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Getting You Ready – College Prep Genius

Do you find the idea of helping your child prepare for testing for college intimidating? Are you confused about the content on the newly revised SAT or whether or not your child should take an “educated guess” for those questions he might be unsure of the answer? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, join my club.

My family and I have been lucky enough to receive the College Prep Genius textbook and workbook set including the “Master the SAT Class” DVD set. If you have a teen and are wondering when and how you should begin preparing your child to take the SAT or PSAT, you may find this set is your solution.


I am introducing College Prep Genius here to give you an idea of what the program is about. A few weeks from now, I will relate to you how we used it as my son begins to cross the threshold into high school.

This program encourages parents to begin the SAT study and preparation process as early as ninth grade. It includes test taking strategies, acronyms for these strategies, checklists, and practice situations for all three areas of the SAT – critical reading, math, and writing.  There is even a section on scholarship searches and college interviews. The four DVD’s provide a 10 hour course to provide your child with the skills need to master the SAT or PSAT.

I look forward to delving into this program with my son and trying it first hand in order to share our experiences and thoughts. Until then, I thought I would share with you an article by the author of the program, Jean Burk. This article gives you an idea of the philosophy behind the program and I thought you would enjoy reading it.

“How Soon Should SAT Prep Start?”

Most students wait until they are in their junior or senior year before they start preparing for the SAT. After all, graduation and college are around the corner. Unfortunately, this can actually be a BIG mistake! The longer students wait to start preparing, the less time they have to improve. The SAT is too important to put off.  Scoring high on this test could mean both acceptance into the perfect college and the scholarships to pay for it.

The key to doing well on the SAT is learning the recurring patterns, hidden strategies and the test-taking techniques that are universally effective on every test. Then PRACTICING is the key. It’s one thing to have a toolbox, and another to know how to use the tools. As students continue to make practicing a priority, they will be able to answer questions faster and solve problems more accurately.

The SAT and PSAT/NMSQT are tests of logic and critical thinking. They are not IQ tests. This means they are not fact-based, content-intensive exams that require students to regurgitate what they learned in school. These tests must be approached with a logical foundation; otherwise when students attempt to tackle them like normal tests, they fail.  Even really smart students with high GPAs who take AP and honors classes bomb these tests! Test-makers design these tests to trick the “Average Joe” and reward the student with a critical eye. It’s all the more reason students need extra time to start preparing.

Ideally, ALL 9th graders should learn how to take the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT (7th grade if they are doing the DUKE TIP Letter or other talent searches). The PSAT/NMSQT qualifies students for scholarships during their junior year. It is created by the ETS (The same division of The College Board that writes the SAT). The two tests are almost identical, so as students study for the PSAT/NMSQT, in turn they will be preparing for the SAT.

Don’t worry if your student doesn’t have “all” the math down.  The mere fact that they are learning how to take the test is the most important factor. The math will eventually come, so in the meantime they can be working on the others sections: Critical Reading and Writing. It is like a marathon– no one starts out running 26 miles the first day. Runners start out slow and build up to the entire distance. In the same manner, students need only spend about 30 minutes to an hour a week as a ninth grader on these tests. Eventually they will build up to more hours and then full-length tests.

Keep in mind there is a wrong way and a right way to practice for the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT. Start by learning to find the recurring patterns on the test, and then continue by practicing using only materials from the test-makers themselves (The College Board).  Then, as students practice, it is imperative that they go back over the questions they miss and identify their weaknesses and common mistakes so they can avoid these bad habits in the future.

Any coach will tell you that concentrated energy and numerous hours of practice is the only way to improve at a sport. The same approach applies to the SAT. Incorporating quality study patterns on a daily basis can give students the skills they need to succeed.

By making the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT a priority in the early high school years, students can  avoid cramming at the last minute on a test that has very little to do with content. Learning the logical approach to test-taking as soon as possible is the key to doing well. An early start to test preparation will lessen text anxiety and put time back on the side of the student.

This article is the work of author, Jean Burk. It is the property of Maven of Memory Publishing, and may be reproduced according to the following terms.

If you would like to read more of Ms. Burk’s articles, you can find them here.

Stay tuned for next month’s review of our experiences with College Prep Genius.

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