SAT Test strategy for Juniors

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: SAT Test strategy for Juniors
By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:57 am: Edit

I've decided to drop the economic/political debates and stick to what I know and understand! There is an interesting article in today's WSJ. I assume I better quote the article for the lefties who may not touch the WSJ with a ten foot pole. .

On a serious note, the article reinforces some of the theories I've been advancing regarding planning the fall and spring dates. It also confirms my own information that the vast majority of top schools will accept a combination of scores. Notable exceptions will be state schools and primarily the hopeless UC system.

Oh, regarding the Dem's convention, I'd like to say ... Oops, I almost forgot my recent resolution!


The New Math Of Taking the SATs

Top Colleges Say They Will Allow Students
To Take Both Versions of Test and Use Best Scores

July 29, 2004; Page D1

This fall's high-school juniors have an unusual opportunity: Take two versions of the SAT and use the scores from whichever one they did the best on.

Next March, a new version of the SAT will replace the current one. The confounding word analogies will be gone, but the new exam will contain more algebra and reading passages. In addition, there is a new section that tests writing skills. The test will be 45 minutes longer, and the best possible score will be 2400 points instead of the current test's 1600.

While those changes may make plenty of students nervous, in recent weeks, a number of top colleges have decided to let students submit scores from both tests. Some schools may then mix and match the results, using the best verbal score from one test and the best math score from the other. Schools accepting both include Harvard University, Yale University, University of Southern California, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Williams College in Massachusetts.


Many top colleges say they will accept the best scores from either the old SAT or the new version of the test.

Some examples:
• Harvard University
• Yale University
• Swarthmore College
• University of Pennsylvania
• Williams College

In a recent survey of 200 college-admissions officers, 82% say their schools are open to taking scores from either of the versions, says Kaplan Inc., the New York-based test-preparation unit of Washington Post Co.

Many high-school counselors across the U.S. are encouraging their students to take both versions.

And some test-prep companies are rejiggering their offerings to accommodate worried juniors. Kaplan is offering a special "3-in-1" course tailored specifically to students who want to practice for both versions of the exam as well as the preliminary SAT (PSAT) typically taken by juniors. The course, which lasts for several weeks, generally costs anywhere from $899 in most parts of the country. The course covers the traditional analogies and quantitative-comparison questions, which ask students to compare the value of two different calculations. But it will also teach those components specific to the new SAT, for instance, quizzing students on sample essay questions.

While for many students, test prep doesn't get under way in earnest until fall, summer is an increasingly popular time to start cramming. Kaplan says the summer is typically a season for when soon-to-be seniors want to prepare for the SAT. But this year, the number of soon-to-be juniors preparing for the test is outpacing the seniors. "It's the biggest summer we've ever had," says Jon Zeitlin, general manager for Kaplan's SAT and ACT programs.

While he declines to provide course enrollment numbers, Kaplan says that in May and June, 78% more students enrolled in free practice tests and information workshops compared with a year ago. (The current SAT will be discontinued after January.)

Not everyone thinks it is in students' best interests to prepare for both versions. Princeton Review Inc. suggests focusing on one exam -- the new one -- partly because juniors do much better when they take the SAT in the latter part of the school year, when the new one will be offered.

"Taking the old SAT is not only a waste of time, but is likely to lead to worse outcomes than just taking the new SAT," says John Katzman, chief executive of the test-prep company.

Still, students are hedging their bets. Caroline Wang, a soon-to-be junior at Campbell Hall, a private school in North Hollywood, Calif., says she has spent about $2,000 on classes to prepare her for both versions.

As a 10th grader, she took a 10-week course to help her study for the current SAT, which she plans on taking in January. "I just worked so much on the old one," says the honor student, who worries that the new test's longer length may make it harder to focus.

The College Board, the nonprofit that owns the SAT, claims that changes to the verbal and math sections won't affect the difficulty of the test, and that scores on the current sections will be comparable to those sections of the new SAT.

Ivy Bound Test Prep says that most juniors should prepare for the current version and take it by January, and then spend anywhere from four to 14 additional hours on the components in the new SAT.

The New Britain, Conn.-based firm predicts that many students will do much better on one or the other version, depending on their individual strengths.

Students taking Ivy Bound's current 41-hour SAT test-prep course for $1,050 can take four hours of additional algebra at no extra charge if they want to take the new version in March. A 10-hour writing course will still cost an extra $250.

However, some schools, such as the University of California system, won't even consider applicants' scores from the current SAT. Other colleges such as the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College, while open to either test, still prefer to see the newer version.

Two years ago, the College Board said it would revise the SAT in the wake of University of California President Richard C. Atkinson's criticism of the exam's fairness and his call for ending its use in admissions to the state system.

