There are a lot of big companies offering SAT & ACT prep books and expensive classes offering tricks and techniques to “beat the test.” Techniques and tricks might help a little bit, but studies have shown that the average student in these courses only experiences a modest improvement in their test score. The fact is, the SAT and ACT testing services are aware of the tricks and techniques and have revised the test to minimize their impact. Real improvement requires real work. My courses emphasize the foundations: close reading, critical thinking, and writing skills.
Good reading habits are the most important preparation for both standardized tests and all humanistic learning. Tutoring and classroom work must be complimented by the student’s independent reading. I create a personalized reading list so each student develops the habit of reading challenging, sophisticated literature and journalism.
The SAT and ACT assume a basic knowledge of American history and make use of American historical documents. I prepare students by educating them in American history and familiarizing them with important speeches and founding documents. Important speeches by great world leaders are also a component of the SAT, so we read and discuss these contributions to “The Great Conversation.” When students can identify and localize the context for a piece of writing they are better able to understand and analyze it. More importantly, when students have begun to think of themselves as part of that conversation about politics, ethics, and the human experience, they approach the work of understanding in a far more engaged and therefore effective way.