Can there be a truly helpful verbal prepbook?

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Discus: SAT/ACT Tests and Test Preparation: July 2004 Archive: Can there be a truly helpful verbal prepbook?
By Obilisk18 (Obilisk18) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 08:48 pm: Edit

This post is probably going to be very long, and for that I apologize. But I'll try to make it as worth reading as I can. Lately I've been pondering an idea for an original (I think) and useful verbal prepbook. This idea came to me when I came to understand the useless nature of memorizing vocab. It can be argued that by learning new words you help your intellectual growth. The problem with this though, is that when you memorize vocab all you do is just that: memorize. You don't come to any deeper appreciation of language or gain any profound insights. Sure you may be able to spout out words like pneumatic, but it doesn't have quite the weight it would if you'd first learned it in A Brave New World.
Anyway, here's my idea. What if someone created a Verbal workbook that stressed reading rather than memorizing vocab, or learning how to quickly skim the passages effectively? Here's how it'd work. At the very beginning of the book there'd be a diagnostic verbal test. Once you'd taken the test there'd be different sections of the book corresponding to different scores. For instance, if you scored a 510, you'd be directed into the area for people scoring 500-550. There you'd find a number of sub-sections on different books. The 510 scorer might find a section on Great Expectations. This section would do a number of things. First it would instruct you to read the book, but you wouldn't be instructed to read haphazardly. Earlier in the book, in the introduction, you'd be given a brief description of an effective way to read books. Perhaps it would tell you to first skim the book, taking no more than 20 mins or so to get a general idea what it's about, and what it's central events are. Then it might tell you to quickly read through the book at a pace that is faster than you're comfortable with, without stopping along the way to ponder anything you don't understand. If you felt comfortable reading 8 pages in 10 minutes, it might tell you to read 12 pages in 10 minutes. Then it might ask you to re-read the book carefully, generally pondering it as you go along. Then, when you're finished there'd be a section where they ask you critical questions on the book that test both your ability to infer and generalize and your ability to recall specifics. You'd ponder these questions and move onto the next section where they'd discuss there interpretations of the book (including the questions) in brief. You'd then ponder these answers and compare them to your's. There might even be a part where there a few vocab words from the book, and they would not only tell you the definition, but cite the particular section in the book where it was used, to give you true context.
There'd be perhaps 3-5 books in each section with similar books/questions/discussions (geared toward the reading level that someone with a 500-550 might be at). There'd then be another practice test to see how greatly you improved. If your score was now 620, you'd probably move up to the 600-650 section and skip the 550-600. This would go on until you were reading truly hard books (college reading level and beyond) at the 700-750 section. Personally I think this would be far more effective than any current SAT prep books, especially with the New SAT putting more emphasis on Critical reading. I can only see two real problems with it, and they are intertwined.
1. Reading possibly as many as 15-20 books (maybe even two times each) could take a good deal of time, possibly as much as 200 hours to finish the entire book and to finish everything it recommends.
2. Many kids may not be willing to spend so much time on this, preferring to take the easy way out. They may not like to read, and would prefer a book that they could be done with in 20-40 hours.

Though many may not want to use the book, I think the diligent student could improve his score by upwards of 200 points, certainly impressive for the verbal section. I'd like to hear anyone's thoughts on this idea. And by all means, point out flaws, and critique the idea. I just think that not merely would this method prepare you for the SAT, but would help you in any endeavor in the humanities you might like to pursue. Much more useful in the long-run then memorizing vocab.

By Aph (Aph) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 09:40 pm: Edit

If students already don't like to sit down and read, then I doubt that they'll be able to sit down with a workbook and then read a book, meanwhile pondering the meaning of the words. You have to have ingrained this in you from a really early age. What you are suggesting is a method of analyzing books that cannot be self taught in a matter of hours, but many hours in a classroom with a teacher who teaches how to think analytically and deeply.

By Obilisk18 (Obilisk18) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:36 am: Edit

I understand what you're saying Aph, but I disagree to an extent. I don't think teachers teach someone how to think deeply. If this were true, how would those teachers have learned? Likely from some other teachers, but then how would their teachers have learned to teach them? At some point, their had to exist original thought. I believe we all have the capacity to think deeply, and this capacity is shown no more clearly then when reading a tough book. It is natural instinct to think about what you're reading. I think this program would only make people more likely to read, because they can see the benefit. Once they started reading, their natural thought processes would take over and deep thinking would become ingrained in them, thus helping them in any endeavor, not mearly the SAT's.

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