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It's that time of year again - SAT time for juniors. I'm assembling resources for my niece and wanted to share what I think are the best SAT resources out there. (Among other things, I tutor kids on the SAT)

 

1. The Official SAT Practice Tests.

The only real source of actual SATs. You can buy the book from Amazon for about $17. It has 4 tests in it. Or you can download (for free) and print out 6 tests from the College Board's (CB) website (which includes those 4 tests in the book plus 2 more.) Tests 5 and 6 were given last year so those are the most-like-the-real-thing. I have my kids practice on Test 1-4 and we save 5 and 6 for our final run-throughs closer to the actual test date. And there are full answer explanations for every question. Yay!

 

2. The Khan Academy

They've partnered with the CB and have a lot of good study material and additional practice questions. It's not perfect - they tend to be nerd-heavy on the explanations - giving the "official" way, rather than an easier way to learn it. And, with the SAT, there are good strategies that Khan usually doesn't address - like backsolving. But - there's lots of good information for brushing up on concepts you haven't seen in a while.

 

 

I'm pretty fanatical about only using official material. Most of the books on the market contain questions that *look* like SAT questions, but they miss the mark by being too simple or too complex, testing the wrong thing, or adding the wrong kind of extraneous info. I've read a ton of SAT books over the years and these are the ONLY ones I recommend - they are written by people who have worked through thousands of SAT questions and been through years of the tests, and have personally tutored hundreds (probably in the thousands by now) of kids studying for the SAT. All the expertise shows - their questions match the content, complexity level, tone and nuance of the SAT.

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MATH

3. The New Math SAT Game Plan

OMG - my absolute most favorite SAT math book ever! There's a lot more Algebra 2 on this new SAT - and I had to learn all sort of stuff I had forgotten - parabola remainders? long division with variables? Phil is a long time high school math teacher (and he also teaches SAT math to kids) and he explains math in a way that the non-math among us can understand. (and that kids can turn into high scores) Love love love this book!

 

4. PWN the SAT

This is another favorite. This is geared for kids already scoring in the 600s. It's HARD. It make the SAT look easy in comparison. Kids love this book b/c instead of boring "find the angle" questions, Mike's questions are things like calculating the ratio of donuts left after a zombie attack. Even though it's quite entertaining to work through, the concepts he's reinforcing are exactly what and how they are tested on the real test (minus the zombies)

 

 

READING

5. The Critical Reader

This book isn't easy to wade through - it's dense in the best way. Kids need to be scoring in the 600s if they want to tackle it on their own. (Kids with lower scores can work through it with help) Erica shows you exactly what's tested and teaches you the relevant skill. This is the only book that I've found that actually breaks apart the skill set and methodically teaches each part.

 

WRITING

6. The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar

Homeschoolers have a huge leg up with all the grammar that's on the new SAT so you might not need this resource. Since public schools have abandoned grammar, there's a whole generation of kids that can't find a subject, pronoun antecedent or a complete sentence. Erica breaks down each grammar point, and teaches what it is, how to recognize it and gives many examples and practice exercises. She's also got a companion workbook with 8 practice writing tests.

 

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Hope these resources are helpful as you help your kids conquer the SAT!

 

One other new thing this year - the CB has added an August test date - woo hoo!

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We have most of these resources now...hoping they will pay off ;)

 

I'm having my daughter work through the Critical Reader and the Grammar book as part of English during  next year's 10th grade (she's already scoring in the 1300s as a 9th grader, her issues are speed).  As a result, she's doing 15 minutes a day on Khan Academy (alternating math/Reading) each day now, but she won't start taking practice exams until later this summer.  Older DS is working through PWN the SAT and Khan Academy now, but he will be spending 3-4 hours a week practicing starting in February gearing up for the fall ACT/SAT taking monthly full exams, and some weekly section practice, alternating between math and CR/writing.  I didn't have the SAT Math Game Plan book, so I'll add that to our studies for the coming year. His practice tests are scoring mid-1300s, but really need to practice to try to get that number closer to 1450 for scholarships.  Just not enough time to bring that score up high enough in 10 days. I really wish we had started this time last year! 

 

I've changed my mind a lot about prep.  Even a great math student benefits from prep -- because they may be great at math, just not great at doing math FAST.  I looked at some of the work my son was doing.  He didn't do things wrong -- he just did them "the long way."  Something that should be two steps, he took 8 much longer steps to complete (converting negative exponents to decimals instead of using fractions).  Same with the Reading & English scores,  My kids (cold) scored about 700 first time out -- but familiarity and practice really helps. Memorizing the formulas helps.  