No matter what a student decides to do, he or she should be absolutely clear on what the colleges' application requirements are. For instance, if a school says it will accept scores from the current SAT, will it still want to see a writing test?

Many colleges want to see one or more subject test, known as SAT IIs, available in areas ranging from history to literature to foreign languages. Some colleges have required the SAT II: Writing Test, but that test will be discontinued when the new SAT is introduced next March.

Practice tests for the new SAT are already available in books from such publishers as McGraw-Hill Cos. If the student finds he or she does significantly better in one version of the test, it may be worthwhile to focus on preparing for that one.

If the student decides to take both versions, he or she should be sensible in the amount of time spent studying. Test scores are just part of the picture -- it may not be worth spending too much time preparing for tests at the expense of grades and extracurricular activities.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

I hate this. It adds a new layer of confusion to the process for juniors.

My daughter has decided to wait and take the new SAT because her 10th grade PSAT scores on reading comprehension and writing were pretty strong while her math stunk. She's hoping to get her math scores up but feels that she'd rather have math be a third of her total score than half of it. Any thoughts on this Xiggi?

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

Well, Xiggi, I have a junior too so this topic interests me.I know you are young, are you a h.s. junior? At any rate, what I am wondering is if the 3 time rule of thumb will apply- like take the NEW SAT twice, and old once and so also, take the old right after the PSAT in Nov., or in Dec. Still muling over these choices.I wonder if anyone is forgoing the new SAT altogether.Or other way around, not take the old.Son is glad analogies are being removed.
As for what we are doing to prepare now, my younger ones are not as good with unstructured study so do Princeton Review.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:37 pm: Edit


Good of you to post this article, even though my S is done with SAT testing. This lefty would read the WSJ regularly if she was not already reading the NYT and the Boston Globe and Newsweek, and.... Cuts into CC time, ya know!

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:07 pm: Edit

Marite, I woke up in a very jolly mood today, and I just added a few jabs in there. I read the WSJ for the pictures!

Backhand, despite that my posts indicate my young age, I am done with HS and will have to move to the next level in a few days.

By Fireflyscout (Fireflyscout) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:32 pm: Edit

My daughter is a rising junior. After the PSAT last October, she did the "Xiggi method" of SAT preparation (please let me know when you start offering stock in the test prep company I'm sure you'll start), took the SAT in March and improved 180 points for a very nice SAT score. She'll take the new SAT in March, too. The WSJ article confirms what we were told when we visited several LACs this summer. Looks like the class of 06 has an interesting opportunity.

By the way, count me in as another "leftie" who reads the WSJ; it's good journalism.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:55 pm: Edit

Firefly, I am pretty sure you have it covered, but do not forget to have your daughter take a SAT-II Writing test before they vanish next March.

PS Thanks for the nice words.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit


I'd second Fireflyscout, but I'm afraid this thread might merge with the one "what to do with money"! I Do recommend the Xiggi method, however.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:11 pm: Edit

Marite; Please don't still be mad at me.-PMS, ran out of coffee yesterday too-

By Wordsmith817 (Wordsmith817) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:25 pm: Edit

Really good info! Thanks for the post. Must a student be at least a junior to take the SAT? Can a freshman or sophomore take it and hang on to the scores? Is anything gained if a younger student takes it "for practice"?

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:33 pm: Edit


Life's too short to be mad. I also hope it's clear that I was referring to Fireflyscout's idea of investing in a Xiggi company-- having visions of myself as a venture capitalist, LOL!

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

It's a very good idea to take the PSAT for a practice run in 10th grade. That's what my daughter did and it at least gave us an indication of where her potential weaknesses are -
It's my understanding that if the PSAT is taken before 11th grade the results are not sent to colleges so it's a "no-loss" situation.

And Marite and Firescout, I too would be willing to put money into a Xiggi company. I can't wait to see what this smart young man does with his life. No doubt we'll be reading of his accomplishments in the WSJ in a few years.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:58 pm: Edit

Xiggi, I know you must be swamped with stuff to do but you'd leave a lasting legacy if you can summarize the "Xiggi method" one last time for newcomers to this board.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:06 pm: Edit


The early PSAT scores have no impact on college admissions, except for recruiting purposes. The colleges purchase lists of PSAT takers to target their mailings. For National Merit purposes and scholarships, only the PSAT test taken in 11th grade counts. The 11th grades PSAT could also yield automatic admission and scholarships at a number of schools.

