What do you do in your classes that directly prepares our students for the PSAT or SAT?
What could you add to your curriculum that does this?
What do you think our students need in order to be prepared better for the PSAT or SAT?
Is there a program or unit you would like to implement to help our students be better prepared for these tests?

Does anyone have any thoughts about or background with the ACT?

Please note your name, level of instruction, and course in any comments.

Jeremy Holman--8th Science 3, 10th Chem 11th Bio
1. What do you do in your classes that directly prepares our students for the PSAT or SAT?
No direct preparation for SAT in 8th grade science or Biology. Indirectly, they must be able to read carefully and critically, and then answer a combination of factual recall, conceptual, and applied problems. This is true for chemistry as well, except that I also use a lot of algebra-based problems requiring content knowledge from multiples areas of chemistry. Students in all of my classes must be able to recall basic facts (definitions of terms, formulas, and other simple knowledge) and interpret data tables and graphs just to set up a problem correctly, then use their problem-solving skills to work out the answer. Considering the subject, this may have a higher impact on the ACT, where there is actually a science section that uses these kinds of skills.

2. What could you add to your curriculum that does this?
No time to add SAT-style math and verbal skills

3. What do you think our students need in order to be prepared better for the PSAT or SAT?
I never took the SAT, but I've hear the GRE skills are similar. My GRE scores improved by over 300 points by simply USING the GRE prep book. Learning how to take the test was just as important as be able to recall basic skills from the good ole days.

4. Is there a program or unit you would like to implement to help our students be better prepared for these tests?
No.

5. I took the ACT in high school. I did really well on the science and english sections; not as well on the math and reading. I kind of enjoyed the subdivision into smaller areas, though I've heard the SAT is just as long and requires the same skills

David H - 9th Alg 1, 10th Geometry, 12th Stat
1. What do you do in your classes that directly prepares our students for the PSAT or SAT?
10th geometry gets practice SAT questions once a week (though sometimes I miss a week) to review Alg 1 concepts. SAT questions related to current material are thrown in with the curriculum on a daily basis. Alg 1 doesn't receive any direct SAT instruction other than content.

2. What could you add to your curriculum that does this?
Alg 1 is really the basic level of the SAT (beyond arithmetic), so they are really just learning the material. We could supplement with some arithmetic review, but I'm not sure how helpful that would be. I have not found time to insert SAT prep into Stats. I will start giving them weekend practice sets, but will not have time to review them in class. Students will have to see me outside of class for help.

3. What do you think our students need in order to be prepared better for the PSAT or SAT?
Our students lack strong problem solving/logic skills. Proofs in Geometry help with logic and longer more practical problems help with problem solving, but I wonder how much of it is just the "wall" Brian speaks of.

4. Is there a program or unit you would like to implement to help our students be better prepared for these tests?
It would be helpful to have some more detailed stats on the types of problems missed. I think this data is available for the PSAT (at least sent to students) but not for the SAT. It could be useful to get diagnostic test results from the SAT prep program that students used to take or to implement our own diagnostic tests.

5. Does anyone have any thoughts about or background with the ACT?
From our limited set of data (roughly 30 students over the past 9 years), I don't see much difference in the scores and the ACT is usually lower. I'll be able to give a more detailed analysis later this week.

Craig Duncan (Advanced Algebra 2 - 9th, Trig/Analytic Geometry - 10th, Advanced Precalculus - 11th, Regular Precalculus 12th)

For grades 10 - 12 I have given 2 or 3 practice SAT math questions from the College Board website each Friday which count as bonus questions on the students' next test. For the last 3 weeks before the PSAT and SAT tests, I am giving one math section each week from a Practice Test in the 2009/2010 SAT prep book.

I am open to suggestion as to what I could add or replace this with. I am resistant to giving away any more class time than I am currently. In my opinion the best preparation, beyond some basic procedural knowledge and some basic test taking strategy is knowing your math which should come from regular instruction. Isn't that what the test is supposed to be testing, how well we are teaching and how well students are learning?

Being familiar with how the test is laid out, the mechanics of answering the questions, and basic strategies will best prepare them for these tests. Beyond that our curriculum should take care of content.

I know nothing about the ACT.

Brian, 8th grade Alg 1, 12th grade PreCal: Neither of my classes really impact SAT prep. 8th grade is more likely. I try to get the students to not hate math and associate math with something pleasant. We play a lot of review games and some Internet/computer math games.

We know you can predict college success by how well a student does in Alg 1 and even earlier, so I would bet Alg1 performance would be an indicator of SAT (math) performance. Then again, you could predict this by week 2 of Alg1; i.e., those who do well in Alg1 are those who are already well-prepared. They know their fundamentals cold so they can spend their brain power on algebra. Those who struggle in Alg1 spend too much brain energy on arithmetic and stuff they should already know.

My PreCal course is 2nd semester, which is after the SAT. So no impact there.

