At Apex College Prep, we guide students in preparing for the SAT with several aspects of language and math education in mind, all of which broaden students’ abilities in math and English more generally:
- In addition to review of core content areas in math, we teach general strategies that allow students to “take a step back” from particular problems in order to see patterns of question design that appear on many standardized and academic tests such as trap answers, estimation, common problem set-ups, “re-writing” questions in ways that make them more direct and simpler to solve.
- Pacing and guessing strategies that work across all areas of the exam, and which should help students prioritize the questions in terms of their individual talents and skills.
- We approach reading comprehension in tandem with analysis of other difficult, but often more relevant readings, such as editorials and short articles from major national and world newspapers.
- Essays are taught in terms of major lines of thinking, clear exposition of ideas, organization and the use of examples that the students can be most comfortable discussing, regardless of topic. We move beyond the SAT to have students write essays on other readings, as well as historical events, so they are prepared to make arguments and present ideas on a range of topics.
- We teach and rigorously review the fundamentals of English grammar, with an emphasis (again) on pattern recognition, so students can go beyond knowing which answer is correct and actually talk in a sophisticated way about grammar and punctuation. We practice with non-test materials as well, and encourage analysis of missed SAT questions in terms of the problems students usually have in everyday writing.
- For all major question types and content areas, we have complex but user-friendly self-review sheets, so students can come to recognize not just how test questions are put together, but which skills and areas of knowledge are most important on a given test, and which of these they personally need to continue to improve.
- Finally, given that vocabulary is central to language-use and test performance (not only on the SAT, but also in essay writing), we require students to research the definitions and etymology (roots and suffixes) of the most common “difficult” words; we quiz them regularly on these definitions and patterns; and we emphasize patterns of form and meaning across large bodies of words (we literally have thousands); we have students recognize positive, negative and neutral values, and to be on the lookout for second, less common meanings.
Taken together, these approaches to language and math education form a holistic approach to English and mathematics. This should help students go beyond measurable success on standardized exams to be more proficient and confident users of these techniques, who can be just as eloquent about literature and current events as they are about formulas and rules.