Finding the Best SAT Class for Your Child – Part III

SAT Test Prep should be comprised of learning the basics and taking practice tests

Student taking a practice SAT test

You have the questions you need to determine whether the SAT classes you are looking into will be a good fit for your child and whether the class will use the best materials. In this post I will give you some questions to ask about what I feel is the most important part of any SAT class: The use of practice tests.

Question #6: How will practice tests be used?
Practice tests are an essential part of SAT prep. No matter how well a student learns the concepts tested on the SAT, he will not be truly prepared until he practices taking timed SAT exams to get used to the format and timing of the test, as well as the to actual questions that show up on the SAT.

The timing of these exams is very important. Some classes give practice tests every week or even more often. And most students in these classes get the same score on test after test, showing that this approach is not benefitting them at all. It is a far better use of time to really learn the concepts tested on the SAT before starting to take a lot of practice tests.

An extra note of caution:
I have found that in some cases offering too many practice tests too quickly can actually hurt students. They go through all of the available College Board tests without getting any real benefit out of them. Then they are left to try to improve their score with alternate tests from other sources that simply don’t provide the score increases that real College Board tests do. So this may very well be the most important question you ask.

Question #7: How many practice tests will be offered?
Once a student has a solid understanding of most of the concepts, I would advise that he take at least 3 practice tests. And I advise taking even more if he is shooting for a large score increase (greater than 500 points) or a very high score (over 2000).

Question #8: Will the class go over each test thoroughly?
One of the most important parts of test prep (and the one that students like the least) is extensively reviewing each test right after they take it. Students need to go through each question that they answered incorrectly to determine why it was wrong and to figure out why the correct answer was a better choice. This isn’t easy to do in a class setting, so ask about how they will be able to do this.

When left to review tests on their own, even the best students will simply go through the test and read the correct answers. It is very hard for them to figure out why they missed questions, so they get frustrated and move on to the next question. At the beginning of this process students simply don’t believe that there is any way to understand what seems to be truly mysterious reasoning behind the correct answers.

It is a tough process to figure out the logic behind the SAT, particularly on the critical reading section. And the only way to really develop an understanding of this logic is to work through numerous practice tests and to really understand why the correct answer is correct. I have never met a student who couldn’t figure out this logic if they put enough effort into it. However, it always takes a lot of guidance and hard work. And it can only be achieved by really understanding what went wrong on practice tests.

No class will be able to provide completely individualized test review. So I highly recommend that students aiming for large score increases and/or very high scores follow up the class with a program that provides College Board practice tests and one-on-one tutoring.

In the next post in the series I will discuss questions that you should ask about homework and class size.

Amy Martin Rodriguez, PhD
Academic Coach and Owner
Click here to email me your questions!
Click Here to read “Finding the Best SAT Class for Your Child – Part I”…

Click Here to read “Finding the Best SAT Class for Your Child – Part II”…

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  • Jody Yarborough

    Another informative post, Amy. I like how you caution parents about offering too many practice tests too quickly. And (remembering myself as a former student) I used to HATE reviewing tests lol. Unless I got 100% of course ;) But it was really beneficial to go back (even if forced) to understand my mistakes so I could learn the subject matter better.

    • Amy Martin Rodriguez

      Thanks so much for the feedback Jody! This is exactly how my students feel.

  • Carol Stephen

    I never realized that some students might not be going for really high scores. Perhaps some would just like to survive the SATs and get a high enough score to get into the school they like. 

    Reviewing the practice tests right after taking them has to be the best way to really learn how to take this challenging test. 

    • Amy Martin Rodriguez

      Carol, yes what I advise is opposite to the way most students approach this test. But it can save so much frustration and actually lead to higher scores. Thanks so much for your insightful comments!

  • Ron

    I am going to recommend this to my Harker athletes. They start stressing for the SAT as freshman…and miss games!

    • Amy Martin Rodriguez

      Thanks Ron! I am planning to invite guest bloggers to discuss the college admissions and recruiting processes here too.