If you’re like me and you spent good money on SAT prep classes for your child and you came away unsure about whether or not it was a good thing, know this: any preparation and practice for the SAT or ACT tests is a good thing. But do those SAT prep classes and programs really help students get fundamentally better or do they only help them perform somewhat better on that exam day?
I’ve been asking everyone I can about what it takes to innately improve SAT scores, and those answers are guesses at best. Practice, practice, practice is the rule. Not very scientific. But neither is any other solution out there. The best we can tell, student improvement comes from more careful and more practiced reading of SAT / ACT questions themselves, and not just from vocabulary or math practice. That helps, of course. But without understanding the questions as fully as possible, without the most comprehension of the questions and the information conveyed, there is no improvement beyond just knowing the answer, which, of course, is memorization and not skill — and skill is what these tests are designed to measure.
At The A+ Club we call this “Question Attack.” In the work we have done with our SAT tutoring students, we have seen some nice gains in scores. Our tutors, either high-level college students or high school teachers, work with students to address their question comprehension. Doesn’t matter if it’s math or verbal — it’s understanding the question, getting information from it is crucial for better performance. Reading can be improved upon, so reading questions more strenuously is a matter of confidence, focus, and practice.
To back up our view of reading, I just learned this weekend that students of Latin outperform students of other foreign languages on the SAT verbal tests, and that includes Spanish, French, German, Italian and Hebrew students. See here for The Latin Advantage. The reason for it is simple, in that Latin empowers word comprehension which then empowers holistic comprehension so that students understand more of each question and thereby avoid the tricks built in to the multiple choice format.
SAT questions operate by presenting five possible answers. Of these, generally, two are wholly wrong (although tricky about it), two are plausible in that the question text suggests or references them so that incomplete reading of the question can mislead, and only one is fully or precisely correct. Try out this Critical Reading: an analysis of right and wrong answer choices discussion post. Understanding that there is no single strategy or trick to scoring better on these exams, our point, fairly well addressed at this website, is that better scores will result from better reading of questions, including — and especially — in math. I’m not a math person, and I scored higher in math than verbal. I never understood why until we recently began this investigation: my math scores were the result of careful reading of the questions and not a reflection of my math skills.
Spelling and More Latin
Just now the Wall Street Journal runs a book review of “Spell it Out” by David Crystal, a history of English spelling. It’s fascinating stuff, especially such things as the origin of the “h” in ghost and ghastly. It came from Flemish printers who were hired by the first important English publisher, William Caxton. The Flemish experts knew the printing press better than the English language, so they adjusted some words to look more like their own language, thus the “gh” in some words. They also spelled goose “ghoose, and goat “ghoat,” but those spellings didn’t take. Still, we’re stuck with “ghost.”
Elsewhere, the review of Crystal’s book explains how Latin comprehension helps make sense of English words:
Later, etymology played a part in spelling reform. Mr. Crystal paraphrases the Renaissance attitude: ‘If a word comes ultimately from Latin, let’s see if there’s anything in the Latin spelling that would help fix it in the English mind.’ This is why there is a b in debt and a p in
receipt. A knowledge of Latin helps with other English spellings. If you know that supercilium was the Latin for “eyebrow,” you will spell
supercilious with a c rather than an s at its heart. Admirable ends “-able” because it derives from the Latin admirare; audible ends “-ible” because it comes from audire.
Truly, it’s worth it to spend some time in that dead old, ancient Roman language.
Well, here come the tests, as per the charts below. To help you along, you may wish to take advantage of our 2-hour SAT tutoring special: 50% off for two hours with one of our high-level college student tutors. Normally $40/ hour, we’ll give you two hours for that amount so that you can try it out and see the power of attacking and comprehending questions. Our college student tutors, by the way, are marvelous. They are caring, motivated, and want to help high school students succeed.
Let me know your thoughts and questions!
|Test Dates||Test||U.S. Registration Deadlines
(Expire at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, U.S.A.)
|Regular||Late (a fee applies)|
|October 5, 2013||SAT & Subject Tests||September 6, 2013||September 20, 2013|
|November 2, 2013||SAT & Subject Tests||October 3, 2013||October 18, 2013|
|December 7, 2013||SAT & Subject Tests||November 8, 2013||November 22, 2013|
|January 25, 2014||SAT & Subject Tests||December 27, 2013||January 10, 2014|
|March 8, 2014||SAT only||February 7, 2014||February 21, 2014|
|May 3, 2014||SAT & Subject Tests||April 4, 2014||April 18, 2014|
|June 7, 2014||SAT & Subject Tests||May 9, 2014||May 23, 2014|
|Test Date||Registration Deadline||(Late Fee Required)|
|September 21, 2013||August 23, 2013||August 24–September 6, 2013|
|October 26, 2013||September 27, 2013||September 28–October 11, 2013|
|December 14, 2013||November 8, 2013||November 9–22, 2013|
|February 8, 2014*||January 10, 2014||January 11–24, 2014|
|April 12, 2014||March 7, 2014||March 8–21, 2014|
|June 14, 2014||May 9, 2014||May 10–23, 2014|