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Xiggi's SAT prep advice

mezzomommezzomom Registered User Posts: 811 Member
edited January 2014 in SAT Preparation
Xiggi, I was wondering if you could take the time to outline "the Xiggi method" for preparing for the SATs? There are a lot of new posters on the board who would appreciate it, as well as some "old" ones like me who are just now dealing with the specter of standardized tests. Thank you!

Here's a link to the condensed version of the Xiggi Method

Post edited by mezzomom on

Replies to: Xiggi's SAT prep advice

  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    I had a discussion with Xiggi about tutoring for the SATs or taking courses. He noted, at the time, that his method for studying for the SAT is to only take all the real SATS and to study all the kaplan words. I suspect he will tell you the same thing.
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    I've talked with Xiggi a great deal about his ideas on how to prepare for the SATs. Indeed, it is the method that my daughter used with her tutor. It's quite simple: buy the real SAT book put out by the college board (there's one for the new SAT). Do not use any other prep book as they do not use "real" questions. Only the College Board's own book does.

    Break the tests in the book down into separate sections. Take each section one at a time. Do not worry too much about time in the beginning. After you have finished each test, review the answers and the explanations carefully for each problem, even the ones you got right. This last is VERY important as you want to make sure you know WHY you got each problem right so you can start to recognize patterns and similar questions.

    Repeat the process with each section and every part of the book. Then retake the tests again, and do the same.

    My daughter did this on her own for the reading and writing sections. She worked with a tutor using this method for the math. Her scores stayed the same for writing, but rose 80 points for both the reading and writing sections over her PSAT scores last October.

    She also took a princeton review type class, but found it so useless that she didn't go back after the first three sections (and too late to get a refund!). She felt it was more useful to spend the time studying on her own.

    By the way, the College Board has a service where you can get your essays for the Real book tests scored online. I believe it is about $60 to register for this service. The same service also provides detailed explanations for each question in the real books. Don't have the exact link but look on the College Board site under "test prep" and you should find it.
  • deb922deb922 Registered User Posts: 5,349 Senior Member
    My S used this method in prepping for the ACT. He is the opposite of your D in that M is his strongest and English is his weakest strength.

    He used exactly the method you described, the most important part being understanding why you marked a particular answer wrong.

    One additional step that he used was to go over the English section with an adult (me!). We would go over his wrong answers out loud and speak the sentences. This was very important for him to discern which answers were wrong and what areas to watch out for. I know that this sounds elementary but reading the passages out loud seemed to be a very important part of understanding what the test was looking for.

    His improvement was great. He improved his PLAN score 11 points. I think that he had a bad day but still. He took a sample timed test before he prepped and improved his English score by 3 points.
  • mezzomommezzomom Registered User Posts: 811 Member
    Thank you all. It sounds like I was planning on using the Xiggi method to help my daughter prepare for the ACTs...without even knowing it! And I'll certainly use the same approach if she decides to tackle the SATs again.
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    Yes, I think going over it with an adult helps. But the child has to be willing, otherwise it will turn into a tug of war, rather than a study session. :)

    My daughter was not willing to let me help her study, just as she almost always refuses my offer of help with studying for school tests or proof reading class papers. However, she didn't mind the help from the tutor, and found it very helpful to have an adult to help review specific concepts or remind her what a particular type of question required.
  • shojomoshojomo Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
    Using the method described, do you retake the test in a timed manner? Do you ever take a test in a simulated, timed fashion?
  • tanmantanman Registered User Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    I would suggest a slight modification to what Carolyn posted. I think the method she posted is what you should for the first few tests. However, after taking a couple test this way, you should start adjusting to testing conditions. I don't think it is wise to take the same test, first broken down into parts and then as a complete test. While you may think that you won't remember anything, I think that doing this will artificially inflate your score, at least slightly, because you have already seen the exact same questions. I would suggest leaving a couple of tests to take only using actual testing conditions. These will give you the best indication of your actual score because they will be completely new material.

    When you're going over your answers and why they are right or wrong, keep track of what types of questions you are missing. That way, you will know where to direct your studying. I don't know if the new version of 10RS includes question difficulty ratings, but if it does, take a look at that too. I think it was Xiggi that did the calculuations with the old 10RS to figure out that if you recognize and skip all the "difficult" questions, you can still get a pretty good score.

    As you do more and more practice, you will start to see paterns in test questions and things will come more easily to you. When you are taking these tests, you need to budget your time wisely. If you are stuck on a question, skip it and come back to it later. It's always best to skip a couple and finish/recheck the rest than to get bogged down on a few of the highest difficult questions.

