Taking the SAT? Read a Book!
By Mallory P., ERG Coach
With school just starting back I know that it might seem like simply getting to school alive and on time is victory enough but many parents and students might not realize that the fall semester can be one of the most important times to be thinking about the SAT. Seniors will need to plan to take their last shot at the SAT before finalizing and submitting their college applications. Just as critically, juniors with college aspirations should seriously consider starting their SAT slog. Beginning preparation for the SAT early allows for the maximum amount of time to address any potential areas of improvement. Additionally, with the SAT already feeling like the end of the world for some students, having the extra time to take, and if necessary retake, the test is important for decreasing the pressure as much as possible.
Whether seniors trying to boost their score those last few points or juniors trying to prepare for the initial plunge, students (and parents) often wonder what can be done to get an extra edge over the SAT above and beyond review books and prep courses. While there is no magic panacea for the SAT, I can think of one activity at least that can simultaneously work on vital skills for the Math, Critical Reading, and Writing sections. The prescription is simpler than you might think: read a good book! I would like to go out on a limb and say, other than participating in an SAT specific tutoring program, reading is one of the most powerful activities a student can use to ready themselves for the test.
Reading a substantial and challenging book clearly has implications for the reading passages questions of Critical Reading section. Reading practice helps students read faster so students will be able to keep up their pace on the test and improves comprehension for answering those difficult questions. Reading a good book also helps in the sentence completion questions in the Critical Reading section. It is a great way to build vocabulary beyond just memorizing lists of words and increases understanding through context.
Reading a book can also build skills necessary for performing well on the Writing section. The writing multiple choice addresses grammar and composition. Reading a well written work helps students become familiar with correct grammar and refines their “ear” for hearing whether a usage is correct or not. Having a good book in their mental back pocket is also a huge advantage for students when it comes to writing the essay. A large contributor to success on the essay is the ability to pick an academically valid example and recall it with enough detail to make concrete points relating back to the prompt. A good book often has a variety of themes that can be applied to almost any essay prompt with a little creativity.
The connection between reading a book and increasing performance on the Math section is perhaps the least obvious of the three. The first part of the battle with any math question is to read and comprehend the question. This may sound simple but it can be the downfall of many students. If a student misreads the questions or has difficulty holding material they read in working memory they will be starting off in the wrong direction, no matter how proficient they are with equations and calculations. Reading a book can strengthen these basic skills and improve a student’s chances of comprehending the SAT math word problems.
Reading is also just plain good for the brain! It is a great way to exercise cognitive skills like processing speed, working memory, long term memory, logic and reasoning, and attention. All of these skills are important for performing well in and out of the testing room. To get the most out of it, students should practice being active readers, keeping a reading journal is a great way to do this. In it students should look up and record any words they don’t know, ask questions about the material and record answers when found, and write down any thoughts they have as they go. Students can even challenge themselves by timing how long it takes them to read a certain number of pages and work on decreasing their time.
Reading is a great way to engage even the most SAT-phobic students since they can choose something that appeals to them personally. There is a book for every student, no matter their interests. If you are having trouble picking out a great book to read be sure to ask your coach; at the ERG we have been compiling reviews from our coaches on a variety of high school level books.
Good luck and happy reading!
By: Mallory P. ERG Coach