For the SAT, all scores taken from freshman to senior year will appear on your records. You can take the test as many times as you desire and, within reason, schools will not hold it against the test taker. Most schools encourage multiple sittings by using a combination of your best individual scores. Taking practice runs is a great idea but not all your practices ought to be done at an authorized center. You can ascertain your "starting" level by taking diagnostic tests at a number of prep companies, or the best alternatives, take one of the tests from the 10RS under test conditions. While I think that there is little downfall to take the official test multiple times, you should not plan to take it more than 3-4 times. Ultimate circumstances may dictate more sittings, but a combination of home testing and SAT official tests should yield the best results.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:10 pm: Edit

Wordsmith;anyone can take the SAT at any time but there is often a 3 time rule at some colleges or they will only look at the best results from 3. If you take more than 3 then the score are averaged from all SAT tests taken. This is what we were told by guidance counselors and advised by several not to take the SAT more than 3 times.That's why I'm asking about how the 3 time rule applies to the NEW SAT.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:12 pm: Edit

Marite; yeah, I'm an idiot.(I am, I'm humble.)

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:22 pm: Edit


This issue has been debated ad nauseam on CC, and I have followed most of the threads.

Based on conversations on CC AND direct contacts with a large number of schools, I can guarantee that NO report of scores of test averaging as EVER been verified. On occasion, I have challenged posters on CC to provide the name of the school that would engage in such practice. No takers so far!

The next issue is how school interpret multiple sittings. Most elite schools openly encourage multiple sittings by taking the best scores from different sittings. A few schools like the UC and UTexas system encourage multiple sittings but will only take the best score from one administration.

Then, you have the issue of excessive multiple testing. From reports, it appears that a few schools would question the reasons why a student took it x number of times but none have admitted to have a system of penalties in place.

My conclusion is that a higher score in multiple sittings (including FIVE) will always be better than a lower score from 1-2 tests. No school will ever "round up" a lower score because it was the result of a single test. Chances that any school will lower a great score because of excess testing is probably between slim and none!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:29 pm: Edit

This is all very interesting.So you never heard of this averaging before? Humm.......Thank you for this information.I'm going to ask our h.s. what they actually send when more than 3 SAT's are taken. Maybe I can protest if they are doing selective averaging.
HAS anyone else heard of averaging?

By Jrpar (Jrpar) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:43 pm: Edit

The high school doesn't send the SAT's; the SAT reports come from College Board, and will show all tests taken.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:51 pm: Edit

Lots of schools attach ALL the PSAT/SAT scores they received as addendum to the official transcripts. They are not official for college admissions purposes but still visible.

In the past, you could "hide" the SAT-II scores from colleges and high schools, but you no longer have that discretion.

BHG, you do not need to worry about the SAT scores reported by the HS. Colleges need official SAT reports and will only use the reports sent directly by The College Board.

Like you, I HEARD about SAT averaging but I had no problems debunking this myth. All it took was sending dozens and dozens of emails and read the replies :)

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

I have asked admissions personnel from several colleges and never heard of any school actually using averaging. However, Penn State is another school that only uses the top score from a single sitting of the cannot take your best math and combine it with your best verbal from another test date.

I have a rising junior, and I just can't see a disadvantage to taking the old SAT I at least once. My S has some chance of getting an 800 on either half of the test, and most of the schools I've talked to (except Penn State) plan to accept "old" math and "old" verbal scores if they are better than the equivalent scores from the new SAT I. My S will probably take the old SAT twice, depending upon how he does, and then switch to preparing for the new format, late in the junior year, when some feedback has come out from the first few new SAT tests.

Xiggi - I love your posts. I hope you keep on writing!

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:47 am: Edit


Wow. Are your serious that people pay $1000 for SAT prep course? I mean you can just buy a book and prepare for itself. My kid did buy a book called " 10 real test I think". That is a lot of money to waste.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:57 am: Edit


Using the 10RealSAT is exactly what Xiggi advocates. But people are indeed shelling out $1,000 or more. Here is a link:

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:15 pm: Edit

DD, a rising junior, will wait to take the new SAT in the spring. She has been to some college visits, and all the schools she has inquired about are recommending the new SAT for students graduating in 2006. Also, she feels that waiting for spring will allow her to complete her honors Algebra II course (as the math on the new SAT is reported to be more advanced). DD is a terrific writer and feels that this would be a strength over the analogies section currently on the test.In terms of test/retest comparisons between the old SAT and the new SAT, you would be comparing "apples with oranges". She will wait.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:25 pm: Edit

Chinaman, students cover a broad range of abilities and aptitudes. Families can have different priorities and means. I don't think that there is one solution that is universally better.

