Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student

Now that I have a high school student, some scary sounding acronyms like SAT keep popping up in my life. I am so not ready for that!

One resource I've heard mentioned on more than one occasion is the SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student by James Stobaugh. I love the idea of not only preparing for the SAT, but preparing also for college... and from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.

The book is big -- 8.5x11"-ish, and over 400 pages.  Let me break down the pages a bit:
  • Intro "stuff" -- roughly 10 pages, includes things like a FAQ on the SAT, and some schedules for using this book.  The 3-year plan (starting in 9th grade) is what he recommends, but there is also a 2-year plan and a 1-year plan (if starting in 10th or 11th grades).
  • Lessons: there are 150 lessons which take up roughly 240 pages.  Lessons vary between 1 and 3 pages each.
  • Answers: roughly 50 pages.
  • Appendices: seven of them, totaling roughly 35 pages.  The biggest appendix is a booklist, but there are also vocabulary helps, journal pages, scriptures, test taking strategies and critical thinking resources.
  • A bonus section: roughly 75 pages.  Part of this deals with college admissions, the rest is FIFTY examples of college admission essays.
There is also a downloadable essay workbook.  This 30-some page pdf file is a fabulous bonus.

From the back cover:
Achieve higher scores and a whole lot more!
Eliminate test anxiety with proven strategies and effective skill development in the SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student. Easily integrated into your student's busy life, the course is designed to help students prepare for the SAT by doing a few lessons per week rather than a massive “cram” weeks before the exam, all the while encouraging them to grow in the Lord. This new enhanced edition also includes a bonus book to help with college admission essays! This specialized course for the Christian student offers:
  • Helps in building disciplined study skills 
  • Development of an extensive vocabulary  
  • Encouragement in the development of writing skills  
  • Opportunities for writing practice essays  
  • Advanced reading selections to enhance critical thinking skills for both verbal & math problems  
  • Answers to general questions about the PSAT, SAT, and NMSQT tests.
Rather than approaching the SAT challenge with the goal of just “outsmarting” the test, the SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student helps develop and reinforce godly character that will hopefully follow the student and lead to success in college and life! It’s not a quick fix, but investing in SAT preparation over a length of time will ensure your student the best chance to achieve their highest SAT scores, and give vital tools for thriving in secular school environments.
So what do we think?

Well... We both love the concept, particularly the idea of preparing for college (and life) not just for some silly (albeit important) test. 

Connor, however, felt like he didn't really know what he was supposed to actually do with the material.  And he was less than impressed with the basic concept that just reading great literature is going to give you a great SAT vocabulary.

I can't argue with him there.  I read a lot.  And a lot of it is great stuff.  And while I totally agree that great literature naturally incorporates a whole lot of fantastic vocabulary... I know that I have maybe ONCE in my entire life, maybe, stopped reading to grab a dictionary and look up a word.  There is a LOT of vocabulary that I only have a very fuzzy concept about, although I've read the words repeatedly.

However, as you get further into the lessons, there are, in fact, places that have a bit more direct vocabulary instruction.  Some lessons have you looking up words.  Some lessons have you creating words from certain prefixes and suffixes.

I love the book list in the appendix.  Love it, love it, love it.  The 50 college admissions essays are wonderful as well.  So even if we don't use the lessons, exactly, I think this book will be a wonderful resource.

However... I do plan to continue to use the book.  We'll probably create our own plan though, doing a lesson a week and just keeping on until we finish, instead of picking up the pace in 10th and 11th grades.  We'll get through what we get through...  I think the writing and general thinking emphasis is good.  I'm disappointed that there isn't more regarding the math portion of the SAT.

I do not think I'd recommend this for older high school kids, but if you have kids in 8th-10th grades, this is something to consider.  Low-key prep with a solid Christian perspective.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

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