About What I Said on Millionaire...
I underscore to my students that they cannot do what I did, as there is no pattern to the answers on the SAT/ACT. While the number of A/B/C/D (or their equivalent) answers will approximately balance out over the course of the test, it will not balance precisely, nor will any specific set of 5-10 questions necessarily have an equal distribution of "correct letter answers".
However, I do know that if someone is going to create a "fair" test, that person is more likely than not to have a reasonable balance of "correct letter answers". (This precludes your occasional teachers who are just looking to mess with their students and/or ensure that they actually know the material being tested.)
I may or may not have used this strategy on the Millionaire qualifying test when, hypothetically, I had "C" for five straight answers, knew that couldn't be right, and found my mistake. This piece of advice, in fact, can and should be used on the SAT and ACT, with the important admonition to finish the section first before going back to check that specific string of questions.
Although the bulk of my experience is with the SAT and the ACT, the techniques taught for those tests do carry over to other standardized tests. I've even had students tell me that they used the strategies that I've taught them in their regular classes in school! I welcome your questions about any aspect of these tests or preparing for them.
Certain portions of these tests, most notably the grammar sections, do require more knowledge than others. Other sections (math, especially) are susceptible to amazingly basic techniques that turn many a “difficult” problem into one easily solved.
The tripping points for many students on these tests are time management during each section and mental stamina throughout the lengthy ordeal of the test itself. (Students should be prepared to be at the testing site for close to six hours on test day!) Both can be conquered with proper coaching: time management by practice and repetition, and mental stamina by simply getting used to sitting through a test of that length.
Save for the physical environment in which it takes place, taking these tests is not the same as taking a test in school. There are no part-scores for showing your work, no “effort points,” and no opportunities for extra credit. Either you’re right or you’re wrong; you know the meaning of a word or phrase or you don’t; your score goes up or it doesn’t. Therefore, coaching these tests should not be the same as teaching a class. Changing each student’s mindset to account for these vast differences from what they may be used to in school requires a different approach.
Although each student is different, the biggest problem for most students facing these tests is self-confidence — deep down, they believe that they can’t get the score that they want. I let them know immediately that excuses are not acceptable, and that they can improve their test scores, assuming that they are willing to put in the necessary work.
My students are told repeatedly that they can improve. The word “can’t” is not allowed during sessions, nor are the words “dumb”
or “stupid”. I have been able to achieve the results that I have in large part due to my unique teaching style, which combines the best elements of coaching and teaching.
Even when students figure out how to use a technique, they are unlikely to do it correctly every time. Just as in many other student activities (athletics, music, theater, etc.), practice makes you better. Students are given nearly unlimited opportunities to practice the taught techniques and reinforce what they’ve learned throughout the program.
As students take more timed tests throughout the program, they start to see improvement. When they do, they believe that they can do even better. With that confidence comes even more improvement. Though students improve at different rates, those who do the work and put in the effort to improve see markedly improved scores by the day of the test (which, after all, is all that matters). Those who expect a magic fix see very little improvement. It is that simple. I have never had a student who learned the techniques, did all the work, improved his/her vocabulary, and didn’t realize score improvement.
* My unique style of tutoring is not for everyone. Only students who are willing and able to do the work necessary to improve their scores find working with me helpful. (This doesn't rule out too many students, honestly.) My students often see their scores improve by a margin well above what the name-brand competition can usually deliver. Those who don't do the work, unsurprisingly, are far less likely to achieve their desired score level.
* This is not a remedial program! Although we do work with students on all score levels, we also need to expect that our students have a basic level of competency. I have found that students who have spent years in non-honors math courses are operating years below grade level, and therefore may require far more additional outside remedial work in order to get their skills up to par. Please contact Mike directly if you have any questions about this.
Should my student prepare for the PSAT?
Some companies will tell you that it's important to start as early as possible. But that doesn't hold true for everyone. Here is a rough guideline to answer this important question:
* If your student scored 1200 or better on his/her sophomore PSAT, then National Merit recognition is possible with some proper preparation and effort, in combination with the extra year of schooling since that test was taken. Such recognition makes students much more attractive to colleges and opens them to many more scholarship opportunities. MostPrep strongly recommends that students at this level prepare as best as they can for their junior PSAT.
* If your student scored 1000 or below on his/her sophomore PSAT, then some additional preparation may be necessary to get your student's SAT score up to national average. MostPrep strongly recommends that students at this level start to prepare for their SAT in earnest early in their junior years by seeking out the skills-building practice that they need, as it will be necessary (from the standpoints of both time and effort) to realize significant score improvement.
* If your student scored between 1000 and 1200 on his/her PSAT10 (or didn't take the PSAT10), then preparing for the PSAT is probably unnecessary. However, MostPrep definitely welcomes any student who has the desire and the motivation to prepare and is willing to put in the effort that is needed to get that improvement.
* There is no reason whatsoever to prepare for the PSAT10. None.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions about this all-important time for your student.