    Depending on how much time you have, you could also take practice tests from other books. While no outside test prep book will have practice tests as accurate as those from CB, if you try tests from many different sources, you will be prepared for anything ETS throws at you when you take the test. Xiggi and others have posted a ranked list of what they think the best outside test sources are (can't find the thread right now).

    Edit: A condensed version of the "Xiggi method", straight from Xiggi himself
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    Wow, it's nice to read about your various experiences. I will try to organize a post this afternoon. My apologies for not doing it sooner, but I just finished school last week. I also got a bit sidetracked by my tendency to engage in endless debates with InterestedDad. :)

    First off, let me assured you that there are no earth-shattering secrets in what has been -very generously- dubbed as the Xiggi method. I think that it is mostly based on common sense. After all, how hard is it for anyone to figure out that the more one practices, the more one improves. However, there are a few elements that seem to work better than others. Also, I may be able to point to certain elements of a preparation that yield lesser results. For instance, I do not recommend to spend MUCH time reading lists of words.
    I'll try to get something posted this afternoon. I'll address one question immediately: taking tests under timed conditions.

    The answer is yes but only at the end of the preparation, and eventually at the onset if you did not take an official test. In the past I have compared an SAT preparation to the preparation for a marathon. It is not necessary to run 26 miles each day to prepare for a race. It is better to prepare your body for the grueling race in smaller installments and build resistance and speed by repetition. I do not think that there is ANYTHING wrong in trying to emulate the testing conditions by setting aside a few Saturdays at the kitchen table. It is, however, not necessary, especially in the phase where you build knowledge, confidence, and time management. I would recommend 10 installments of 30 minutes over taking an 5 hours ordeal. One of the keys of a successful preparation is to establish a number of intermediary targets. First, you want to make sure you understand the test and its arcane language. Then, you want to test your current knowledge. After that, you want to make sure you understand what TCB considers correct answers. As I will post this afternoon, I even recommend taking a test WITH the answers in front of you. Obviously that test would not establish a valid yardstick score wise, but it will go a long way to build confidence in your own ability and recognize the few traps that ETS uses.

    Oh well, I'm getting ahead of myself. :)

    PS Thanks, Tanman!
  • shojomoshojomo Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
    Looking forward to reading your post! The more details the better. Thanks for taking the time to do this!
  • lderochilderochi Registered User Posts: 2,035 Senior Member
    I'm not sure what Xiggi's long term career plans are, but if he plans on starting his own business (I don't care WHAT business), he's got the d*amndest start-up clientele network I've ever seen. :)
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    Well, here is my first installment. At this stage, it is the very first draft. So, please be patient and forgiving for typos and syntax. I have divided my thoughts in a number of posts, and will try to go from the more generic to the more detailed as I progress. I think it will take me another two days to write it all up!
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    Before answering that question, I should address another question. Who LIKES to prepare for the SAT? That one is easier to answer ... nobody in his or her right mind would enjoy to spend hours practicing the lost art of filling little oval bubbles! However, there is so much at stake, that the sacrifice becomes bearable. One compromise might be found in the form of transforming the SAT into a game. In fact, there is a small amount of satisfaction ?if not pleasure- in finding ways to beat the SAT writers at their own game.

    Back to the original question ... the answer is that most everyone needs to prepare for the SAT. While we hear occasional reports of a student acing the SAT without any preparation, there is a good chance that the formidable test taker had some experience with standardized tests or with some kind of intellectual competition. The reality is that the SAT is very different from most school exams or tests, and presents a very different set of challenges.

    Despite testing English and mathematical concepts, the SAT does not test much of the material a typical student learns in high school. While expert are now battling to decide if the SAT has indeed become an "achievement" test versus the "aptitude" test it was before March 2005, I think that it makes little difference to the students who are facing this animal. In order to tame this "animal", we need to respect it and learn as much as we can about his behavior and idiosyncrasies. For some natural test takers, this would require a simple review of a past test and a general understanding of the arcane presentation and language. But, let's not fool ourselves ... those students are exceptions. Most of us, mere mortals, have to face the simple truth that to do well on this grueling test, we will need to practice.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    Yes, they can! The first thing to realize is that acing advanced calculus won't do you much good on the SAT Math. The SAT is a different test that requires a different knowledge: the knowledge of the test itself. One usually gains that knowledge by practicing on released tests. This is the best way to start understand the format and recognize the type of questions. In a typical test, 90% of the questions are testing "old" concepts and very few questions (maybe 3 to 5) are a bit newer and unfamiliar.

