Serious about SAT?

I generally start by examining the kinds of questions a student missed on the PSAT, and we make a plan based on the SAT or PSAT score report.

I usually need to teach lessons on the most common grammatical concepts covered by the test: subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, misplaced and dangling modifiers, parallel structure, and pronoun case. These five skills probably account for half of the most-missed writing questions.

We practice and drill - the only way to get better at something is to keep doing it! For the critical reading questions, I like to have older students do passages from the Advanced Placement exams; they are similar in format to the SAT passages and have slightly more challenging questions. Questions on the SAT are categorized as easy, medium, or difficult, and students generally don't have trouble with the easy ones! Practicing with difficult questions makes them feel more confident on test day.

We’ll also examine the essay expectations and strategies. I have students look at some sample essays and use the scoring guide to see if they can figure out what score each essay earned, and why. Students who grade an essay too high often think their own writing has accomplished the task when it hasn’t – simply because they misunderstand how to interpret the scoring criteria. In addition to discussing how to approach a timed essay, we practice brainstorming, organizing, and developing ideas – skills that students can also apply to full-length essays in their English classes.

Finally, I always tell students that nothing we do together will make much difference if it is ALL they do. Between sessions, they should continue to practice the grammar and/or vocabulary (whatever we're working on). The investment of a student’s time is going to have more impact than any investment in the cost of tutoring.

Most importantly, I tell students who are serious about this that they must READ. I encourage each student who is not already a habitual reader to choose a novel – any novel – and read 20-30 minutes daily; it is the absolute best way to raise verbal SAT scores. 


Deborah C.

Grammar Guru

400+ hours
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