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Reflections on the January 2012 SAT

 

Sitting for the SAT as an expert on the test was perhaps the best way for me to see whether I could follow the trite but germane adage, “Practice what you preach.” After all, it’s entirely conceivable that someone well versed in the ins and outs of the SAT would teach a technique to his students, only to use some obscure or advanced shortcut in its place while working the problem himself. Besides the obvious hypocrisy built into such a scenario, the failure to put my own faith in the methods I regularly espouse would have been disappointing, and a cause for alarm.

Here's the good news: when I sat for the test this past Saturday among the teenage cohort I normally work to instruct, I found myself faithfully applying the core approaches my colleagues and I have developed for MTP. Here's the even better news: they worked, and in several cases, kept me from careless errors and errant answers.

As an inherently stressful exam, the SAT warrants very particular technique. This became wholly apparent during one of the reading sections, in which the narrator remarked on something to the effect of (paraphrased), “I soaked [my landlady] in while greeting her on many occasions.” Unsurprisingly, a question focused on the meaning of the figurative phrase “soaked… [her] in”; this kind of metaphorical language is prime territory for the most difficult SAT reading questions. I narrowed things down, and found myself deciding between two choices that seemed appealing.

sat strategy 2012But from my strategies, I knew that one was correct, and that one was made to seem correct. I heard my own voice in my head telling me to “look at the main idea of the context surrounding the quote,” as I’ve told so many students to do. When I followed my own advice, I realized the context gave me the answer: the line was part of the narrator’s commentary on his landlady’s eccentric appearance, so the only logical application of the figurative language was his “landlady’s unique sense of style”—the wording of the correct choice. Suddenly, I knew the other option was far from correct, and I felt confident about my answer. 

Of course, this was just one example of how effectively I was able to apply MTP’s techniques. A pronoun underlined in the writing section? The question was probably testing verb agreement. Two equations that shared the same variables? I could add them together to solve for one of the unknowns. Each time, I knew I was using a technique my colleagues and I had developed and refined.

With the January exam behind me, I can say that more so than grueling, the SAT was gratifying. As I continue to educate students, parents, and educational professionals about the SAT and ACT, I will do so with the confidence of knowing that the methods we preach and the methods students can practice to raise their scores are one and the same. 

 

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