|Read good books!|
With two National Merit Scholars and two National Merit Commended Scholars, I am often asked, “How should my student prepare for the PSAT/SAT test?”
While I am not a big fan of 'final hour' preparation, I do have some recommendations to help prepare for the standardized tests
First, start early
Before the junior year of high school- seventh or eighth grade is not too early. When you start this early, it is mostly painless preparation.
Use a good vocabulary curriculum.
I like Vocabulary From Classical Roots. Having a regular vocabulary program and understanding prefixes, root words, and suffixes will go a long way in scoring well on the writing section of standardized tests.
Subscribe to the SAT question of the day available at www.collegeboard.com. Your student can sign up for this and it will send a question each day. (Update: The email option has been discontinued, but there is still a Question of the Day on the website.) This takes very little time, but over time your student will become familiar with the types of questions asked and how to approach them. The question of the day will tell whether the question is considered easy, medium, or difficult. It will also show the correct answer and how to arrive at the answer if the student misses the question. This is free and painless, but over time will build test taking skills.
Browse the other free help available at the college board website. There are online practice tests available as well as tips on writing the essay. Make this part of your students weekly practice and they will feel better prepared and less overwhelmed than if they waited until high school.
Read good books! This should start long before middle school. Always strive to read good literature with excellent vocabulary. When your student encounters a word they don't know, they should look it up and write it down. There are many lists of 'classic' literature available online (here is one). Have a list of required reading for your student if your curriculum doesn't incorporate one. (When choosing books from a list for your student, use your good judgment to determine if it is a 'classic' you want your student to read.)
What about paying for test prep?
I have never been a fan of that, assuming that the test is measuring what the student knows, not what they can cram in their head at the last minute. That being said, I have found a relatively inexpensive SAT prep that focuses more on test taking strategy. While I don't completely agree with College Prep Genius, it is the only prep guide (in addition to the previous tips) we have used with my last merit scholar and commended scholar. I would recommend that you pay more attention to the writing tips at the college board website than College Prep Genius. The author recommends a 5 paragraph essay and the college board says it is not necessary and has some high scoring examples that do not have 5 paragraphs. I also do not recommend going back and putting in big words (unless you are absolutely sure that the word makes sense there- I have seen this technique produce humorous results otherwise). I do recommend that the student practice writing essays using writing prompts found at collegeboard.com and finding someone to score/evaluate it according to the evaluations at college board.
So, basically, start early with a little bit every day.
Also, Have your student take the PSAT as a sophomore and then again as a junior for a national merit qualifying score.What have you found to be helpful?
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