The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Steir

15796717The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT

Debbie Steir

238 pages

Published in February 2014 by Harmony Books, an imprint of Harper

Source: Publisher

So here I was, five months in and back to square one: confused, confronting too many options, and feeling overwhelmed and borderline frantic.

I picked up Debbie Steir’s The Perfect Score after years of following her blog and reading about her journey to earn the perfect SAT score. Steir is not some teenager who’s trying to get into her dream college. She’s a middle-aged, divorced, single mother of two teens, who came up with the idea of taking the SAT in hopes of inspiring her son to start studying for the test. She didn’t take the SAT once. She took it seven times over the course of a year.

Steir is passionate, enthusiastic, and focused as she went through her year learning and testing. I love reading someone’s journey as they learned a new hobby or area of expertise.  Steir’s journey was no exception. She asked from help from friends, strangers online, and researched as much as she could. The author also combined her experiences with what she learned about the history of the SAT and tips that will help parents and students who have to take the test in the next few years. No stone was left unturned as she learned as much as possible, trying out various techniques from hiring tutors to trying Kumon to using the College Board blue books.

Halfway through this book, I stand to myself “This shit is crazy.” No seriously.

What I thought was crazy is the pressure that is put on high schoolers (and some middle schoolers) to get high scores to get into decent colleges. There were times that I needed to take a deep breath.  The author herself realizes that the key to doing well on the SATs is mastering math and English before time. Way before time. Mastering a subject means having a strong foundation first. This was something that not everyone has including Steir herself.

The author manages to inspire her son and learns a thing or two about herself in the end.

The Perfect Score is an eye-opening and engaging read that stands out among memoirs about an author’s “special” year. If you have a kid who will take the SATs in a few years, this is the book you need to read. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

17 thoughts on “The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Steir

  1. I finished listening to this yesterday and didn’t like it as much as you did. It did make me realize that tests like the SAT really don’t mean a thing.

  2. After getting three kids through the college admissions process, I’m certain the whole testing program is deeply flawed. This sounds like a fascinating read.

  3. Z is only in fourth grade but when I saw this book the other day, it grabbed my attention. I think the key is what you’ve said, that the mastering of skills really needs to happen throughout a kid’s education and not in the weeks and months before the test. What we need is a guide for each grade level from, say, 4-10 of what skills they should be mastering each year in order to have the best chance at a good SAT score … or we could just do away with standardized testing (my vote). ;)

  4. I honestly don’t remember there being that much pressure when I took the ACT, the west’s version of the SAT. We had maybe three math practice questions in class and the teachers were all, YOU BETTER STUDY FOR THIS (which I ignored). But otherwise I just showed up and took it and it was nbd.

  5. I was just listening on NPR today about changes that are coming to the SAT. I think there will now be optional essays? Interesting stuff.

    • There’s so much pressure for kids to get good grades and good scores to get into a really good college. The pressure of getting a good score can start as early as the first year of high school and for some kids it starts in middle school. It’s this huge push that was actually draining to read at times. And I’m not a student!

  6. Such interesting timing since they are changing the SAT again! I was the first year they changed it to the new scoring system, but I actually always converted my score because no one knew what my new score meant. I couldn’t even tell you what I got in the “new” soon-to-be-old score. It’s interesting to me that she didn’t improve her score by very much. Makes you wonder if all the test prep programs are really worth it? This sounds really interesting!

  7. Stuff like this fascinates me as an educator. And the new changes to the SAT make this a very timely topic.

  8. I am o happy I am done with all of that. I was a bad test taker all throughout school. I made it out by the skin on my teeth. My family thought it was funny I starting teaching. I am a better student as an adult. Funny how life does that to you.

    • You know, I hate standardized testing of any kind but I do think Steir really helped parents and teens when it comes to what to expect with this test. The craziness of it all makes me agree with you. :-)

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