Succeeding at the SAT

Do you wonder how you can prepare your child to take the PSAT or SAT to achieve a high enough score to attend his college choice or to earn a scholarship to pay for the high cost of tuition? As my child enters his high school years, my thoughts are definitely turning towards these questions. I live in a rural area and was wondering what kinds of classes in SAT preparation I might be able to find for my son that might help him achieve his best. We are not big test takers in our homeschool at the moment; tests are usually informal and assessment is usually based on performance. So the idea of these “high stake” tests looming ahead are a bit intimidating. With that said, I am grateful we had the opportunity to review College Prep Genius program now with plenty of time for test preparation.

Previously, I posted a general overview of the College Prep Genius program and an article written by the curriculum’s author, Jean Burk. The College Prep Genius program consists of a 4 DVD set, a textbook, and a workbook. I would like to now expound on that introductory review with specific uses of the program and how we are implementing it in our family.

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College Prep Genius is a complete SAT preparation program with no need to attend classroom seminars. The classroom seminars are in the 4 DVD set. Each DVD corresponds with a section of the textbook.

  • An Overview of the SAT test preparation process and more
  • Critical Reading
  • Math
  • Writing/Essay

We watched the DVDs and then referred to the textbook for reinforcement of what was taught for each section. Just reading the textbook was dry and not as easy to understand as first listening to the DVD and then referring to the textbook. The workbook is a practical guide to applying the skills discussed and demonstrated in the DVDs and the textbook.

As you read this review and a description of the program’s different sections and features, you will find an explanation of how we are integrating this program into our regular studies. We are not using this as another class or extra thing to do on the side. For each section/subject area, we are integrating these study tasks into our regular studies. If the textbook discusses a section about reading passages and answering questions, we are applying those techniques to reading comprehension assignments my son is already doing. The same routine holds true for vocabulary development. We are making a study of prefixes as part of our vocabulary development and use the resources in this program’s textbook to help us in this study.

The Content of the DVDs and Textbook

The Overview

The Overview is a compilation of general test taking tips and specific information pertaining to the SAT and PSAT. I am especially happy with and will be continually leaning on the Checklist and Timetable for PSAT and SAT preparation and test taking. Mrs. Burk recommends officially starting this process of preparation and test taking as early as ninth grade to be able to fully reap its benefits and give your child the best opportunity to succeed. And, spaced over this amount of time, I can see the advantage of integrating her ideas into each high school year as opposed to suddenly trying to cram sophomore or junior year. Here is a list of some of what you will find in the overview:

  • general test taking tips
  • summary of the SAT
  • list of steps to follow over the high school years
  • frequently asked questions
  • taking the real SAT and PSAT tests
  • a college prep checklist form to record your progress toward preparing for the tests

Critical Reading

This section teaches you how to answer the questions correctly in the Critical Reading section of the SAT. It includes throughout a lot of discussion of patterns found in the test questions and how to disregard some answers and use deduction for finding the best answer. These strategies vary depending on the type of question and the reading passage.

My son found the information in this section extremely helpful because it teaches thinking and analytical skills. It advises the opposite of what we had heard before which was to read all of the questions first and then go back and read the passage and answer the questions. This section teaches you to find the answer in the passage based on the type of question being asked and the words being used. I thought this was very valuable, especially when you have positive, negative, and absolute words contained in the question and in the list of answers. Those kinds of words can lead you off track even if you think you know the right answer.

There are forms to use when memorizing and learning prefixes, positive and negative, and interpreting their meanings when attaching them to different words. I printed these and had my son put these in a section of his Language Arts notebook marked Word Study. We are making our way through the list of prefixes and adding new root words to them as we go through our school year. This will be an ongoing study as part of our regular vocabulary development.

Lastly, there is a section discussing sentence completion. This portion instructs you how to analyze words and their meanings and make the best word choice.

Throughout this section and all of the sections, there are acronyms used to remember a test taking sequence for different types of questions. We made index/flashcards to use as we make these strategies a habit.

Math

This section of the textbook/DVD discusses multiple choice problems and student-response math problems. There is a broad spectrum of math concepts discussed with the appropriate strategies for maximizing your time and working the problem efficiently and correctly. My son and I found the tips on estimating your answers and looking for hidden patterns in the numbers very helpful in solving the math problems correctly and minimizing problem-solving time. We are applying these efficient math techniques to our math problems in our daily math assignments, one at a time.

I especially liked the Math Terminology checklist. It’s very extensive and comprehensive and includes the concept term with its meaning, a space to check it off when you have mastered it, and a space for you to write a mathematical example of that concept. I printed these forms and gave them to my son to put in the front of his math notebook for reference throughout the year.

Writing

The Writing portion reviews the proofreading process and tips for finding errors in test sentences and paragraphs. These errors include word choice, poor grammar, spelling, use of parts of speech, sentence structure, and punctuation. Helpful acronyms are provided to assist you in remembering what to look for that could possibly wrong in a sentence or paragraph when proofreading. Unless you have a system in place by which to proofread, it can be very easy to forget to look for specific kinds of errors unless the jump out at you. We found these acronyms extremely helpful as a mental checklist to follow when completing these kinds of test questions.

Essay

I love this section. The idea of a person subjectively evaluating a timed essay can be very intimidating. You may know how to write a good quality essay, but what are these evaluators looking for? This section covers that and provides you with more acronyms to help you remember what to include in the essay.

There are two types of essays from the test this book discusses. You learn how to develop your essay effectively from start to finish. From brainstorming ideas, opening with a hook and effective topic sentence or stating a thesis, using relevant and unique supporting details and quality word choice and sentence structure and variation, closing your essay to make an impression on the evaluator and help your paper stand above the crowd. The acronyms for writing the essay will be very helpful when under the pressure of writing under a time constraint and making sure you have included the suggested effective components. Again, this is definitely something we are including in our essay writing until it becomes a habit.

This section ends with an extensive list of suggested topics with which to practice writing these essays.

Remainder of the Textbook

The rest of the textbook includes

  • scholarship search information with a list of websites for information
  • ACT and SAT score comparison chart
  • test score and preparation record
  • forms on which to record incorrect answers from problems in the workbook to look at what types of problems you need to practice these test taking strategies.

The Workbook

The workbook that comes with the instructional program provides you with the opportunity to apply the techniques and strategies from the textbook. Each subject area begins with an acronym reminder for those types of problems, then moves onto a broad cross-section of practice problems. Each section supplies you with a blank answer form to copy and use alongside the practice test.

We can see how extremely useful this test preparation program will be over the next few years and I am looking forward to breaking it down and making these strategies habits a little bit at a time.

Right now, the Master the SAT Class DVD set that includes the DVD’s, textbook, and workbook is a special price of $79.00 here.

For more reviews of this program and how other homeschoolers are using it to help their children in their pursuits, read more TOS Homeschool Crew reviews.

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