Through the years of my work as performance coach Connecticut For students taking the SATs, I developed a distinct methodology for how to practice. I called it “deep practice”. I would show students the right way to learn math, grammar, reading and so forth. Simultaneously, I immersed myself in the literature on performance across all disciplines. What I called deep practice was labeled deliberate practice or purposeful practice by others who had the same goal: figuring out how to help students improve.
This week provided bookends to the college process for many Connecticut students. PSATs were released. This sounds the kick-off for many Connecticut students to start the college process and Early Action and Early Decision notices came in, which for some, will end the college process.
One of my favorite students from last year excitedly wrote about her admission to a top tier college. When we started working together on the SATs, her scores were not that close to even the lower range of the school’s SAT scores. She told me that she was a “bad test taker”. I responded, as I often do, “No. You are just an untrained test taker.” We then got to work. Week by week, I showed her the right way to practice and, to her credit, she listened and applied the techniques. Of course, sometimes she did not get a technique right the first time but she had the discipline to keep trying.
I should note that while she followed my suggestions because she trusted me – I had worked with her older siblings – she was a skeptic by nature. She did not believe she would improve. Indeed, in almost every session, I would have to show her data to demonstrate how she was getting better – when you started, you only answered 7 of the first 15 questions correctly and now you are at 11 – so she would understand how her SAT prep was paying off. She wound up with a score that was in higher end of the 25-75% range of her school.
Deep practice: the answer for SAT improvement.