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Better Than SAT/ACT Test Prep

The following article takes well known anecdotal evidence and makes it much more real - as if it were a punch to the stomach or whack to the head. Do not let it intimidate you in the least.

The issue is not about the money…..and this is the key point!

It is not the actual tangible money - it is the BEHAVIOR of how people think and what they do which makes the largest difference. The issue is about EXPOSURE. Money can allow for wealthy families to have their children gain MORE EXPOSURE OVER LONGER PERIODS OF TIME to the material within the SAT and ACT. In reality, anyone can gain more exposure over longer periods of time.

The idea of last minute test prep and cramming for these exams is where most families have it all wrong - even those with money. It is about the number of times students have exposure to content, use the content and apply what is learned in school.

Any family CAN gain more exposure over time on a budget - AND SHOULD do the following, not merely for better SAT/ACT scores:

(1) Get a library card and use it until it falls apart - literally. Children with a great oral vocabulary and ability to read sight words by kindergarten do substantially better than children who have to struggle in kindergarten. Be as fastidious with reading as you are with keeping your kitchen clean! Not only should your child read, you should read as well. There are usually FREE literacy programs for adults at local libraries. Not reading is a ‘cop out’ and you fail your child. A library card is free unless you keep the books too long. This is by far the best bang for your buck ever.

(2) Take your child on local and free excursions. If you have any time for TV or Facebook, you have time to take your child to do something outside. Bring paper to the park with crayons or pencils and draw. Label the drawing. Write sentences. Have your child keep a journal. Look up at the clouds and write about what you see. Explain what it feels like, smells like, sounds like…..What do berries from a bush at the park taste like (save some for the wildlife)?

Writing helps develop a larger vocabulary. Reading and writing are essential to one another for development of the other. Readers write well and writers tend to be readers…..go figure.

(3) Find out what is happening in your community which is free or low cost. There are an abundance of programs. If you can afford a flat TV screen and cable, you can afford local activities. Even sports teams often have ‘scholarship’ funds for children who lack money. Developing the skill of persistence is more valuable than a score on any test. Persistence is learned by trying to do something again and/or do it better. It is life long. Persistent children are able to better handle the demands of homework and the challenges of increased work loads which school presents.

(4) Find a dictionary and thesaurus (old school book kind - not computer). Start this in kindergarten and continue on - use a new word a day with your children. Put a mark next to it. Start with basic words and work to complex. Have your children learn to spell these words. It takes a few minutes at breakfast, in the car, on the bus/subway (New York City), walking, etc. to do this one task of a new word a day. The dividends on this pay off incredibly well by time a child is in Grade 1 and more so for the SAT/ACT.

(5) Practice math facts. Write on a paper bag if you have to. Help your child know addition and subtraction, than multiplication and division fact families. Make counting, measuring, anything with numbers at all, FUN! Add on to number (4) above and do one math problem a day or a week (Ex: 1 + 1=2 and 2-1=1). The dividends for children with math skills pays off  by Gr 1 as well and help in lifelong reasoning skills.

If your child needs a tutor, make sure to get one early, not at the last minute and not to cram. Learning is exposure over time.


Excellent post.  This is absolutely my approach to families who work with me on SAT prep.  My first question is always, "What are your son/daughter's reading habits?", and my first requirement is always that the student get a library card if he/she doesn't already, bring me a stack of books written in age-appropriate prose on a variety of subjects of interest, and start reading a challenging newspaper of choice daily, making sure to read at least some articles in sections that they aren't interested in.  Then the question types and practice essays can follow off that.  Test tricks and flashcards you can get off the Princeton Review for $30; this kind of guidance is actual value added.
Sally - Thank you for supporting the process I use. It is always good to have validation. The funny part is how people think and believe test prep is something you can do quickly and just take the test......what a world we live in!