Training students to excel on the SAT: The methodology of Deep Practice

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“Deep practice”.  I show students the best practices to master 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.

One of my favorite students from several years ago 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.

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.