(415) 370-2916
Scott Cowan – Tutor & College Counselor


18 Feb 2014

Test Preparation



AP Exams:
Comparative Government and Politics, English Language and Literature, French language and literature, Psychology, U.S. History, U.S. Government and Politics, World History

Consultation with students and parents on selecting, applying, and preparing for success in:

  • High Schools
  • Universities,
  • Graduate Programs

2 Responses

  1. YVE

    Looking for a prep class for my son for his SAT’s. He scored 1990 and is not happy as he felt he could have done much better. As for the subject tests; in Math, again he felt as if he did horribly and scored 670 (he said pacing himself was his problem here). So, do you offer a ‘prep class for SAT’s? He would like to do 2100 at least. Please advise to options and thoughts. Thank you.
    (He’s going to be a senior this year.)

    1. Scott

      Congratulations to your son on scoring nearly 500 points above average while still a junior — a very nice achievement. I’m impressed that he has ambitions to score his very best. 2100+ is a wonderful target — fewer than 4% of people nationwide score over 2100. I’m further impressed that your son already has targeted an area ripe for improvement (pacing) and thus is set to create a strategy for improvements.

      The way the SAT is structured, it gets harder and harder to earn points as one does ever better. That is, it’s quite a bit easier to earn 100 points and raise a score from 1600-1700 than it is to go from 2000-2100. The fact that your son scored just under 2000 shows me that he knows nearly all the content facts that he needs to answer questions. I can indeed help him practice the pacing he’ll need to earn remaining points — AND do a few other things necessary to earn those really tough remaining points to reach or even surpass his goal. He needs to learn just how the SAT is structured — what traps the test lays for smart kids like him…and how to avoid these. He also needs to learn to see the shortcuts and hints the SAT offers to savvy test takers. Again, we can focus on these things. Between 670 and a perfect 800 on the math lie only 5-8 questions. We’ll need to work quite hard to ensure zero mistakes as your son increases speed on questions your son can already answer, increase math fluency so he can answer more questions easily and see those short-cuts/tricks I wrote of above, and, then, after these two things have been mastered, we can add the few remaining bits of math content knowledge he needs to answer the hardest questions of all.

      Raising scores on the multiple choice portion of the writing section will follow a similar trajectory. It’s likely that your son will find more grammar points to learn than he will math facts; most students need more holes plugged in their grammar knowledge than in their math knowledge. It will be my pleasure to help fill in these gaps fairly quickly.

      Writing a better essay takes longer to master. I’ll ask your son to practice the very difficult art of writing a solid and stylish essay in just 25 minutes. it will likely take a fair number of practice essays to make real progress. I have had great success with students on this arduous task and feel great about this as writing well will serve everyone well through college and career.

      The Reading section poses several different kinds of problems. The first one takes time to master: your son must increase his vocabulary! Specifically, he needs to read more critically in all his classes this year and pay special attention to all new vocabulary that he understands in context and rushes past in ways that mean he does not really know, or even recognize, the words he’ll see for the tenth+ time on the SAT. I’ll also ask your son to study from a list of words that make a BIG difference on test after test after test.
      The second issue with the Reading section comes from various different kinds of reading passages. We’ll practice techniques for each kind of passage and all the different types of questions asked for each passage.

      Most students in your son’s position find that they make gains fastest by studying one-one with me. I counsel you to avoid all large group classes. Your son has already mastered all the material that these one-size-fits-all courses offer. Your son could find enormous help in a small group that is specifically made up of students who have similar past SAT scores and similar motivation to improve.

      Please review my rates, policies, and testimonials on Yelp and my blog to see if you think I’m a likely good fit for your son. I’ll be glad to talk with you about all involved and guide your son into either a great small group or schedule some one-one tutoring to get him on the road to the very highest SAT scores possible.

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