 

Lots of little things -- practicing with the materials, with the questions, understanding what they are asking (coming from a business background, when asked how many hours do you have to work before you make a profit, we thought the answer had to be the one beyond break even, but they wanted the break-even answer.  In our mind, break even does not equal profit!  But, understanding they were using the word "before" or "until" to indicate the break-even threshold is the difference between a right and wrong answer. Being good at math wouldn't have prepared him to answer that question the way the SAT was asking it -- only the prep helped clarify what the SAT wanted vs. how he interpreted the answer.  

 

I guess the thrust of this is -- even if you have a kid who is using solid material, who has tested really well on ITBS, Terra Nova, CAT (99th percentiles), do not overlook prep work -- especially if your kids need the high scores for scholarships.

 

 

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I guess the thrust of this is -- even if you have a kid who is using solid material, who has tested really well on ITBS, Terra Nova, CAT (99th percentiles), do not overlook prep work -- especially if your kids need the high scores for scholarships.

 

@LisaK - You bring up a great point. I think of high test scores as a three-legged stool - content knowledge is only one leg. The other two are strategy and execution. 

 

When I sat down to take the new SAT, I missed 4 writing questions - and it wasn't because I don't know grammar. I was so used to the old test, that the new one caught me off guard.

 

One sentence said something like "..facilitate melting snow and ice, limiting IT'S ability to reflect.." I immediately know it was the wrong it's in the "IT'S ability", so I chose "ITS" in the answer choices. What I didn't do was to check back and make sure it was the right pronoun in the first place.

 

I didn't realize how much I had gotten to know the old test - I knew what they were going to ask about, how they would ask, what they wouldn't ask about.... So I need to get to know the flavor and tone of THIS test. And I assume that will be the same for kids as well - not that they are comparing to an old SAT, but that once you learn WHAT, and HOW it's tested, displaying your content knowledge becomes a whole lot easier

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We intend to use Erica's books for the EBRW sections, but haven't quite yet because my dd is only in 9th.  You say her books are good for students already scoring in the 600s.  What about students scoring in the 700s -- do your recommendations for EBRW stay the same?  

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We intend to use Erica's books for the EBRW sections, but haven't quite yet because my dd is only in 9th.  You say her books are good for students already scoring in the 600s.  What about students scoring in the 700s -- do your recommendations for EBRW stay the same?  

 

Yes - you can pinpoint what types of questions they're missing and use Erica's books to supplement on those skills.

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I have been thinking about using College Prep  Genius for my daughter since it is video based. Any opinions on this?

 

http://collegeprepgenius.com/

 

HSBC has group buy sales periodically on this and on other test prep.

 

BYW, I love all the information shared in the original post. I will go back and research these. Thanks for sharing...

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@Pistachio Mom - I'm not familiar with them. I looked at their "Effective Strategies to help you ace the ACT or SAT" 43 sec video on the front page under the "College Prep Genius Strategies' section about 1/2 way down the page. 

 

The example they use isn't an SAT question. (At least that question hasn't shown up on any SAT dating back to 2003) And it's not an SAT-type of question. (The College Board's SAT Study Guide for Students gives example questions from every part of the test - you'll be able to see the difference)

 

The example they use in the second video "Strategies on how to ace the SAT" is much more like an SAT question. But her premise is the right answer contains all the pieces of the other answers in it. So, in 30 sec or less, find the answer choice than has elements of all the others in it. I fundamentally disagree with this approach. I teach a content-based approach.

 

Not every question on the SAT can be solved in 30 seconds .(Spoken from 5 years of painful experience sitting in the room at 8 am on Saturday mornings taking the actual SAT under actual testing conditions.) I'm fast - but I'm not that fast :-) Even now there are plenty of math questions that I've never seen before and have to puzzle through.

 

I sort-of agree with their larger point - there are "tricks" that can help you get to the answer more quickly. But the tricks work on top of deep subject matter expertise - call them "thinking tricks". By themselves, "tricks" won't get you very good scores.

 

One of my favorite questions from the old test, was an absolute value questions about points on the number line. 3 of the points (u, w, v)  were negative, 2 (x, y) were positive. (I don't know how to attach a photo of the problem - so here's a link to my blog post with the pic in it.) The question asked what is the value of |u-w|? It was a great question because kids got all involved in the number line part and completely forgot about the absolute value part. Well - if you know anything about absolute value, you know the only choices are going to be the positive values - x or y. And that "thinking trick" took me about 1 second. So now I just need to wrestle with 2 answer choices instead of 5. And even if I guess, I've got a 50/50 shot of getting it right, 

 

Other test strategy tricks - like backsolving, making up numbers with there are variables in the answer choices (which is just another flavor of backsolving), the short-hand way of finding slope, keeping your eyes open with they have negative numbers and cube roots - all work especially well when you already know what you're doing. 

