How to Prepare for the SAT: An Academic Approach

The Illinois state-mandated SAT is now seven weeks away (on April 10), and millions of students across the country are gearing up for March, May, and June administrations of the SAT. With so many students sitting for upcoming administrations, we want to offer some insights on how to prepare for the SAT for your student. How to prepare for the SAT reading section With the SAT’s 2016 redesign, “going the distance” means something entirely new. The redesigned SAT features a 65-minute reading section, and the number of passages has grown from four to five.  So, our little reading gladiators have entered a new arena, and the endurance requirement of the sport has changed: a reading rumble that involves only 4 rounds of approximately 9 minutes of reading on the ACT, for example, now involves 5 rounds of 13 minutes of reading on the SAT. How is your child training? Is your child getting in enough reading rounds? How long does your child sit and read complex texts? And let me specify: without interruption! No texting, no Snapchatting, no Facebooking, etc. In the weeks prior to the SAT, how can we intensify the training? A practice test to simulate the exact reading conditions of the test; shutting off all devices and reading for over an hour without breaks; timed 13-minute rounds of reading bursts to prepare for the passage-by-passage experience. As parents and educators, we know that mindless drilling does lead to improvement, if not true learning. However, understanding the actual requirements of an academic task – the timing, attention, endurance required – is necessary to create a learning experience that prepares students thoughtfully to maximize their performances. You have to practice how you play. It’s time to script out that all-important and inspiring Rocky training montage for your child, complete with some extra reading rounds to build endurance for an SAT that promises a new, important, and extended reading challenge. How to prepare for the SAT grammar questions How good is your child’s grasp of grammar? Or how well does your child grasp grammar?    Even the two questions above raise an important grammar question—what’s the difference between “good” and “well”?  That’s easy, right?  “Good” is an adjective, and “well” is an adverb. But hold on: can’t you say, “I am good,” and “I am well”?  In the second case, “well” is an adjective meaning “healthy.”  And hold on again: can’t you say, like James Brown famously did, “I feel good,” and isn’t “feel” a verb?  Oh well, maybe we should just call the whole thing off. Writing off grammar is not really an option for student’s taking the SAT, preparing for college-level curriculum, or, for that matter, anyone who wants to avoid costly mistakes in life. This point has been made especially clear in a very expensive class-action lawsuit amounting to $10M in overtime pay a dairy company in Portland, ME owes its workers—all because of the importance of one little, missing comma. The lack of an Oxford comma in [...]

College-Level Rigor in the High School Classroom: SAT Curriculum, Common Core and College Readiness

SAT, Common Core, and College Readiness No teacher, at the beginning of their career, enters the field to teach test prep. Likewise, no student shows up for their English or math class expecting an SAT prep class. They see performance on a test like the SAT as fundamentally distinct from performance in the classroom. However, College Board’s redesign of the SAT in 2016 sought to directly address these concerns. The SAT assesses the same competencies that teachers seek to foster in their students: core college-readiness academic skills, problem solving abilities, and understanding of complex relationships. To better align with high school curriculum, the SAT explicitly aligned itself with the Common Core State Standards, currently adopted by forty-two states. This alignment creates a win-win situation for students and teachers. Students have a vested interest in their SAT scores to improve their college prospects, and teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance on the Common Core State Standards. When the test assesses what is important to teachers, preparation isn’t merely “test prep”—it’s key academic instruction to prepare students for the challenges they will face in college. And the College Board isn’t making this claim without some evidence to back it up (just like we’d require of a student!). Their early predictive validity studies show a moderate correlation in both verbal and math between SAT scores and first-year college GPA. They’ll expand this analysis to a more significant set of students in 2018 to see how robust the relationship is. High-Value Skills in SAT Curriculum It’s hard to connect the esoteric idea of the SAT with the concrete skills teachers are trying to promote in their classrooms every day. However, when teachers first look at those skills most frequently assessed on the SAT—those most important to predicting college readiness—it’s often an “aha!” moment. Reading Reading on standardized tests has long been thought of merely as assessing reading speed rather than comprehension. The SAT seeks to combat this perception by providing more time per passage and per question than it has in the past (and substantially more than ACT, an explicitly speeded test, provides). The test also brings in texts more aligned with what already exists in the classroom. The rigorous texts have an average Lexile of around 1300 L and include texts students might encounter in a history or literature class. Authors have included Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and Charlotte Bronte. Beyond the texts themselves, the SAT is asking students to perform tasks that most teachers would applaud—citing claims with evidence. One of the most common mistakes in student critical thinking is to make a claim about a particular text without appropriate supporting material. The SAT addresses this head on with their “command of evidence” items, like the one below from one of College Board’s released test: Command of evidence questions make up 10 items on every SAT—approximately a fifth of the text. This skill is a clear analogue to Common Core’s Anchor Standard #1 in reading: “Read closely [...]

By |2018-02-12T16:10:46+00:00February 12, 2018|Assessments, SAT SP, School Programs, Special|0 Comments
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