Why Start Early? October 2016 Edition.
A current customer of mine (studying for the LSAT) has a son in 9th grade. She approached me about the SAT and ACT, asking “When should he start?” and “What book should he use?” The latter question was easy enough to answer - I personally like the Barron’s NEW SAT book for the SAT, and the Official ACT Prep Guide for the ACT. The former question made me think, however.
Reading and Vocabulary:
While college entrance exam study is not an urgent matter in ninth grade, students should start reading and vocabulary at that point. There’s a great list of classic books to read in the Barron’s book listed above. There are also several word lists and yellow vocabulary flash cards for vocabulary practice in that book. The same applies for the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT – vocabulary skills will definitely help you on those tests.
It’s also a great idea to look up the dictionary definitions of each unfamiliar word you encounter, rather than just guessing the meaning from the context. Dictionary.com, and even Google, will help you there. The SAT loves to test on less-common, or “secondary,” word meanings. Studying vocabulary this way makes it easier and much more fun than trying to cram-study in the months, weeks, or days previous to the SAT or ACT, and will also help you with your schoolwork.
Reading will help you understand arguments – how they are structured, what rhetorical and literary devices are used, how facts are used to support the arguments, and what possible counter-arguments you could make to the arguments. These skills are necessary to do well on the LSAT, GMAT, GRE, and the SAT essay portion – you will be required to identify and analyze arguments.
For all the college and grad school entrance exams for which I tutor, you will need to know high school math up to the beginning of trigonometry, especially algebra and basic geometry. The SAT and ACT may test on things you forgot quickly, such as trigonometric identities, sums of sequences, matrix addition and multiplication, etc. You should also know distance, work, time, and rate problems – they will be on these tests.
If you are going to take the GMAT or GRE to get into business or other grad school, bone up on your high school math, since there’s a good chance you’ve forgotten a lot of it since high school, especially if you weren’t a math or science major during undergrad.
It’s not a bad idea to study “brain teasers” such as logic problems, math puzzles, sequencing problems, and the like for the LSAT, and to some extent, the other tests I’ve mentioned, as the LSAT has an entire section dedicated to “Analytical Reasoning,” better known as “Logic Games.” They’re usually questions such as
Al, Bob, Charlie, Danielle, Eunice, Francine, George, and Harriet all live in a building with eight apartments on four floors. Al and Bob hate each other and refuse to live on the same floor. Charlie is wheelchair-bound, and must live on the first floor, as the building has no elevator. Danielle must live on the same floor as George or Harriet. Francine is sensitive to noise and must live on the fourth floor.
These problems can also end up on the SAT and ACT math sections, and may appear on other tests. If these problems frighten or annoy you, you should start practicing now. I recommend McGraw-Hill’s Conquering LSAT Logic Games book, by the CurveBreakers, a group of Harvard law students who did very well on the LSAT.
If you’d like to develop a study plan for a test that’s coming up, even if it’s not for more than a year, I’ll gladly help. Why not contact me? Thanks for reading this!
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Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.