Preparing to take the SAT, that all-important college entrance exam, is crucial to most high school students. We reached out to Wellington-area experts, who shared their advice about how to get ready for the standardized test.
Located in the original Wellington Mall, #1 Education Place uses a personalized, one-on-one approach to prepare students for the SAT. Huntington Learning Center, located near Whole Foods Market on State Road 7, has been helping local high school students prepare for the standardized test since 2010. Finally, Kristen Seery of Wellington Tutoring has been working one-on-one with high school students since 2009.
These experts all have their own personalized approaches to SAT prep, but generally, each focuses on the individual student, to help clients meet the goals and the scores for the college or university they are hoping to attend after high school.
#1 Education Place (561-753-6563, www.1educationplace.com), an alternative education school, offers its students a personalized prep for the SAT, geared toward the individual. Anita Kane, co-founder and director of the high school program, said they have transitioned from group classes to strictly individual test prep. She works on the verbal portion of the test.
“A lot of places do big classes,” Kane said. “We did in the past. We did classes of up to 20 students, and we found that wasn’t very effective.”
Many of the students who attend the school are athletes from the equestrian community, and not everyone has the same path after high school.
“We do private tutoring prep for individuals who are more serious about going to college because we’re more of a professional school,” Kane said. “A lot of our students are professional athletes. Not everybody is college bound here. So, it’s not as important for everybody to prep for the test.”
The PSAT preliminary test is an important aspect for establishing a starting point for students.
“Our students who are really looking at going to a university take the PSAT in 10th grade as well as in 11th grade,” Kane said. “It gives them a little bit of a knowledge of the test and a little bit of an experience with the big test sitting.”
Kane said that the SAT is testing skills that students have been developing since they started grade school, but the understanding can be lost over time. It’s necessary to reinforce the skills that are there, but may not be as well understood as they can be.
“I think that is where test prep has moved toward, is kind of a review of really basic skills that are lost,” Kane said. “It’s not to say that you as a student don’t naturally do that in your writing; it’s just that you don’t know why you’re doing it. So, if you get this one little sentence where you have to pick out the error in it, you might not be able to find it because you don’t know why it’s an error.”
Mary Fisher, director of the Huntington Learning Center in Wellington (561-594-1900, www.huntingtonhelps.com/center/wellington), has a team of tutors who come in after school hours and work individually with students who come to prepare for the SAT.
Fisher also works individually with students on the math portion, and all of the tutors specialize, so there is never one tutor at her Huntington location that will cover the entire SAT prep.
“I recommend to my parents, if their [child] is in 10th grade, and they’ve completed Algebra 2, then they are certainly ready to start prepping, and we can get it out of the way early in their junior year,” Fisher said. “It really depends on the math, because the new SAT is loaded with Algebra 2.”
Fisher tells parents and students not to wait to get started on SAT prep.
“If you wait too long, and you’re under the crunch, then you’re making it harder or more difficult to concentrate on the SAT,” she said. “There is no question in my mind. I will 100 percent stand by this: the more the student wants it, and the more the student is willing to do the work to get the score, they’ll get the score.”
Fisher also focuses on the goals of each student, so test prep gets personalized from student to student.
“When the kids come in, we give them a practice test,” Fisher said. “If they want University of Florida scores, and they’re not close to it, then we kind of say, ‘OK, that’s your goal college, but let’s put another few colleges in there,’ and we work toward that goal.”
Fisher likes students to look early and know what universities and colleges require of high school students in order to give themselves a high likelihood of being accepted to the school of their choice.
“Focus on a school, and focus on its requirements,” Fisher said. “Part of those requirements is going to be SAT requirements, but if you know what they are going in, you have a better shot of getting them, because you have the time to do it.”
Kristen Seery, the founder of Wellington Tutoring (561-247-2810, www.wellingtontutoring.com), has been furthering her own higher education recently, but she continues to work one-on-one with high school students preparing for the SAT.
“I think the key thing to remember is that you’re always preparing,” Seery said. “I hate to sound cliché, but in every math class that you’re going through in high school, you are preparing for the SAT. In every book that you read and every essay that you write, you are preparing for the SAT.”
She recommends that students pay the few extra dollars to get the feedback from the PSAT.
“Always order the score report, the detail, question and answer service,” Seery said. “You can immediately look at your weaknesses, and you can start targeting them to fill in the gaps. Serious prep, I would say, begins about four months out from your test date.”
Seery believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed.
“The good thing about this information age that we live in is that there are endless resources available to you online free of charge that are excellent for SAT prep,” she said.
Seery looks at test prep as a long distance run versus a sprint.
“You break things up on a day-to-day basis to meet your goal,” she said. “You don’t wake up one day and go into a four-hour test cold, unless you want to not do well.”
She recommends that students seeking the best possible SAT score see a professional on an individual basis.
“The benefit of meeting with an expert in the field is that they’ve already done a lot of the research,” Seery said. “You’re going to save yourself 100 hours in time because an expert is going to be able to direct you toward the appropriate resources in terms of books and worksheets to use… That’s going to give you the questions most similar to the ones you’re going to see on a test.”
Seery added that tutors can act as coaches, not just someone who is feeding you skills, but to provide empowerment.
“Everyone needs someone who believes in them,” Seery said. “Someone else has to believe in you first, and then you believe in yourself.”