If you’re not completely happy with your PSAT scores, don’t panic . . . but don’t procrastinate either. There are simple things you can start doing right now that will get you ready to crush the SAT on March 1st. Here’s my advice on how to prepare effectively:
First: Start building your vocabulary.
Sign up for ePrep Express; it’s free and there are no strings attached. Once you have signed up, start using the trial version of WordSmith, ePrep’s interactive vocabulary builder. Spending just a few minutes per day on WordSmith will help you develop what the College Board calls “a large and varied working vocabulary.”
WordSmith has three levels/categories of SAT words:
(1) Words you should know for success in high school;
(2) Words you should know for success in college and life beyond;
(3) Words you are more likely to read than to hear in life; and
(4) Words you can safely forget after taking the SAT.
You should start with Level 1, working your way up through the levels as appropriate. WordSmith is equipped with easy-to-use Sort, Review, and Test features that promote word “ownership.” Each time you logout of WordSmith, all of your “sorting” efforts will be automatically saved.
Vocabulary is critical, especially for tackling the sentence-completion questions that appear at the beginning of each Critical Reading section. Strategies, on the other hand, are useful . . . but not critical; they can only get you so far. If you have a large and varied working vocabulary, you will not only find the sentence completion questions easy, you will comprehend more of what you read. This is obviously important for successful completion of the passage-based questions. Because vocabulary building is best accomplished incrementally over time, it is important to get started early (i.e., now).
Second: Begin taking practice tests.
After about four weeks of using WordSmith on a daily basis (from the beginning of December to the beginning of January), you will be ready to layer in practice tests. (I say “layer in” because you should continue using WordSmith on a daily basis until the test in March. Remember, you only need to use WordSmith for a few minutes per day.) You can begin the practice phase of preparation by selecting Math, Critical Reading, or Writing; it doesn’t really matter which one you pick first. After you’ve made your choice, login to ePrep Express and print out the appropriate test and the appropriate answer sheet(s). (Each test has three sections–Section 1, Section 2, and Section 3. All Sections 1 and 2 are 25 minutes long. Section 3 in Math and Critical Reading is 20 minutes long, while Section 3 in Writing is only 10 minutes long.)
Take Section 1 in the chosen subject area under simulated conditions (i.e., at a desk or table; using a No. 2 pencil; in the appropriate amount of time; etc.). When time expires, logon to ePrep Express to have your practice section graded electronically. Once it is graded and you have noted your score, watch instructional videos for:
(a) the problems you answered incorrectly;
(b) the problems you skipped; and
(c) the problems you answered correctly, but only after a lengthy struggle or with some guesswork.
As you go through the video review, you will be prompted to rate your learning experience. More specifically, after reviewing each video that is associated with a problem skipped or answered incorrectly, you will be served a “thumbs-up” icon, a “thumbs-down” icon, and a “SKIP” icon. Select the thumbs-up icon whenever you feel that, based on the video review, you think you would answer a similar problem correctly on a future test; select the thumbs-down icon whenever you feel that, despite the video review, you think you would answer a similar problem incorrectly on a future test; and select the SKIP icon whenever you feel that you would skip a similar problem on a future test. Upon completing your review, select “SAVE FEEDBACK.” Doing so will cause a target score to be calculated and displayed. The target score represents a score that is attainable with continued practice and review.
(Note: Writng Section 1 is the essay. Write your essay on the printable answer sheet provided with ePrep Express. When you have finished writing your essay, select Writing Test 1, Section 1, in the ePrep Express “Exam Room” for review and scoring information.)
After completing Section 1 of a given test, repeat the practice-grade-review cycle described above with Sections 2 and 3. It should take about two hours to get through the three sections of a full test. A few days after you have completed a full test in the first subject area, find a two-hour block of time and complete a full test in one of the two remaining subject areas. A few days later, find another two-hour block of time and complete a full test in the final subject area.
Three: Find your testing groove.
At this point you will be about five or six weeks away from the March 1st test date. If you’re on a tight budget, you should watch my video How You Can Prepare for the SAT on a $25 Budget. The video pretty much covers everything you’ll need to do. If you have an SAT preparation budget, you should buy the Standard Edition of ePrep for the SAT. It will provide you with everything you need to be fully prepared by March 1st –more practice tests, the full version of WordSmith, Study Hall subject lessons, study guidance delivered by ePrep Analytics, a voucher to have your Test 4 essay graded by hand, and the ePrep study program scheduler that maps out exactly which practice tests you need to do and when you need to do them.
The weeks before the test are all about building content mastery, sharpening academic skills, learning test-taking strategies, and developing a sense of pace and timing.
A. Instead of signing up for ePrep Express in December, you can certainly sign up for the Standard or Premium Editions of ePrep for the SAT instead. Either study program will give you immediate and full access to WordSmith, Study Hall, ePrep Analytics, etc.
B. If the Standard Edition of ePrep for the SAT is enough to prepare, why would anyone sign up for the Premium Edition? This is a good question that parents often ask. My response is as follows: (i) Some students are extremely anxious and ambitious; they take as many practice test as they possibly can before test day. The Premium Edition, with its eight (8) full-length tests, is perfect for such students. (ii) Some students plan to take the SAT twice and some merely suspect that they might have to take it twice in order to truly maximize their scores. The Premium Edition is also perfect for either of these groups of students.