As MArite said, I strongly believe that anyone, armed with a strong individual will, the willingness to work hard, and a modest budget can do as well if not better than by sitting in organized classes. To prepare for the test, the official tests released by ETS/The College Board are indeed the best tool. In addition, a student needs to be aware of strategies that have had good success in helping understand the arcane language of the test. In this regard, the 10 Real Sat presents two visages: while the official tests are the best, the strategies are lacking and, at times, misleading. For that reason, a student SHOULD buy what I call "source books" published by the usual suspects, Princeton Review, Kaplan, Gruber's, and maybe Barron's. In the same vein as the 10RS, those books present two faces: the strategies are good to excellent but the synthetic tests are simply irrelevant and unusable in the context of a serious preparation. The last step is to learn how to maximize the use of the 10RS book. Most people commit the same error to take the ten tests without a plan.

This is where the preparation companies enter the arena. They do provide the support and guidance to attack the test with a better knowledge. The biggest problem is the definition of better for ANY student. In my opinion, the generic classes at the biggest outfits (PR and Kaplan) excel had helping average students reach their ... average potential and succeed more in giving unsuspecting parents a bit of relief for having complied with their parental duties than really boosting the scores of the students. It is not so much an indictment of the poor performance of the tutors as it is a representation of how little can be taught in a classroom situation. Strategies can be taught and explained but they only work when practiced, practiced, and again practiced. It IS overly simplistic but the key to the SAT is the EARLY recognition of the REAL questions through recognition of patterns. Some students have inate verbal or mathematical abilities: they recognize the patterns without difficulty or have developed verbal abilities after years of critical reading. This explains why some students might ace the test without ever reading a prep book. The majority of the students do, however, need some support and guidance. The good news is that it is available and in a wide range of prices, starting with close to nothing.

No matter how we slice it, doing well on the SAT does require hours of personal effort. It is not hard to prepare for the test without using a company, but it requires discipline and dedication. The mere attending a 30-hour class does NOT guarantee success -a fact easily verified from CC reports.

Lastly, there are students who need specific help for various reasons. This is where professional tutors are needed and where self-instruction is ineffective.

More to come!

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:37 pm: Edit

Does anyone know if there is a "new SAT" version of 10 Real SAT's available yet?

By Taxguy (Taxguy) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:38 pm: Edit

Chinaman notes, "Wow. Are your serious that people pay $1000 for SAT prep course? I mean you can just buy a book and prepare for itself. My kid did buy a book called " 10 real test I think". That is a lot of money to waste. "

Chinaman, where I live people take prep courses for the SATs for two to three YEARS! In our high school,at least half of the kids that scored 1500+ got into one of these multi- year prep programs.This is one of he many reasons that I don't like the SAT.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 01:18 pm: Edit

Chinaman: Xiggi has written extensively on SAT subejct. You can do a search and find his old posts. They might be usefull.

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 01:25 pm: Edit

Dear friends:

I do not think that I can afford to spend $1000 on SAT prep for my kid. There middle school scores were 1500+ so I am not worried. Actually with that money I can accompany them to pay for my visit to China which I have not done in long time. They can learn first hand about more chinese culture and value of hard work.

By Czyrda (Czyrda) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 01:33 pm: Edit

I can't believe people prep for that thing. The math is freshman-sophomore level at most. Gee, let's see who can best answer a bunch of multiple choice questions in a short amount of time...
AP scores are more relevant.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:20 pm: Edit

>>AP scores are more relevant. >>

Perhaps this is true...but for students taking the AP tests and courses their senior year of high school it doesn't help admissions at all. The scores on the tests are not released until July which is far later than the acceptance date of May 1 (the AP tests aren't even administered by that date). Of course, AP scores from junior or sophomore years would be a factor...assuming you have those scores sent to the colleges.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:26 pm: Edit

If we are talking about math, a majority of college-bound students do not take AP-Calculus. Period.

There are, as well, many schools that just do not offer APs. APs are supposed to be, after all, college-level courses. Why should students who are not yet in college have to demonstrate mastery of contents taught in college in order to be admitted into college. It does not make sense.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:46 pm: Edit

The new 10RS will come out in the Fall 2004 and will contain 8 tests and will be called The Official SAT Study Guide. I guess they go back to an old format of providing 8 tests instead of 10. The books will be available everywhere, including the TCB site.

The Official SAT Online Course™
This online course will be available 24 hours a day from any computer with Internet access.

Engaging interactive instruction
Personalized feedback
Three full-length practice tests
Hundreds of practice questions
Immediate auto scoring of essays
Available Fall 2004

The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT™
Eight full-length practice tests
Additional practice questions and essay prompts
Chapters on the new writing section
Companion online features including free score reports
Available Fall 2004

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:55 pm: Edit

Czyrda, thanks for that most important information. I'll file it away next to your other valuable contributions.


