Finish up Your SAT Prep Strong

So you’ve made a SAT prep schedule, and accomplished a lot of studying in the last couple months. But, the SAT is a little over a week away, and your latest practice test score isn’t what you wanted?


The word to remember for the rest of the time is “consolidation”. You have learned a lot, and practiced a lot. Now is the time to make sure all of that work can come out on test day. There are two big components to that: timing and review.


Do practice sections from the official tests under the most realistic conditions you can. No distractions, no breaks within a section, and use the standard test timing. During weekdays, one to two full sections is good. During the weekend, try to get in at least one more full practice test. Practice keeping your pace per question/per passage. Practice your strategies for skipping and coming back, and filling in bubble sheets efficiently.


Review all of your notes, and be honest with yourself about what you understand and don’t. Retry all of the questions you have missed before, and do them without notes or any hints for knowing the answer ahead of time. Then use the appendices in Erica Meltzer books and PWN the SAT Math for finding similar problems elsewhere, and do those too! Pay attention to what they have in common, similar traps, similar solving strategies, similar hints. Make notes of what they all have in common. Prioritize the problem types to work on here. You won’t have time for every problem type, and that is fine. Pick the ones you have missed the most, and work on those. Pick one topic in each of the Reading, English, and Math sections, and do several questions of that type, until you get it down. Questions that are both tough and very common, like Add, Delete, Revise in English, may take several days of this kind of review. They will be worth it.

You aren’t trying to learn a million new things; you are taking the many things you have learned pretty well and making sure you know them extremely well so you can crush them on test day.

Interview with Sylvia Caruthers of SoCal College Planning

In my many years tutoring students for the SAT and ACT, I run into people who help students with other aspects of college admissions. I had the chance to interview Sylvia Caruthers, a college planning counselor a few miles north of me in Carlsbad. She is the founder of SoCal College Planning. I’ve known her for a couple of years, and think she is great.

What is your proudest moment as a college admissions counselor?

The day Lennon text me a copy of his award letter from Boston University.  It was for $59,000 in FREE aid per year! When I asked him what his father said, he replied “I haven’t told my father yet”. Not only was I ecstatic but truly touched by the bond we developed over the course of his junior year.  I immediately asked him to notify his dad so we could celebrate, and we did!

What is something you wish every parent of a child preparing for college understood?

How to get the most free money!

How did you get into college admissions counseling?

I worked for a local school district for 20 years and witnessed firsthand that the public school system doesn’t have an  efficient, effective way to disseminate the wealth of information in college planning. Concluding that my knowledge would be more useful in the private sector.  I created SoCal College Planning, and subsequently helped many families through this difficult maze.

What makes you different from all the others?

I’m tenacious and sadly it’s very difficult for me to turn that off…new strategies are always simmering.

Sylvia’s college planning services can be found on her website.