 

Maybe other people have direct experience with this company? Or recommendations to other companies that worked well for them?

 

 

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Thank you for taking a look. My daughter is not a math person, but does well in her school work. We are just trying to help her to improve her testing skills so to be able to go fast enough to get a decent score. Timed tests are tough for her. I will take a look at the SAT Study Guide from the College Board. She took the PSAT for practice this last year. 2017 will be serious.

 

I want to help her to practice and prepare so that she can do the best she is able.

Thank you for the links above! I will investigate both.

 

Any other recommendations  or opinions?

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Thank you for taking a look. My daughter is not a math person, but does well in her school work. We are just trying to help her to improve her testing skills so to be able to go fast enough to get a decent score. Timed tests are tough for her. I will take a look at the SAT Study Guide from the College Board. She took the PSAT for practice this last year. 2017 will be serious.

 

I want to help her to practice and prepare so that she can do the best she is able.

Thank you for the links above! I will investigate both.

 

Any other recommendations  or opinions?

@Pistachio mom - 

 

Don't use the College Board's Study Guide as a study guide - just use it for the 4 printed tests. (Or you can download 6 test for free from their websites)(Links are in the 1st post)

 

I adore girls who aren't math people! I think Keller's book will be the best fit for her at the moment. Once she's confident there, then have her work on SAT practice tests. Let her know that there will always be problems she doesn't know how to do. Show her how to "skip" those (since you don't lose points for wrong answers, you should bubble in something - I choose "A" - on every question, even the ones that you don't look at or get to) WITHOUT losing confidence or getting intimidated. 

 

I don't work directly with kids on speed, unless they are rock-solid on the content (which is the pretty rare kid) I work on content mastery and strategy - speed (and confidence) is a byproduct of both. (here's a girl I worked with a couple of years ago)

 

Work with her to research colleges she's interested in and look at their incoming SAT scores. Then you all can set a target score. You can look at the College Board's concordance tables (not that they make this easy - it's fairly convoluted, but you can still estimate) to estimate how many questions she needs to get correct in the math section to reach that score.

 

Unless you are shooting for an 800, you SHOULD NOT be answering every math question (and, of course, you will actually "answer" every questions b/c you don't want to leave any blank.) But you don't want to pay attention to all the questions. You only need to answer 62% of the questions (that's 36 of 58 questions) correctly to get a 600 (which is the 73rd percentile ranked against other college bound kids). You need to answer 82%  of the questions correctly (that's 48 of 58 questions) to get a 700 (which is the 92nd percentile). 

 

The point is - you can "skip" a lot. Most kids are HUGELY relieved to know that.

 

Also - there's one other thing she can exploit about the math section. The questions TEND to go in difficulty order by mini section (so - easy to medium to hard. Then it starts over in the grid-in section - easy to medium to hard) They don't follow that exactly, but it's a pretty good rule of thumb. So, that means she can "ignore" that last handful of questions in each mini section.

 

I think taking it slow and steady, like you're doing, is a great choice. My test-nervous kids need a long slow runway to practice on until they can do their best work. 

 

Good luck!

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My DD will need to take the SAT prior to dual enrollment at the regional CC.  Do you have any advice for preparing for the essay portion?

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My DD will need to take the SAT prior to dual enrollment at the regional CC.  Do you have any advice for preparing for the essay portion?

I haven't researched the new essay yet. I liked PWNtheSAT's Essay Guide for the old test - though it looks like he hasn't yet updated it for the new test yet. My other two fav writing guides haven't yet been updated either.

 

My kids are talking about this one: The College Panda's Guide to the SAT essay. It's written by a perfect-scorer. It's gotten good reviews on Amazon. It might fit the bill. 

 

(Note: I haven't laid eyes on it yet and can't verify if it's useful or appropriate.)(though it probably is)

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I haven't researched the new essay yet. I liked PWNtheSAT's Essay Guide for the old test - though it looks like he hasn't yet updated it for the new test yet. My other two fav writing guides haven't yet been updated either.

 

My kids are talking about this one: The College Panda's Guide to the SAT essay. It's written by a perfect-scorer. It's gotten good reviews on Amazon. It might fit the bill. 

 

(Note: I haven't laid eyes on it yet and can't verify if it's useful or appropriate.)(though it probably is)

 

Thank you!  I'll check it out.