By Czyrda (Czyrda) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 01:30 am: Edit
My high school didn't have AP classes. We went to the amusement park and rode rides. The teacher didn't know calc. I am a CS major. Take the calc. Calc will be required for the major.

By Czyrda (Czyrda) on Sunday, July 04, 2004 - 04:55 am: Edit
I don't get how the parents on this board know what their kids are reading. Are you all nosy? Also, let them read or not read if they want to. There is more to life than reading. I'm in college now and I hardly have time for pleasure reading. Sometimes it is nice to get outside and live.

By Czyrda (Czyrda) on Sunday, July 04, 2004 - 05:25 am: Edit
kill your parents

By Kathiep (Kathiep) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

I'm with Thumper. No way could I talk my rising junior son into taking a psat,and an SAT in the fall and then another SAT in early Spring. And that's on top of a heaviest academic schedule then he's ever had.

I did pick up a little book called Inside The New SAT - 10 Strategies to Help you Score Higher. by Kaplan. It' was only $5.50 and looks less intimidating then the old 10 real SAT's or the new 8 Real SAT's that we'll pick up this fall.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 04:55 pm: Edit


I would love to be able to point you towards a little book that contains all you need to know. The problem is that it has not been written yet. With all due respect to Kaplan and others, they are simply speculating about the new test. I hope you do not believe for an instant that ETS/TCB is sending them advanced notice of the contents of their book!

Until TCB ends the speculation, the best bet is to use a combination of 10RS, SAT-II Math and Writing books. With those you will amply cover the new curriculum.

As far as the time, please consider that at the end of your college application adventure, the time investment representing a couple of Saturdays will pale in comparison with the total number of hours agonizing about the process ... and its outcome.

I cannot stress enough that a few hours robbed from the toughest academic program won't make much difference in your application file; a higher score on the standardized test will!

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 07:32 pm: Edit

Kathiep. based on his other committements S had decided on the following schedule. Oct - PSAT, Jan - SAT I, May-AP, June-SAT II. It worked out very well for him.

By Samuck (Samuck) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:20 pm: Edit

Could I please second Carolyn's suggestion and put in a very humble request for Xiggi to summarize his method for us newcomers to the board? I have followed Simba's advice and done a message search but a search for Xiggi as an author in the parents forum alone turns up 368 pages. I have a file marked Xiggi where I have cut and pasted bits and pieces but it would be wonderful to have the authorized summary or link to a previous posting! Thanks v. much. My rising junior/lower sixth former will take the PSAT in the fall, followed by the old SAT I in the fall, leaving time for a retake in January, either of the SAT I or SAT II writing which she took as a sophmore. The new SAT is not given at international test centres in March so she is facing taking it alonog with her AS levels in the spring....this whole business is even more complicated for the overseas crowd.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:28 pm: Edit

There is also no three time rule at any college about taking the SAT1s. This number has come up in DISCUSSION as a maximum number without raising a flag with adcoms. If you are truly busy with substantial ECs, a life you enjoy, looking at colleges, taking tough courses, you are going to be hard put to be taking all of those SATs. It makes you look a bit obsessive over the numbers which is not what the top colleges like to see. Most schools, however, don't give a tinker's damn how many times you took the thing. It is always those top 50 schools where things like that start to matter, and that because you are competing with kids who nail a top score in one sitting. You are a much messier candidate with your matrix of numbers over multiple sittings--you just don't look as good.

No one seems to know how things are going to be with the new SAT. We will all be playing it by ear, and some will benefit from this confusion; others will not. Just the luck of the draw.

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:07 pm: Edit

Samuck, yes perhaps Xiggi should do it. But here is my personal experience with my S.

There are no short cuts. The key is Practice, Practice and Practice, and Read read and read. Your child has to be motivated to do things. If he/she is motivated they can can do it with many test prep books at their own pace. We bought many, like Kaplan (good strategies), Barron's (Good vocab) and 10 RS (best). I think Xiggi had also posted his word list, but S didn't do that list.

We thought of test prep classes, but decided against them. Why?? I didn't think you can get fantastic instructors @ $10-12/hr. That is what they pay (I know, I thought I would make a wonderful instructor). Also, the time - for us it would have taken 4-5 hours every week for 10-12 weeks. S likes to work at his own pace.

The advantage of test prep classes is that since youa re paying, you pay attention. However, you still have to practice. In addtion, some one will explain you the test taking strategy, and reinforce them. Most of them are in books anyway.

In addition, I had called the College board and gotten many old copies of real SAT and PSAT test booklets (I think they were $4-$6/each).

