When it comes to SAT prep, homeschooled children have a unique advantage. Most students are used to lecture-based classroom learning, an ineffective model that doesn’t get to the core of each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and individual learning style. Because your child is used to independent study, he or she can tackle the SAT the right way from the onset, without any adjustment in his or her approach to the proper material.
The SAT is a highly individual exam. Every student needs to approach it in a different way, and every student brings a totally unique set of pre-existing knowledge and comprehension to the table. There’s really only one way to get higher SAT scores:
- Figure out precisely what material you do and don’t know.
- Figure out precisely what strategic deficiencies you’re dealing with.
- Isolate your weaknesses and systematically eliminate them.
- Re-evaluate constantly, using your most recent performance to repeat step #3.
Your homeschooler is already used to a similar process. The only real question is: how do you adapt your habits to prepare for the SAT?
Fortunately, it’s a fairly simple operation. To get a fantastic SAT score, all you need to do is build your three pillars of SAT success. These three pillars are:
- Material. The math, grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension-based facts, figures, and trivia necessary to answer all the questions on the SAT.
- Strategy. Knowing the material required by the SAT is not enough – you also need to know how to use this material on actual SAT questions. Unlike most academic exams, the SAT isn’t hard because of the material it tests – it’s hard because it tests this material in extremely strange, intentionally confusing ways. Unless you know how to decipher SAT questions and translate them into plain English, you’ll have a tough time with the exam. Good strategy and tactics are the only ways to do so.
- Application. Even with strong material knowledge and excellent strategic/tactical experience, no one can get great SAT scores without rigorous, consistent, and realistic application to real exams. You need to take timed, graded SATs under realistic conditions, immerse yourself in the testing environment, and use your skills the same way that you’ll be using them on test day.
As soon as possible, I recommend that you grab a copy of the Official College Board SAT Manual – it’s full of real, actual SAT exams (and real grading rubrics).
Once you do, take an untimed test, grade the entire thing, and circle every wrong answer. Then use the College Board website (it’s free to register, and you’ll need to make an account to register for the test) to find answer explanations to each wrong answer.
Document your weaknesses. Figure out two things:
1. What facts and figures don’t you know?
Do you not understand how to find the diagonal of a square? How to solve a three-variable equation set? Do you not know what “ameliorate” means? Are you not sure how to use commas vs. semicolons?
2. What elements of the test itself are throwing you off?
Did you read the passages too quickly (or too slowly)? Are you not sure how to approach the “error identification” questions of the Writing section? Are you getting tempted by wrong answers in the Critical Reading section? Do you not have enough time?
Once you figure out these two things, follow this simple process:
A) Put your weaknesses into words. Know thy enemy. The difference between your score and a 2400 is just a list of things you don’t know, or can’t currently figure out. Express them out loud. Make them real. You don’t have a perfect score for one reason, and one reason only: there are numerable, real things you don’t understand, but that you can learn.
B) Document EVERYTHING. Make a flashcard for every single thing that you don’t know. Vocab words. Math facts. Grammar rules. Questions about the test in general. Keep them in a pile and separate them by section, or by “general test questions.”
C) Figure out how to beat each of your weaknesses, one by one.
Use the answer explanations, online research, or the help of your parents or tutors to figure out what you don’t know. One at a time, kill each flashcard. Do the research, learn lessons, and figure out how to conquer the things that are slowing you down.
D) Apply your new knowledge to practice sections and practice tests.
Once you learn new facts and approaches, put them to use. You’ll never learn anything by simply reading it – you have to practice it. Try problems similar to the ones that previously threw you off. Make up your own problems. Keep taking practice tests.
E) Re-evaluate constantly.
Every two to three weeks, take another practice test. This time, you should time it. After every practice test or practice section you complete, repeat this process. Document what you don’t know. Discover what slowed you down. Then learn it.
F) Organize your list of weaknesses, and keep chopping away at it.
As soon as you start this process, you’ll see certain things that used to be difficult become very easy. Other things are still hard. You might discover new things that you didn’t know you didn’t know.
It’s not easy – but it is simple. And if you go through this process, you’ll be able to get incredible SAT scores on your own time, in your own home, without the need for any sort of real outside instruction.
So What’s Next?
Get started. The sooner you begin this process, the sooner you’ll see how easy it really is to complete. If you ever have any questions, you can always feel free to get in touch, and if you want this process distilled into a step-by-step online program, you can always feel free to check out my online self study program, The Green SAT System.
Whether or not you decide to use my program or study completely on your own, just remember this: your scores are all about YOU. What you know, and what you don’t, and only you can figure that out. Once you do, and once you set about destroying your weaknesses, you’ll have top-notch scores in no time!
Anthony-James Green is world-renowned SAT and ACT tutor with over 10,000 hours of experience teaching these tests, crafting curriculum, and training other tutors to teach their own students.