It's interesting how over the years our SAT scores have "tightened up" (i.e., less variation) both within the class and with the national average. This says to me we (and the country) are hitting a wall, and we are doing most everything we can -- within the current system -- to prepare the students.


Jeremy Duncan
This year I have spent each friday in my 11th grade Algebra II class going over practice problems for the SAT, and reviewing basic concepts needed to tackle the problems. I started the friday SAT prep based on suggestions from DH. I am using a copy of the "Official SAT Study Guide" to plan my classes, and I have 3 copies if anyone is interested (I snagged a couple at the end of last year when students were throwing them away). So far I have done a basic introduction to concepts the students will need in order to answer the questions on the SAT, as well as some strategies to tackling a few types of common problems. Last Friday I gave the students a practice SAT (1 math section) to see how well they would do. They need a lot of help. So I wrote down the problems that seemed to be giving them the most trouble, and I plan to teach directly to those in the future.

In order to increase performance on the math sections of the SAT, I think the students need more exposure to the specific types of problems on the SAT tests. Often the students will have the knowledge to solve a straightforward math problem, but not the needed problem-solving skills to understand which concepts apply in any given question.

I have no experience with the ACT, but I plan to check out the Practice ACT that Susan e-mailed to everyone. I've heard that students who are stronger in math and science perform well on the ACT, but that is the extent of my ACT knowledge.


Susan Davis
1. What do you do in your classes that directly prepares our students for the PSAT or SAT?
Language Arts II (10th Grade): We use the Princeton Review's Cracking the SAT as one of our texts. Thus far, I have introduced the students to the test generally and worked through sections on sentence completion, reading comprehension, and some of the vocabulary (including a focus on words related to reading comprehension); I have started the writing section, going over the types of questions and reviewing grammar. Students do practice questions as we go. Students learn some tricks and strategies -- especially how to avoid the "Joe Bloggs" approach of falling for the "traps" set by the writers of the test for those students who are not really paying attention closely. (I do not usually address the essay directly in this class since it is not on the PSAT). We do additional work vocabulary building, reading comprehension, and grammar review throughout the course.

In AP English (12th grade), I review elements of the SAT on Fridays up until the October SAT test. We have gone over the essay, reading comprehension, and sentence completion so far. We will be addressing the grammar and editing section of the writing portion this week. Students do practice questions as we review. We review some vocabulary as well -- as much as we can fit in (including words related to reading comprehension). This could be viewed as taking away from preparation for the AP, but I consider it good review of the basics before we move on to the advanced stuff.

2. What could you add to your curriculum that does this?
For me this is a matter of time in LAII and what I can fit in. I need to spend time teaching the students writing in in addition to what's related to the SAT. I think I need to work more slowly and thoroughly with vocabulary. I would also like to fit in more reading for pleasure to help students build their reading and vocabulary skills. Whatever I don't get to needs to be addressed in the second half of English II and picked up again in LA III. (The book is used for two years.)

I am not sure I can fit in more for the AP class and still call it an AP class (we are now subject to review by the College Board).

3. What do you think our students need in order to be prepared better for the PSAT or SAT?
They need to read more, and read more carefully. They need to build vocabulary. They need more practice earlier. I would be in favor of a pre-senior year review before school starts in August. Could we pay a teacher some extra funds to do this?

4. Is there a program or unit you would like to implement to help our students be better prepared for these tests?
See above. I also think we need to begin earlier -- perhaps in 8th LA. We also need to coordinate better in English classes in the spring of 10th and 11th-- when LA isn't offered.

5. Does anyone have any thoughts about or background with the ACT?
I took it in 1973. I liked it better -- and felt I did better. I almost had a perfect score in the social sciences part (go figure), which really surprised me. I do not generally do well on standardized tests.

Dorothy Scrutchin, 6th Language Arts and Reading, 7th Language Arts
What do you do in your classes that directly prepares our students for the PSAT or SAT?
In language arts, we work on capitalization and punctuation every day in exercises called daily grams. Students have to correct the mistakes and provide the reason for the correction. We also work on sentence structure, subject/verb agreement, parts of speech, etc. These are areas where students have trouble and begin to second guess themselves.
I also teach the students active reading strategies where they can concentrate better and build comprehension. Hopefully this will help them become careful readers. I teach vocabulary in both classes as well. We work on the spelling, definition, and usage of each word. I feel expanding their vocabulary would help make reading harder materials much easier.

What could you add to your curriculum that does this?
Should I have them begin practicing? Is it too soon?

What do you think our students need in order to be prepared better for the PSAT or SAT?
They should know the importance of the test, but not feel intimidated by it.

Is there a program or unit you would like to implement to help our students be better prepared for these tests?
Is it too soon?

Does anyone have any thoughts about or background with the ACT?
I have taken the ACT, but that's the only experience I have with this particular test.