I will post a link, and phone numbers for PSAT and SAT old test sections. The link has two free SAT test booklets.

S practiced them as if he was literally taking the test - they were timed tests. Initially, he would do a section at a time. A month of so before the test, he did several of them in a single sitting - with time. Timing a test helps with pacing, and you don't want to get stuck on a problem for a long time.

Finally, luck also plays some role. S was saying after the test that all the paragraphs were selected just for him. It seemed that they 'knew' what he likes, and he was able to imagine forward.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:48 pm: Edit

All comments here are very interesting. The reason we ARE shelling out $1,000 for an SAT prep course is because son will not sit there and study or do unproctored tests himself and it is pointless for me to try to make him . The other problem is I want him to understand any problems he cannot do.They go over these during the prep class and that is someting I couldn't do and oftentimes once the problem is explained son will catch on easily. The primary value of these prep classes for us is one, the psyching factor, getting him psyched for the upcoming test as only these people can do and two, the taking of multiple proctored tests.NOW OF COURSE, many of the students on C.C. are very bright, are self-motivated and may be homeschooled. This is totally different from our particular situation with this child. Must remind you, we are all not the same here on C.C. !!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 06:04 pm: Edit

Chinaman, you are very fortunate to have a son who will sit and go through the drills necessary to self study the SATs and other standardized tests. Few kids have the discipline. After a bit of time they start skipping questions, giving it just an old "one-two" without the "three" and not doing justice to the session.

I offer 4 test taking sessions per week at the local school which is the site for the SATs under test conditions, procotors and all. I then quickly correct the tests--have key codes all done so they can be very quickly checked,and hire kids to help me. They then sit with a tutor, sometimes me to go over the test, question by question. If it was just a bad choice but the kid understands the concept, it's one thing. Otherwise we go over the concept and some other questions similar to the question missed. On my tests I have 4 similar questions for each question on the test that I have developed using the same concept that the test question is testing. I then regive the test, and see how the kid does. We then fine tune further if necessary, or they take a third test similar to the first but with my alternative question. I try to get the kid 200 points higher or to perfection. We then move on to the next test for the next 8 weeks. This is after going through test tricks and techniques. I usually send younger kids to a community college that gives a canned version of my course so that I don't have to spend their time and money on stuff they can get anywhere and I can hone right in on their problems. I refer them to local tutors if there is too big of a gap in some area.

I have seen some very talented kids who were fooling themselves when they self studied or sat through the canned courses. Frankly, I don't see much difference between the $1000+ Kaplan, Princeton Review courses and the much cheaper community college or community center courses. They all go over the same test skills blurb. After that it is going after each kid's Achilles heel, sometimes a minor endeavor, sometimes a disaster. When you have kids who have hardly read anything not required by school and not even throroughly doing that, bringing up that verbal SAT is not easy.

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 06:37 pm: Edit

Backhandgrip: True self study is not for everyone.

"and that is someting I couldn't do "....Backhandgrip don't shortchange yourself. Sure you can do it. You can help your S in whatever little ways you can help. Make this a family adventure. For example, the varbal part was hard for me. I helped S in vocab. We may spend 15-20 mins whenever we had nothing to do and were WATCHING TV. We will shutoff the TV and I ask the wordds. (Side benefit: We weaned out of the TV addiction even after the tests !!) If I knew the words or their meanings, I would try to create some association with it. I guess, it must have helped.

By Fireflyscout (Fireflyscout) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 07:14 pm: Edit

Yikes - there are 90 pages of Xiggi posts in the SAT test section alone! Here's a previous posting of his which describes his method. Check the archives for November or December 2003 for additional information.

(Quoted from a posting by Xiggi)

The best source books are Princeton Review, Barrons, Gruber's, and Kaplan -in that order! Stay away from Arco, Peterson's and especially REA. I would suggest that you buy AS MANY as you can and review them yourself. The strategies for math are pretty much universal but the approach for verbal does vary. It is IMPORTANT that you check the verbal strategies and see the one that works for your particular situation. There is NOT a BEST approach for verbal, it is very subjective.

The other universal component is that you can only get better by practicing the 10RS. I would suggest that you take 3-4 tests with open book and no time limit. Read the problems, take your time, check the source books and then asnwer the question. Check the answer and make sure you understood it entirely.

After a few tests, move on to testing conditions closer to the REAL thing. Start shaving the time and slowly try to get to 80-90% of the allowed time. The last 1-2 tests -taken in actual conditions- will be a VERY GOOD indication of what you'll score on the fatidic Saturday.

