Let’s assume your student has already taken the SAT (or perhaps the PSAT), and his or her math score was stellar, but the Writing and Critical Reading sections provided some stumbling blocks. If your child wants to study math or science in college, you may not think the SAT verbal score matters much, but remember that colleges want well-rounded students and look at overall SAT scores. Here are five ways to help your student “wow” college admissions counselors with an improved SAT verbal score.
1. Read for 20 Minutes a Day
One of the most effective ways to improve students’ test scores is to encourage them to read more, Patti Richards writes. But you have to start early. Beginning in the stages of early literacy and continuing all the way through high school, education experts recommend that students read for 20 minutes per day. One of the best ways to do this is to subscribe to kids’ magazines from an early age. Choose magazines that are aligned with your child’s interests. Sports Illustrated for Kids is one good example for kids who are interested in sports. “Reading provides one of the most enriching and complex brain activities available in life,” Joelle Brummitt-Yale says in her K12 Reader post. “The experience of reading activates and ‘exercises’ many of the areas of the brain.”
2. Practice Using New Words
When was the last time you learned a new word and then actually used it? Encourage your child to expand his or her vocabulary through a word-of-the-day website or blog such as Merriam-Webster or the New York Times’ The Learning Network. Try making these newly acquired words part of your everyday vocabulary by slipping them into conversation. This will help commit that word’s correct usage and meaning to memory, which will be handy if the word pops up in the Critical Reading section of the SAT. Even better, your student may be able to work a few new words into the SAT essay.
3. Use SAT Essay Practice Prompts
Nothing prepares your student better for the SAT Essay section than to practice crafting a polished composition in 25 minutes. Practice prompts help train the brain to choose a point of view, identify supporting examples, and organize thoughts into a clear and concise essay. You can find free practice prompts from A+ here, or on the College Board website. By practicing the writing process, your student will feel ready to tackle the Essay section on test day.
4. Zero In on Specific Skills
The College Board has a helpful, free tool called Skills Insight, which is a nifty way to zero in on the skills that will help your child improve his or her skills in a given test section. Choose the section where the most improvement is needed, select your student’s current score range, and then select a skill group to see the types of skills tested in each score band. The tool will provide your child with a set of practice exercises designed to build these specific skills.
5. Challenge Your Student with Critical Reading Practice Questions
Reading comprehension can be dramatically improved through practice. Have your child read a magazine article (start by choosing an article that you think would interest your teen) and ask her to state the main ideas or to write them down on a pad of paper. (If there is a counterargument in the article, make sure that is included as well.) Then discuss the article with her. For more help, check out these SAT Critical Reading sample questions.
Using these five techniques is a good way to start your student on the road to SAT verbal success. Ideally, it’s best to start this process early, when your child is young. Improved reading and writing skills will help your student do well on the SAT, but even more importantly, it will enrich his or her life.