About this time last year, I agreed to teach an SAT class through my job at Sylvan Learning Center. I was given a huge Teacher’s Guide for the SAT practice book and I began teaching a class of high school students different tricks and tips to get through the reading and writing sections of the exam. On my very first day, I answered a series of questions that the students had, which included, of course, why the SAT exam was so important. I explained how it would help them get into college and prepare them for the kind of work expected at college. I also told them that it could help them in their future careers, such as how my good SAT scores helped me get this position.
However, teaching that class and re-familiarizing myself with the SAT exam would also help me with my career in unforeseen ways. It helped me pass my Praxis and get my license to teach Secondary English.
How did this happen, especially considering how these are two different tests?
Studying The SAT
To help my students, I studied the SAT Teacher’s Guide rigorously. I made sure that I fully understood the methods the test makers used and the the strategies that the students needed to practice in order to pass the test. The book did a thorough job of explaining the different kinds of questions on the test- main idea, inferences, context clues, reasoning, and so on. For every question type, it gave specific strategies to answer them efficiently (i.e. read a line above and under the sentence that contains the context clue).
Another great asset of the book was when it explained the different kinds of traps that test makers like to use. Probably the most helpful part of the whole guide was when it revealed the types of incorrect answers that commonly appear on the test (i.e. over-exaggerated, not mentioned, etc.). This allows students to pinpoint the wrong answer choices and eliminate them, making it easier to complete a tricky question. I drilled these and other strategies into the students.
Making Connections- How The SAT and Praxis Are Similar
A couple weeks into the SAT class, it was time for me to take the Praxis, so I could obtain my certification to teach high school English. I have been a bookworm my entire life, and always received high grades in English class, but I admit that some of the questions on the Praxis had me stumped. At first I skipped these questions and decided that I would go back to them later. As I went through the test, I began to notice a pattern. Some of the question types were similar to the ones on the SAT, and some answer choices used the same kinds of tricks to confuse students. Of course, the tests are very different and do not line up perfectly.
However, I went back to the questions that were giving me some difficulty and began using the strategies I had taught the SAT students- and myself. I began looking for answer choices that would have been considered wrong on the SAT, such as those that were too general. I began asking myself things like, “Is this question asking me to look for direct evidence, or is it asking me to infer?” As I implemented these techniques, the tough questions became easier and the correct answers became more obvious. The test seemed much more surmountable than it did in the beginning.
Passing The Test
Using the SAT strategies worked. I passed the Praxis with a very high score. I could brag and say I got a great score because I am excellent at reading and writing, but the truth is that I get very bad test anxiety. I tend to panic and make errors on questions that I would otherwise have been able to answer. However, the SAT tips helped me get through the test using logic and experience. And it worked. It worked more than the Praxis practice reviews that gave answers to questions, but not practical strategies to solve them.
If you are going to be taking the Praxis, or any other big standardized test like the SAT or GRE, my advice to is teach. Teach others different methods and tricks so that you can learn and use them yourself. Get inside the head of the test makers, so their techniques don’t confuse or intimidate you.
It could very well help you in the future.