PS Do not use the source books practice tests!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 07:25 pm: Edit

Simba;The problem is the math, it's too hard for me. So fine you have developed this relationship with your children. I've spent much time with my kids. I didn't quiz them, but we did work with vocabulary.And we spend hour after hour after hour playing tennis together. Then came a time, guess maybe it was 14-15, when I really am out of the picture.But I really appreciate your comments and will work at developing more of a relationship with them now.

By Cfunkexonian (Cfunkexonian) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 07:31 pm: Edit

xiggi, can you please explain in detail (you probably have at some point in some thread) why the source book practice tests are not helpful? And are they known for being useless (no effect on scores) or for actually lowering your scores?

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 08:19 pm: Edit

Backhandgrip and cfunkexonian: I will let my S answer you about math.

the best thing to do about math is practice and then go back through all the problems and see if there is way u could have done them faster. There are many tricks with triangles so that u don't have to use sine and cosine to solve for sides or angles if the triangle is 45-45-90 or 30-60-90, a lot of algebraic problems also have simple solutions too..once u get in the habit of looking for easy ways to solve problems, it will make the math part easier.....most if not all of the math questions are meant to require very little scratch work......barrons or princeton review have good math problems....

some practice tests are helpful but some aren't...For example, REA is the most useless practice test giver I have ever seen.... but barrons and kaplan are pretty good...barrons is a little harder than the actual test though, but it gives good questions. All non-college board practice tests are 'fabricated' but some are close to the actual thing than others. That is where 10RS comes in play. Computer based prep. material is not as good as the paper and pencil based material.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 09:33 pm: Edit

Well, THANK YOU Simba! We are making a note of this!

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:13 pm: Edit

I am afraid that looking for my old posts might be difficult. The post quoted by Fireflyscout is, however, a good one, as it starts to introduce a good way to use the 10 Real SAT book.

Other posters in this thread have mentioned that practice is important. This is no different than practicing for tennis or soccer: it's a game of strategy and repetition. The material that will be tested on the SAT is not that difficult but the presentation and language is confusing for anyone who has not done much testing or competitions.

In my opinion, there are two steps in preparing for the test. The first one includes building blocks of confidence and the second one involves time management. That is why I recommend to break the tests in smaller and manageable sections. The idea is to devote about thity minutes to try to answer the tests and about the same to review the answers. While most students focus on the scores and check their wrong answers, much can be gained from checking the correct answers. It is important to TRULY understand the answers and try to understand how the SAT questions are developed. To do this, one has to be comfortable with the material tested. For this reason, the student ought to review the particular question in books like Gruber's for math. Once someone starts building his blocks of knowledge, he needs to gain more confidence. ... the confidence to approach the test with some aggressivity. Knowing the format of the questions helps tremendously, recognizing the questions early leads to time savings. There are many time saving strategies that can be taught but most students should be able to develop their own.

One of the reasons that I recommend to start working with open books is to allow a student to make sure he understands the questions AND the answers. Again, the preliminary scores are not important and there are plenty of tests to use for score comparison. For less than twenty dollars, you can easily establish a library of close to twenty tests.

I do not want to make this post so lengthy that it becomes totally boring. In the next ten days, before allowing the pixelated creature known as Xiggi to retire, I will try to post a few tips that could be a bit more concrete. I do not have the presumption to believe that my advice is necessarily the best but I believe that it represents the result of a disciplined and long-term review of most of the material available.

This brings me to the availability of material. Alas, The College Board no longers sells disclosed tests and ETS only sells past versions of the PSAT. Most companies have tried to write tests but do not do a great job. One issue is that most of the tests DO contain mistakes and can lead to students' confusion. As far as Barron's, the SAT book contains good strategies but the tests are mostly irrelevant as they do NOT match the difficulty of the test. It does NOT help to take a test that is more difficult than the real thing: the extra difficulty does not help a student prepare for the SAT if the type of question will NEVER show up! It is just a waste of time. It is similar to use the SAT-Math IIC to prepare for the SAT. You'll learn something but not what you seek to learn. The same criticism applies to the famous 3500 Barron's wordlist. I believe that this list is a real fraud. Barron's simply combined a list of words that appeared in past SAT and added to a recycled GRE list. It does a good job of rehashing the past but does an abysmal job to predict future words. Except for a few specific cases, spending hours learning the wordlist is a waste of time. I'll try to address the relative (un)importance of vocabulary in a subsequent post.

Now, I better go check my own notes :)

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:26 pm: Edit


Let me recommend a book that is not on the radar screen of most test takers. This should help you in dealing with the math section of the current SAT.

Solutions to the College Board: Ten Real SATs
by Valerie Knapp, 01 September, 2003
Shapolsky Publishers Inc
List Price: $19.95
ISBN: 1561719447

Drop the ISBN in google and you'll find many booksellers that carry the book.

