Teaching the SAT

A lot of SAT teachers get hired at a prep company because they have high scores.  However, when it comes to teaching experience they may have little or none.  And unfortunately, a lot of companies do not train or cultivate their teachers on the art & science of teaching SAT.

Motivate Yourself!

As an SAT teacher, you’re in a remarkable position.  You can improve the scores of dozens(or hundreds!) of students each year.  This is a special kind of teaching, one that opens the door to some very real job satisfaction: getting to know students, seeing them improve, then hearing about their test results is fantastic.

So What’s In It For Your Students?

Students may not always know what’s good for them.  However, they can see very clearly they are missing time with friends, computer, and other fun activities for something as boring as the SAT.  You have to motivate your students.

Don’t get me wrong-clearly, there are plenty of students out there who do understand the importance of improving their SAT scores and will share your enthusiasm, but you can’t sit back and expect that of everybody.

  • Always remind students that the prep they do now opens doors.  All the sacrifices they endure is not for nothing.  All the material and practice you go through has a clear, concrete goal attached to it.
  • The more students feels like you care about their SAT scores, the more they’ll feel like they should care about those scores.  Know how they performed on all of their practice tests.  Know their goal scores and their reach schools.  Keep notes if you have to.
  • Show them that they can beat the test.  Practically speaking, this is different for every student depending on personal strengths and weaknesses, but one way to do it early on is to teach a test strategy (e.g. using the answer choices to your advantage) and have students work through a set of challenging questions entirely with that strategy.  Getting a right answer because of a new skill is a fantastic motivator to learn more new skills.

Stand Behind the Material

Students can pick up if you are 100% behind the material.  Don’t just say it because you are required to.  Really believe in it and sell it.  Know what works and what doesn’t.  The material that has the best full-length tests isn’t going to be the same book as the one with the best math explanations or the best vocabulary list.

Guide, Don’t Lead

It doesn’t matter whether you’re teaching or tutoring; students learn best when they come to conclusions themselves.  This isn’t just about the SAT, clearly, but it’s always important to keep in mind.  Keep your students talking and thinking in any way you can.  Never let a lesson become a one-way lecture or you risk losing the interest of everybody in the room besides yourself.  Dialogue is crucial.  (And that means more than just asking yes/no questions!)

And when you are the center of attention, you have to be the most interesting, engaging thing in the room.  Tell jokes.  Speak with your hands.  Smack your hands on tables, jump up and down, laugh out loud, and get excited.  The more energy you have, the better, especially if you’re a classroom teacher.

Challenge Yourself

To teach the SAT well, remember that you will always have room for improvement.  Actively learn from your lessons.  Constantly question your techniques and materials, try new things, and talk with others in the same boat to learn from their experiences, too.


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