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We intend to use Erica's books for the EBRW sections, but haven't quite yet because my dd is only in 9th.  You say her books are good for students already scoring in the 600s.  What about students scoring in the 700s -- do your recommendations for EBRW stay the same?  

 

This is a really dumb question. And I'm probably going to say Doh! as soon as you answer. But how do you know how your dc is scoring already? They haven't taken the SAT already, have they? Or are we talking about scores from practice tests? Or scores from official PSAT? Just wondering if I can find out where my ds is scoring (cold) here in 9th grade.

 

And showelott - when do you suggest is a good time to start prepping/studying/practicing for the SAT? What should we be doing (if anything) remainder of 9th? How about 10th?

Edited by mirabillis

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This is a really dumb question. And I'm probably going to say Doh! as soon as you answer. But how do you know how your dc is scoring already? They haven't taken the SAT already, have they? Or are we talking about scores from practice tests? Or scores from official PSAT? Just wondering if I can find out where my ds is scoring (cold) here in 9th grade.

 

And showelott - when do you suggest is a good time to start prepping/studying/practicing for the SAT? What should we be doing (if anything) remainder of 9th? How about 10th?

 

@mirabillis - There are no dumb questions! The only way to figure out what your dc is scoring already is to have them take an Official SAT Practice Test. Ideally, sitting at the kitchen table for 3 hours as they go through the whole thing. Or, more realistically if you're like most families, doing one section at a time in 30-60 min increments, and then scoring it using their scoring sheets and tables.

 

I know that Kaplan and Princeton and all sorts of other SAT places, including all sorts of books, offer "SAT exams." But, up until 2016, they couldn't legally use the College Board official material, so they had to make up their own stuff, and it is - usually - bad - ranging from slightly bad to omg-that's-not-even-on-the-SAT-why-are-you-pretending-that-it-is bad. But now, with the College Board material freely available, I have no idea what other companies are doing.

 

But, you'll want to stick with the ACTUAL materials published by the ACTUAL College Board folks.

 

PSAT scores can give you an idea of how they are scoring. Though if they come in lower than expected, don't panic. For a lot of non-homeschooling kids, it's the first time they've seen that sort of test (I have no idea when homeschoolers show kids standardized tests) and they are sometimes woefully unprepared (strategy-wise) and their scores are artificially low.

 

My conversation with my dear niece about her low PSAT scores:

Me: Hmm..how much time did you spend on each question?

Niece: Well, I wanted to make sure I answered all of them, because you don't get points off for wrong answers, so I could get it right even if I guessed, so I made sure to hustle and made sure I spent time on every one, even the ones I didn't know AT ALL, because, you-know, I COULD have gotten it right, because there's only 4 answer choices and so I have a 25% chance of getting it right!

Me: Why didn't you spend more time on the ones you could have gotten right with a little more effort and no time at all on the ones you didn't have a clue about. You probably would have gotten more questions right, in the end.

Niece: Really? You can do that? I thought I had to time it so I answered every single question, like the tests in school.

 

My advice to parents is to completely ignore the SAT/ACT until summer after 10th grade. Up until then, most kids don't have the academic background or the maturity to handle a punishing 3 hour exam. (There are some exceptions - like the Duke TIP program - which I think pulls 7th graders? So, obviously, you want the kid to be familiar with the test and how it works before they hit it cold)

 

But for the overwhelming majority of 9th and 10th graders - just go about your lives, working hard in your studies. No need to worry about the SAT/ACT :-)

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What about students scoring in the 700s -- do your recommendations for EBRW stay the same?

I am wondering the same thing but my oldest is not retaking anytime soon. My younger is aiming for the 700s this June but I already know his strengths and weaknesses from the Nov 2016 test and his daily work. My husband is thinking of test prep cram course for our kids for the fun of it when it matters.

This is a really dumb question. And I'm probably going to say Doh! as soon as you answer. But how do you know how your dc is scoring already? They haven't taken the SAT already, have they?

Her child and my older child took the June 2016 SAT. Edited by Arcadia
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@Pistachio Mom - 

 

I've heard good things about this book: Stop Doing Math: Tips, Tricks and Strategies to find success on the most important math exams you will ever take. I've ordered it from our library to see what I think. It apparently talks about math approaches that work for any standardized test. They might help your daughter gain more confidence?

_____________

I got the book today and I'm a fan! Lots of good advice, low-key tone, approaches math like a game, not a death march. Shows you how to "poke" the problem - think about it a little to see if there is a "shortcut" or a backdoor way to get the answer.

Edited by showelott

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