Publishing maven Debbie Stier had two teenaged kids heading toward the goal of getting into a good college. However, she realized that the older of the two, Ethan, was clueless and somewhat apathetic about the testing process that could determine which, if any, higher learning he received.
So she did the logical thing: she took the SAT herself, seven times in one year.
In this upbeat, amusing and highly informative book, we learn from the author’s mistakes and applaud her triumphs. One thing she recognized early on is that the SAT is a surprisingly airtight exam with almost no imprecision or ambiguity. There are up to a million Google hits about how to prepare for this unusually rigorous, essential exam. She delved into most every known SAT study system, and found one --- Kumon --- that she firmly believes can help from day one. But by “day one,” she means the first day of up to two years of strict daily exercises and preparation for the test.
"What Stier discovered in her test year about preparing for the SAT can be of great benefit to any teen, or parent of a teen, heading to college."
One thing Stier found in her research about testing is that memorization and cramming, two time-honored methods of study, are not nearly as effective as the daily grind. And, she advises, if your test taker does not have a good foundation in math or verbal skills, he or she should go back and take classes starting from the most basic level. Writing is also a needed skill for the essay portion of the test, and the book includes practical suggestions for improving one’s composition skills. Stier anticipates such obscure problems as “bubble anxiety” --- fear of those little circles on the SAT answer sheets --- and gives recommendations on how to conquer them.
The author describes each of her testing experiences and records her scores: after seven tries, she had raised her Critical Reading score from 680 to 760, Math from 510 to 530, and Writing from 610 to 730. Better yet, Ethan’s scores also went up as he followed his mother’s example and her instructions. The experiment was not stress-free. Both teens moved out over the summer to evade their mother’s SAT obsession, but Stier asserts that there was a lot of mother/child bonding nonetheless --- “and great scores!”
All the study dos and don’ts are clustered in shaded text boxes throughout the book, making the reader’s study plan that much simpler. What Stier discovered in her test year about preparing for the SAT can be of great benefit to any teen, or parent of a teen, heading to college.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on March 7, 2014