There is a lot of money being made in the SAT preparation industry. Two large companies dominate the industry. Some parents spend tens of thousands of dollars for SAT Reading and Writing test tutoring services for their son or daughter, but the results from these major companies are less than stellar. They often promise gains of a certain number of points on each exam.
Please read this article here before you read the rest of my article:
It contains information and links to two studies conducted 10 years apart, one in 2009, that show only about a 30 point overall rise on the total SAT scores for students who took a preparation program. Some of these companies and tutors will claim that you will gain 100 points and more. The research shows that this is fallacious.
The reason is that the best preparation for the SAT is everything that your child did from elementary school onward. In terms of the writing and reading sections, students who are not fluent readers on grade level with large vocabularies will suffer. The best preparation of all is to begin the process in elementary school with some very basic things that all parents can do.
Please see this post for more information:
So what can be done (for the SAT Reading test and Vocabulary section) when a student is in high school and has had a less than stellar school career so far?
- The tutor should be qualified to test the student’s reading for grade level equivalent, fluency, and comprehension. This can easily be accomplished in less than one hour. They should know how to spot reading disabilities and fluency issues and provide remediation. The student and parent need to be apprised of the results of the testing and a strategy for the subsequent lessons.
- The tutor should spend one lesson teaching test taking strategies.
- The tutor should then proceed to provide any remediation work, such as fluency lessons, provide lists of higher interests/lower level books to boost the reading level, and conduct any remediation for reading disabilities in the course of reading instruction. This work is highly engaging. Students can progress 2 to 3 grade levels doing fluency work twice a week for a few months. In my work remediating reading for middle school students, I found this to be something most struggling readers needed.
- Concurrently, the tutor should provide lists of higher interest/lower level books at the student’s current grade level. They should read daily for at least a half an hour. The tutor should also provide an article in an informational magazine at the student’s current reading level, so that the student is beginning to get work in both fiction and non-fiction reading. The tutor should introduce unfamiliar vocabulary and help the student learn how to use word parts (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) to determine the meaning of unknown words. This is a powerful strategy for vocabulary improvement! The non-fiction article should be discussed at the beginning of the appointment. These, BTW, can be a great source of SAT Writing topics!
- As the student arrives at fluency with full comprehension (a key!) at their grade level equivalent, it is time to begin teaching students about the types of questions they will encounter in this section of the test, and begin to have students read articles on grade level and answer typical questions that they will be given on the SAT.
Any SAT tutor or preparation company that directs the student to study lists of vocabulary words, does not initially test the student’s reading skills, or fails to teach the students how to use word parts to determine the meanings of words is not fully preparing the student for the SAT. If no skill deficits are found, lessons can proceed from point 1 above to point 2 and then point 5. When the student is reading articles and successfully comprehending and answering questions such as posed on the SAT test and knows how to use word parts to determine the meanings of unknown words, the lessons can end, and students should continue to read widely (especially informational text on grade level), using their new found skill of using word parts to help them determine the meanings of new words.
Use this information as a guide when you interview a potential SAT Reading preparation tutor or tutoring company. This will save you a considerable amount of money and time. It is a waste of time to do things that will not produce much of a gain, but improving fluency and comprehension (for those students that need the remediation) and teaching test taking strategies, word attack skills, and practice with the types of reading and questions to be found on the test will produce the greatest gains. This will also help your son or daughter succeed in college. The greatest reason that students drop out of college is that they do not have the reading skills for the incredible reading load that they will experience in college.
I would be happy to tutor your son or daughter via Skype. My contact information can be found here: