Preparing for the SAT: Overcoming Fears

May 28, 2013 

Jessica Williams Jessica Williams

Featured SAT Student: Jessica Williams Abington Friends School
SAT Score Improvement: 280 Points

Many students struggle with the pressure of preparing for the SAT and applying to college. Jess Williams, a junior at Abington Friends School, can relate. “I got it in my head that the SAT was the only thing that would get me into college,” Jess said. Taking the test, “I was really nervous, working myself up,” she admitted.

Many students experience this kind of “crisis of confidence” when preparing for the SAT, according to Kathy Astrue, Jess’s A+ verbal tutor. When practicing for tests, students can feel as if they’ve reached a plateau, from which it seems like their score can not improve any more.

Kathy worked alongside Jess’s math tutor, Taylan Morcol, to convince Jess that she was capable of boosting her score.

Jess has never considered herself a “math person.” A few of the math skills were tripping her up on the practice tests, so she and Taylan reviewed math fundamentals. “It was just a matter of practicing a lot of the skills she hadn’t had to use in a while,” Taylan said. She didn’t let frustration set in, “she was very patient with herself, very willing to learn.”

“I knew she had potential,” Kathy said. “Jessica was very good at memorizing. She took her practice tests and was diligent with her homework and learning the flash cards. I just had to push her boundaries a bit.” Kathy encouraged Jess to go beyond the flash cards, to find vocabulary in her books at school or in practice tests, and to record them in a running list to study.

For the long reading passages, the two found a strategy that worked for Jessica–reading two paragraphs at a time, and then answering the questions pertaining to that section.

In her last two sessions, Kathy and Jess had a heart-to-heart about conquering the SAT. “You need to give it your all,” Kathy said. “If you apply yourself, you can do it. This is not unknowable, not undoable. Just gobble up the vocabulary; learn as many new words as you can. Push yourself to write a five-paragraph essay and use transitions,” Kathy told Jess.

Jessica took the advice to heart, and was able to improve her score by 280 points. “Once I got past the essay, I was really relieved,” she said. “It was a weight off my shoulders, because I really felt comfortable with the material.”

“A big part of Jess’s success was her persistence; she did all of the problems and kept at it,” Taylan said. “It looks like her hard work paid off; it shows. I’m really proud of her.”

“A+ helped massively,” Jess said. “I don’t think I would be able to do as well with a book on my own.” She thought preparing for the SAT through face-to-face interaction was much more helpful than paging through study guides. She said she’s seen a difference with her in-class essays in English class, and she tries to inject new vocabulary into her conversations.

In her free time, Jess runs the photo club and is part of the Jewish Culture Club at Abington Friends School. The 16-year-old hasn’t started looking at colleges yet, but she knows she is interested in studying photography.

Jess has some advice to others taking the SAT, “Don’t get too worked up over the test. It is conquerable; it is achievable,” she shared. “I would definitely recommend taking a prep course because it helps boost your score.”


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