Juneau company helps students get set for SATs

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

A Juneau man has begun offering classes to prepare students for the SATs, the national verbal and math tests that help determine college admissions.

Sean Strauss, under the company name SAT(R) Success, has been a substitute teacher in Juneau. Strauss, who also tutors, said he's seen students struggling with the SATs.

He began offering four-hour and eight-hour courses, at about $20 an hour, in April. The next course is scheduled for this week, prior to the June 3 SAT test, the last of this school year.

The classes will show students past SATs to give an idea of the test's predictable format. Knowing the directions and type of questions beforehand will save time in the actual test, Strauss said.

There are also some tips students can learn, such as when to guess and to do the easy questions first, Strauss said. (All correct answers have the same value.)

Students also can get help in increasing their vocabulary, improving their grammar, and boning up on algebra and geometry. But Strauss acknowledges there's a limit to what can be done in four or eight hours.

``Our intention is not to replace the students' first 15 years of life since they were born,'' Strauss said.

``But the SAT is a three-hour exam that has, in the eyes of colleges, nearly as much, if not more, influence than their grade point average. Our goal is to prepare the students so that they have every advantage at their side when they walk in to take that exam.''

Peggy Cowan, the Juneau School District's director of curriculum and assessment, said preparation classes can help students become familiar with the test's layout and learn how to pace themselves.

A short course wouldn't be enough time to teach the math content, but students could practice verbal analogies and drill for vocabulary, she said.

``I don't think a four- to eight-hour class will increase the content, but it might increase the actual score because of these other advantages,'' Cowan said.

There are other ways to prepare for the test. The College Board -- the not-for-profit association that sponsors the test -- says the best way to prepare is to take challenging courses and read a lot. But it also offers free help on the Internet and sells preparation videos and books.

``We believe that students should prepare for the SAT'' by doing sample tests and boning up on academic weaknesses, said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for Educational Testing Service, the Princeton, N.J., firm that developed and administers the SATs.

When students register for the SAT, they also get a free practice test with answers, and some tips on taking the test. Preparation services can be useful for students who don't have the discipline to practice on their own, Ewing said.

The College Board can be reached at www.collegeboard.org. Strauss can be reached at 463-3563.

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