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SAT basics



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Studying for the SAT can be the most soporific (sleepy) experience of your life.  Let’s start with some of the basics.


Most of the ‘strategies’ for the SAT are wasting your time, and they prey on your panic.  No system will cure a lack of literacy, or lack of exposure to the cultural and social norms that the exam writers expect.  Ideally, you have a decent affinity for reading, and you have been exposed to many of the classics.  I have told parents since the late ’90’s that if a student reads a lot, at least 50% of the preparation for the verbal component of the SAT is taken care of.

That sounds too easy – but it’s true.  If a student reads regularly, the Reading section of the SAT is mostly taken care of.  For high end performance, without  cracking an SAT prep book, read the following authors (with selected stories to get you started).  Be prepared, these are old stories:

Nathaniel Hawthorne – “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”

Herman Melville – “Bartleby the Scrivener”

Edgar Allan Poe – “The Gold Bug”  “The Cask of Amontillado”

Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Red Headed League”

Reading this level of literature is metaphorically like shooting 500 free throws a day.  After consistently doing such a thing, you will be an expert – or at least improved exponentially.  You’ll get a mental workout of the same rigor by consistently going through this type of material – your “500 free throws a day” so to speak.  The level of vocabulary, acceptable for the day, seems difficult now.  My philosophy is to make it so that your everyday vocabulary is UP to the level of the 15th – through 19th centuries.  While counterintuitive, the generations of the past had higher levels of literacy.  (John Taylor Gatto explains this in his book).  After consistent reading of this high end work, and deriving pleasure from it as well, you’ll have the SAT exam writers beat.  You’ll simply not be cowed by anything they put on the test page, you’ll be prepared and at a superior reading level.  I hope you will have some fun doing it as well, as these works were written during a hyper competitive free market era where dull writing simply did not sell.  Peoples’ voracious reading appetites demanded quality work.  Your consumption of this literature puts you at the head of the class.  While your neighbor is reading Tiger Beat and watching Reality TV, you’ll be engendering an intellectual super nova.



  1. Aaron Glazer says:

    Ah, the D’onofrio method.


  2. marolla says:

    You got it – Mike’s the man when it comes to this stuff.


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