This book contains extensive SOLUTIONS to all the MATH problems that appeared in the Second and Third Edition of the 10RS. This is a tremendous resource and I did not find a single error in the strategies or solutions. I still recommend Gruber's for additional material and expert strategies.

By Simba (Simba) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 07:34 am: Edit

Contact Info for Old PSAT and SAT Tests:

PSAT: 609-771-7243
You will have to make sure that they include answer key and the curve. I had to call them.

SAT: 212-713-8093

You may also get old AP test from one of the above numbers. The AP tests are about $25/each. They do not sell Old SAT II tests.

May 2002, and October 2001 SAT tests can be down loaded for FREE from the following link (They both have the answer keys and the curves)

By Simba (Simba) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 09:53 am: Edit

As Xiggi said, the Old SATs are no longer available. I just called.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 11:21 am: Edit

You can also download a full test here. It is the same test that is made available to the high schools via the preparatio booklets. You should inquire at your GC's office for versions of the previous tests.

The May 2002 available on TCB is included in the Third Edition of the 10RS, the October 2001 is unpublished.

By Mahras (Mahras) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 11:29 am: Edit

xiggi, you got mail! :)

By Samuck (Samuck) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 01:23 pm: Edit

Thank you, thank you, everyone, especially Xiggi and Simba. I have downloaded and printed the tests as well as your notes - fine resources, especially in the absence of a GC office - my daughter is the only one in a class of 90 interested in applying to a US university and her school simply has no experience with the process. I don't mean to get maudlin but this board is becoming my support community. Thanks again, everyone. And if any of your kids are interested in applying to UK universities, I will be as generous with my time and knowledge as I can.

By Simba (Simba) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 01:52 pm: Edit

Few more thoughts for the test. S started using digital watch during SAT practice at home and during the actual test. He says it helped him a lot with pacing. Don't get 'stuck' on a question. If you have time you can always come back. Don't go back and forth between answering each question and then bubbling. Finish a page or two and then bubble. Also, make sure that you have 'good' batteries for your calculator, and enough pencils.

By Czyrda (Czyrda) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

Xiggi- Thank you. I don't know what to say about the fact that you bothered to put that together :)

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:07 pm: Edit

Yes, thank you also.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 05:00 pm: Edit

For ReasonableDad :)

By Tanman (Tanman) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 05:58 pm: Edit

Xiggi, any idea which month's test is in the prep booklet (the link you provided above)? Thanks

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 06:30 pm: Edit

Someone told me that it was one of the January 2001 tests. It is, however, not the same disclosed January 2001 test that was sold by ETS when the service still worked.

By Familyguy24 (Familyguy24) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 01:25 pm: Edit

I read this whole thing, and if I've gathered anything its that I should at least take the old sat once, and get the 10 Real Sat book (which I did). I am planning on taking the October Sats. Can someone please advise me on how to go about studying. I have the book, I just want to know how I should space it out. Obviously the more things I can do clsoer to the actual test date are better, but I have the most time over the summer. Should I save some practise tests for the days before the test?

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 02:54 pm: Edit

In my opinion, there are two steps in preparing for the test. The first one includes building blocks of confidence and the second one involves time management. That is why I recommend to break the tests in smaller and manageable sections. The idea is to devote about thity minutes to try to answer the tests and about the same to review the answers. While most students focus on the scores and check their wrong answers, much can be gained from checking the correct answers. It is important to TRULY understand the answers and try to understand how the SAT questions are developed. To do this, one has to be comfortable with the material tested. For this reason, the student ought to review the particular question in books like Gruber's for math. Once someone starts building his blocks of knowledge, he needs to gain more confidence. ... the confidence to approach the test with some aggressivity. Knowing the format of the questions helps tremendously, recognizing the questions early leads to time savings. There are many time saving strategies that can be taught but most students should be able to develop their own.

One of the reasons that I recommend to start working with open books is to allow a student to make sure he understands the questions AND the answers. Again, the preliminary scores are not important and there are plenty of tests to use for score comparison. For less than twenty dollars, you can easily establish a library of close to twenty tests.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 02:58 pm: Edit


I think you should ask the CC owners to have a special feature on the homepage: Xiggi's Xtreme Tips to SAT success.
This would save posters from asking the same questions over and over again, you from having to repost the same answers. Think about it. Then write the book and get some royalties.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:16 am: Edit

I really need to get organized and write a series of canned answers to most common questions.

When I log on my AOL account, I usually get 5-6 IM in the first 30 seconds. Today, I had 8 IM open at same time with some kind of SAT discussion. I am always afraid to send the wrong answers!

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