions. Like the Writing section, the Reading section includes 2 graphs/charts that must be analyzed for their evidence in relation to the written passage.
To answer questions with speed and accuracy, students must learn to easily extract the main idea of a passage and the structure of its argument, while mapping the location of important details (except for fiction passages, which require their own techniques).
The most important skill students must develop is to balance reading time with question answering time. The balance is unique to each student and is developed through experimentation and practice. I work closely with each student as they learn the timing that yields the highest accuracy within the time limit. While timing for the SAT is important, the pace of the test is slower that the ACT’s.
WRITING THE ESSAY
Students are required to write a rhetorical analysis of a passage in 50 minutes. Writing a rhetorical analysis means that students must analyze an author’s argument, focusing on that author’s persuasive techniques. The essay is optional; however, most colleges prefer to see a student’s writing. I provide an easy to follow template that allows students to consistently write effective essays (after some practice).
Timed Full-Length Graded Practice Tests
When students have integrated enough material, they take free practice tests in my testing room in order to assess progress and develop the stamina needed to focus for up to 4 hours. When students’ scores are close to their score goal, they take the official SAT test. I recommend that students plan to take a second test: it takes stress off to know that there is another chance, and it corrects for a potential off-day on the first test. Some students take up to three official tests.
To master the SAT requires:
- Learning the material tested
- Integrating effective strategies and time tactics
- Practicing the above
- Taking several timed full-length practice tests
The summer is a good time to focus on standardized test preparation, since the school year is usually filled with various obligations. For example, a rising junior (current 10th grader) can make great progress on his/her preparation and take the test for the first time at the end of summer or in the fall of junior year.
SAT Tests Dates and Registration
To find out about test dates and to register, open these pages:
Tests are given throughout the year with a long break between early June and the beginning of September.
The Broad Benefits of SAT Preparation
- Thorough test preparation increases reading and critical thinking skills, preparing students for the high volume and complex reading that is required in most college courses
- The extensive/intensive review of grammatical and rhetorical skills sharpens writing ability
- The essay practice develops logical reasoning and persuasive skills
To understand that test preparation leads to college preparedness motivates students to give their all to the process, often increasing their ability to attend “reach” schools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it true that the new SAT does not test vocabulary?
A: There are no more sentence completions on the test, so the vocabulary is not tested directly. However, the reading passages are college level and, therefore, a strong vocabulary is necessary to achieve high level reading comprehension.
Q: Is it true that guessing is not penalized anymore?
A: On the old test, an extra ¼ point was deducted per wrong answer, discouraging students from guessing. On the new test, there is no penalty for guessing. In addition, the new test only has 4 answer choices instead of 5 on the old test.
Q: How do colleges compare SAT to ACT scores?
A: Colleges use a concordance table to compare scores. For example, an ACT score of 31 corresponds to a new SAT score of 1,400. For a complete concordance list, visit collegeboard.org/satconcordance .
Q: How many times can I take the SAT?
A: The test can be taken as many times as you wish. However, I recommend that students do not take it more than three times. Some schools require that the scores of all tests taken be sent to them. To send several low test scores does not give a good impression. That is why it is much better to wait to take a first official test when well prepared.