    Getting a good score does not require a deep knowledge of math –nor a very large vocabulary. For example, you can solve most -if not all- of the problems without ever using a calculator. So, what does it take? What is needed is the ability to recognize the questions and patterns without much effort, and especially without wasting time. In other words, the key is to know how to solve the problems FAST. For most problems, it is neither necessary nor advisable to work through all the steps to verify your answers. The SAT, unlike high school teachers, does not reward completeness and does not give partial credit. The only thing that matters is the accuracy of your answers.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    Simple answer! Because there is so much “stuff” to read, and most of it is boring and sounds silly. Most of us have been there … Mom and Dad announced that they had a surprise for us. After a successful trip to Barnes and Noble, they slowly unveil the goods: a collection of fat and colorful books printed on cheap paper. Faking some enthusiasm, we grab the books and retreat to our room, hoping to find some peace. However, it is usually short lived as Mom and Dad announce that they expect us to take test Numero Uno on Saturday at 8AM. But, why? Our strong objections are simply rebutted by a stern, “Because so and so told us at the bookstore that it was important to take the test just like they do at the center. Oh well, let’s see what the books contain. Very soon, we are reading about strategies and tricks that ALL sound so simple. After a few pages, battling the desire to fall asleep, we decide to just take one of those simple tests. After all, we are not like Joe Blogg, that bumbling fool who gets tripped so easily. We work our way through the test finding as sole motivation the promise of a great score. Yeah, I’ll show Mom and Dad that I know all this stuff.

    A few hours later, despite having gone well over the time limits, we announce to our unsuspecting parents that we may very well be done with the SAT. We give them our test and tell them, “Yep, go ahead, score it”. Mom, knowing better, passes the fat book to dear hubby. To your great surprise, you witness the fatidic apparition of more crosses than check marks. No, no, that can’t be. I am not Joe Blogg. How could I miss the third question? A level 2 question! The verdict comes in at around 550 for the math and verbal sections. Smartly enough, you did skip that stupid writing component. Dad does not seem too surprised and simply whispers, “Better luck next time,” A short week later, after many unsuccessful attempts to read more than twenty pages, the second test yields a similar result. While you avoided the same mistakes, other problems surfaced. That silly Reading Comprehension section just killed you.

    Dad, as usual, does not say much, but Mom has a great idea. “Tomorrow, I’ll call those nice people at Prince Something Review or Kal Plan.” You accept this outcome with a degree of relief and are now doomed to sit through thirty to forty hours of organized torture. At least, if you fail, you could blame Mom and Dad.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
    Yes, there is! As one would expect, I’ll start with the importance of viewing the SAT as a game to be defeated. For all sports, dedicated practices are extremely important. Preparing for the SAT is no different from practicing for tennis or soccer: it's a game of strategy and repetition. As I noted earlier, the material that will be tested on the SAT is not that difficult, but the presentation and language is confusing for anyone who has not done much testing or competitions.

    In my opinion, there are two important phases in preparing successfully for the test. The first phase includes building small blocks of confidence and the second one involves time management. That is why I recommend breaking the tests in smaller and manageable sections.

    The general idea is to devote about thirty minutes to completing a test section and about the same amount of time to review the answers proposed by The College Board. While most students focus on the scores and check their wrong answers, much can be gained from checking the correct answers. It is important to TRULY understand EVERY answer and to try to understand how the SAT questions are developed. To do this, one has to be comfortable with the material tested.

    It is for this reason that I recommend to start working with open books and without time limits. Open books include the precise answers to the test. During this phase, student ought to review the books that form their SAT library. On this subject, I have a simple recommendation: buy as many SAT books as you can afford. There are no clear leaders and most books share very similar strategies and tips. For math, Gruber's is the most complete and should provide answers to most problems appearing on the SAT, with the potential absence of problems specific to the post March 2005 test. The other usual suspects are Princeton Review, Barron’s, Kaplan, and McGraw Hill. The strategies and tips for math will be very similar among the books listed. The strategies for the verbal components offer a few variances, which students should evaluate on an individual basis. With the advent of the new SAT, a number of new books have appeared. Those new books such at the RocketReview of Adam Robinson, the Maximum SAT of Peter Edwards, and the solution book by TestMaster(s) have raised the bar, and are in many ways better than the books published by the former “gorillas”. However, the choice of the source books is not that critical, and I did not try to prepare an exhaustive list of books. There are a number of other books that contain advice and strategies. My recommendation stays the same: buy as many as you can and check the strategies to find a few that apply to your individual taste. As you will say later, the best strategies will be self-developed.

    This is the time to introduce a caveat. Under no circumstances should a student use tests that are not published by The College Board. You may have noticed that I did not list the Official Guide among the source books. It is, however, the must-have book since it contains all the tests you'll need to prepare for the SAT. I will comment on the online tools of The College Board in a later paragraph.

    Are you now ready to get your X-acto knife out and rip that Official Guide in small sections? Better stock up on manila folders ... you'll need them.
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