Test Prep is Life Prep

I sometimes use the phrase, “Test Prep is Life Prep.” I say this because though the primary part of my job is teaching my students the material and tricks they need for SAT and ACT domination, there is a second, just as important job: coaching them through the mental / emotional / academic challenges they encounter in preparing for these tests. A word or two about that.

In the attached video, Bill Hader is explaining the audience reaction to one of his sketches on SNL. They didn’t get it, and they were angry about it. Many of my students come to me with the same kind of anger towards the SAT and ACT. They don’t get it, and they’re angry about it. My job is coaching them in transforming that anger into curiosity. We learn MUCH more quickly when we’re curious, and it’s a lot more fun.

One thing that often helps is to start by transforming their anger at the College Board (makers of the SAT) and ACT.inc (makers of the ACT) into empathy. They have an incredibly tough job. Here’s how I describe it:

Harvard comes to the SAT and ACT and says, “So check it out. We’ve got 40,000 applications and we can accept 2,000 of them. Most of them have 4.0 GPAs or above and plenty of extracurriculars – debate club, science club, scrabble club, saving cats trapped in trees club… We need some help. Any way you can take these 40,000 kids and spread them out on a spectrum based on some test that measures the basics – reading, writing, math, reasoning, etc? We promise not to use ONLY that score to decide who to accept, by the way. It would just help to have an additional measure.” And the SAT and ACT say, “We’re on the job.”

In that context, my students can see that even though it looks like the SAT and ACT are TRYING TO TRICK THEM, what they’re really doing is testing their reasoning abilities, how careful they are, and how much of the material that they’ve been taught they either remember or are willing to spend the time to re-learn.

I call that my “empathy for the SAT and ACT” lecture, and I deliver it almost every day to one student or another. I have no allegiance to the SAT and ACT – I don’t own stock or anything (they’re both nonprofits anyway), but it does usually help to see things in the broader context. Either that, or my students are just patient while listening to me lecture, in which case I’m teaching them patience – another important skill when it comes to the SAT and ACT!

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