I was delighted to arrive home from my spring break and find good SAT results from my students who had taken the test for the second time in March. In every case, their consistent hard work between the two testings had produced significant gains of 50, 100 or more points!
Students are always exhilarated to see their efforts pay off, and I am also always thrilled, because it drives home to them this critically important life lesson: Hard work is what makes improvement happen.
Here in the US, we arguably don’t teach this lesson very well. Our culture is very talent-focused;
When I teach my SAT class, I begin by administering to my new students two sections of a practice test out of the Official SAT Guide.
Invariably, some student informs me, “I’ve done this test already.” Many kids come to my class having already purchased the SAT Guide and done some practice on their own.
“Do it again,” I tell them, and I find that, not only do these kids NOT score perfectly the second time around, their scores are indistinguishable from those of the rest of the class; if they hadn’t told me they had done these sections before, nothing in their scores would have tipped me off.
Last month, my own daughter was getting ready to take the LSAT (the law school entrance exam), so I tried a few practice LSAT sections myself…and, guess what?
I found them stunningly, amazingly difficult! And, I made TONS of mistakes!
For example, on my first reading passage, I answered the eight questions, and got SIX of them wrong!!!
This was an excellent experience for me, because I felt something I’ve lost touch with: I felt a sinking, dizzying fear of this difficult material.
Khan is a powerful, free resource for help in math, science, history, and SAT prep. Please do go to www.KhanAcademy.org and familiarize yourself with all Khan has to offer (including topics of interest to parents such as medicine, banking and art history), and then make sure your child knows how to navigate the site.
Here are some Khan Academy highlights:
Vocabulary development is not just for school, not just for the SAT and ACT, not just for students. It’s a terrific way to promote brain health by staying mentally active. Plus, vocabulary study helps people of every age to stay connected to literature, science and current events, because the more words you know, the easier and more enjoyable reading is. Vocab study ought to be a lifelong habit!
The SAT (or ACT) is that sort of friend, a supplier of not-always-flattering truths. Those scores are a reality bite, and although many students are dismayed, I don’t think they are usually surprised.
I suggest that students view their SAT or ACT results as a wake-up call, a spotlight shining onto the skills they ought to finally get a handle on.
Too many students drag their weak academic areas around with them like a ball and chain, trying to ignore them, too frightened and confused to know how to fix them.
And most students experience an enormous sense of relief and empowerment when they improve in a skill that’s been holding them back.
So make NOW be the time you make a dent in that weak vocabulary…or improve those critical reading skills…or brush up those shaky math concepts.
One great thing about these standardized tests? Some focused work in a specific area, done consistently between now and the next test, can make a noticeable and satisfying difference. I suggest you select one or two areas you need to improve on and concentrate on those.
And, here are some great free resources you can take advantage of:
It’s my third time teaching this class, and I’m finally feeling like I’m getting the curriculum shaped into a form I like a lot.
I’m trying to create something more than just an SAT class: I blend in research-based study tips, plus I’m trying to get my students embarked on some good habits that they’ll need to succeed in college and in life:
After each class, I’ve been posting on my website my outline, notes and assignments.
I’ve also inserted links to many useful and free online videos, worksheets and interactive practice. My students use these posts for review or to catch up if they miss a class, and…
Anyone who wants to follow along at home each week is welcome to access all of these materials and use them as a FREE do-it-yourself SAT prep class!
We’ve had two classes so far (there will be six in all):
Session One (January 26)
Session Two (February 2)
I will post notes for the remaining classes after I teach them, on the following dates: Feb 9, 16, 23 and March 2. Just go to my website, www.LeighCousins.com, click on the “Tests” page, and visit the purple box.
A student who follows my notes and does the work ought to be well-prepared for the March 9 SAT or any other SAT this year. (Make sure and register soon for the March 9 exam!)
It would thrill me to have any or all of you …
Take just a few seconds to consider this question.
OK, now: unless you were too rushed or distracted to actually invest those few seconds, you found that your mind automatically began forming a reply.
Questions can be great for kicking the brain into a productive mode, because:
Here’s a Thanksgiving feast for your brain, a few of my favorite websites for educational games and videos:
Sporcle has quizzes on all sorts of subject matter. How well do you know the countries of Africa, or the periodic table, or sports teams? What countries have the highest populations of turkeys?
On Quizlet you can make your own flash cards (online or printed), or use sets in their extensive collection. Brush up on your vocabulary (excellent for test prep!) or your times tables or your French verbs. I really like their “Scatter” game, one of several flashcard-flipping options you can try.
I stopped blogging because my routine had been disrupted. My morning writing time was no longer available, and that’s when my head was in “writing mode.”