The Ultimate Guide for SAT Math Self-Study
When it comes time to take the SAT everyone has the same question
"how do I best prepare for the test?"
And really the options boil down to this, do you go to the local bookstore/Amazon.com and buy a bunch of books and get to work or do you enlist the help of local test prep tutor to assist you?
I of course believe that enlisting the help of a test prep tutor (hopefully me) is the best plan of action, but I understand that cost may be an issue or that some people simply prefer to go solo for a variety of reasons. Well if you've already decided or are at least leaning in the direction of preparing for the SAT solo then this guide is for you. This is my no-holds-barred guide to mastering the SAT from the comfort of your home.
How many people follow through on their New Year's Resolution for the entire year? (or even a month) Do you hear crickets? Well it turns out us humans just aren't as disciplined and focused as we like to think we are. In fact I used to ask my student's if they'd always do their SAT hw and almost all of them promised they would. Guess how many actually did? Probably about 5% and that's despite the fact that they knew they'd have me to answer to each week if they neglected to do it! In other words, if you're doing this thing solo the chances are slim that you're gonna stick to the plan if you even have one. But that's why I'm here.
Now you're not gonna like it but you'll need to reach into your wallet/purse or online bank (because it's 2018 and most people don't have a ton of cash laying around anymore) and get $100. Your first task will be to find an accountabilibuddy. (a buddy that holds you accountable) All of my students give me $100 prior to tutoring and each time they don't complete their hw by the listed due date I donate $20 to charity. You of course can do this too but you'll be using a friend or parent you trust instead of me. Set an arrangement with your accountabilibuddy to text them pictures of your completed hw by the listed due dates (I'll provide these below) or else they get to keep 20 of your hard earned dollars. Why do this? Because we humans procrastinate like crazy and if we don't have someone holding us accountable we tend to be pretty darn lazy.
You'll need the best of the best when it comes to test prep books. Luckily I own and have read through almost every one on the market so you can trust that my recommendations are sound. (If I was writing this at the office instead of at home I'd take a picture all of my test prep books as proof) Even so the two books you'll need in order to crush the SAT are as follows.....
As the title of the book says this is the official guide for the SAT. It's made by the actual test makers (CollegeBoard) so it's as close to legit as you're gonna find. In it are 8 practice tests that best represent what you can expect to see on the actual test. Now full disclaimer, these tests can be found online for free here.....
but it's nice to have them in print right in front you.
The second book you'll need is here.....
I consider this book to be the best of the best. It has practice questions broken down by topic in addition to excellent lessons prior to each chapter. You'll need both these books in order to complete your homework assignments which leads me to step 3!
You need a plan of action! Not having one is the difference between success and failure. I'll use a personal example to illustrate this point. If I go to the gym without first thinking about what I'll be doing that day or without a pre-made list of workouts + sets and reps I tend to just malaise about the gym. But if I know its back and bicep day and I have a set routine I'll go in there and kill it! (likely in less time than my "malaise" workout too) Here's another example if you're not convinced. How much would you get done if you showed up to school one day and all of your teachers took a "senior skip day?" You'd probably do nothing besides drain your phone battery and fight other students over the few remaining plugs in the room after discovering you're sub 5% by 4th period. In other words, teachers plan out your day for you and that makes you more productive. So now that you're soloing the test prep experience you'll need a plan too and luckily I've posted it for you below.
You have 2 homework assignments per week. Now lets say that you begin your solo test prep journey on a Sunday. That means that your first hw of each week is due by 11pm on Wednesday night and your second hw of each week is due by 11pm on Saturday night. So on and so forth. Now let me caution you. Don't change the dates around! I know everyone has a million excuses about the thing that popped up the day before the due date and whatever but the point of a deadline is to coerce you into doing your work regardless of outside distractions. (No matter how "pressing" they may be.) Would your teacher move the project due date back just for you? Probably not, and therefore don't do it to yourself either. The due dates you provide your accountabilibuddy prior to beginning your solo test prep journey need to be set in stone. In fact, input the due dates into both your, and your accountabilibuddy's phone prior to starting to make sure you both stay on top of things.
Now that you have your plan in place it's time to talk about organizing your test prep. First of all keep track of all your scores! When students come and tutor with me we document all of scores whether for practice tests or panda book chapters all in one place. This is the best way to conveniently monitor your progress in regards to your test prep. I've posted below an image of the practice test tracking sheet that I use with my clients below. You can use something similar.
Secondly you'll need to be ruthless about documenting why you missed each and every question. If you say "oh it was just a silly mistake" that's not helpful. You'll just continue making that same silly mistake. You don't fix problems by simply acknowledging it. You acknowledge it, reflect on why it happened, and then create a plan to prevent it from happening again. For example, I use something I call a F.A.I.L. Sheet (stands for first attempt in learning) and a Reference Sheet to ensure my students are documenting why they missed a question.You can view these documents below.....
So here's how my students use the FAIL Sheet on the left. The questions they missed are listed on the front, and on the back are lines enclosing the same ten boxes. They write the equation or concept they didn't understand plus their work on the back of each problem. The FAIL Sheets are then kept in order in their binder. This is an excellent way to keep students organized. Most people's work is just strewn about the place and it becomes difficult for them to go back and find what they're looking for. As for the reference sheet, I have student's copy down important information related to questions they missed from the Panda Book or just important information from our "topic specific" lessons within each session. Although given that this article is for solo study I'd recommend you do this instead. In a different colored pen go back and correct the questions you missed within the official CollegeBoard book from each practice test. In addition to this have a reference sheet (it will start as a blank sheet of paper, nothing fancy, but by the time you're done it should be worth its weight in SAT knowledge gold) that you write every concept, equation, etc. on for each question you missed. I've found that by the 6th or 7th session with my students I can simply point at their reference sheet when going over missed problems with them and they'll be able to solve the problem without any verbal assistance from me. (Because everything they need to know is already on their reference sheet.) Your sheet should be similarly useful.
You'll need effective explanations for the questions you miss in order to figure them out! The panda book has answer explanations in the back which are generally quite good but the answer explanations that come packaged with the SAT Practice Tests leave much to be desired. What I recommend instead is using my Youtube channel for answer explanations. They aren't the fanciest videos around nor do I have videos for every question from each practice test but I do have videos covering most of them. The videos are short and sweet and cover how to do each question in multiple ways while highlighting of course the quickest and easiest way as well. Here is the link to my channel.....
That's all there is to it boys and girls. Here's a quick overview.....
1) Put down a $100 security deposit with an accountabilibuddy in order to hold yourself accountable for doing your work. (If you don't have $100 you can use less money or get creative with your security deposit)
2) You'll need to buy the Official SAT Study Guide and the SAT Math Panda Book. Here are the Amazon links to both.....
3) Follow the plan of action!
4) Track your results and be a savage when it comes to recognizing, analyzing, and correcting your mistakes.
5) Use my Youtube Channel to gain access to videos that clearly explain the best ways to solve each problem from the SAT Practice Tests.
Now it's time to for you to rise and grind. If you follow this plan it will be the SAT, not you, who will be stressed, nervous, and begging for mercy come test time!
Lastly, if you don't want to pay for my test prep package but you're not that excited about attacking this process alone I have another option.....